Thursday, May 01, 2008

What it Takes to be a Ski Guide, Part 2

Day 2 and 3 of the AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guides Course just wrapped up. We spent day 2 finishing off our technical skills, by teaching the candidates glacier travel and crevasse rescue techniques on the Worthington Glacier right off of Thompson Pass. You have to love this place...20 minutes of skinning from the car and we are on a glacier, skiing towards a crevasse to huck ourselves into and get dragged out of.

Candidates hanging out in the crevasse.

As you can imagine, it is essential to know how to be able to haul someone who falls into a slot out of it. It isn't exactly a walk in the park, as you have to arrest the person's fall into the slot, then build a ski anchor as you hold the person's weight on the rope so that you can escape their weight and build a hauling set up to get mechanical advantage so you can pull the person out of the slot.

Ben fighting the pull of gravity as he arrests a crevasse fall.

The plan for Day 3 didn't include any more rescue and technical skills assessment and practice, so obviously it means that it included some ski touring. We were all excited to get out and cover some ground and ski some of the big terrain that the Chugach are famous for. The weather here has been a bit less than ideal. Joey Vallone, one of the instructors I am working with, keeps running into tons of skiing rock stars he used to ski with, who are here to film. However, they have been sitting on their butts for weeks, as clouds and unsettled weather have kept the helis grounded. Lucky for us, we are traveling under our own power and can get around in the mountains as we please, and capitalize on the small windows of good weather.

Working our way up a run called RFS (Really F-ing Steep!)

Luck for us, this actually meant some good views and visibility in the afternoon, and the added bonus treat of 10-15cm of fresh pow - not bad for May 1st!

Instructor Howie Schwartz helps candidate Mark Hanselman pick and choose his way down the glacier.

We got some good runs in, and got to look around and drool in anticipation of the next week of refining guiding skills. Julia Niles works with Howie on figuring out where we will go for the next 3 days.

Finally we sat down with some maps to plan a 3 day ski traverse off of Thompson Pass. If the weather agrees we might get dropped off further away from the road by a heli, and ski back to the cars - if not, good old lungs and legs will get us far far away! I'll let you know how it goes in 3 days!

Joey Vallone getting ready for some AK Heli Time!

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