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Course Report – Another Successful Snowcraft

By: Erica Clapp

Photo by: Alex Shaw

Source: The Otago Climber (Otago Section’s Newsletter) – October 2018

A few weeks ago, I was finally able to tick off a big item on my mountain to-do list: take an intro mountaineering course. After getting fairly comfortable in tramping terrain, I was hoping to take my skills to the next level to learn how to travel safely through snowy landscapes with my crampons and ice axe.

Along with 11 other students and 4 instructors, we headed up to the Remarkables on Saturday morning. The first lesson was to learn how to walk. It sounds simple but the instructors emphasized that your own two feet and your boots can get you pretty far alone if you’re able to use the edge of your boots and dig in. Once we mastered walking, we put on our crampons and learned different techniques to go up and down the hills. We were taught the importance of maintaining two points of contact at all times to reduce the probability of slipping.

Despite the soft dense snow on a warm afternoon, we pushed on to learn all about self-arresting. We learned that while self-arresting practice is incredibly fun and makes you feel like a kid, it’s very terrifying and hectic in a real-life situation so it’s best to do everything possible to avoid having to self-arrest at all. After a bit of avalanche awareness and transceiver practice, we called it a day.

I was a bit bummed we weren’t able to camp overnight but the next morning, I was grateful because the winds were incredibly strong. The goal for the day was to summit something if the conditions allowed. Despite the strong winds, we managed to put our newly learned techniques into practice as we made our way up Telecom Tower. A quick descent filled with post-holing and shovel sliding had us back at the base with plenty of time for a hot coffee and pastry.

I’m so happy I got to partake in the course. For me, the biggest takeaway was just the reassurance that with a bit of knowledge and practice, I could be fully capable in beginning terrain. I know the Southern Alps are no joke and it feels great having a bit of formal knowledge and skill behind me and it has given me some new energy to tackle some new mountains.

Posted: 04/10/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland