Friday, March 1, 2013

I survived!

 photo DSC_0038_zps691de943.jpg Well, I'm back from survival training and I'm happy to report I passed. I can't say the same for everyone, though. We left a few stragglers behind to fend for themselves, just to see what would happen. By now they're probably frozen blocks of ice.

I kid! We all made it out of the wilderness alive and well.

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Our two-day adventure started with an hour and a half drive on the most beautiful highway in the world, the Icefields Parkway. We drove out to Hilda Hostel, right by Parker's Ridge, unloaded our gear, ate a quick lunch and then threw on our snowshoes for a quick jaunt to find a spot to test our fire lighting skills. For some, this was the most challenging part of survival. One fellow smothered his fire over and over and over again, until finally he gave it some air and slowly began feeding it tinder and kindling.

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Once everyone had made a fire with twigs and sticks, we moved onto shelter making. We learned how to make a tree well, a quinzhee, a trench and an ice cave. The quinzhee, by far, took the most effort. First, you make a big pile of snow that you stomp down periodically, and then you leave it to set. Once it's hardened up, you dig it all out again.

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 photo DSC_0057_zps059b1edc.jpg Once the first quinzhee had been hollowed out, there was enough room for three people to sit inside or two people to lie down. There were even snow benches inside, so when you sleep, you'd be off the ground, away from the coldest air.

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What I learned:
  • A shovel is one of the most important survival items you can carry in the winter. Without one, you're going to have a heck of a time protecting yourself from the cold.
  • If you're going to get caught outside overnight during the winter, shelter is paramount to survival.
  • Shelter can take awhile to build, so if you think you'll have to stay the night, give yourself a few hours of daylight to get everything set up. It's a lot harder to build and collect firewood in the dark.
  • Be aware of where you're building your shelter. Avoid avalanche terrain and build your entrance away from the wind.
  • In the case of an injury, tend to your friend first. Make them as comfortable as possible and then go on the hunt for fire supplies.
  • A fire is good for warmth and for comfort.
  • Don't make your fire until you have enough wood to last you for awhile. You don't want to get it started and then have to run to get more fuel, only to come back to a bunch of ashes.
  • Carry multiple fire starters. And, when you're buying matches, be sure you know what kind they are. If they're not strike anywhere, be sure to bring the box or a strip of the box along, so you can light them.
  • Dress in layers and avoid cotton. (I knew this already, but it's a good tip!) When wet, cotton gets heavy and cold and it takes ages to dry. You're better off wearing synthetic fibres, especially close to your body, that wick the sweat away. On top of that, wear a fleece or wool. And then top everything off with a Gortex shell.
  • Bring multiple pairs of socks and gloves. If you get wet, you'll get cold.
  • STAY CALM. Panicking will hinder your ability to think clearly about what needs to be done to stay alive.

Did I teach you anything you didn't already know about winter survival?


  1. I'm so glad you had a great time, and brought back lots of tips! I don't anticipate needing to survive in the mountains anytime soon, but these are all beneficial for when the Zombie Apocalypse comes as well. Thanks hun! I'm going to go find me a shovel...

  2. Wow! Looks like so much fun! Thanks for the tips ;D

  3. I didn't know like any of those tips. Especially about a shovel. But sounds like a way cool experience! Good job on surviving!

  4. This sounds amazing, I don't think I could ever do anything like it but it's an awesome life skill to have.

  5. Phew you're alive and well! I figured you'd make a cute snow(wo)man if you got trapped out there.. but glad you're back! I never knew cotton was so bad, hmm.. wool is itchy to me... but now I know. Bet you were happy for a hot soak when you got home.. welcome back!!
    needle and nest

  6. Looks like you had a great time and beautiful weather! Plus that's all great advice!

  7. great backcountry tips!
    not sure i can make a fire though....even in a fireplace.

    xo the egg out west.

  8. Wow! Congrats on making it through, sounds like it was definitely a worthwhile class! :)

  9. That's awesome! I'd love to do something like that, but the GTA's just so city-like and I have no car. :( Plus nothing nearby would be anything close to as gorgeous! Ugh, mountains. <3

  10. Amazing!1 Did you actually stay over night? It looks beautiful out there but I bet its a whole heck of hold.


  11. This sounds like such an amazing thing to do! And in such gorgeous scenery, tiny bit jealous!

  12. I freaking love that you did this. I want to do this sooo bad! I'm glad you learned so much; now you can conquer the wilderness!

  13. glad you didn't die. i would have been very sad.

    when we used to have cable i used to be obsessed with watching survival shows. so i actually know tons of tips and all stuff you should do etc. but whether i would be able to actually do any of them..well i'm not so sure! im such a pussy. haha


  14. This is so cool! I would love to take one of these courses one day if they offer that around here. Great tips as well and the scenery is gorgeous! I can't wait to visit the forests of Canada someday

  15. Congrats! What valuable information.

  16. I get claustrophobic just by looking at that tunnel (even though I loved making them as a kid). Good info! Beautiful views!

  17. OK, mainly? I am so glad I will probably not ever need to know any of this stuff in order to live. Meanwhile, I may change my mind about that this summer when it's 105 degrees outside and I'm a million months pregnant. ;)