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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Emergency Drill, December 5, 2010

Lincoln Woods Trail and Wilderness Trail. About 9 flat miles roundtrip.

It's that time of year again; winter conditions have returned to the Whites. I now carry everything I need to keep Alex safe, warm and dry overnight in subzero temperatures. However, having the right gear doesn't mean anything if you don't know how to use it. In the extremely unlikely event that I am knocked unconscious and there's no one else around, Alex needs to know how to get everything out of my backpack and set up the bivy.

Soon it will be calendar winter, and the Winter 4K game will be on. Most of our hikes will be long and strenuous, and many of the summits are far above treeline. Therefore, I will request company throughout the winter; Alex and I will rarely hike alone. Nevertheless, I find our emergency drill procedure useful. It never hurts to know how to take care of yourself.

I was planning on doing this drill later in the month, but since I had a bad cold and wasn't up to any significant elevation gain, I decided to do it today. My body could handle nine flat miles (so I thought) and Alex could use the memory jog.

We set off on the Lincoln Woods Trail at about 9am.

We reached the Wilderness Trail in about an hour...

Lots of large blowdowns on this trail...

Lots of flatness (nothing but flatness!)...

...and we arrived at the intersection with Bondcliff Trail. Just ahead of us stood the "No More Maintained Trail" sign, along with evidence of the bridge removal.

After some snacking, we got to work.

I pretended to fall over and knock my head against a rock. Alex then had to open my backpack (while it was still buckled onto me) and take everything out. I instructed her to first put a body warmer between her shirts and hand warmers in her gloves (if they're not already there). Then she is to put on whatever layers she doesn't already have on, and to don her hat if she's taken it off. Next, she's to activate our PLB. Then it's on to the shelter.

She rolls out the mat, takes out the bivy, pulls out the winter bag, shoves the winter bag in the bivy, gets in, and zips everything up as best she can. She struggles with her hands getting cold when she takes them out of her gloves, but she's learned how to only take off one glove at a time whenever she needs to use her fingers. She knows where the food and water is, she knows it could take over 24 hours for someone to find her. She knows to stay put, and not to worry about me. She knows her father and I do not want her trying to save me -- she can put a body warmer between my shirts if she thinks about it, but other than that, she is only to take care of herself.

Alex views this drill as something she's supposed to know how to do, just in case. Just as she needs to know how to get out of the house in the unlikely event of a fire, she needs to know how to take care of herself in the unlikely event that I cannot help her and no one else is around. She isn't bothered by it, she just takes it for what it is -- a drill.

Twenty minutes after I pretended to fall over, Alex was snug in the bivy.

Is any of this foolproof? No. Do I feel overconfident because we have the right gear and Alex is learning how to use it? Absolutely not. This kind of thing is useful, but the best way to stay safe is to watch the weather conditions and not take on any more than you can handle.

As we were packing up to leave, I felt a heaviness in my chest. Laying sprawled out in the snow for twenty minutes did nothing good for my health. Unfortunately, I developed bronchitis later in the week...I think those twenty minutes were the kicker.

Alex and I sang Christmas carols on the way back. She's very excited for the winter season to begin and she can't wait to buttslide down the mountains. We have one more fall hiking weekend together, and then we will plunge ourselves back into the winter 4K game.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

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