Looking at Winter


It’s been another full week and I don’t even know where to begin. This afternoon, the Grand Canyon hiking group completed four ascents of Signal Hill. We are building up our uphill walking with moderately loaded packs. We’ll increase both the number of ascents and the weight in our packs as the trip nears in April. During the ascents, we passed the Johnson Geo Centre and I looked up from the pavement and noticed some birch trees at the edge of the road.

Their paper-like bark glowed like a lantern in the foggy light. I actually stopped my forward momentum to stop and take in the stunning beauty before me. The branches left the luminescent trunk in multiple angles reaching for the non-existent sun on this rain infused afternoon. Some of my fondest memories of climbing Signal Hill have come during “unfit” weather.

I was out with students last night for the second in a three weekend series. Last week’s rain didn’t steal enough snow to prevent quinzhee building so the old Scout camp saw four more snow mound shelters adorn its flanks. One quinzhee that I dubbed, “The Mondo Condo” for its enormous girth and height didn’t survive the digging out process and dropped its ceiling just as the students were closing off the extra doors. This was the first time I’d had a quinzhee collapse and I suspect that a lack of solid packing job on the snow and using four doors for excavation led to its demise. The students were very bummed that their hard work was for nothing but the rest of the group quickly jumped in, shoveled the middle out, reinforced the walls, and constructed a tarp roof. We all joked that they probably ended up with a shelter that might be more comfortable in the long run.

I remember the days when I feared being cold on overnights. Now, with my high quality gear and lots of high altitude experience, I don’t really worry about it anymore. Though I am a bit nervous when I contemplate sleeping out in minus 40-degree for two weeks. This time in two weeks I will be in Iqaluit being pretty excited to start the polar training the next day. I’m hoping to carve out some time this week to go over the gear list one more time so I can make sure I have everything I need. Two more tire pulls up Signal Hill and counting.

I was over in Corner Brook for two days this week and finally got to spend some time skiing at Marble Mountain. It was so fun to be back on downhill skis and fortunately for me, it’s like riding a bike-I didn’t forget how. My dad likes to tell the story of how when I was learning to ski at age three and didn’t know how to stop that I would just run myself into the side of the ski chalet–perhaps that explains a few things!

While I was on the west coast of the island, I gave three presentations: one at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College (Memorial’s campus on the west coast), Pasadena Elementary School and the Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador Conference. The conference paid my travel and enabled me to speak at the other two venues. I more on the lookout now, for those kind of partnerships where one event can enable me to do outreach to a school that I couldn’t reach on my own.

The Grade Four students at Pasadena Elementary are studying the natural wonders of the world, one of which is Mount Everest. After presenting to the whole school, I paid a special visit to their classroom to show climbing equipment, answer questions, and watch the videos they had made about climbing Everest. It was inspiring to be back in a school. I love the questions kids ask-ranging from going to the bathroom on a mountain to what food do we eat to why do I climb?

I hope you had a rich and full week! Thanks for coming along!


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