By Xanthe Smith, 10 August 2022
Following our 2021 snowcraft course, the VUWTC committee came to the shocking realisation that everyone who could teach snow skills was en route to leave the club - meaning a deficit was going to form where the baby leaders lacked the know-how to run snow craft/teach freshers how to not-die on even a slight snowy incline.
AND SO the scheme for leaders snow craft was posed by Bemily (Ben and Emily). The date was set, and we made fast for Ruapehu on the (...) to learn how to get others learnt.
I found myself lumped in with the usual lot to get to the mountain (Amon, Nij, and Helena) and we zoomed over there in Nic's quality mountain-going vehicle, the BITZ.
When we got to the mountain, it was, as usual, bloody freezing. The Whakapapa carpark was glorious as always with its stunning mixture of concrete, weird buildings, and more concrete. I think it's the sort of place where if I were to fall over, I'd simply resign myself and die, preserved forever like an Everest mountain mummy. (Once you leave the carpark it's much nicer).
We scrambled up to the ol' TTC lodge, fell asleep, and woke up the next day to receive our ed-u-cation from Ben and Emily. It was a frekily sunny, crisp day, and we plodded up the sound slopes while receiving vital leadership advice from our sensei Emily and old-man Ben.
Here were the wisdom bits that have stuck with me, a year on:
- Reading your group is just as important as reading things like terrain and weather. Judge how best to accommodate everyone, and that often means sticking to the pace of your slowest member.
- Explain skills clearly, and simply, making sure the bits about how you can get things wrong stick. For example: if you hold your ice-axe upside down you will be ankle-tapped. If you don't kick your feet up, and keep your crampons out of the snow when falling you'll break a leg. That sort of stuff, be brutally clear with them.
- CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT FROM YOU AS A LEADER. Ben really reinforced this one, insisting that it's vital that your peeps feel supported as they learn skills and as you correct them on stuff.
After learning the stuff, we all went for a circular wander back down the broken leg gully. As it was quite warm, ice had started to melt, and a barrage of mini-boulders was getting shotput from the pinnacles, down into the valley. SO as we walked through the gut of this gully, we were stopping and starting to avoid getting whumped by wee rocks. There were some good photos of this section, I'm sure they'll show up before I log this tale.
As I said before, it was a very sunny day: and somehow, despite the use of the sunblock, almost everyone in our party came away a bit toasted and burnt (Helena being the exception, someone else as well but they didn't brag about it as much so now I have no idea who it was).
Amon won the burn-game, as he had reached such a level of scald that his skin was WEEPING. As we made out way to the hot pools post teaching, he began to resemble a squished apple turnover, it was horrifying and he was suffering. Sadly, we did not have the skills to put him down, so he endured the 4-hour drive home to Wellington in a sorry state. We know the skin is an organ, and I'd compare Amon's condition to a human lung run over by a Troopy.
As an upside, he moulted like a lizard following the leaders-snow-craft, so he is now a higher form of himself if you really think about it.