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Sunday, September 21, 2003

Basic Snow Craft Course 20-21 September 2003

Uncle Roddus Tramping Diary:Tramp No. 25
 Basic Snow Craft Course 20-21 September 2003

This was my basic snowcraft course that I did  with the CTC. Below is the report i wrote for this weekend posted on the CTC website.

After missing out on a place earlier this year, I was very keen not to miss out again. I booked 3 weeks ahead this time and managed to secure a place on the course. I received a call from Adrian Busby about mid week to confirm times and places, and it was decided that I would find my own way up from Oxford to Arthur's Pass.

I arrived at the club hut before the others and so I waited in my car parked outside the hut. Adrian and his crew arrived about 20 minutes later. I saw his Toyota arrive on the lane and then start to reverse into the hut carpark. Concerned that he couldn't see me, I put my foot on the brake to warn him and when I saw him pull forward to correct his approach, I thought that he had seen me. I watched in my mirror as he continued to reverse and the next thing I know is that he has backed up so close to my car that you couldn't have slid an onion skin between us. I was too scared to open the door or put my head out of the window for fear of losing it. I was just about to sound the horn when he stopped and started to pull forward. Finally when he had parked a safe distance away, I got out of my car very relieved and the first thing he said to me was, "I didn't even see you there". And so this was my first meeting with "The Great Busby".
George and his crew arrived soon after to report a fire at a hay barn near Grassmere Lodge.
A real mix was this group. We had one Australian (Brad), one Japanese (Taka), two English (John & Kate), one Kiwi woman (Bernadette), two Kiwi blokes (George and Myself(Rodney)) and Adrian (Displaced). After the introductions, unloading and bed claiming, it was straight down to business (crampons). I had with me my own crampons, brand new and still in the box. Adrian had a well stocked toolbox, a vice and various straps and rivets. He then proceeded to talk at great length about crampons, strapping, boots, and why he had all this stuff. I sat and listened, smug in the knowledge that as I had new crampons I wouldn't have any problems with my strapping.

By the end of the night I had completely rebuilt my entire strapping system, due to missing straps and the overcomplicated system they came with. I am also now very confident that I could repair any part of that system when it needs it. The only problem was that I accidentally cut one strap too short, which I didn't discover until the next day when trying to fit them on the mountain. Adrian's philosophy of keeping it simple paid off the next day when 3 people lost their crampons off their boots while walking on the mountain.
Saturday dawned grey and wet, and we set off to see what it looked like at Temple Basin ski field. It didn't look too bad and what better way to get experience in snow than when it is snowing. We ascended the mount with Adrian talking at great lengths about ice axes, snow plugging, cornices, snow caves, avalanches, white outs and lots of other stuff which may or may not come back to me in years to come. After a quick munch at the public shelter, which we had to dig our way into, we left our packs and set off to find a slope to practice our ice axe arrests.
And practice we did, sliding down this slope every which way; feet first, head first, forward, backwards, each time trying to stop our selves in the correct manner with our trusty ice axes. It was actually quite fun, although I lost count of how many times I slid down that slope. We had a fast learning group and Adrian was happy with our progress so that after lunch, instead of continuing our arrest practice we moved onto "fun with crampons". So we stomped around with our crampons for a while but as the snow was so fresh and soft they weren't much use really, so we decided to carry on with ice axe arrest, but alas the weather took a turn for the worse and it was decided to call it a day and head back to the hut. A quick stop for beer, then back to the hut where Adrian talked at great length on many diverse subjects. We finished the day with a couple of hours at the Bealey hotel, where, much to Georges delight he found out the rugby score.
We awoke on Sunday to about 4 inches of snow on our cars. This prompted a sleep in, a slow motion breakfast, more talking from Adrian and leaving the hut at late morning to head back towards CHCH and see where we could go.
Adrian led us for a stroll up the Hawdon Valley, on a beautiful clear afternoon, aiming, perhaps for the Hawdon hut. At the gate in the fence across the river, Adrian wisely decided to give us an impromptu course in river crossing. He then proceeded to talk at great length about rivers and crossing them and other associated topics. We then proceeded to cross the Hawdon several times in the method shown.
After lunch, in which we had a "group moan" about banks (of the money variety), we continued up stream and saw a group of four trampers coming downstream. We met them at a river crossing where they watched us link up and cross. We then stopped and watched what they would do. From their body language they looked undecided as to how they would cross and we thought they were going to have a go at crossing separately (the river was about thigh depth and quite swift with snow melt). They knew we were watching and eventually linked up and crossed safely. Adrian talked at great length about how they were not in the right order to lend each the best support and their linking wasn't correct.
We continued on to the east Hawdon Stream, where it was decided to turn around and go back to the cars. Before we set off on our return journey, someone brought up the subject of navigation, and so Adrian talked at great length about maps and compasses, GPS and many other things. We headed back along the east bank of the river, practicing our newly learnt river crossing technique about 3 more times with Adrian making me leader, in the middle, then deliberately holding his end of the line back to see if I was awake and correct our crossing.
A very enjoyable weekend, and on behalf of the all on the course, I wish to thank Adrian for sharing with us his vast knowledge and experience.

fortunatly there was snow

Relaxing in the Club hut

Preparing to leave

The Hawdon Valley

Continuing up the valley

through the trees

A little hill in the background

Posing for the river crossong.

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