Extreme Outdoor Education (Part Two) – Blimit(1921m) Training Climb

“On a Mish” #115 Extreme Outdoor Education (Part Two). Blimit(1921m). Arthurs Pass National Park. 20.8.2011. There are many times when you learn something in conditions completely different than what you are training for. Training for flooding when it is dry or prepping for the wind when the air is still. Or doing a first aid course with fake blood instead of the real thing. This is usually the most practical way to learn, but for our band of newbee mountaineers the learning was going to happen in the very conditions we were training for!…

An interesting breakfast became a nervous meal when we were told we would be climbing a mountain during a snowstorm, and to ready ourselves for battle. I guess a winter mountaineering course is one of the only learning platforms that would go into a storm to teach and learn.

Once we were ready we started with pitch-climbing practice up a ridge directly behind the lodge. After a couple of hours slowly pushing further up the ridge the weather closed in again so we stopped and enjoyed a quick brew in a makeshift snow shelter high on the ridge. Our instructor had a boffy bag with him, and it was amazing how quickly we warmed up under the shelter of what is essentially just a piece of material. As the wind pummeled the goretex we continued our extreme outdoor education inside nice and warm.

After our quick warm up stop we climbed a steep snow face, placing anchors for protection as we slowly crept upwards. The face climb took us to the Blimit summit ridge above Temple Col(1774m). The atmosphere on the ridge was one I will never forget. Dark clouds swirled all around us, and every now and then the visibility would drop to only a few metres. This was the most exciting learning I had ever done!

After arriving on the main ridge, we took the rope off and scrambled the rest of the way to the summit of Blimit(1921m). Every now and then I would look down the ridge to see my fellow course participants and later I would learn that they were loving it just as much as me.

We regrouped on the summit in a very dramatic classroom location. High fives exchanged and a few hoorays later, we were looking down into the darkness at the ridge we now had to clamber back down.

The day was a long one and on the way down not only did it begin to snow again, but also time and daylight was now against us. So now not only were we downclimbing in a snowstorm but also we were now well into the dull fading light of the evening.

The last part of the day’s mish was much easier than what we had done up until that point. We followed the tracks of the ski field until our instructor told us we were going to take a short cut. The short cut was an abseil off a 25 metre cliff in the dark!

With my head torch’s light only lighting the blur of snow rushing past my face, I watched the lights of the others vanish into the darkness below. I was last to drop off the mountain, and before I began I checked my watch and was very surprised to see it was now after 7pm. I thought to myself what an incredible day of learning we had had as I slowly lowered myself in the blank space below me in the complete darkness of night.

I’ll never forget that after all of that we still had arguably the toughest part of the day, which was taking turns plugging steps in the deep untouched snow all the way back to the lodge. After some tough hiking we saw the lights of the lodge, and eventually we stumbled inside – semi frozen, covered in snow and ready for a massive feed.

As it was the final night we all somehow found the energy to have a bit of a celebration followed by retelling our tale to the others in the lodge and laughing the rest of the night away in the warm lodge beside the fire.

Early-ish the next morning we woke up feeling a little jaded from the day and night before. It was now sadly the final morning when the course finished, and of course we woke to bluebird sunshine and no wind. Strangely the rough weather had helped us with plenty of on the spot learning, and we were so happy that the course wasn’t restricted to just classroom work in a stunning location we couldn’t explore. Not only did we learn rope work and winter mountain travel, we also got a chance to get out and test our newly learnt skills in a very, very real situation!

The Upper Reaches of Temple Basin

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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