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Wilderness Training

 

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Overview
In 1997, four teenagers from Oregon won the Outside Adventure Grant for their proposal to climb Mt. Sir Sanford, a remote peak in the Canadian Rockies. To get there, these wilderness enthusiasts had to kayak and hike to the base of the mountain and then climb up a glacier to the peak. The group's winning proposal included tracking and documenting the habits of an endangered species of caribou along the way. The grant outfitted them for their expedition. As these outdoor adventurers could tell you, alpine climbing and snow travel require particular skills and knowledge. Climbers must have good strength and endurance. They must work effectively in the thin air at high altitude. Because climbing in the cold uses up calories rapidly, these mountaineers need to consume foods that provide them with the right ratios of protein to fat to carbohydrate, but they mustn't carry food that's too heavy or perishable. Successful climbers also must know how to avoid frostbite and other cold-related problems. The right choice of fabrics and the right layering techniques allow them to stay warm and dry throughout the journey. Finally, the adventurers need to be skilled at anticipating, preventing, and stopping falls before anyone is hurt. Even on a flat glacier, falls are a danger because of the deep trenches called crevasses (sometimes hidden by snow) in the glacial ice. How do climbers manage to stay on steep slopes? The idea is to keep three of the four limbs solidly fixed to the surface at all times. Spiked boot clamps called crampons allow solid footholds, even on vertical surfaces. In addition, climbers can secure their handholds with special ice axes. Mountain climbing safety depends on climbers belaying (securing) each other with ropes. The National Outdoor Leadership School identifies four elements of a belay: friction, anchors, each climber's position relative to the others, and communication among climbers. The terrain to be climbed is often rated according to its difficulty (rather like the degree of difficulty rank in the sport of diving), so each belay will be a different combination of the four elements.

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