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20 Hours Alone in the Grand Canyon [Interim part III] Grand Canyon Backpacking

21 January 2011

Night 3 (Interim Night 19)

A solo experience in the back-country is one that many outdoor organizations plan for their students. It is a time where students can reflect on life, test their ability to become one with nature, and have an extended time of silence – something far too rare in our society. A solo experience is powerful. Most who go out and experience this time alone in nature wish they had more opportunities for such an experience.

My solo trip began by choosing the plot of land I would stay on. It is good to limit the area one will be on during a solo for two reasons. First, leaders can keep track of their students (this is extremely important in the back country), and second it would be easy to explore alone all day and never get tired of it. Even though exploring the back country would be amazing, it would also deter the person from concentrating on introspection and sitting quietly to observe nature – the exact purpose a solo experience is intended for. My plot was an outcropping of a cliff, varying from ten to twenty feet wide. It was slightly above the treetops and hung over the Colorado River. 150 yards down river was a class III or IV rapid that created a beautiful ambiance to drown out any noises made by other students.

My plot was in an area where large boulders had fallen, and it seemed that at any moment more were prepared to. I hoped none would fall while I inhabited that area. I quietly prayed for safety throughout the night. I laid my sleeping pad in a groove cut into the rock about four feet from the cliff edge. This, I figured, would be enough to hold me in for the night. I then placed my pack next to me, on the cliff-edge side, as a second bit of protection.

I began to attune myself to my surrounds. I tried to experience things through all my senses and truly pay attention to what was going on. I noticed the dirt smelled different from the dirt back home. I reached down and touched the granite below my feet; in so places it was so smooth, yet at other areas it was course. I looked at the canyon as a whole and at very small parts such as a single cactus needle. It was amazing how intricate the world around me was and how easily I had blown by so much detail in the days previous.

Soon I began to reflect on the trip and all of the humorous things that had happened. We had one member of our trip who was plagued with unfortunate events but was always in high spirits and could take a couple jokes. He was so much fun to be around. I reflected on some of the humorous events that had already occurred (Including him walking into multiple cacti, being the only one to soak a shoe, and having a pipe that simply wouldn’t light). I wondered what would be next.

I was told that peeing off cliffs was one of the leading causes for men dying in the back-country. Nature called and naturally, I had to investigate what was so exciting about this peeing off cliffs thing. I quickly concluded that it was totally worth the risk.

That black spec on the edge of the point by the rapids in my 6'3" classmate, The canyon is HUGE!

Night began to approach, so I ate my dinner of peanut butter and honey tortilla sandwiches – one of my favorite meals on the trail. I crawled into my zero degree sleeping bag, and hoped to stay warm for the night. The view from where my head rested on the pillow was astounding. It was the best view I had ever had from a pillow, and I had it all to myself. I did not want to close my eyes! Far out on the right, large white water rapids were echoing through the canyon. A peninsula extended out from the short on the left to meet the rapids. Stars were uncountable, extending across the night sky like a delicately stitched blanket. Cliffs soared upwards all around me; the moon rested in the trough between two of these peeks. In the far distance, like a staircase leading up to the moon, each successive tier of the canyon was visible. It was perfect.

Morning came and as the sun began to rise, great shapes began to distinguish themselves. The author of the great rumble, the rapids, once again came into view and so did some of my fellow classmates. I noticed everyone facing one of the plots, starring, and laughing. When my eyes found the plot’s inhabitant, I found out what was so funny. The student who was having no luck with cacti had rolled onto one in the night and was now attempting to pluck hundreds of needles from his bum. I couldn’t wait to get back to camp and hear the story first-hand.

This is the view down river from the rapids; this is what I was looking at from my pillow during the night

With a couple hours left in my solo time I was overcome with my “Lord of the Flies” instincts and began to play like a child. First I decided that I wanted to view up river, a feat only possible by traversing the entire point on which my plot stood. There was water below me, so I knew I wouldn’t get hurt, but a fall would mean hiking in soaking wet boots for the last two days of the trip – Gore-Tex holds water in just as well and it keeps water out. I began to traverse the point. I had made it quite a distance around the point and could almost see up river when, much to my surprise, the handhold that was bearing most of my weight tore out. I had two fingers on my other hand in a little finger-hole and that was all that saved me from the cold January water.

One narrow escape was enough for me and I abandoned my dream of seeing up river. I traversed back to my plot and scrambled back up to my shelf on the cliff. I began to play with rocks on my plot as I did when I was a child. I enjoyed the freedom to regress for a time to my childhood instincts without being judged by others. Too quickly the solo time was over. I packed up my things and headed back to camp to discuss experiences and hear first-hand what happened with the cactus during the night.

This solo experience gave me the rare opportunity everyone needs to sit and think about life. This time allowed me to relax and figure out all the things I had previously been too busy to contemplate back home. The solo experience was good for my mind as I had time to address any and all of my concerns; it was good for my soul because it gave me time to pray and meditate; it was good for my body, because I had hiked many miles on very uneven terrain and this was a chance for my body to rest. Through this experience I has able to become more connected with nature and watch a day pass me by rather than being too busy, like normal, to notice the sun and moon move around me.

 

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Backpacking the Grand Canyon days 2 and 3

Backpacking the Grand Canyon days 2 and 3

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Day 2 (20 January 2011, Interim day 18)

            The day was filled with ups and downs, literally. One moment the path would lead us up a set of switchbacks, and the next moment it would take us down another even longer set of switchbacks. Slowly we descended further and further into the depths of the canyon.

I was sore from the previous day’s hike. The hike had been down hill all day and we were back at it once again. My pack was significantly heavier this second day because the campsite we would stay at next had undrinkable water- we were told there was radiation in the water. Consequently, we had to fill water drums with enough water for the group for the afternoon hike, dinner meal, and the entire next day until we would be able to find another water source. I was one of the lucky souls who got to carry the extra weight which made my pack about 65lbs. Several other group members had packs around this weight as well, some even a little heavier.

During our seven-mile hike, we came across three stags (eight or more points each), two doe, and a fawn. They were beautiful and so graceful in their movements. After taking some time to watch these animals in their natural habitat, the group pushed forward.

Due to campsite regulations stating that groups could not be larger than six at either of our campsites, our big group of twelve had to split into two smaller groups of six for the night. We split up rather arbitrarily. I was in the group that would hike a shorter distance this day and make up for it with an 11-mile hike the next day.

Upon reaching our camp, we cooked dinner and took pictures around the campsite. One of our favorite pictures was taken from the box (primitive back-country toilet where a box is placed over a hole or collection tank) showing off the view. It was by far the best view any one of us had ever had from a toilet.

Our small group got into a deep discussion while we cooked dinner, bonding and getting to know one another in a way we had not done so before. With fewer voices contributing to the conversation, it was easier to focus on each member of the group and truly get to see who they are.

Once dinner was over, everyone went to bed. No fires were allowed in the canyon, it turned dark early, and we would be getting up very early the next morning as well. The girls went to their tent and we went to ours. My watch read 7:00PM.

Day 3 (21 January 2011, Interim day 19)

            We were five-miles behind the other group and were hoping to meet them just after their breakfast. For this reason, and because we had gone to bed so early the night before, we woke up at 4:00AM to eat breakfast and begin our hike.

A tendon had been flipping back-and-forth in my right knee since the beginning of the trip. It was causing me a lot of pain while hiking, and despite my efforts to hide it, I was starting to limp. A fellow member of my group, John, noticed me trying to hide the pain. He proceeded to take some weight out of my pack and put it in his. This helped immensely and I was very grateful.

Once our hike was underway, my knee started to bother me less. With slightly less weight in my pack, my knee only acted up after breaks and while hiking downhill. This was much more manageable than having every step be as painful as they had begun to be.

Just as the sun was beginning to warm the canyon, we stumbled upon four large stags. They were far more cautious than the ones we had seen the previous day, so they fled quickly. I was in awe at how well the deer could climb steep rocks and how careless they seemed while doing so. They were beautiful.

Quickly we came to one of the numerous long and narrow ridges in the canyon. Repeatedly we would walk about a mile to get to the other side of a gap no more than 100-feet wide. I found it curious how much I had previously taken bridges for granted.

After some time, but not as long as we had expected, we met up with the other group. They were not expecting us so early but were happy to see us. Together we walked several more ridges before stumbling upon an oasis. I quickly forgot my fatigued muscles as I surveyed our new landscape. In a matter of moments, we had gone from hiking in a dry, desert-like terrain to pushing lush foliage out of our faces and even seeing trees for the first time since we began our descent into the canyon two days prior.

Our map did not accurately show where the trail was supposed to lead us and the trail had disappeared altogether. Often there were cairns (small stacks of rocks) to mark paths that foot-traffic alone could not sufficiently mark but there were none in sight.

Scouts climbed to overlooks but found no signs on a trail. We decided to follow a small creek bed down to the Colorado River because the map showed the creek leading directly to our campsite. The weather was nice, so the risk of a flash flood was very minimal, an in the unexpected circumstance that one did occur, the group had the necessary teamwork required to get ourselves in a safe position.

            The river bed was amazing. Tier after tier, the rock walls extended straight up towards the sky. There were pools that required some ninja-like traversing moves (with feet on one wall and hands on the other) in order to cross the water without soaking our boots. The route proved treacherous at times, but the group worked together passing girls packs over difficult sections and giving a hand to any who wanted one while navigating risky parts of the creek bed. The group safely navigated the rocks. However, there were still a few mishaps. During one such traverse, the map fell into a pool, but luckily it was laminated! We also had one group member slip and put a boot underwater. This was not a huge problem, however, because we only had another couple of miles to go before we would reach our next campsite where they could be removed to dry.

The creek bed morphed into pebbles and flattened out. The water current continued to weaken until it simply disappeared. “How strange?” I thought as we continued to hike down the now dry creek bed.

I took many pictures of the rock. It had smooth, colorful features as well as jagged, grey-toned features to contrast. I was fascinated.

Our geologist pointed out the stacks of rocks along the creek bed and continued to explain how flash-flooding would have moved the rocks based on their size to their current locations. As this was being explained, we also saw a cairn – a very welcome site. We had indeed been on a path that others used as well to reach the campsite. These cairns are set up by other hikers to guide one another from place to place. Often they will be blown over in high winds or toppled from rushing water. For this reason many cairns are made at different heights. Our group added a few cairns along the way in places that did not have many.

In time water once again began to seep up through the ground as the creek came above ground once again. The babbling noise it made was welcomed by all, and the calming sound was soon replaced by the even more welcomed sound of white-water. We were getting close to the Colorado river and therefore we were also getting close to our campsite. The new noise hastened the groups pace as all were eager to reach the river and unload our packs.

When we reached the camp we were greeted by a group of white-water-rafters who were on a month-long trip down the Colorado River. They were very friendly and even took our trash from us – a very nice thing to do for people in the backcountry where “you pack out what you pack in.”

The group made a late lunch and prepared for our 18-hour solo time. During this time each member of the group would separate and spend the following hours in solitude. This solo time is a common practice in outdoor education. It teaches people to slow down, lends time for meditation and introspection, and allows people to really take in the environment they are in. This time would begin after our lunch and we would re-gather the following day for lunch once again. This would prove to be one another one of the highlights of my life so far.

To read more check back in for my next post!

Also see:

[interim part 1 – Joshua Tree Rock Climbing]

[Interim part 2 – Wilderness First Response Training]

[Interim part 3a – Grand Canyon Backpacking day 1]

 

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Backpacking the Grand Canyon (day 1)

Backpacking the Grand Canyon (day 1)

19 January 2011

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Day 1 (Interim day 17)

After getting up at 6:00 am, cleaning rooms, and loading the van, we were fed our last meal in the front country, savory bacon with scrambled eggs. With much excitement, our group piled into the van and departed Flagstaff, AZ, headed to the Grand Canyon (or as Native Americans called it, “Mountain Lying Down”).

My first view of the Canyon was magnificent. Since it was January, the outer rim was covered with snow and ice, but from where we stood we could see the warm base of the canyon below. All were stunned by the magnitude of the canyon, but none could fully appreciate its enormity until that night, after trekking 7.5 mile to the base of the canyon 4,000 feet down. From the top, the canyon seems gigantic, but what many don’t realize is that the “cracks” that seem so small from the top actually extend down the canyon twice as deep as can be seen from the top. This is where we spent much of the following week, winding through this lowest level where the life-giving water flows.

One miss-step could land you down sever rows of switchbacks. Good thing it wasn't too icy

Our hike began on the South Kaibab trail, which has more switchbacks than I would want to count. My knees, both of which I had broken a couple years prior, screamed at me for putting them through the descent but I remained quiet, complaining does nobody any good and I wanted to see what my body was still capable of.

We often paused during our descent for brief lessons from the geology major on our trip. He would get so excited over the smallest differences in rock grains and shapes and would pour out his knowledge to the group. Many of us would stop and listen as we were very intrigued (and it was just fun to see someone get so excited over things the rest of us would breeze past without paying much, if any, attention too). This turned our to be a highlight for many of us on the trip, turning into a week-long history lesson of how the different layers of the canyon formed over time and how it will continue to change in the future. Walking through the canyon while learning about it in such detail was amazing; textbooks could never compete with this academic experience.

The trail led us further and further into the depths of the canyon. It seemed as if it would never end, until finally we caught a glimpse of the mighty Colorado River. It was still an hours’ hike away, but it put a little extra pep into our steps. When we finally reached the Colorado our feet were hot (the temperature at the bottom of the canyon was around 70° even though the top rim had snow), but the trail took us to a foot bridge rather than the river bank. No rest yet.

The bridge’s construction materials (which included eight 2” diameter steel cables that span the rivers breadth) could not be transported by mules and consequently had to be carried down by men. I could not imagine re-doing that hike carrying giant steel cables – my backpack with a week’s food plus water and clothes was more than enough for me.

Enjoying the view about 500 feet down into the canyon during our first short break

Finally we reached our campsite. There was a permanent overhang-shelter and the weather was nice so we did not set up our tents. Following dinner, we, the men, broke out pipes and enjoyed a relaxing smoke after the days effort.

This event was one of my favorite memories of my life thus far. There was a quiet ambiance from a stream trickling in the background. I took slow, careful draws on my pipe – enjoying the full flavor of my ‘crops circle’ blend of tobacco. All were quiet, simply absorbing the night. Then, suddenly, a bright bauble began to appear in the sky. It grew and grew in size until finally a full moon had risen from the darkness over the wall of the Grand Canyon. We all witnessed one of the free shows God brings about on a nightly basis, but rarely does anyone give it mind and even more rarely do people have such wonderful seats for the show! The full moon brought with it a second daylight so powerful our still bodies cast shadows on the canyon floor.

In this new light I went for a walk and came across a group of deer who were very friendly. I stood, surrounded by the deer, and took pictures of them. They didn’t appreciate my flash, however, and soon walked away. I went back to camp and prepared my sleeping mat and bag. The whole group slept on the dirt with the stars as our ceiling. I was too excited to sleep and instead watched the moon cross the entire night-sky and set over the far rim. Never before had I stayed up to watch such a majestic happening. Quietly I contemplated what living in such an advanced society was making me miss.

The moon set over the far rim of the canyon and I fell asleep for a couple hours before the early morning wake-up call. What an amazing first day in the Grand Canyon! I could not have asked for a better start to our adventure in the canyon.

Full moon on the rise

 

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How to save a life – Wilderness First Response Training

How to save a life – Wilderness First Response Training

(9-19 January 2011)

Day 0 (Interim day 6)

My 2011 Calvin College interim team ended up leaving our Single Pitch rock-climbing instructor training in Joshua Tree, California a little later than expected. At 1:00 in the morning we finally arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona. We were all exhausted from waking up at 6:00 the previous morning in order to accomplish our final day of instruction before leaving for Arizona. Yet, regardless of our fatigue and the fact that we had to get up to start our next day in six and a half hours, none could pass up the long awaited opportunity to take a shower. At this point, nobody has showered in over a week because the desert we camped in did not have running water.

The shower in the hostel where we stayed was quite something. The tiles were stained, and there were spiders and other insects to keep us company while we washed up. Nobody thought twice about the grimy shower, it was the first shower in a week and that was all that mattered. My watch read 2:30 AM by the time we were all in bed. That meant only four hours until we would be woken up for breakfast – at least I was not assigned to be a cook that morning.

Day 1 (Interim day 7)

After a very long day and a very short night, we woke up early for our initial Wilderness First Response class. Class took us from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day, with some additional evening sessions, since we were squeezing a standard 3-credit college course into a nine day period. It’s no wonder one of our instructors, Pete, had eight cups of coffee during class every day.

Once the first class was over, a majority of us went to the local climbing gym where our AMGA instructor from the Joshua Tree portion of our trip was employed. The gym was ridiculously large and had a wonderful variety of climbs and boulder routes.

I helped cook dinner when we returned from the climbing gym. We made a lot of spaghetti. Both groups from my college were together for this class and that made about 25 hungry mouths to feed. Everyone ate together in the recreation room of the hostel, and had a blast playing pool, lounging on the couches and listening to an old-style music player similar to a jukebox – my favorite item in the room. In the evenings though, most of the group would study together in this room and practice scenarios in between their turns to play on the pool table. Occasionally other tenants at the hostel would come in and play with us as well. We did our best to be a very inviting group, conscious of other tenants in the hostel, and respectful about cleaning up after ourselves.

Day 3 (Interim day 9)

This is where the Wilderness First Response (WFR) training went from fun to outstandingly enjoyable. By this point in the course we had learned enough of the basics that it was time to go out and practice. The large group was split into sub-groups, half became patients while the other half did assessments.

The WFR instructors had Hollywood quality fake blood, bruise make-up, burned skin, and splintered bones. As patients it was our job to act well enough to deserve this quality of equipment – so that’s just what we did. Every actor was slightly different from the others, making every situation unique, and all were in competition to see who could be the most obnoxious but still believable patient.

Several of us, during the asthma attack scenario hyperventilated well enough that we came very near blacking out. The story that took the cake was from a group two years prior where a student wet his own pants as part of the scenario. None of us would attempt to top (or even match) that, but we still did a very good job and had fun screaming, moaning, and insulting the people helping us whenever they made a mistake. Each got their turn in various positions and it soon became apparent that “what goes around comes around” as people who were tough patients would get tough patients in return. This only made the experience more enjoyable.

The temperature during the morning practice sessions often hovered between zero and ten degrees Fahrenheit, which is very cold as a patient. In the cold morning sessions, if the rescuers had not brought an insulated pad or if they needed to check feet or under layers of clothing, their patient would became cold very quickly. This was not a fun aspect of the training, but if was very beneficial. We were often reminded that WFR’s trained in the winter have a distinct advantage because we know and have practiced how to deal with cold weather conditions.

Day 4 (Interim day 10)

This day focused on splints for injured patients. We learned a variety of splinting techniques and the best ways to improvise them, since we would rarely pack splints into the back country. We built some very interesting splints, my favorite of which was held together by a cord tied in a carpet-stitch pattern, wrapping around the whole splint from knee to ankle (In the picture shown).

Another cool splint we learned to make was the ‘traction splint,’ which is used if someone breaks his or her femur. Now while this may be a remarkable split, it is one you never want to have to make. We were told that breaking a femur is like snapping a 2X4 board along its 4-inch width. In the unlikely event that this happens (which it occasionally does), a splint must be built that will sling the ankle and pull the lower leg until the two ends of the femur separate. Next, the splint must be tied off in this position so the broken ends of the femur can’t slide back together and potentially pinch or sever the femoral artery (a very life-threatening situation). Sound fun yet? Well, the next part ought to make it even better. After this whole contraption is built, the patient must be evacuated to a hospital before the splint can be removed, and in some situations this could take several days.

Day 5 (Interim day 11) “Where’s my helivac?”

A plane crashed in the field behind our building. We, the WFR’s in-training were the only ones around to respond. This was the two-hour scenario on the fifth day of class. We quickly organized into six teams of three to four people, each with the fourth member of our team preparing to form an additional group under my supervision should it become necessary. In addition to these teams, we also had two site supervisors who organized teams and processed requests, along with a gear distributor who would bring backboards, litters, and other necessary equipment to the highest priority teams as needed.

The first patient I began working on had a double-femur fracture and a severed femoral artery that was squirting blood with each beat of his heart (explain to me how was he not already dead?). The med-kit we were given did not have trauma sheers so I quickly jury-rigged my knife to take their place (this later earned quite a few MacGyver comments) and cut open the pant legs to reveal the injuries. I rolled a ball of athletic tape over the tip of the blade and taped off all but two inches. This made it safe to use near the patient without accidentally causing more injuries.

While the rest of the team stabilized the patient, I ran to get a backboard. On my way I noticed the scene commander’s assistant tending to a seventh patient who had quietly wandered into the scene. I turned around and let my former team know I wouldn’t be back as I now needed to assemble my own team for this extra patient.

The seventh patient was holding his amputated right hand in his left hand (he was actually holding a second left hand from a dummy because that is all the instructors had to work with, but we rolled with it). Nick, the scene commander’s assistant stabilized the spine of this seventh patient while I put a tourniquet on the right hand. I delegated the task of monitoring vitals to another member of my team, while I proceeded to clean and bag the amputated limb.

The field where we practiced the plane crash scenario

Our patient was going into shock and was complaining of feeling very cold. We put a call in to the commander for a sleeping bag. He responded quickly by indicating that response team 5 was not using theirs and we could go fetch it from them. Off I ran.

Upon my return, the patient was carefully put into the sleeping bag and we were able to calm him down a little. With the combination of the patient being too distracted to do a Focused Spine Assessment and his form of injury, we decided to keep his head immobilized in case there was a spinal injury.

We radioed the S.O.A.P. (Subjective, Objective Assessment, Plan) notes to the commander and requested a backboard and helivac. While we waited for the helivac, other calls came in that were higher priority. The helivac was directed to another group without us being informed of our priority bump. This was stressful to say the least. We radioed in numerous times requesting to know the ETA of our helicopter or at least our number on the priority list so we could tend to the patient accordingly but there was no response.

After about twenty minutes the patient stabilized and the snow kept the amputated hand cool. The scenario ended before our helicopter ever arrived but I believe we did a very good job in the treatment of our patients’, considering we were only half way through the course. This was the conclusion of class for the day and we had to wait until the next morning to conduct a debriefing session.

Days 6-8 (Interim day 12-14)

The debrief went well. We discussed what could have gone better and what we did well (like having an extra team ready to form). The two biggest hurdles we had were not having enough equipment (backboards, litters, helicopters) and not having good enough communication. Both of these are real-world problems that can make a mission successful or a complete failure. Professionals have to practice often in order to keep their communication skills honed, and they must be able to accept that their patients’ injuries may not be as severe as another’s, trusting that the Incident Commander will make the best call for everyone.

As the class drew to an end, I spent extra time and energy studying and practicing scenarios to make sure I would pass the course. The exam was 100 multiple-choice questions and a hands-on scenario during which we would be closely scrutinized. The written section covered all of the protocols, possible injuries, and intuition based on signs and symptoms being displayed in various scenarios. This was material that had been taught for 80 hours + study time in the past eight days and filled a large book about a quarter-inch thick with information (Quite a lot to memorize in just over a week!). The hands-on portion of the exam was going to be a surprise because it tested us on our ability to follow our order of operations and think on our feet. This was the sort of thing we would have to do in the real world, so we had better be able to get it exactly right now. With the pressure of the upcoming test looming, others in the group studied in the evening as well. This made for an environment that was very conducive to studying.

Night 8

            The last opportunity we had to practice was our night scenario the evening before the exam. We split into groups in the dark woods and were told which direction to head to find our patients. The snow was knee deep and very hard to walk through, we used the light of the mood and our headlamps to find our way. Just before we made it into the patch of woods where we were supposed to find our patient we heard a snap and a scream as one of our group members fell to the ground wincing in pain. We rushed over (confident in our ability to act) and began to take care of her.

When she ignored our questions of whether this was real or not, we determined the scary situation we found ourselves in was actually the scenario and the snap had been a stick she stepped on. Upon exposing the wound, we saw that the tibia had splintered and was protruding through the front of her shin. We cleaned the area and dressed it before building a splint to immobilize the leg. A proper splint should immobilize the joints immediately above and below an injury, so our splint went from the thigh to the foot of our friends right leg.

Since it was already late and we were lost (as the scenario stated), we decided to build camp for the night. Having to tent, sleeping bags, or any other overnight items and not wanting to move our injured friend, I began to build a shelter around the group. I built a snow fort in the shape of a pentagon from the five trees surrounding us. I used sticks to begin a roof then packed snow over them. The fort made the area much warmer as it cut the wind and helped hold in some heat.

After about thirty minutes, a group member went off to use the bathroom. He did not return and did not respond to our calls. We found him unconscious at the foot of a tree. He may have struck his head so we did not want to move him unless we had to (in case of spinal injury). We attempted to illicit a response but he was not even responsive to pain (a fun test to do when you know the person is only faking unconscious). We put warm clothes over our friend and packed him in with snow to insulate.

The count was two injured, three healthy. One member of my group monitored the unconscious body while the other stayed in the fort with our first injured friend. I continued to work on the fort to improve its warmth and keep my body warm (I had lent out nearly all of my layers).

We continued to monitor our friends and prepared ourselves for spending the night. After another hour or two we saw lights moving towards us and were informed the scenario was over. Miraculously our unconscious friend woke up. He had done a great job staying in character as a patient. We had rubbed sugar packets in his mouth (In case he was unconscious from a diabetic coma), bruised his trapezius muscle in trying to get him to respond to pain (we knew he wasn’t actually unconscious and we wanted him to break), and he had dealt with being cold because we simply were not given sufficient materials to keep him warm. Had this been a real life scenario, we would have made fire, and even laid next to him to keep him warm – this was not a life or deal scenario so there was no way we were going to lay with him to keep him warm.

Day 9-10 (Interim days 15-16)

           I successfully passed my Wilderness First Response exam with high scores, along with all of the other students in the course. We celebrated and thanked our instructors, Pete and Ari, before going back to the hostel. Pizza was our dinner and boy did it taste good! I had not eaten pizza in two weeks (probably the longest I have ever gone without it). I washed my clothes and spent some time alone time while others went out rock climbing.

The next day would consist of some R&R, saying goodbye to the half of our group that would now be going to Joshua Tree for their AMGA training, wandering through downtown Flagstaff, and eating at a restaurant as a group before preparing for the Grand Canyon, the last stage of this interim trip. With the other patrol gone, the hostel was quiet. I mopped the floor as a thank you to the hostel owners for letting our whole group use their facilities (and somewhat overwhelm the common space) for the week, and other members did similar jobs as thank-you’s. We packed our clothes and got ready to leave in the morning for the Grand Canyon.

See Related:

[Interim 2011 Part I] Joshua Tree

coming soon:

Interim 2011 Part III] Grand Canyon Backpacking

 

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