This last weekend our Scout Troop headed up to Trout Lake, Washington to venture into the longest Lave Tube cave in North America, called Dead Horse cave. We tried to get up to the cave last year, but with record snow fall we could not get to the entrance. So the PLC put it on the calender again for this year and in a month that the snow should not be that bad, if there at all.
The temps have been dropping and with the Dead Horse cave being pretty much at the base of Mt. Adams we kept an eye on the weather and told the PLC to be prepared for cold temps. The 10 day forecast called for around 21*. We conducted a shake down on Monday night before the trip and found that some of the guys were carrying too much and in appropriate gear for cold weather.
We pride ourselves on learning from mistakes, but more importantly being a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to cold weather camping. I have spent a great deal of time teaching both the ASMs and the Scouts about cold weather camping, and so it troubles me when we teach and take great care in instructing the Scouts to be better prepared for their outdoor adventures and they choose not to listen or act on the instruction. What I will tell you though is that with experience comes knowledge and we all learn from mistakes and our lack of preparedness.
So what I have summed up in our first cold weather experience for this year is simply its all about Skill and Gear.
Camping in the cold and extreme cold requires a different skill set than you typical 3 season adventure. It requires thinking and constant awareness. This raises a challenge when we are doing this with younger Scouts. I am going to make a sweeping generalization, but the young Scouts do not always think before they act. They take the path of least resistance, they make choices based on what seems to be fun and not what is right based on conditions. For example, they see snow. Snow equals snow balls and snow angels. Fun, yes, but the right thing to do when you need to be able to sustain in the cold for three days, No. So much of the skill we talk about with our young men is staying dry. We stay dry with Skill and Gear. Wearing clothing that will keep us dry and staying out of the snow. Simple things like using your pack cover to kneel or sit on when setting up your tent or cooking rather than plopping down in the snow. Or staying on the path rather than breaking trail if you don’t need to.
So we teach them before we head out and then stay on top of them during the trip and hope that it starts to sink in.
ATTN: SHOE COMPANIES. I don’t care about fashion and style! You have assisted in the creation of a generation that can not and will not tie their shoes. I BLAME YOU for laziness.
I can not tell you how many Scouts have trouble tying their shoes and keeping them tied. This is a major issue in the cold. This weekend I could not believe how many of the new Scouts would rather allow their boots to fill with snow than tie their boots up. GEAR. It is so important to keep your feet dry and warm. A good pair of boots and a set of Gaiters is extremely important in keeping your feet and lower legs warm and dry.
Ok, so I can go on and on, the point here is that just like when you are building something, the right tools are required to do the job right, and with the right skill set and the right gear camping in the cold is fun and exciting.
It’s all about developing in these Scouts those skills. There are Scouts today that are more than likely not happy with the way I assisted them this weekend. I was nice, I am not a yeller, but because of the way that they have been taught to be lazy and have things done for them, they had a little more of me than they wanted.
PLAN OF ACTION.
Saturday night, the ASMs and I sat around the camp fire after the Scouts went to bed. We talked about the challenges we had and how we were going to fix it.
First. Gear. We are putting together a list of recommended gear and must have gear. We will distribute that list to the parents at a mandatory parent meeting. It will be made clear that if a parent does not attend the Scout will not camp with us in the winter. That simple.
At that meeting we are going to show the parents what kind of gear we want to see the Scouts have. We are offering solutions for the lack of gear that some of the Scouts have. Between myself and the other Assistant Scoutmasters we have a lot of gear. We are all willing to loan gear until the Scout can get his own. We want ever Scout to have this experience, but we can not have a Scouts go unprepared.
Prepared for cold weather camping requires the right Skill and the right Gear. I can not make exceptions when it comes to the safety of our Scouts.
Second part of the plan is to change the shake down plan. We currently do them the meeting before the camp out. We talked with the PLC and we are going to start doing the night of the camp out. We will not leave the meeting hall till the gear is right. A parent will have to stick around to either make adjustments or take the Scout home when he does not meet the conditions for the camp out.
The Scout will not go with us if he is not prepared.
And finally. We will make sure that our older Scouts are prepared and able to assist with the training. Our troop has become every young in the last year, with as many new Scouts as we have brought in there is a need to go back and retrain everyone and ensure that we all are on the same page when it comes these skills. In the long run we will have a better trained and ready group on our next winter adventures… which by the way is in January. So the time line is short and the urgency of matter is there. We start tonight.
Skills and Gear equal success in the winter.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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