Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Diving in

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at my training this past weekend.  It was my first training in four years, out in cold New Hampshire.  Fun times!

On Friday we convoyed from the team warehouse in Massachusetts to the Green Woodlands, and trekked us and our gear up the mountain via snowmobile.  I did not do any of the driving . . . as some of you may know, I crashed a snowmobile my one and only time driving one, back in high school.  It was a bit traumatic for my passenger, who got his leg pinned between the machine and a tree.  Pretty sure he was a little overly dramatic for effect, but nonetheless it couldn't have been pleasant.  (Though to be clear, neither snowmobile nor passenger were permanently injured.)  Since then I have avoided the things completely.

So fifteen years (yikes!) later I climbed back on the horse, and rode around on snow machines all weekend.  I held on for dear life up the mountain, convinced I was going to fly off at any moment.  All in one piece, we finally arrived at the cabin, and I claimed my box spring to sleep on . . . a third of the 18 people in my cabin had mattresses, another third had box springs (Mine was pretty comfy with a couple blankets to put on for padding.), and the rest pulled up a piece of the floor.  We were pretty much in the lap of luxury as far as winter camping goes, though, as our cabin had a generator for lights and water . . . and a woodstove for heat!  The loft where I slept was nice and toasty.

Both Friday and Saturday nights we hiked out into the trails to do search and rescue drills, carrying our victims out by SKED or radioing back for a snowmobile.  Both nights were great . . . cold but beautiful and quiet (with an amazing full moon visible on Saturday!), perfect for a winter hike.  Saturday night all of our teams got back with their victims in record time, just about an hour.


Totally not my team in this picture, but this is a SKED . . . you can use it to move patients in some pretty tight spots, including in a completely vertical position.  Once you have them in it correctly, there's no way they can fall out.

We had various breakout sessions thruout the weekend: Cold Weather Emergencies, Orienteering, Splints, Hypothermia and EKG Exercise, Hypothermia Wrap, and Cold Water Rescue being some of the topics.  Yes, I did the hands-in-an-icebucket-with-EKG-on exercise again, and lived to tell about it. I was most definitely anxious beforehand, as evidenced by a heart rate of 115 before even putting my hands in a bucket . . . twice my normal resting heart rate.  But I did it, and found the three marbles, one dice, and one toy car at the bottom of the bucket after having my hands in as long as I could stand it.  I couldn't find the battery, but that was only because it had frozen into a chunk of ice instead of resting on the bottom.

Most fun the whole weekend?  Cold Water Rescue!  We had two different kinds of cold water suits to wear . . . the red Gumby Suit (I'm pretty sure it has a more official name, but I have no idea what it is), and the yellow Mustang suit that I wore.  The thought of climbing into a hole chopped into 12-inch thick ice with a chainsaw was pretty intimidating since I was convinced that a giant lake trout was going to pull me under the ice (yes, I know that is a very silly fear!), but we had a great instructor who made the whole thing pretty fun.

The Mustang suit has ice picks attached to the sleeves, so we learned how to pull ourselves along on the ice to reach a victim, and to use them to pull ourselves back out of the water.  Then we learned a couple other ways to get out . . . using momentum to climb out, rolling out, and a combination of all of the above.  After that we worked on how to rescue a victim, even a panicked one who is grabbing at you (yes, I got to thrash about pretending I was drowning, kind of fun).

getting ready

in the water

getting pulled out

joe drowning

The only tricky thing about the suit is that sometimes it's hard to keep your legs down if there is any air trapped in them, so I had to fight with mine a bit.

"I'm trying to rescue him (my partner), but my legs keep popping up!"

"Keep them down!"

"I'm trying!!!"

A little more thrashing about and I got the rescue rope around my "victim."  Of course, if he hadn't had a suit on himself I'm pretty sure I would have drowned him, but never mind that.

I guess the whole weekend was pretty great, because now I'm thinking of another highlight: the Orienteering exercise.  I have picked up a compass maybe two or three times in my entire life, and it has never really made any sense to me whatsoever.  And I'm pretty sure all of those times were at previous winter trainings, so I didn't have high hopes that it would make any more sense this time.

But it did!  I totally got it!  The instructor dumbed it down enough that I was actually able to contribute some to our team finding all five of our flags.  I won't attempt to describe what he taught us, because I know I don't have it down well enough to teach anyone else.  (No see one, do one, teach one here!)  Suffice it to say, my team of four had to trek around the woods with a compass and piece of paper that had our bearings on it, and we made it all the way thru the exercise.  Success!


This building was the incredible space where all 34 of us met up for our meals and indoor breakout sessions.  It is completely off the grid and runs on solar power, yet has all the amenities to make our time very comfortable, including a full kitchen, bathrooms (composting toilets, pretty cool!), and internet access.  The most amazing thing about it, though, is how it is constructed . . . post and beam.  I could attempt to describe how beautiful it is for this entire post and not do it justice.  We were so lucky to be able to do our training on this property, and use this space as our springing off point.

I have only one gripe about the whole training, and that is . . . I didn't know about the woodstove-fired hot tub beforehand, so didn't bring my suit.  Other than that I packed very well, and wasn't cold the whole weekend.  (Thanks for loaning me your Rocky Blizzard Stalker boots, Ramsey!)  I'm going to be sure to make note of what to pack for next year, and you can be sure that a bathing suit will be joining my cold-weather layers in my bag for Winter Training 2014!


Don't forget, the drawing for my bag giveaway will be February 1st.  All my followers will automatically be entered to win . . . scroll down to the "Followers" section on the right hand side and click on "Join this site."  Follow the instructions, and you just might win the bag!


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