Wednesday, March 7, 2012

11th Grade Trip - Tornak Hut

Tornak Hut - Smoky Mountains, Idaho
We loaded the rigs to head out on Winter Trips during what can easily be described as the heaviest and fluffiest snowfall we have seen this year. I was fortunate enough to head for Tornak Hut with two OLA'ers (Ben and Gunnar) and some of their closest pals from the junior and senior class. Drew Daly of Sawtooth Mountain Guides and the Sun Valley Ski Patrol joined us as a co-leader as well.

We had an outstanding trip from start to finish. Poking around the high country of the Smoky Mountains after a fresh foot and a half of pow-wow on an old melt/freeze crust required leadership in route finding and navigation, accurate risk assessment of avalanche terrain, and effective group management.

Peeling layers at the Easley Bridge on the Harriman. 
I was super proud to see Gunnar and Ben rise to the challenge of leading a group of their peers in different situations that arose during the trip.

Ben was our resident navigation expert and with map in hand, his brain easily kept pace with the battery-powered GPS and smartphone apps that we employed as a back up. Other students quickly deferred to his judgement when the map emerged from the pack.

Ben's transitions were as buttery as the turns. 
When it came to tour planning, Gunnar was the go to guy. His newfound skill of analyzing slope angles from a topo map was put to good use in selecting uptracks and helping the group travel and ski safely on day two. Gunnar also wowed us with his Jedi-like beacon search skills logging a group-best recovery time of just under 120 seconds.

Gunnar plans the next move as Drew looks on. (Day 2)
Ben, Cassidy, and Cole prepping the Extended Column. (ECT 11- Q2 @30˚)
Everybody in the group was an excellent skier capable of shredding (or "knifing" as I learned on this trip) terrain way steeper than what the conditions allowed. The boys (yes the trip was all boys) did a remarkable job of keeping their "Y" chromosomes in check and didn't push the group or the leaders once about skiing a slope that was outside of our risk tolerance for the trip.

Good to be a Cutthroat...

Charlie H. and Benny K. making memories.....

After three days in the winter backcountry on a typical trip, I've found that most upper school students are clamoring for an 8" Delbello and a hot tub. All these guys could write on their evaluations was, "Why can't this trip be four days instead of three?"

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