Friday, November 22, 2019

2019 Ice Skating on Stella Lake

 We couldn't believe it, but it happened again. For the third year in a row, the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive stayed open into November due to lack of snow. The temperatures got cold enough to freeze Stella Lake, which meant we could go ice skating! We were so excited!

The kids and I went up with my friend Jenny. We had to check the night before to see if the kids' ice skates still fit (they're the adjustable size kind), and fortunately they did.

The ice seemed kind of thin at the north end, so we headed to the cove on the east side. Our first year up here for ice skating, only this section was frozen, and the rest was open water.

Desert Girl did a fair bit of rollerblading this summer, so she put on the skates and was off.

Eventually we moved out on the bigger part of the lake and found the south end was good, although it made some weird noises. It was fun skating with Wheeler Peak in the background.

It was warm. So warm that Desert Boy decided to take his shirt off.

 Our friend Meg came and made it look easy!

Desert Girl and Jenny did some more artistic moves. 
 We had such a wonderful time that we knew we had to come be continued...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Late Fall Jaunt on the Serviceberry Trail, Great Basin National Park

I've run most of the trails in Great Basin National Park this summer to prepare for the Tushars Marathon, but I didn't make it to the Serviceberry Trail up Snake Creek. I decided to remedy that before I headed over for the Moab Trail Half-Marathon. (This has been a year of a lot of running for me!).

I wasn't surprised to find myself alone at the trailhead. The loop trail is approximately 3.2 miles, and you can see many of the eponymous shrubs right at the trailhead. This time of year they aren't too showy, with no green leaves, white blossoms, or dark berries.

I headed west (left) first, following along the creek for awhile, then climbing up towards the saddle. 

I love this big granite rock with the rock balancing on it. 

Fall colors happened so fast that I didn't get a chance to get up Snake Creek to enjoy the aspens this year. Upper Snake Creek has one of the best aspen groves in the park.

As I went over the saddle, I enjoyed the views.

 These aspens didn't have any leaves left on them, and the ones on the ground weren't particularly colorful.

I did find one small aspen on the backside with leaves! It felt like I won a treasure hunt.

This part of the trail is especially nice, with gentle ups and downs.

Sagebrush covers most of the lower hillside, transitioning to pinyon pine and Utah juniper up higher. In wetter drainages, we see aspen and white fir.

And over the trail is an arch of mountain mahogany.

Then it's time for lots of switchbacks down to the trailhead. The serviceberry is really abundant here. This is one of the easier trails in the park, but it does have a fair bit of elevation change. It's open anytime you can get up the road--eventually the road will be snow-covered in the winter. You usually have it to yourself, and it's quite peaceful and beautiful.
Here's a blog post about hiking the Serviceberry Trail with fall colors.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Small Party Assisted Rescue (SPAR) class in Nevada

I teach cave rescue courses for the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC), and one of my favorites is the Small Party Assisted Rescue class. The idea behind this class is that if someone in your caving group gets hurt or sick on the cave trip and doesn't need a litter carry out, your group gets the person out with the gear they have.

The class is often structured for three or four days. I've helped teach them in many states and even Canada over the past few years. Recently we held one in Baker, Nevada. After the morning in the classroom, we headed to our rope gym. Students were split up into small groups and rotated to several stations.

Traveling haul is a fantastic small party rescue technique, because you don't need any extra rope. With two small pulleys (you could use carabiners, but lose a lot of efficiency), you make a 2:1 haul system that moves up the rope. When you put the redirected rope into your Croll and sit down, you have great pulling force. Plus the patient can help (if not too injured).

Here's Dr. Tom waiting to get lifted up and over the table at the releasable redirect station. This is a fun technique that allows you to move someone not only vertically, but also a bit horizontally.

Tom was helping rig, but the main reason I had to include this photo is how often do you get to do ropework with a nearby disco ball??

The balcony provided a great place to practice convert to lower. The idea is that a patient (or a couple jugs of foam) are stuck on rope, and the rope is hard tied at the top. With some extra rope or webbing, how can you lower them quickly to the bottom? (Hint: Munter hitches are a great tool here)

Another station is the diminishing loop counterweight, where a rope goes through a pulley, and the rescuer is on one side and the patient on the other, and they are tethered together. As the rescuer climbs, the patient also goes up. You just have to figure out what to do when you get to the pulley! (That comes in day 2.)

The infamous Voodoo, a way to tension the rope. We used it for the guided rappel.

All this work made us hungry! A catered dinner from Salt & Sucre really hit the spot. Yum!

Then it was back to work with demonstrations and practice time.

Day 2 was all about the cliffs. I was so busy with teaching I hardly got any photos. Here's a multi-pitch way up the cliffs. Students learned how to rappel a patient through rebelays, as well as several other rescue techniques.

After another delicious catered dinner, it was time for a little whiteboard exercise of how to choose which method to use under which circumstances.

The final day was scenario day, where students go caving with instructors in small groups. Somehow an instructor in each group manages to have a problem, which must be solved. They all did great!

Thank you to all the instructors who came and shared their knowledge and to all the students willing to take time to learn something that may help them out some day.
Fantastic 2019 Nevada SPAR class
If you're interested in cave rescue, you can see upcoming classes at the NCRC website.
Hint: there's another cave rescue class (not as technical) coming up in Baker, NV soon, but only has a few spots left!
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