I just completed a course called Happy Camper. The purpose of this course is to teach winter camping and survival skills to anyone who may work out in the field camps of Antarctica. We are given supplies which would allow us to survive, but not necessarily camp comfortably or be warm. The gear provided is very basic and the rest is up to you. My boss said it’s not only to teach us how to survive, but to overcome the mental hurdle or limitations we put upon ourselves.
The sun is up 24 hours a day now and doesn’t set, but it was far from warm on this trip. We had very cold weather so we had to stay bundled up and not expose any skin. It only took a couple seconds of exposure to start to feel stinging cold. I was wearing as many as six layers with multiple pairs of gloves and mittens. Even the moisture of your eyes was freezing and causing icicles on your eyelashes. We threw boiling water in the air and it instantly froze. It was almost like an explosion! I will try to post the video as it was very cool!
The first thing we did was setup shelter in the form of a Scott tent. This is named after RF Scott as it’s the same basic type of tent he used on his expeditions over 100 years ago. We then mined snow blocks using hand saws and shovels to build a wall to protect our tents from wind. Then a kitchen pit was dug out so that we could use small stoves to melt snow for our water. I had a Nalgene bottle of water inside my snowpants and it still froze solid! We all had Pee bottles as we are not allowed to pee in the snow. 🙂 Believe me when I tell you that it’s actually great to have them because you can tuck them in your sleeping bag for warmth!
We also went through an exercise called “Bucket Head”. The purpose of this is to simulate whiteout conditions otherwise known as Condition 1. This is the worst weather we could have down here and you can’t see or hear anything. We had to simulate a lost person and try to recover them while using the buckets on our head. I proposed a strategy to our team and it worked really well. It was a really fun experience and I want to thank our instructor Alasdair Turner. It’s important to look out for your teammates, and our entire team came back with all their fingers and toes and no frostbite.