Leadership Training in Action

Leadership and survival skills…how does one learn how to navigate through difficulty and face life threatening conditions?  Here’s one way…

We started out Friday in 19°F  weather under a blue sky:

Bethany, David, and I planned to cover about 15 miles over 3 days, however we didn’t plan on needing snow shoes based on past experiences at Mount Rogers Recreational Area.

Over several miles of strenuous hiking through deep snow drifts and snow covered trail blazes, our orienteering skills were tested giving me an opportunity to teach my children how to triangulate using topo maps and a liquid filled compass (yes, we actually still use a compass – which I find is a lost art).  David, my 15 year old son was leading, and keeping an eye on our time and progress.  Knowing the sun would be setting at 5:30 gave us a very limited amount of daylight to reach a safe campsite.  At one point David realized we would probably not make it and recommended an alternative route, which we all agreed would be best.

By 4:30 we had made it to our alternative campsite and set up as the sun was setting.  We ate freeze dried chicken teriyaki which David graciously prepared while Bethany and I set up camp.  By 5:30 the sun was setting and we ate overlooking the lights of Sparta NC in the distance.  Our campsite is at an elevation of close to 6000 feet – treeless, and reminiscent of the Sierras.

Our night was bitter cold, reaching down into the single digit temperatures…high winds and some snow!

On day two we opted for a day hike to Mt. Rogers…our first big challenge was to find water nearby our new campsite.  We were able to locate what appeared to be a creek about half a mile down the trail.  We set out, bottles and filter in hand, to locate this creek.  When we finally did come to what seemed to be a creek – it was covered in snow and no water seemed to be flowing.  David followed the creek down to a small iced-covered puddle and was able to break through to a shallow water collecting point.  We dug it out to create a small reservoir, let the water settle and began pumping.  Unfortunately the extreme temperatures caused our water filter to freeze up immediately.  The next idea was to fill our bottles from the source and boil the water.  This added some extra fiber to the water, but I’m sure we’ll live.

From there we set out on our day hike, climbing over ridges, rocks, drifts, and crossing windy balds.  The views were amazing.

Wooded sections near  Rhododendron Gap

Climbing over snow drifts and rock outcroppings

and returning to our base camp for dinner.  Here is a shot of the sunset – the start of a very cold night!

The next morning was bitter cold – here is a shot of my ice covered headlamp hanging inside the tent!

Once packed, we set out on the AT heading for the Massy Gap parking area and headed home.  We all agreed to do it again, next time with snow shoes!

© 2011, David Stelzl


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