The key to unlocking beauty in the winter

By: Lawrence Panzo

Imagine an impenetrable fortress full of insurmountable obstacles and life threatening traps, but beyond the wall lies a treasure: the most beautiful landscape in the country– the wild west coast mountains.

In the summer, paths are steep and treacherous, mosquitoes are abundant and … well… bears.  But, as winter sets, and snow rounds off the steep paths; there’s no better time to break into the fortress and explore the mountains than this.  This past March 31, 2013 our group of five Rover Scouts together with our expert guide Scouter Vince Poulin sought out to learn the key skills to unlocking the local mountains.

Scouter Vince Poulin with Rover Scout Dylan Book

We donned specialized winter gear: crampons, trekking poles and an ice axe and set off on our journey to learn how to use these specialized tools at Mount Seymour.  The theme of the day was: “If you can do it here, you can do it at any elevation, any temperature and any hardship.” A couple lessons we learned were:

How to safely use our equipment:  Crampons are extremely sharp and it’s very easy to cut one’s calf  or shin with the points.  We took it to the next level and learned how to conserve energy in our calves for kicking in later on our trek.  We also learned to travel via the 3-point method wherein you make sure you have 3 points (2 poles and a foot) securely anchored to the mountain before moving the 4th one forward.  This made it extremely safe to travel  even on narrow passes.

Left to right: learning to adjust trekking poles, learning to adjust crampons, using an ice axe to set a shelter

Teamwork: The leader “trailblazer” always has to do the most work, and it’s up to the team to follow in their footsteps.  As we stepped in the path made for us by the lead, we compacted it and made it stronger. It was a cakewalk for the last person of the team to come up some of the steeper paths because of the efficient way we traveled.  I think this sets a good metaphor for what we do in our Scout Group and in life.

Mindspace:  After learning proper techniques and getting in adequate training, climbing a mountain like Mount Seymour is no different than doing it at longer and steeper climbs.  The only difference is in your mind.  I think this lesson is completely transferable to everyday situations and this experience really brought it to light.

Don’t carry heavy baggage: Scouter Vince showed us what he carried in his pack during one of our breaks.  His pack weighed just under 30 pounds, but had everything he needed to survive for at least a couple days.  In addition to the 10 essentials, he carrier with him his “extra 9 essentials” which would make even getting stuck on the top of a mountain an enjoyable experience.  If a person can carry a minimum of 30 pounds and gain the knowledge they need to thrive in the mountains then there is nothing stopping them from exploring our local mountains.

From left to right: Dylan Book, Vince Poulin, Lawrence Panzo, Karen Wong, Pinky Au, Monique Wong

We had an amazing experience learning to love the winter and mountains from our experienced guide Scouter Vince Poulin.  We learned lessons to thrive not only on the mountain, but also in life.  We had such a great time; most of us can’t wait for the next excursion!

Thank you to our outdoor advisors for making this happen once again this year:  John Wong, Hazel Wong and Vince Poulin.



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