Friday, 14 March 2008

Bearclaw Winter WEISS 2008

The Weiss course was designed and established 40 years ago and the programme hasnt changed much since then.
Essentially the idea is you do a summer or temperate course to test your everyday skills - (skills which are much of a much ness the world over, by this I mean fire lighting in Swedish summer is not much different to fire lighting in scotland or Africa or Australia .............but fire lighting in the frozen north when the woods appears dead but is really just frozen is a different matter!) then you progress to a winter course which teaches you the skills needed to preserve life either above the tree line or in a snowy wonderland!!

Ideally all those attending the Winter WEISS are there by either invite or by the fact they have proven themselves good enough to pass the Temperate course. In many ways they are the elite, showing courage, fortitude and great personal inner strength as well as the highest level of personal skill.

The course itself is more relaxed than the Summer WEISS as learning is key - at minus 12 with a wind chill of minus 25 you can not afford to make mistakes!! The subject range is wide and varied as you would expect but the skills required to preserve life are paramount and as such much time was dedicated to them - especially such things as teaching the students (by trial and error) the difference in snow types and the types of shelters you can and cant build easy it is in a survival manual when you read "build a snow trench or a quince"!!
The Winter WEISS students now the reality of it! Half a day was spent making Quince and digging out snow blocks - in the wrong type of snow ...............the school of hard knocks maybe but the lesson was well learned!!

As was the fact of how warm the interior of a well made snow hole can be - indeed so much so that several people chose to sleep outside as the shealters were too warm!!

After life preseveration comes Life saving .........and here our Swedish instructor Kim (author of medical/first aid manuals and ski patrol leader) did a great job teaching the course practical skills for the winter enviroment including a avalanche casualty evacuation with a real casualty (we a live one anyway.

Ultimately the winter enviroment is a beautiful place - but a world not to be taken lightly!! As Robert Service says in the poem "spell of the Yukon - send me you strong and your sane!" for the winter WEISS, like the winter world of the north, is not a course for the fair weather crafter - it is a course design by and lead by expereinced winter outdoorsmen and it is a course aimed at teaching those who have reached or are reaching the peak of their bushcraft skills and training so congratulations to all those who attended this highly educational learning experience!!

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