Author: Jarett Stastny
Jessica Ferguson and I (Jarett Stastny) had the privilege of being endorsed by the Edmonton section to attend ACC national’s The North Face leadership course this winter. We quickly had a chance to meet our eight companions from various sections (the most distant hailing from the Montreal section) and our two expert ACMG guides Cyril Shokoples and Matt Reynolds.
We called the Lake Louise Alpine Centre our base camp and we steeled ourselves for the -30C average temperatures for the week. This was a particularly bitter thought having just enjoyed not so long before an unusual +8C weekend in Edmonton’s January. Despite the frigid and enduring cold, Cyril and Matt kept our brains burning with thoughtful and challenging teachings. We applied our learning straight away and all through the course by breaking into smaller groups to take turns completing morning briefings on weather and avalanche conditions, as well as with evening MIN writing and trip planning.
Classroom sessions in the Alpine Centre’s guide’s room, which is seeping with history and adorned with vintage mountaineering equipment and ACC paraphernalia, were a real treat. Readings and lessons I completed about outdoor leadership were revelatory to some of the complex thinking my own outdoor mentors must have been applying at times when I admittedly didn’t fully understand it. I proudly remembered past trips where I demonstrated sound leadership but also sheepishly reflected on times where I acted selfishly or emotionally and could have been a better trip leader or trip participant. Whoa. This was an “intensive, thought-provoking course” just as advertised!
As much as I enjoyed the classroom, nothing beats learning directly from experienced guides while out on the trail! When I applied for the course I had already identified trail skills I knew I wanted to improve. From tweaking trail breaking and group spacing to navigation and managing a group, I found these skills were tested during the course and I was given the guidance to help work them into shape and the confidence to continue working at it. The class of ACC TNF Winter 2019 completed trips that included visits to the Onion/Bow Hut, the Ferris Glacier/Little Crowfoot, Helen Shoulder, Observation Peak, Chickadee Valley, Pulpit Knob, and the Dolomite Circuit.
Our cohort enjoyed relatively stable conditions with low-low-low avalanche ratings for the majority of our time out. We were still able to seek and find interesting localized instabilities to test safely. Beyond that we also found sunny slopes to ski, stories to tell, and new friendships to enjoy.