Sunday, February 26, 2012

Home Sweet Home

With both groups working hard to select their site and clear the ground around it, the hard work really got started.  With any task in life that involves multiple people with multiple ideas it's always interesting to sit back and truly see what transpires.

As instructors we truly had two amazing groups.  Great students with great mindsets and who each brought their own life skills and experiences.

It is easy to choose a site and to clear it.  Only once that has been completed does the team actually have to start experiencing the differencing in opinions, work ethics, strengths and weaknesses.  It is the groups who accept the challenge, work within their own strengths, recognize their individual weaknesses and come together to collectively complete the job that will succeed in survival.

Both teams worked together and discovered weaknesses within themselves but also the strengths with which they brought to the table that effected their teams production in a positive manner.

As promised below are some more photos attached to chronicle the journey.  The photos are a great visual description of how Team 2 constructed their shelter.  Team 2 took this shelter task very seriously knowing that with -25 soon to roll in that their ability to have fire and a shelter that would reflect and trap heat was going to be essential to their survival.  Their mindset was right.  Their work ethic was unmatched and they completed tasks as a team.  Great work lads.

Team 2 arranging their couch prior to constructing their shelter.
Team 2 showing great team chemistry and pure enjoyment of the skills they were learning.
Team 2's shelter starting to take shape.  Classic A Frame.  Awesome Job !
A great Father and Son picture.  Austin (son) was a true work horse and a great surprise for a 17 year old.
Steve-O starting to roof the shelter with Den Father Antaire looking on with great approval.
Dusty was the crazy tree man.  He possessed a great amount of tree specie knowledge and he was in charge on dragging, limbing and became the first guy I've ever seen have a nap on two spruce trees in the middle of the trail. 
A great view of Team 2's shelter coming together.  The solid side to protect them from the west wind.
Young Austin manning the fire and keeping the snow melting and the water boiling.  A view from behind the early development of the fire reflecting wall.  Note the brightness of the sun.  This group was very advanced at this time of day.  Great work !!
The same thing photographed from the inside.  The the two different survival cans and their height difference.  One for melting and one for boiling.  Very efficient use of time and energy.
Team 2's shelter from the back with roof complete.
Steve-O plugging the holes after the instructor told them how small cold drafts in the night will drive them crazy.
Stay tuned in the next couple of days for the journey of Team 1's shelter.

For the 8 guys who are now true survivors feel free to send comments about the pictures to share your experiences and opinions with each other as well as those who follow the site.  It helps the site be a truly interactive form.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Let's Get Started !

With teams separated and the journey ahead the teams travelled into their respective site areas.  The instructors provided some advice, direction and reminded them to think about what they learned in the classroom lectures as well as the field exercises.

The instructors, confident with the lads, stood back and watched the magic happen.  It is amazing to watch guys look at each other and immediately take on the task and divide the responsibilities. 

Even though many were not aware of what lie ahead they all had a healthy respect for what could lie ahead and what might happen if they didn't heed the warnings from the instructors and the weather network !!

The forecast for that night was -24 degrees plus windchill.  That really says it all !!

In this post I will focus on chronicling Team 2's journey through site selection and the commencement of shelter construction.

I was very proud of this crew and the way they gelled as a team.  They focused on the survival priorities and almost immediately cleared the site as a team and communicated well.  This communication makes a world of difference in the efficiency of tasks.

Site location.  Note the depth of the snow.

Great Team Chemistry !!

Site clearing.  Hard work but essential to ensure a great camp space.

With site cleared Antaire prepared the fire location.

With the site cleared and the team tasks divided Team 2 member Antaire quickly moved to start the team fire and get snow melting to provide the team with hydration.  This would prove to be one of the most important tasks and allowed Team 2 to stay hydrated and healthy.

Stay tuned for more of the Survival Chronicles.  Team 1 photos soon to follow.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What ... NO SLEEPING BAG ??!!

Knowing very little about each other, the lads posed for the pre-course photo.  With nervous energy and unsure of what lay ahead they all smiled showing their excitement and genuine enjoyment of the -20 temperature and cool breeze that met them when they secured their vehicles.

However, I know exactly what they are all thinking in this great photo ! Two minutes prior to us all meeting on the trail I quarantined their kit bags and removed all forms of comfort including food, tools and more importantly their sleeping bags !

The nervous laughter and banter back and forth quickly turned to silence and fear.  As an instructor this is the first opportunity to see the students mindset.  We talk at length about the survival mindset.  You must be prepared physically, mentally and emotionally to survival any wilderness survival emergency.

There was no time to dwell for the lads as I quickly re-issued the packs and hustled them to the rally point.  Their teams were identified and they had but a few seconds to re-align themselves and prepare themselves for the next 28 hours.

Team 1 travelled into the bush with Instructor John and Team 2 travelled into the bush with myself.  The snow was deep and heavy and gave the lads their first taste of the effort and energy level it takes just to move through the bush in this climate.

This became a quick learning experience about how easy it is to sweat while moving through the bush and how you must use the layering system when dressing for the bush.

Stay tuned as I continue to chronicle the journey of 8 lads who earned the title of Survivor.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Camp Mistletoe !

Well the temperature has risen and bush is quiet again.  But last weekend the calm of the Beyond the Fire School of Survival bush was stirred by the hustle and bustle of 8 hardcore students clearing, constructing, collecting and surviving.

At 0700 hrs the 8 students stood nervously at the entrance to the bush lane awaiting their scenario, safety briefing and final instructions.  With kit bags containing nothing more than a single change of clothes, a draw saw, water bottle and a survival can they were separated into two groups of four.  Led by an instructor they followed eagerly to their designated site area.

Once at their locations they divided responsibilities and commenced the tremendous task of surviving in the wilderness.

As the evening quickly stole the days wonderful sun the temperature dropped dramatically.  An absolutely amazing test of each groups survival priorities, their team work, construction methods and ability to collect enough fuel wood to sustain their fire for a full night.

Each student experienced the highs and lows of survival and what effects limited food, extreme work and the extremely cold temperatures have on the body, mind and soul.

As an instructor I could not have asked for 8 more prepared and excited students to share the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to survive in the harsh Canadian winter wilderness.  

I was humbled by their willingness to learn as well as the amazing effort they put into the experience.  Before they left the briefing I told them that they would only get out what they were willing to put in.  I did not know how they would truly take that message to heart.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting pictures, stories and a slide show of the weekend's experiences.  I truly can't wait until next winter when we run both the Winter Survival Level II and the Winter Survival Level III.

You may have asked "What is Camp Mistletoe?" well that story is simple.  Take 4 hard working guys, throw in a great camp morale and some down time before dark.  The picture says it all !!

This was the gated entrance to their camp !! Hilarious..
Note the Spruce trees trimmed into Palm Trees and the mistletoe hung from the arch!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Walk where they walk and you'll see what they see.

With the course fast approaching I took advantage of an amazing day of sunshine and fairly mild temperatures.  With lots of preparation still to do to ensure that all of the course logistics are in place I opened up the cabin, looked around and realized - it's all ready !

So with that, I collected an arm full of wood, some tinder and with trusty fire starter in hand I walked away from the cabin and into the bush.

Within a few minutes I had the fire going in front of the instructional shelter we set up for the course.  With grand plans to refine and add to the project I found myself quickly distracted by the sight of a snowshoe hare.  I paused and watched as this amazingly quiet and efficient animal made its way through the bush pausing to look around and scout out its next move.

As the hare travelled out of my sight I realized what an amazing moment that was.  A friend and mentor of mine once said "If you want to see what they see - Then walk where they walk."

With that in mind I began wandering the trail until I found a fresh "Bunny Highway".  I stepped off the trail and followed the highway through the bush until I found a junction that was littered with tracks, both fresh and forgotten.  I gazed around until I found the perfect location to sit, look, listen and smell.

It was here that I got to see what they saw.  I got to sense what they sense.  I got to respect what they respect.  At the junction of the "Rabbit Highway" was track evidence of the hare, the fox, the coyote and some wild birds.  I felt in that moment that I was one of them.  I was mesmerized by the bush, the suns rays and the cool breeze as it whipped through the bush.

After 30 minutes or so of taking it all in I decided to depart back to the shelter to clean up for the day.  However, that plan quickly changed as the swooping sound of a large wing span filled my ears and powered my senses.  Landing no more than 30 feet from me was a lone, beautiful and majestic snowy owl.  I sat and stared in amazement.  I dared not move for fear that he would leave.

Amazed at how his colours provided camouflage for him in the perch of that tree.  After a few moments it dawned on me what that snowy owl was doing in that location.  I felt blessed to have been right there, right then, it that place where the wild animals cross.  I was amazed at his hunting instincts and his knowledge of the bush.  He was at that junction to hunt.

It is truly amazing what you see, hear, smell and sense when you turn off the technology and travel into the great Canadian wilderness.

Walk where they walk and you'll see what they see !

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Take a Second and Click the Mouse

Awhile back we thought it would be fun to have a weekly poll on the blog to gain insight into the knowledge, skills and abilities of the loyal followers to this site.

Although our followers are growing in numbers and a lot of you have become monthly or even weekly visitors our onsite polls have been a bit of a lunch box let down.

As the manager of the site and as an instructor of survival skills it is educating to see what the majority thinks about various topics related to survival, equipment, skills or even favourite seasons.  The hope was that enough people would participate to allow me to tally the votes and create blog entries based around those results.

So if you're reading this - do me a favour and scroll down the right side of the site where you'll find the onsite poll.  Take a second and click the mouse.

Let's make this weeks poll the best one yet !!

Thanks again to all the loyal followers and also to the newcomers.  If you're interested in a specific survival or bushcraft related topic fire me off an email and we will endeavour to create a post about that topic.