Archive for May, 2009

Stacked up Low Pressure

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

low-pressureThere’s been three times I’ve seen low pressure systems stacked up like in this diagram from the National Weather Service.  Twice I was on expeditions. Last weekend was the third time, during the instructor development workshop (IDW) in Big Bay.

For reference, under that cluster of low pressure systems is the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

During the expeditions, it caused me to spend time waiting out the storms – 5 days out of 10 total on one trip, 10 days in a row on another. The IDW in Big Bay has been held since 1999 and this past weekend had the roughest conditions yet. Saturday we had snow, which is not unusual by itself, except it was accompanied this time by gale force winds. The first time winds have been that strong at the Big Bay IDW which is held in mid to late may.

It is never a good thing seeing the pressure systems stacked up to the west. Essentially, you know the weather is going to be unstable for a while. It can create a great playground if you are training, it can also stop you in your tracks if you are trying to cover miles.

Click here to see the latest National Weather Service chart like the one above.


Deep Survival

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

deep-survivalDeep Survival, the book by Laurence Gonzales, never really interested me. The byline of ‘Who Lives, who Dies and Why’ just seemed testoterone saturated. Well there is testosterone but there it is alongside good science. The latest research in how the brain works as well as psychology is applied to why accidents occur. Or actually, why people do stupid things and get into accidents.

There is the story of a SAR team in Alaska rescuing a snowmobiler. They are on snowmobiles too. They are also out in the backcountry when the threat of avalanches is high. So on the way back after the rescue, why did two members of the team going charging up a slope triggering an avalanche? Two folks died.

A river out west is at flood stage. It is out of its banks and there are big trees being carried down stream. Why did two commercially guided trips launch despite these obvious hazards? We won’t know, the two people who died were the guides.

Gonzales goes into mental and emotional processes and breaks them down. Explaining what is happening and how danger gets blocked out even when it should be obvious.

There has been times where I made a decision but I felt haunted. It was the right decision, but why? There was nothing analytical about it, it was gut feel. Turns out, gut feel is a key piece in staying safe.


Haida Gwaii

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, is where I am heading to paddle this summer (click here). Taking off the month of July and driving out to do 3 weeks on the water going around Graham Island. The west and north coasts will be the most exposed and challenging. The reward is the old growth forest growing on mountains similar to those in New Zealand. The biggest reward though is the Haida First Nation. Many Native populations are in disarray culturally. Not the Haida, it seems to me they never lost their culture or their pride in being who they are. This is a maritime culture, one that crossed the 45+ mile wide Hecate Strait to trade and raid those living along the coast.

In 2005, Carl Mather and myself paddled around Moresby Island over the course of 25 days. We were joined midway by Barry Poole. Click here to check out the photo gallery and read about that trip.

Charts are printed out and the topo maps are ready to be printed. A very useful resource for paddling there is Neil Frazers book Boat Camping in Haida Gwaii. Click on the photo to see it at Amazon.