Winter course treks White Mountains

Alicia Wolfram, Staff Writer

Fourteen boots trudged through an untouched blanket of snow, breaking the otherwise total peace and stillness.

This past winter break, six UVM students ventured into Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to complete a five-day winter mountaineering skills course from Jan. 6-10.

The course was led by Jamie Struck, outdoor programs staff member and Outing Club faculty adviser.

Senior Luke Huntington’s passion for the outdoors and experience on the trip last year drove him to participate a second time.

“I was acting a lot more as a second pair of eyes, making sure everyone was staying warm, fed and hydrated,” Huntington said.

Run by the UVM Outdoor Program’s department of student life, the course is open to all students.

Struck said the course covered various aspects of operating in the mountains in the winter.

The group covered topics such as self-arresting and climbing with an ice axe.

Self-arresting is a technique used in climbing to stop oneself from sliding down ice or snow without the help of any safety mechanism.

Because the group slept in tents and sleeping bags, each night everybody was given two hot water bottles to stay warm, Struck said.

Making sure everybody had two hot water bottles to sleep with and had a hot drink before they went to bed, were crucial to the safety of the group, Huntington said.

Sophomore Emily Wasem said being one of only two girls in a group of seven was hard at the beginning, especially because a lot of the boys had more experience and professional gear.

“But once I found a point of connection it felt really, really nice,” Wasem said.

Struck’s favorite part of the program was the bonds formed. 

“On the last night, we had some great conversations about the outdoor industry, the White Mountains and just what everyone was doing in their lives,” Struck said.

Wasem agreed that the connections made on the trip were really special.

“Being cold together can make for really warm bonding experiences,” she said.

For Wasem, the group’s small size was one of the most enticing aspects of the course.

 “I felt like I could ask a lot of questions,” Wasem said. “I would ask one question, and it would turn into this whole lesson.”

Huntington said he recommends the course for anyone eager to learn basic winter mountaineering skills.

“The program is not terribly intense,” Struck said. “It can feel really intense because you’re working pretty hard and living a little hard, but it is really really cool and a lot of fun.”