EX Arctic Antelope is the first time 2313 RCACC was able to do a “Cold Weather Adventure FTX” since 2013. Every year, it’s been either way too cold, or there’s been no snow, or a sudden chinook has turned Cypress Hills into a swamp. Keep in mind, the training plan is written 1 year out, and picking the right weekend is sort of like throwing darts at the wall We thought we were taking a huge chance putting the weekend into March. We were very excited that this year the weather finally co-operated; not only was there plenty of snow, but we were expected to see temperatures between -5°C and -17°C. EX Arctic Antelope was a go.
We were very fortunate this year to have the support of the SALH, both with the supplementation of equipment, but also the support of Trooper Kyle Cena.
On Friday night, Capt Bradley and Mr Pahl were able to head to the site a little earlier than the cadets to unload the toboggans and rucksacks, and make a few trips into the site with equipment to make things run a little quicker when the cadets arrived.
Once the cadets arrived on the buses, they quickly attached their snowshoes, put on their rucks, got their toboggans, and began making the 500 meter hike into the campsite. The campsite was covered with approximately 2 feet of dry snow. This created some issues, both with mobility on the site, and having to dig out all the snow for placing of their 5 man Arctic tents. Tpr Cena was essential in assisting with the setup of the tents, as most of the cadets had never put up an arctic tent before, and working in the dark, snowy conditions made things even more difficult. Mr Fairbrother was great during this time, as he was more than happy to put on snowshoes and head back to the trailer anytime we realized we were missing something. By the time all the holes were dug in and the last tent was finally set up, it was already 0130hrs in the morning.
Given the late night, cadets were able to sleep in until 0830hrs. Cadets were understandably slow moving in the morning getting breakfast going. Following breakfast, the morning was used organizing individual kit, correcting some tents that were looking a little sad, and working to make sure their tents would be even warmer and more insulated Saturday night.
After lunch, the cadets hauled their sleds (empty this time) back the 500m to the trailers, which happened to be parked at the top of the toboggan hill. After strapping on helmets and grabbing their recreational toboggans from the trailers, 2Lt Eichelbaum helped the cadets get lined up on their sleds and the cadets and staff had a lot of fun tobogganing, and trying to outdo each other, attempting to get the furthest down the hillside. Of course, the real winners were probably those who made it the shortest distance, as they had less of a trek back up the hill.
The cadets then gathered for a group photo before loading their sleds with more firewood and other essentials to take back into camp.
After returning to camp and unloading their toboggans, the cadets split into two groups to take turns at two different learning stations. Tpr Cena took the first group and showed them some viable emergency shelter options, and built a half shelter, while the second group went with Capt Bradley to work on a snow shelter. Due to the cold weather in February, the snow was too dry to be able to make a proper snow shelter from scratch. Fortunately, another group had been to the site back in December had built one, so the group got to work trying to make it a little more usable by smoothing out the ceiling (so condensation doesn’t drip on you while you sleep), raising and levelling thea floor (so you aren’t sleeping in a puddle), dropping the entrance below the height of the sleeping area (because cold airs drops), and building a wind break around the front entrance. By the end of this activity, two very usable shelters existed in the half shelter and snow quinzee.
Supper time and most of the rest of the evening was used up with the cadets changing into warmer, drier, clothing, drying out their wet gear, and making sure everyone was warm, before a 2100hrs bedtime. OCdt Beck had just completed her first aid course, so she was able to practice her new skills, ensuring no one had frost bite.
Sunday morning was extremely active after a 0730hrs reveille. Breakfast was eaten, sleeping bags were rolled up, several toboggan trips up the hill with equipment were made, and tents were struck and packed up with direction by Tpr Cena. After a final garbage sweep, all the cadets made the 500m trek to the trailers for the last time. Once at the trailers, the cadets ate hotdogs for lunch and unloaded all their gear and helped load it safely into the trailers for the journey home.
What went well:
- Having Capt Bradley and Mr Pahl get to site early with the trailers and having everything unloaded in time for the cadets was a huge time saver.
- Having Tpr Cena on exercise with us was incredibly helpful. We hope to involve SALH NCMs on more activities in the future.
What didn’t go well:
- Teamwork is critical to an exercise like this. Tent groups need to work together more to help ensure things happen in a timely fashion.
What did we learn:
- Although we rarely use Arctic tents anymore, it’s important that most people know how to use them. We’ll be finding opportunities throughout the training year to sent up and tear down arctic tents, so cadets know what they’re doing when it matters.
- Staying dry is essential to staying warm in the cold. Cadets need to ensure they are regularly checking their socks and gloves before it’s too late.
The CO would like to thank all the adult staff who helped out with the weekend, and tip of the hat to the cadets for showing up, sticking it out and managing a few smiles.