9/12/10 – SCGB leaders’ course: waylaid in a white-out

Will Schwarz on the chilly home run

Phase two of Ski Club leader training got underway yesterday, with seven new groups formed for seven days of intensive teaching and practice in essentials such as route choice, off-piste leadership, avalanche rescue and mountaincraft.

For my group, Patagonia, there was drama mid-afternoon when I failed spectacularly to keep everyone together during leading practice with the brilliant and smiley Patrick Usborne (familiar to Ski Club members in such snowy spots as Verbier and Jackson Hole).

Setting off down the green Fresse piste from the top of Borsat in a howling gale under a sky that was spitting ice, I looked round every five or six turns to check the vibrant blue jackets were on my tail, while also seeking a nice line and gathering speed for an impending schuss. Round a bend we hooned, but as I slowed to regroup further down just four were still with me. Our leader-trainer and two others, it seemed, were missing in action, and we couldn’t see back round the corner. Could they have had a crash? Did they take a detour? Or had they vanished deliberately to test how I’d deal with the situation?

Thankfully, after another circuit, we rediscovered the missing trio half an hour later back at the Borsat chair, all in one piece. It turned out that just as I had set off from the top, Patrick and co had been distracted by chit-chat with a passing gang from the Ski Club’s Freshtracks Premier Party holiday, which is taking place in Val d’Isere this week. I didn’t spot the dawdling, and by the time they came to follow we were out of sight, either in the murk or round the corner. They opted for the Genepy piste instead. My lesson for today? Learn to count at all times – and watch out for sociable stragglers!

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Filed under France, Off-piste

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