Gimme shelter: Mounties learn outdoor skills

It’s 4:45 p.m. and as the sun is rapidly declining, 12 men and women are working in the middle of the woods on building shelters for the night.

It’s 4:45 p.m. and as the sun is rapidly declining, 12 men and women are working in the middle of the woods on building shelters for the night.

Temperatures are expected to drop to -25C.

The scene isn’t from an American reality show but rather takes place around the Whitehorse cadet training facility on March 2.

Ten Yukon RCMP officers, a conservation officer and an Alberta RCMP officer are in their final days of their wilderness operations and outdoor skills training course.

Over the course of the past week they’ve learned from experts the skills they need to function outdoors in the North in all seasons, from axe safety to using compasses and satellite phones, crossing rivers and building shelters.

Now it’s time to put those skills in practice.

Cpl. Cam Long, who is organizing the course, has already completed a nice roomy shelter.

Using wood and plastic, he built a structure he then covered with snow, leaving a small opening for an entrance.

Some officers are using tree branches, snow, tarps and reflectors for their shelters. The ones relying on a fire to keep them warm during the night have built shelters with a large open side.

This year the course had a special guest, Manitoba professor Gordon Giesbrecht.

Better known as “Dr. Popsicle” for his experiments dunking people in ice-filled bathtubs, Giesbrecht has been studying the effects of cold and extreme environment on the human body for the past 25 years.

He has demonstrated many times how to survive falling through a frozen lake by taking the plunge himself.

The most important thing is not to panic, he said.

“You have one minute to get your breathing under control, 10 minutes of meaningful movement and one hour until you become unconscious because of hypothermia,” he said.

RCMP officers working in the North could face situations such as boats capsizing in the summer or going through the ice when snowmobiling on frozen lakes, he said.

In the weeklong course, RCMP officers are taught to survive and adapt to even the most dramatic situations.

In one case participants were told to put their packs aside and light a fire, using only what they had in their pockets.

Another day they had to light a fire with only one hand to simulate an injury.

It’s all about the skills, Giesbrecht said.

“You can give some people a blow torch and they (still) won’t be able to light a fire,” he said.

The goal in the shelter exercise is not simply to survive, he said.

“Your goal should be not to live through the night but to be happy and healthy in the morning so you’re in shape so you could do it again tomorrow night,” he said.

“If you just survive the first night, you might not make it through the second night.”

For Const. John Gillis, on his way to completing a cozy shelter for the night, the course showed him there is a difference between knowing skills and putting them in practice.

“We get called to remote locations all the time,” he said. “Even if you’re working in downtown Whitehorse you still cover a big area.”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Second attempted murder charge laid in downtown Whitehorse shooting

Two men are now facing a total of 17 charges in relation to the shooting outside the Elite Hotel

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Yukon Energy announces rate hike

The average Yukon household will pay an extra $20.48 every month

Brad Cathers is running for Yukon Party leadership

He formally announced he entered the race on Dec. 5

Santa Claus is coming to town

Parade set for Main Street Dec. 7

EDITORIAL: Time for the Yukon Party’s opening act

Having a competitive leadership race could be good for the party

City news, briefly

Some of the news from the Dec. 2 Whitehorse city council meeting

Arctic Sports Inter-School Championship draws athletes from as far as Juneau

The three-day event included more than 300 participants from kindergarten to Grade 12

Access road to Telegraph Creek now open

Ministry has spent $300K to date on work to clear rockslide

Freedom Trails responds to lawsuit

A statement of defence was to the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 19.

Whitehorse RCMP seeking suspects after robbery at Yukon Inn

Robbery took place in early hours of Nov. 27, with suspects armed with a knife and “large stick”

Yukonomist: Your yogurt container’s dirty secret

You should still recycle, but recycling one might be giving you a false sense of environmental virtue

History Hunter: New book tells old story of nursing in the Yukon

Author Amy Wilson was a registered nurse in the Yukon from 1949 to 1951

Most Read