Teslin students brave the elements

Winter is typically not the first season to come to mind when camping is mentioned. But knowing how to camp in the cold could save your life someday.

Winter is typically not the first season to come to mind when camping is mentioned. But knowing how to camp in the cold could save your life someday.

Last week about a dozen Grade 8 and 9 students from Teslin School took part in a winter survival camp on Teslin Lake. Along with snowshoeing and cooking meals on the frozen lake, the students learned some of the vital winter survival techniques such as how to construct a snow hut called a quincy.

“We took about a day to pile them up and dig them out,” said Chris Gishler, who helped run the camp. “You have to let them sit and set.

“We tried a couple different quincy building techniques.”

The students also took part in a Global Positioning System leadership program, which was like orienteering but with a GPS navigator instead of a map and compass.

“We call it GP teaming,” said Gishler, who also runs Equinox Adventure Learning at Takhini Hot Springs. “We divide them into smaller groups and give them a GPS and a map and they have to run around and find waypoints.

“At each location they have an activity to do that’s leadership based.”

From the sounds of it, the most popular activity was target shooting with an ancient spear-throwing tool called an atlatl.

“They went bonkers over the atlatl,” said Gishler. “It’s like archery, but it’s the evolutionary precursor to the bow and arrow.”

It was the first event of its kind hosted by Gishler and George Bahm, but it probably won’t be the last.

“They are really keen to have to do it again next year,” said Gishler. “We’ll probably offer it to more communities.”

The location used on Teslin Lake was adjacent to the Teslin Heritage Centre, which might as well been called Plan B.

“They all slept in the quincy huts that night,” said Lisa Dewhurst, business manager of the heritage centre, whose daughter took part in the camp. “It was just below the Teslin Heritage Centre because they wanted a place that if the kids got too cold, they could come in.

“None of the kids got cold enough to come into the heritage centre.”

As community members stopped by to see how the camp was unfolding, it seemed it was not only the children who could take something away from the program.

“One funny thing is that the elders and community members dropped by and thought it was kind of silly to sleep in a pile of snow,” said Gishler. “They were more in favour of the wall tents. That’s more

typically what the trappers and the people that live out in the bush would use in the winter time.”

Contact Tom Patrick at


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