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Exercise Frosty Boy

Queensbury, New Zealand

Yeah - the town on this thing is wrong. I'm actually in Queenstown.

Some of you may have heard that this week I have been on an Army Exercise called Exercise Frosty Boy. It's personal development - on skis! Now I haven't been able to ski before so I was naturally a little nervous. Actually a lot nervous. To cap it off I wasn't even with my army year-group, who are Officer Cadets I with whom I risk life and limb on a semi-regular basis and whom I trust and respect. Instead I was with newbie OCdts who don't know their 'shun from their turns and wouldn’t care if someone pointed out the difference. Actually I’m lying – this trip has taught me a lot about them, and they’re pretty bright. Most of the time.

Sunday last week, we flew to Christchurch, and then to Burnham military camp. The army, in its infinite wisdom, decided to entrust me with about $8000 (at least) worth of personal kit (skis, crampons, harness, crash helmet, ect) for me to look after.
This made me paranoid and I have been walking around with a queer sideways look at people all week. I was pleased to hand it back this morning, even if I was the coolest kid on the Queenstown Ski fields (brand new skis coupled with army camo snow gear? People were coming up to us to ask us where to enlist. People respectfully got out of our way on the magic-carpet. It was awesome, except for one lady at the snow farm who asked if we were part of a weird club. She’s sorta right.)

After a day or so driving down to Queenstown (and myself unsuccessfully trying to eat $35 dollars worth of food, because the Army was shouting), we hit the snow on so-called 'misery sticks' - cross country skis. The directing staff said to us - "Personal development team! Go down River Run road and get to Meadow Hut." Boldly the others set forth along the road, but I decided to take a different route. A hint for future travelers at the Cadronia Ski Farm: if you want to get to Meadow Hut on River Run road, you should do what I did and take the path marked with the big sign that says "River Road", instead of the road the other officer took marked "The Highlander" (which they’d already been on and knew took a giant circle back to the lodge.) They did catch up to me however - Ma'am (our Officer) threatened to kick anyone who didn't out of the Kippenberger Class. I am the most unfit person in the class, and so thought the instructors were taking the piss when they congratulated me on making it to the first large corner so quickly.

After making the hut, there followed the drudgery of uphill skiing. I didn't even realise it was possible. It shouldn’t be – it’s reasonably unpleasant. It was beautiful however, so you quickly get over everything else.

My glasses were not being kind to me. First they fogged up hard, then they started to buckle from the rapid changes in temperature (it was 2 degrees out of the van), and later on they froze to the floor of the tent. Did I mention we slept outside? Negative 15 degrees. Our breath was freezing to everything it touched (including the tent) and when I left my water bottle outside my sleeping-bag for literally 30 seconds it froze totally solid. The glasses continued to be a problem, fogging up while digging the snow cave and repeatedly loosing the clip-on sunnies that were the only thing stopping me from a more painful blindness than I already have.

The night navigation circuit before we tented that first night was fun though - we were given a GPS at night and told to find some markers. Since the GPS told us where to go with a giant arrow, it wasn't very hard, but some Muppets still managed to walk round and round in circles until time was up.

The next day was more skiing. Bearing in mind that we'd only been on skis a day, the instructors decided we were good enough to do the 'Advanced Only' route, which we duly did. The views of Mt Aspiring were awesome.

Downhill ski day was a blast. There is no only way to describe it. I love skiing – it’s my type of sport. Chairlift up and gravity down! The only thing you have to worry about is stopping. That gets tricky when you load a 35kg + pack on and try skiing down the slope. I looked so cool doing it people were cheering me from the chairlift when I rocketed by underneath. Luckily they gave us a whole day to get used to the new type of skis before we had to do this, otherwise I’d have looked like a slowly moving twerp.
Unfortunately, the second day our chairlift passes expired and we got to walk to the very top of the Remarkable Ski area, on skis. Then we built our sweet snow-caves which we then slept in that night. Snow caves are shaped like an L and you can tell how claustrophobic people are by how big they dig them. Mine was really wide, but very low, which I later regretted. I’m tall and couldn’t sit up properly. It was also something like 15-18 feet long, when it was only supposed to be about 9-12 feet long, because I misheard the instructions. (I was toasty and the others weren’t though, so I win!) It took me an hour to get dressed the next morning, because whenever I touched the roof my beanie would freeze to the roof, and the struggle to free myself would entangle me in something else. The glamour of it all nearly overwhelms me.

Today it’s home time. I’ve learnt, experientially, that I withdraw inward when tired. I’ve also experientially learnt that first year Kippenberger Cadets look after kit a whole lot better after a big ex-SAS, ex-Warrant Officer whose face looks like its been beaten with a shovel, tells you calmly that he’ll take it amiss if anything is lost.

It’s been a great exercise, and thanks for everyone who’s reading this blog. I’ll post more on the saga of the Great American Trip next time, and it’ll be much more funny. This is a splurge post, as I haven’t totally finished and am still tired and bruised (or so bruised!) from the whole ‘skiing’ thing.

permalink written by  Crosswood on July 13, 2007 from Queensbury, New Zealand
from the travel blog: New Zealand Student, American University.
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man you are so hard core survivalist now. You can live on mountains. I'm sticking next to you if it looks like we need to be on one of those things. Can you believe the maories would occationally climb them without that sort of gear. And no fur... if you think about it. They must have known where every hot Spring was from bottom to topQ

permalink written by  Rebecca on July 13, 2007

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Crosswood Crosswood
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I am a second year Officer Cadet in the Royal New Zealand Army, going for a trip to Berkeley (University of California) in the United States. I have a sense of humour, poor organisational skills, and collect clocks.
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