It’s the scout’s motto to be prepared, but on Saturday, there was even more at stake as 80 Scouts, Venturers and Girl Guides competed at the annual Klondike Hike near Lumsden.
“It’s kind of like the Winter Olympics of scouting,” Scout leader Kent Latimer explained. “There’s a real sense of pride for any team that’s able to come to victory.”
Small teams from around the province tested their winter survival skills at eight checkpoints along a five-kilometre course. They were timed and judged by experts at each station.
“I could be hiking or camping and you never know what could happen,” said Scout Emily Silzer. “It’s important to learn these skills and know these skills just in case it does.”
The categories include ice rescue, fire lighting, portaging a canoe, gorge crossing, first aid and building a travois, a historical transportation device used by Plains First Nations.
The competition has run for so long, most of the leaders completed it as kids.
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While the number of participants began to dwindle in the early 2000s, organizers say the numbers are starting to bounce back.
“Back in the heyday, we had a huge number of teams, probably about 100,” recalled Scout leader Alan Dedman. “Now we’re better than last year, much better than a number of other years.”
Over the past five decades, scouts have gone up against some pretty nasty elements, whether mud or snow. On this particular day, the biggest obstacle was the 30km/hr wind that dragged the temperature down to a bitter – 25 C.
“With the lashing we just did, we kind of have to go barehanded, so having frozen hands does slow you down a lot,” said Scout Ryan Griffin. “Same with fire lighting.”
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At the end of the day, each group will be awarded different kinds of survival gear, though the journey there isn’t without its misadventures.
“Getting stuck in a creek is something,” Scout Balen Hanneson joked after his group’s sled became trapped in a ravine. With some help, the team was able to free their supplies and make their way to warmer pastures.
But in the end, the stories gained and lessons learned are all they need.
“You’ve just got to work together,” Hanneson added. “It doesn’t matter how you do it — just do it your way.”