Mountain Learning

So I recently took an avalanche safety course. The course was broken up into 2 evenings spent in class; learning the theory behind avalanche safety and awareness, and 1 full day spent on snow; putting the theory into practice. It was a great experience, I learned a ton, and not all of it had to do with avalanche safety. More on that in a bit!

Early Starts!

I had been meaning to take this course for a few years, but my health has always prevented me from doing so, as I was very wary of putting down the money for something if I would suddenly have to cancel because of my Crohn’s.

I was familiar with the rescue equipment if an avalanche were to occur, but I hadn’t taken the course, and gone through all of the training. I wanted to get really dialed in on the gear, and also learn about what to look for to reduce your exposure to risks. It was something that I needed to know for myself instead of being dependant on others!

Essential Equipment for the Backcountry


  • How to read and understand the avalanche reports
  • Where to spot safe zones within avalanche terrain
  • Got to use and get more comfortable with avalanche safety gear, (transceiver, shovel, probe)
  • How to look at and understand snowpack layers, and and how they might react.

And a whack load more, but I won’t bore you with that here, go take a course yourself if you want to know!

Digging a pit to inspect different layers in the snow


Some of things I got to try out and learn on the side. So winter, or spring, the couple times I ventured into the backcountry, I did not have a plan if I had to empty my poop bag. I brought toilet paper, and was ready to just dump it wherever I needed to. This is a bad idea, the snowpack is not a place to poop. Luckily, last year, I somehow never had to empty my bag while in the alpine, and so it did not become an issue.

After doing a bit of research on it, I discovered you really do need to pack out what you pack in, and that includes your poop. So I bought some dog poop bags, and a wide mouth water bottle (ileostomy poop is very soft, sometimes liquidy!) to make sure I could pack it out without making a big mess! I have to say, it worked pretty well. I was a little nervous shoving the bag into the bottle though, the mouth of the water bottle was a little tighter than expected, or maybe the bag of poop was fuller than anticipated, so it took a little finesse to get the bag in there. But other than that, it was a breeze!

Not Shown: Hand Sanitizer!

And, YES! I have the bottle clearly labelled to avoid using it for any other purposes!!!!!

On another note, pooping in the mountains with an ostomy vs pooping in the mountains without, is so much nicer! I don’t have to pull my pants down and expose my ass to freezing temperatures. Also, as you are usually above the treeline there is not a lot of privacy, so if someone walks up on you accidently, it’s only awkward for them, because they have to see your poop, but at least they won’t see your ass! And it is way easier to aim your ostomy bag to drain into another bag than it is the other way! So many benefits you wouldn’t think about otherwise!!

Poop with view


The other lesson I learned was a harsh lesson on hydration. I have always been really good about drinking enough fluids, even before I had surgery. After surgery I have always known that I need to stay on top of fluid intake as dehydration affects those without a large intestine so much more! So I packed 3.5 litres of water for my day up on the mountain, and 2 of those litres had added electrolytes. Having the fluids in your pack, does not automatically make them enter your system. I thought I was drinking enough, but I was very clearly not. Part way through the day, my water hose on my hydration pack froze, so I no longer had access to my electrolyte water, just the regular water that was in my bottle. I did end up drinking a bunch of that, but not nearly enough. It was a very long day, a lot of digging in the snow, and climbing uphill. I sweat a lot, so there was a ton of fluid loss, and not enough intake. 

The next day I woke up, and seemed okay. I was tired, but I got up, made breakfast, and started downing water. My electrolyte water had thawed out, so I pounded that back as well. By 1pm I had consumed almost 3 litres of fluids, but the damage from the day before had already been done. I hit a wall. My head was pounding, I couldn’t think. I felt sick. I forced myself to stay awake, and keep putting fluids back. I tried eating some food. Mostly, I knew that I was going to be hurting. Even 2 days after the fact I was still not right. It felt like I had a massive 2 day hangover, and I didn’t even get drunk!

So basically, if you are out and being active, even if you think you are drinking enough water, drink more!!! And also, find a way to keep your hydration hose from freezing! If you have any tips for that one, please let me know!!

All in all, I ended up learning a lot. Sometimes you learn more from failures than you do from successes! I will definitely be practicing my avalanche rescue skills more often moving forward, I will continue to perfect my pooping methods, and I will for damn sure be watching my hydration!

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