October 1st 2013 1100 — “Man, sometimes the group decision making process drives me insane” Sean utters as he crawls into the vestibule. One hand holds the tent door fabric while the other slides the zipper pull down the coil. The wind howls in from the east, directly opposite our snow walls.
“Is it the decision making process that drives you insane or is it the the conditions the process is done in?” I ask from the other end of the tent.
“Yeah, I guess it is not too efficient when we break up every four minutes to brace a tent” he replies as he organizes his gear and begins to stuff his sleeping bag.
“Yep, it should have been…” my thought is interrupted by the slamming of wind against our tent wall and I pause to brace. The fury subsides and I resume my thought “yeah, you would think it would have been an obvious decision after the second interruption of the meeting to brace tents.”
Just minutes earlier the students of NZSF-1 (NOLS New Zealand Semester Fall- Group 1) had come to the decision to run like chicken down the Ashburton Glacier and try to get out of the high winds that were roaring in from the south and east. The fine weather that had allowed a beautiful sunrise on the summit of a nearby peak in the heart of the Arrowsmith range only hours before was being pushed out. The irony that the decision was tough to make even though the communication was by shouting and the meeting broken up a couple of times to brace tents from the onslaught was not lost on me. With the decision done, the students scattered back to their tents and the perimeter was a flurry of activity. Folks gathered poles, probes, trekking poles and flaked out ropes, while Sean and I climbed into the low and snug, but still viciously flapping, Kaitum 2.
We pull our bags from the tent and deposit the gear laden packs onto the snow, only slightly confident they will stay put. Sean puts his in the dug out hole that is our kitchen as a measure of security. Across the snowy, glacial village Tess and Aidan struggle to keep their tent from caving in and ultimately blowing away. Sean turns to me, then back towards them. “Go help them, I’ll get ours” I say over the rush of wind.
“They need help. I will go give them a hand.” He sprints the twenty meters to give needed support and direction.
I turn my attention to our small, green tent and run scenarios in my mind. Around me, most of the perimeter camp is devoid of students, they all being in their tents packing backpacks. My mind runs back in time to a year ago when Hayden, Christian, and I bailed to the Cameron Hut and how we disassembled those tents in the wet dusk and high winds. All hands were on deck then. I look at my hands and think that these are the hands that are on deck now. It has to be fast. I loosen the downwind guy lines and quickly release the poles from their cups. I sprint around the tent to push them out but find them driving in to the snow. I flip the poles this way and that and finally get the arc of the poles lying flat on the ground. I push the doubled up aluminum poles out of their sleeves and let them slide down the snow slope while the high tenacity tent fabric slaps and flaps violently on the snow. I scramble around the tent, releasing the guy lines from their buried anchors and gather the fabric in my arms. Under the flapping vestibule I see Sean’s helmet about to embark on a swift journey to the west coast, so I bend over, snatch it up, and quickly place it on my head. I pull out the last tent anchor and gather the rest of the tent in my arms, only to spy his wag bag quickly making its way toward the perimeter of our camp. I quickly secure it with my teeth. Standing, I make my way to my pack to deposit the tent. From the other side of the camping area I see Sean run over to help rescue me from his bag of shit. He grabs it and I shove the tent into my pack. Before I turn around he is back bracing the three person tent as Tess packs her bag.
Three times the process repeats itself as we take directive decision making styles and help disassemble the student tents. We don harnesses, tie in, shoulder our packs, and head down the glacier. We may run like chicken, but we run like reasonable chicken.