Scoutsí abilities put to test at Klondike Derby

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 04, 2011 03:13 pm

Boy Scouts push a sled across a field in a competition during the annual Klondike Derby at Anthony Lakes on Saturday. JOANNA BRADSHAW photo
Boy Scouts push a sled across a field in a competition during the annual Klondike Derby at Anthony Lakes on Saturday. JOANNA BRADSHAW photo

Conquering the cold with snow.

Close to 50 Boy Scouts accomplished this seemingly paradoxical feat while proving their winter mettle at the annual Klondike Derby Feb. 25-26 at Anthony Lakes.

The event tested the scouts’ snow shelter building, sled racing, wall climbing, knot tying, fire building abilities and more.

“They had a great time. They were pretty excited,’’ said Bryon Quebbeman of La Grande, a Troop 586 volunteer who helped run the Klondike Derby.

The competitive event was held at the Mud Lake Campground across from the Anthony Lakes Ski Area. The approximately 50 Boy Scouts were led by close to 20 adult volunteers. The scouts overcame the potentially disabling effects of temperatures that reached 15 degrees below zero  by making wise use of snow.

Scouts kept plastic containers of water from freezing by putting them into the snow. This kept the liquid from freezing because the snow insulated the containers from the cold.

The white stuff also helped some of the Boy Scouts stay relatively warm at night. These were the scouts who slept in snow shelters. The structures shielded the boys from wind and contained the heat their bodies generated while sleeping inside.

A number of snow shelters had two levels, and these were the most comfortable, Quebbeman said. The two-level shelters remained relatively tepid because snow is warmer than sub-freezing air. Quebbeman explained that the warmer air rose in the two-level snow shelters and was caught on the top level. The temperature in the second level of the shelters, also boosted by the camper’s body heat, remained between 25 and 30 degrees, which was warmer than the one-level snow structures.

Scouts sleeping in their snow caves had to adhere to strict safety rules. Nobody could bring in a flame or fuel because of the hazard they pose in a enclosed environment.

All the snow structures were dug the week before by scouts and adults. The structures are always dug well before the Klondike Derby because it involves an enormous amount of work, Quebbeman said. He explained if the structures were dug late in the day of the derby scouts would be wet from perspiration when they crawled into their sleeping bags, making it more likely they would get chilled.

All competitive events were conducted Saturday.

In the fire-building test scout troops had to burn a piece of string four feet off the ground. The troops that built fires with higher levels of kindling did much better than those that attempted to generate four-foot high flames.

Foot speed and strength were put to the test during sled races — not the downhill variety but ones in which scouts pushed sleds across a flat field of snow. Most sleds were made of wood, but some were made of metal and others of PVC pipe. Each sled had to have a scout on it.

Boy Scouts in some events played the role of Vikings invading a wall-protected village many centuries ago. They scaled eight-foot plywood walls with ropes, fired soccer balls over walls with wooden catapults, broke down pallets with a battering ram and more while playing the role of invaders.

In an activity at the end of the derby scouts pretended they were in blizzard-like conditions and needed to keep themselves together as a group. They tied themselves to each other using bow-line knots. This is a knot used to create a loop that does not tighten, Quebbeman said.

Troop 586 of La Grande was the overall Klondike Derby winner.

The Klondike Derby has been conducted annually in Northeast Oregon for more than three decades.