How cold is too cold?

Too cold?! Is that even possible? Maybe…

This past week was spent with a small group of 12 year old students out in Kananaskis. They – we – were learning more about teamwork, leadership, and meeting challenges together. Fun stuff, and one big challenge was the super subzero temperatures. The daytime highs were minus 20C, and in the valleys and shadows a touch colder than that. At sun up yesterday, it was minus 35! Yikes – toe freezing temperatures!

Cold from top to toe, and toe to top
It was certainly a talking point amongst the students – and they were sold on the notion that few people can say they’ve experienced what they did in such temperatures! I was so happy to see them rise to the challenge of skill building and cooperating when it could have been easy to complain. Yes they mentioned the temperatures (hard to ignore!), but most of the time they cheerfully stepped up and reached personal goals set each day. City kids with very little outdoor winter experience between them, they were delighted to be in a wonderful setting and were heard exclaiming how pretty the landscape was.

They did have to hug trees, because it’s mandatory on all Mr. PC field trips, even if it isn’t an explicit curriculum requirement. (It should be!)

Does this tree look like it needs a hug?
It was too cold for high ropes, but not too cold to learn a knot or two, or learn how to lash logs together to build a rudimentary shelter (although it was too cold and getting too dark to hang around and finish it!)

Let’s finish it later, when it warms up…late April sound good?
It was too cold to bore into trees (they were frozen) and extract a core sample, but it wasn’t too cold to hike to Chilver Lake (one student renamed it Shiver Lake) and admire a long view in the late afternoon.

Beautiful Shiver Lake
No sign of the cougar seen by many the previous week, but deer tracks, coyote tracks, and squirrel tracks were everywhere – those little guys are so industrious and could still be spotted scampering from tree to tree and scurrying up trunks. It was too cold to stand around watching for long, but they always excited our students.

In lovely light, with Mount Yamnuska to the right
Seeing students learning and problem solving together far from their regular classroom, and in trying conditions, gives me hope for the future. Not just their appreciation for the environment, although that is essential. No, it’s something else as our generation looks to the next. Let’s face it, when I’m in the retirement home (many, many decades hence), the young ones we’re teaching today will be (amongst other things) the healthcare policy makers, care workers, nurses and doctors looking after me in my dotage.

I take this seriously. Imagine you’re bedridden, awaiting the next dose of medication, the door opens and that student from way back when walks in – surprise! You know, the one you’d wished you’d helped a bit more in, say, measurement and math, especially as now they’re stood in the doorway holding a large syringe. Those thoughts keep you focused when teaching, let me tell you…

A wee heavy for a cold, cold night – and a little reward
Anyway, on the basis of what I observed this past week, there are going to be some fine citizens taking responsibility for themselves and each other in the future. Too cold wasn’t possible for these young people – and, one day, we might all be safe in their hands. A happy thought.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, and have a wonderful weekend! (Stay warm…)


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I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

24 thoughts on “How cold is too cold?”

  1. Thanks for another great story Adam, wish my grandchildren would be your students they are very outsforsy – would love to have a teacher like you.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family🎄


    1. Thanks for your kind words, and taking the time to read OldPlaidCamper, always appreciated!
      By the fourth day, students were happy enough to head home, but they’d had quite the adventure!


    1. Thanks, Maria! Yup, it was truly cold, probably the coldest I’ve taken students out there – but they were tough – and as you know, when when winter is long and cold, you have to try and embrace it!
      Hope you’ve had a great weekend!


  2. I learned on the only winter camping trip I ever did that there is such a thing as too cold. 12-year-old Doug saw a lot of amazing things that night and is grateful for the experience, but he also works very hard to make sure I don’t do that again. It does sound like you had an amazing trip with those kids. It’s great that you’re able to connect them with nature that way.


    1. Yeah, we were pretty close to having the trip canceled – it was only the fact that it was even colder in the city that persuaded the principal we’d be better off out there! The forecast got that wrong, but once we were out there, well, you might as well get on with it! And for the young uns, they’ll never forget the experience, just like 12 year old you!


  3. What a wonderful story and what a bunch of troopers you had with you. Love it. And I would have loved to have been with you on your trip, even with your cold temps. I’m a big tree hugger too. Enjoy the rest of your weekend my mountain friend.


  4. Beautiful, shiveringly delightful! I have to envy the way that your are able to take kids out for important education matters like this. It’s just not possible to do that in this country, not in public education anymore. What fantastic scenes, and you’re even able to get some tree-hugging time with your students. Thanks for spreading the hope, PC.


    1. Thanks, Walt! Being out with students is one of the highlights of teaching, and it’s always rewarding for all parties, rain, sun, or even if bloody freezing!
      I hope you’ve had a great weekend, and that your new waders arrive soon!


  5. How cold is too cold?…….when you start to hear trees exploding,thats getting cold. I’ve also found that there is no such thing as bad weather,only bad clothing.Very happy hear your students loved the cold! 4 season camping is the best!


  6. Hello Plaid Camper – this is my favourite post! Thank you.

    I “read” many lessons within the post – the Teacher, the Students, the Weather. I hope you had a great week-end, and that you will have a great week.


    1. Hello Pandora – happy as always that you enjoyed the post. It was certainly a great time out there learning with students, but they weren’t too sorry to be back in a warm classroom today!
      Have a wonderful week ahead – be warm!


  7. You start losing me around single digits, but negative…No way. 😀 However, if there is tree hugging involved. We do know how I feel about tree hugging. I’m glad that the children get to experience something like that. It is good for them and the fact that they seemed to really have come together. Sounds like it was a successful endeavor. Have a beautiful week.


    1. Those students were pretty tough, and I was delighted they still wanted to hug a tree, even in the extreme cold! As for minus temperatures, last week was cold even for up here – although most winters we experience a blast or two of polar air. It’s “warmed up” a few degrees, and we’re looking at highs of around minus 15C this week – believe it or not, it is bearable…
      Thanks, and have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Once again I read with a smile, laughed too. It’s a warming thought to think about you out there with your 12-year-old students, teaching them, encouraging them — and equally as endearing to hear they were good sports in spite of the cold, enjoyed the activity of the wildlife, and embraced their woodsy adventure. Had to chuckle at the thought of them hugging the tree. And I loved “shiver” lake. Really lovely post, pc.


    1. Thanks, Jet! It was teach or freeze…
      Our little hike to “shiver” lake was a real highlight for all of us, and it was so great to hear students exclaim how beautiful it was, regardless of the cold. And it was cold!
      Thanks again, and I hope you’re having a pleasant week!

      Liked by 1 person

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