Putting Our Hikers to the Test

Tuesday, 20. May 2014

by Marnie Davis Wood

Here in the Swiss Alps, the transition from winter sports season to summer hiking season usually happens rather quickly, right around Easter, but this year the transition on the Hasliberg and in other parts of Switzerland has not been so swift. Teachers who were at the Ecole during the spring break were disheartened to find it snowing again in the last week of vacation, and weather reports from the south were even more dire! We have had pockets of beautiful spring weather, though, and the spring test hike took place during one of these pockets yesterday.

The test hike is a crucial part of preparations for this term's six-day hike. It usually takes place about a week before the beginning of our hike window, the period of time marked out in the term during which the hike could take place depending on the weather. After hike leaders have informed students of their hiking options, and after students have selected their top three preferred hikes, hike groups are assembled and each group spends a day on the test hike simulating the conditions they might encounter on the six-day hike.

The test hike takes place on similar terrain to the real hike, with everyone carrying full backpacks for the approximate length of time that they will be underway each day. This allows students to test their choice of hike, it allows hike leaders to test their hikers’ abilities, and it allows the group to establish good group dynamics on the trail.

Following the test hike yesterday, the hike leaders met to make any necessary tweaks to the groups, which are now locked in and ready for the six-day hike to be called. As I write, however, we are still waiting for the weather on our planned hike routes to clear up, and it looks like it might take a little while before we can put what we tested into action! Stay tuned...