As I previously wrote here http://faint-traces.blogspot.com/2015/02/first-attempt-at-quinzhee-winter1-ed0.html, I have been looking to sharpen my winter hiking skills. The first attempt consisted of piling up snow, letting it sinter, then hollowing it out. The results were positive, although I learned that a) you get soaked and b) to do it right you need a big pile and c) I was a little too claustrophobic.
Today’s attempt was a sort of modified design, basically a glorified tunnel into a snowbank, the remains of multiple storms’ shoveling off my back patio, which has had a few weeks now to compress. The bank is about 3-4′ high. The plan was simply to cut a tunnel through it, to provide a sleeping space that was ~90% enclosed. I have a fear of being buried, and I don’t want to learn how to build a proper snow shelter the hard way. I cut the tunnel N-S through the bank; the prevailing wind here is west. This will help keep it ventilated without turning into a wind-tunnel. The tunnel is about 10′ long.
Things I learned:
- You need to make the tunnel high enough for both you and your sleep system.
- You get soaked – today was about 30 degrees and sunny, so I was wearing cotton-based ‘yard’ clothes. I was pretty wet by the end.
- It doesn’t take long if you have a good snowbank, maybe 30 minutes.
- The middle of the tunnel narrows as you lose the right angle for shovelling. This isn’t a bad thing, as it helps preserve body heat.
- You really need a shovel; there’s no way I could have done this by hand.
- A snow shovel makes a lot of sharp, stress concentrating edges. Use your boots. knees, hands to smooth/round the tunnel to help distribute the weight more effectively.
I’d feel comfortable in this shelter, at least on a sleeping pad. If you’re not expecting snow/rain, this sort of shelter is fine, you can sleep mostly covered, out of the wind, but still have fresh air.