Second quinzhee attempt, Winter: 1, Ed: 1

As I previously wrote here, 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.

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