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Mountaineering The Mountaineering forum is for discussion that relates directly to mountaineering (alpinism, climbing).


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  #1  
Old 01-29-2010, 06:08 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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Snow cave fun

During a 10 day “winter class” at a northern California outdoor school, one of our sessions was up on Mt. Shasta, where we built and slept in snow caves. This was a “sink or swim” event where we carried our sleeping bag and clothes in (by snowshoe) and had to make our own snow caves for the next two nights. Sorry, no photos of that trip.

Those nights were so magical I had to repeat them, and my crazy friend Rob (who had no snow cave experience at all) talked me into doing it again, just the two of us, so we packed up our backpacks and a couple shovels and headed back. We tramped in 3 miles to Panther Meadows and built a veritable palace of a 2-person cave, with sleeping bench and cook bench with chimney. We could sit on the sleeping bench, on top of our pads, with our feet in a trench that was an extension of the entrance tunnel, and cook on a bench on the other side of the trench. The trench and tunnel drained the cold air while the dome above the sleeping bench warmed up to a balmy 35 degrees!

The tunnel entrance:



Richwads climbing onto sleeping shelf (note cooking equip. on shelf behind, and shovel in doorway to dig ourselves out):


Richwads cozy for the night:


This was a 3 night/ 4 day trip. Clothing was a wool base layer, wool pants, wool shirt, fleece vest and jacket, rain pants and rain jacket (goretex). Pack was a Kelty Moraine 2800 c.i. internal frame. Pad was a 1” full length Thermarest over a full length 3/8” closed cell, all over a blue/silver emergency blanket. Sleeping bag was a NF Superlight 5 deg. We had a tarp in case we failed at completing a snow cave by nightfall.

I slept in my base layer with my boot liners inside the sleeping bag to dry them out. Total pack weight going in not counting water was 35 lb.

We started an igloo on day 3 but didn’t finish in time to sleep in it, and left the morning of day 4.

Stomping down the igloo floor:


Setting the first course of blocks:


As far as we got:


We could have stretched a tarp over the top and slept inside, but I'm pretty sure we would have been colder than in the snow cave.
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  #2  
Old 01-29-2010, 11:13 PM
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bmcsteve bmcsteve is offline
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Wow! That's all I can say.... I have always wanted to try something like this, but I REALLY hate being cold. It looks and sounds like it was a fun trip though.
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Old 01-30-2010, 05:26 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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I hate cold too, and get cold easier than most, so I kinda psyched myself into doing this outdoor school winter class thing. It helped a little, but I still get cold easy and still don't like it . So I carry more clothes than most .

Making the snow cave was a very sweaty exercise. Afterward we had to snowshoe around in our long johns and let our body heat dry us out.

The coldest part of the trip was lounging around inside the snow cave after dark. Outside it got real cold real fast after dark. Inside it was about 35 degrees day or night (that's not cold?). Cooking and eating a big hot meal and drinking hot water (snow melt) helps a lot. Cold finally drove us into our sleeping bags. Short days, long nights!
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:17 AM
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big_load big_load is offline
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Very nice! A snow shelter can make a big difference in serious cold.
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:22 AM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Very cool (no pun intended).

Quote:
Originally Posted by richwads
So I carry more clothes than most
Nothing wrong with that. There's a lot more to this than weight. And it's all about the individual's preferences/needs too.

Reality
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Old 01-31-2010, 12:33 PM
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adventure_dog adventure_dog is offline
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That looked like a ton of fun!

How long did it take to carve out your cave? And, did you ever experience a feeling of claustrophobia or like the air was too "dead" in the cave?
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:20 PM
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richwads richwads is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adventure_dog
That looked like a ton of fun!

How long did it take to carve out your cave? And, did you ever experience a feeling of claustrophobia or like the air was too "dead" in the cave?

Fun it was! We spent about an hour getting the cave dug out to be suitable as an emergency shelter; one of us inside moving the snow toward the door, the other outside dragging it out and throwing it on top. We fiddled with it a few hours longer, adding the cooking shelf after the idea occurred to us, and leveling out the sleeping shelf, extending the entrance trench, etc. We prob'ly worked from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

We poked a "chimney" hole above the cooking shelf to promote air circulation during cooking, otherwise the warm air under the "ceiling" would tend to melt the ceiling. That allowed good fresh air circulation.

The door and chimney hole were blocked one night (after we nodded off). I was told that snow breathes enough to keep from suffocating you, but you bring up a good point that maybe someone else might answer better than I. On the claustrophobia thing, it was much better than being in a tent. We could sit up like in a chair (with no back) and cook at table height, with room on the cooking bench for all our food, pots and pans, stove, etc.
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Old 01-31-2010, 11:16 PM
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bmcsteve bmcsteve is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richwads
I hate cold too, and get cold easier than most, so I kinda psyched myself into doing this outdoor school winter class thing. It helped a little, but I still get cold easy and still don't like it . So I carry more clothes than most .


I have this same problem. I used to love playing in the snow and such, then I did a stint over in Kuwait with Uncle Sam's Canoe Club..... The average temp during that summer there was around 115 degrees. When the fall came and the temps dropped down to 80 deg. we all looked silly wearing our jackets and such. Anyway, I think my internal thermostat got fried over there, because I just can't tolerate the cold like I used to. I suppose that packing extra clothes and leaving my tent behind would balance out the weight load.... maybe I will try this some day. I already have a good set of snow shoes.
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Old 03-16-2010, 08:49 AM
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ConnieD ConnieD is offline
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My snow cave experience has been in the context of mountaineering on a big mountain in "whiteout".

I never arranged for cooking inside, although I see it could work.

However, I would not want the snow roof dripping on my sleep system, and I would not want the air holes to close off.

One job inside a snow cave, is keeping the air holes open either with the ice axe piolet or perhaps with a hiking stick or ski pole without the basket.

Snow only "breathes" if it is not compacted and if the inner surface has not melted and frozen. We know this from avalanche survival training: do not compact the snow. Use your body in a curve, if you can, to make an air pocket at the end of the movement of the avalanche. Use something like Ava-lung, breathing into your clothing at the minimum, to avoid creating a frozen surface on the snow.

In fact, we saw the snow cave as survival, and so, had people taking turns on "watch" by going on a fixed rope from snow cave to snow cave, checking on the air holes which were over the entrance tunnel near the door.

I should mention, we did not suffer the cold. We were toasty warm, sticking and arm or a foot outside our sleeping bags to regulate our own temperature.

Another thing, we smoothed the inside dome roof over the sleeping shelf and made a small "trench" around the edge so any runoff of water from the dome would not find ourselves sleeping on ice water.

Also, the top of the entrance tunnel was lower than the sleeping shelf. This kept the coldest air below us. The air warmed by us, tended to stay in the sleeping area on the sleeping shelf.

If I cooked in a snow cave, it would be a separate snow cave for cooking. This is because I would not want the excess moisture on the inner roof of the snow cave, as well.
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Old 01-08-2013, 09:39 PM
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ultralightbackpacker ultralightbackpacker is offline
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looks like a lot of fun, nice snow cave palace!
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