söndag 2 januari 2011

Happy new winter year - try a Quinzhee!

In order to burn some calories and have some fun in the snow after christmas I decided to build a Quinzhee snow shelter. You can't get much more lightweight than that since the shelter only requires that you bring a shovel. It's also a lot warmer than a tent since the snow is a great insulator. The downside however is that it requires lot of energy and time to build, but it's also quite fun. It goes without saying however that you should not leave your tent at home unless you are very experienced.

Compared to other snow shelters the Quinzhee is less demanding of the snow conditions. You don't need very deep snow (as is required by a Snow cave or Snow trench for example.) or hard packed snow which is required for Igloos.

The snow heap freezing before being dug out

The process of building a Quinzhee looks like this:
  1. Pile up as much snow as you can in a heap using a shovel
  2. Compact the heap  a bit by pounding it with the shovel
  3. Let the heap freeze for at least 30 minutes
  4. Insert 20-30cm sticks evenly into the heap all around the top so that you will not dig through the wall when digging out the living compartment
  5. Dig out the living compartment and watch carefully so that you don't dig through the wall when you hit the sticks
  6. Optionally create a door of some kind
Step one is by far the hardest one. It took my about 45 minutes with a big shovel and this was for a heap that would probably only fit me in curled up position. It should help to have several people do the shoveling. It is very important to let the heap freeze properly, otherwise it will collapse. Especially when build out of cold powder snow like this Quinzhee. I let this one freeze for 2 hours.

The biggest reason to build a quinzhee - The fun factor

I have heard that those who have tried sleeping in Quinzhee say that it is quite comfortable and very warm, but also a bit damp. So far I have only built mine just outside the house for fun purposes. It's a great activity for the kids, especially the digging. I must say however that the hard work makes me long for the ICEBOX Igloo Tool.

Happy digging - observe the sticks on the roof

3 kommentarer:

  1. This is something I've been longing to do ever since I read about it in Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book. I really must get around to giving it a go this winter on an overnight trip, probably with the benefit of having my tent close by so my survival doesn't rely on my ability to build a quinzhee correctly!

    I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Chris Townsend said that, given the choice, he would rather carry a shovel than a tent in winter conditions for the ability to build shelters such as this and also being able to customise the shelter to the conditions and group size.

  2. Hi Joe!
    You should really give it try. If I would really sleep in one I would probably do a two person size and have at least one more person to help with the piling.
    Also I advice you to bring a large shovel, not a flimsy little avalanche one. It will probably be worth the extra weight, although a small shovel is good for digging out the living room.

  3. Cool post, I can highly recommend the Icebox, it requires a lot of patience to master but builds very durable shelters. And as with the quinzhee, it's very very fun.