Sunday, May 17, 2009

January 2009: Snowshoes and Snowcaves

Destination: West View Shelter off of the Pengra Pass Trail in Willamette Valley.
Objective: Snowshoe into camp. Build a snow cave. Survive the night.

We arrived at the trail head by 11:00 AM. Excited to try out our snowshoes, we set off. West View Shelter is only 3/4 of a mile from the trail head. But I've got to admit, a 3/4 mile hike with snowshoes, a backpack, and pushing an overloaded snow sled seems more like 5 miles. But it didn't take long to arrive at our destination.

The boys played around for a while. Preston must have been excited because he neglected to put on his snow gloves. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. The boys made lunch and then began to build a snow shelter.

There are different ways to build a shelter. One way is to dig a hole into the snow and. . .jump in. We chose the "tarp" method. This method is accomplished by digging into the snow an area large enough to accommodate all members of your crew. This proved to be somewhat of a challenge for five temporarily homeless scouts. Everyone worked hard. Especially Alex. After the pit was dug. The next step was to find enough fallen timber to spread across the top--sturdy enough to withstand 6 inches of snow insulation (R value of -19). Luckily, a tree had recently fallen nearby (not very encouraging for snow cave dwellers). There were plenty of sturdy branches that would fill the bill. With a tarp spread across the snow floor and a tarp covering the timber the shelter was ready to be "insulated". We dumped heaps of snow onto the shelter testing its structural integrity. To everyone's dismay, the shelter collapsed. The center brace had been an old decaying log apparently not measuring up to the snow cave building code. This devastating turn of events raised doubts about sleeping in a snow cave. However, we found a new log--this one much more sturdy, and threw into place. One of the boys walked across it to prove its strength. And. . .with all of our light disappearing by the second, we all joined efforts to reroof the cave. This time it was a success. Strong. Insulating. Large. Warm. Cozy. Okay maybe not warm, and maybe not cozy. But, it was an adventure none the less.

Chugging chili, sipping hot cocoa, and procrastinating retiring to our caves.