INSTC - Club Igloo Tuition 5th-6th March 2011

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Andy
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INSTC - Club Igloo Tuition 5th-6th March 2011

Post by Andy » Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:34 pm

The second club Igloo trip of the season was held on the eastern slopes of Cairngorm Mountain overlooking Strath Nethy. The site was chosen to allow less active members easy access via the funicular railway and ski area. The rest of the group parked at Coire na Ciste car park and skinned up the Ciste gully to reach the build site.
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Skins on skis for plod up the gulley
The weather gods were on our side yet again and we had light winds and glorious sunshine at 3,500ft. Conditions were so good we soon had the primus stove going and tea and bacon rolls produced for the workforce! The snow had a hard surface frost layer but beneath that there was large crystalline sugar. Temperatures were about 32 Farenheit and with the sunshine I was worried we might have a repeat of last April with melting.
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The group enjoying the winter sunshine
There were eight of us on site with only my self and Mike having experience of previous Igloo building. After producing the first layer of blocks for a 9ft Igloo I took a supervising role and let construction continue with very little intervention until the 6th layer.
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The start with beginners doing well
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The walls growing quickly with dense crystalline snow
The Igloo took just over four hours to build partly due to time taken to instruct and allowing for tea breaks. The afternoon sun did soften the walls a shade was set up to help harden the walls as the temperature was below freezing point. Three of us had opted to sleep overnight and the other five left before the Igloo was complete to back down before conditions on the slopes became too icy. Mike and John went for a short ski in the evening sunshine just after completing the Igloo while I tidied the site and set up cooking arrangements in the Igloo and fitted the door.
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Sun setting with Mike and John returning from tour
The arrangement for three people in a 9ft Igloo were made a little easier by not extending the entrance trench too far in to the Igloo. With the temperature dropping the outside of the Igloo was very hard but the warmth from cooking kept the inside above freezing and the snow slighly soft on the walls. It was a comfortable shelter despite the occassional piece of Igloo brushing from the walls and we all slept well. THe door did not seal the draft completely but with good sleeping bags this just provided a refreshing ventilation during the night. The clear moonless sky provided a star watchers paradise and the call of nature at 4 in the morning was rewarded by a wonderful sky full of stars in a completely clear sky. The cold night made the Igloo hard enough to climb with an Ice Ax the next morning to pose for photographs.
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The complete Igloo with Cairngorm Mountain in the background
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Mike struggling down from the top!
We enjoyed more bacon rolls for breakfast before packing up and heading up the mountain to the summit.
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Leaving fo rthe summit of Cairngorm
The weather was windier and cloud in the valley and to the west looked thick but the sun was shinning and surface conditions were very icy with thick hoar frost on the surface. Views from the summit provided a great reward for minimal effort.
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Summit views south west to Ben Macduie
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Summit view west to Carn Lochan

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Igloo Ed
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Re: INSTC - Club Igloo Tuition 5th-6th March 2011

Post by Igloo Ed » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:48 am

Sounds like a well planned trip with some using the railway for easier access. It's great that the igloo got finished before the other five headed back down the hill. Sooner or later you are going to end up with a couple very experienced teams as you and Mike are obviously getting it with a build time of 4 hours including teaching and breaks.
The pictures make it look like the snow you were gathering was warming up from the sun as you removed the top soft layers and went around the igloo again.
How did the sleeping arrangements with three in the nine footer work for you?
The door on the igloo has radius' in the top corners and that tends to make the door want to slide away from the sides of the door opening. Our fabric door would also hang a bit high on the igloo which lets the fabric slide towards the center also. In some cases like this it would seal better using a plastic trash bag with a little snow in it. Not nearly as convenient as our door with the slit down the middle but priorities....
Sure would be nice if you could find some shade up there on top but...
Looks like it was a great trip.

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Andy
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Re: INSTC - Club Igloo Tuition 5th-6th March 2011

Post by Andy » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:41 pm

Hi Ed,
The two trips this winter have been good practice and I may manage one more build in Scotland before my trip to Norway in April. The snow in Norway should be excellent for Igloos, especially on the west side near Hardanger Jokulen. There also we will be building in exposed locations above the tree line, I hope with the sun shining.
The door way did require squaring up and probably also a bit more snow in the pockets but it was still very comfortable even with accomodating three of us. The picture below shows the arrangement although the body size is slightly small since Mike is 6ft 2" and I'm 5ft 10". We had space near the door for boots and packs and between the right hand sleeping space and the other two sleeping bags. We probably could have extended the trench in some more to make sitting easier. We cooked in the area opposite the entrance by moving sleeping mats.
9foot layout.jpg
9foot layout.jpg (5.59 KiB) Viewed 9836 times
I will try out a small arch next time if the snow is not deep. The advantage of the snow here is that it is quite wet and dense so does not need much packing. The snow was soft where the sun warmed it so the sunny side of the Igloo was soft but very hard where it was in the shade. The sun lost its power in the afternoon and it became harder to scrape up the snow near the finish of the Igloo.
You will notice in the photos my snow filled stuff sack. This proved very useful again for reaching the top layers from inside the Igloo. Mike borrowed a rock to help reach higher from the outside! I also found the stuff sack was useful for keeping the pivot in place. The soft granular snow did not hold the peg well and adding water did not help with temperature at around freezing point. The bag required moving every couple of blocks but did keep the bar in place.
We had some interest from other skiers and walkers so I was able to advise them on the benefits of Ice Box Igloo's- you may get some orders from Scotland.
Winter has returned today with -7 Celcius on Cairngorm mountain at mid day so the Igloo should be bullet proof by now. More snow forecast over the next couple of days even at sea level so the ski touring season should last to May or even June this year. It would be quite an achievement to build one in May.

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Igloo Ed
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Re: INSTC - Club Igloo Tuition 5th-6th March 2011

Post by Igloo Ed » Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:01 pm

Hi Andy,
With your snow... another igloo in Scotland might require a nice warm day to soften the snow up. I've built them here in Colorado in July on a pile of avalanche debris. We shaved off 3/4 inch thick slaps and packed them into the form. They were very saturated with water and hard to break up in the form. Didn't have any problems with blocks breaking though...
I found the Hardanger Jokulen on google earth and see it is part of the icecap by Finse. I hope you have good weather too and find some nice deep snow. I am planning on Norway next spring and sounds like we'll be going north of Finse to the edge of the plateau.
I had wondered how your sleeping arrangements were with you being tall. It works well to have three around the igloo forming a triangle, like we have in the manual, when everyone is short like me at 5'7". You'll love the trench the first time you have one.
I will be using your idea of a stuff sack full of snow to stand on next week. I am planning a six night trip with two nights on Otis Peak's summit and also two nights on Taylor Peak's summit.

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