Beings as it's a tradition for me to spend Thanksgiving in a snow shelter, I went on a solo trip Friday, after spending Turkey Day with the family.
I didn't know what to expect for snow conditions as I had been away for the last two weekends and only had one report of shin deep snow last weekend. I was expecting a fair amount of fresh snow on top of the shin deep snow with the clouds looking very promising down here on the plains of Colorado on Thurs.
It didn't amount to more than a couple inches of fresh up high though and I ended up building the igloo with about 18 inches of old granular snow that had a couple inches of fresh on top of it.
Having built igloos on shallow snow before I knew that I wanted the top of the door even or below the sleeping level in the igloo. Consequently, I packed down the 18 inches of sugar snow on a slanted area and then shoveled more snow from below the igloo to raise the height of the foundation. I ended up with tall enough of a foundation to have a two foot tall door when the top of the door was even with the sleeping platform.
I shoveled the extra snow from out of this picture to the right and took this picture at 12:04
I took a short break after that and then began building my igloo. The sugar snow refused to set up solid enough for me to walk on the foundation for quite some time so I began building the igloo on the uphill side so I could build without walking on the foundation for as long as possible.
Because of the scant snow, I didn't build the foundation large enough to have a ledge on the downhill side so I had to walk/carry snow across the igloo after building a little less than half of the first layer. When I needed to build from the inside, I walked very gingerly and stood as still as I could while packing the form full. It was pretty tough not to start breaking through the floor and loosening the snow back up again.
I piled snow against the first layer on the uphill side and reached over the wall to pick up the snow before carrying it across the igloo.
I also packed most of the blocks while stooping over because kneeling down breaks up the floor where my knees and toes are. I was also having problems with my boots freezing up which made a dome on the bottom of my boots. A dome like that also breaks up the floor so I was swatting my boots quite often with my ski pole to break the clump of snow off.
As I was build, I started working on a ledge on the downhill side of the igloo in hopes of it setting up hard enough to stand on later but alas, it didn't set up strong enough until after I was done building the igloo.
With all the problems I was having, I decided to take it easy and take breaks once in a while to walk around and limber up after stooping over so much.
At 3:45 I had nearly completed two layers and built up a fine looking ledge on the downhill side of the igloo:
I kept reaching over the wall for the snow until nearly finishing the third layer and then got out to dig the door open as I wouldn't be able to step over the wall anymore once I finished the third layer.
I dug the door at 5:23 and piled up a huge pile of snow against the igloo so I wouldn't need to crawl in and out of the igloo as much:
I also found that I couldn't reach the snow once the pile got short so I began piling up snow inside the igloo after finishing about 1/2 of the fourth layer.
It did seem like much less muscle strain not having to reach over the wall to pick up a load of snow. The pile was just outside of the igloo in the ramp area so I was able to reach over three layers while building the fourth layer but I only did it for a few blocks as I could see that it was taking a very tall pile to be able to reach it and that meant that I would be crawling in and out of the igloo quite frequently. My gloves and knees were getting quite iced up from crawling and that was my main concern that caused me to start piling the snow inside the igloo. I did build a few blocks on the fourth course from the outside as I removed the Outer Panel and was able to build from the outside until I reached the weak ledge on the downhill side of the igloo. That's when I shoveled the snow into the igloo and went inside to build. I ended up shoveling piles into the igloo for the remainder of the fourth layer and part of the fifth layer.
I detached the handle from my shovel blade so I could get the snow up and out of the igloo until the hole became to small to even get the shovel blade up through the hole.
I then went outside and was able to complete the last few blocks from the uphill side of the igloo which had a solid ledge enabling me to reach across the igloo to place and pack the snow.
I had set the 7 foot pole arrangement in hole #6 on the upper pole instead of the #2 hole used to build a 7 foot igloo which gave me a 7" 3" igloo. Consequently, the igloo required a couple last blocks that made it six layers to finish the igloo. I moved the form from the outside and saw that I didn't need to go into the igloo to reset the pole to a longer setting. It was pretty nice being able to do the last bit of the igloo from the outside.
I finished up the igloo and started moving in at 8:13:
Through the night, it snowed about a foot of lovely fresh snow giving me this view in the morning of Flattop Mtn.:
I built the igloo at 10,415 elevation and just below the top and on the leeward side of the ridge I was on so I was a bit protected from the 45 mph gusts that I could hear on the treetops above:
All in all it was well worth it as I had a home for two nights:
On the way out today I was breaking trail through some waist deep drifts before I reached the park trail that had been broken the day before and now only had a foot of fresh snow on it.
Happy Turkey Day!
Use for posting climbing pictures and igloo's.
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