Inverness Backcountry Snowsports Club - Igloo Camp Feb 2013

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Joined:Fri Oct 08, 2010 2:45 pm
Location:Inverness-shire, Scotland
Inverness Backcountry Snowsports Club - Igloo Camp Feb 2013

Post by Andy » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:11 pm

INSTC has changed name to IBSC to reflect the changes in club membership with all snowsports now represented. Check out the club web site and the facebook page to see more about the club.

A great write up on the club trip is at ... ation.html but the following is my account of our adventure.

The Igloo trip this year (2013) was a bit of an “epic” with four of us intending to camp high up on the Cairngorm plateau in two Igloo’s. It was the usual club members, Roy, Mike and Chris along with myself. The presence of Chris and Mike should have alerted me to arranging an earlier start as they inevitably spent so much time talking that we set off late from Achlean in Glen Feshie. For those who do not know, Chris Townsend is a very respected outdoor photographer and long distance trail walker. Mike Cawthorne is a landscape gardener but his real passion is writing and “Hell of a Journey” is an example of his real life adventures. The two together have so much to talk about and discuss that we had to stop short of the summit and decided to camp at about 2,500 ft, about 2 km from the summit. There was plenty of snow but being on a considerable slope quite a bit of platform building was required before we had enough space to put up two 8 ft diameter Igloos. It was noticeable how much slower the building was between Chris and Mike compared with me and Roy and quality control was also suffering with lack of concentration on their part. The one thing you have to do is make sure the snow is well packed, especially if there is any chance of weather deterioration. We had not fully appreciated how mild the weather was to turn or how windy it was to get. Fortunately our Igloo was completed before the weather became too bad and we were then able to help Chris and Mike finish off. By then the wind had increased to 50-60 mph and the snow/sleet was horizontal. There was evidence of the snow eroding from the walls of the Igloo so a low snow wall was build to help provide some protection to both Igloos. Supper was served in our Igloo as I had all the food and cooking gear organised along with the wine, of course. It is very hard to appreciate how secure you feel in the Igloo without experiencing it. There is no wind noise and the temperature is very comfortable with decent clothing. Just the spindrift entering the entrance gives an indication that the conditions may be quite extreme outside!
Glen Feshie 2013.jpg
Glen Feshie 2013.jpg (31.75KiB)Viewed 138811 times
Chris and Mike returned to their Igloo about 11 PM after supper, drinks and chat. Last minute visits outside for the call of nature highlighted the deterioration in weather with extreme wind conditions and sleet making any time spent outside very uncomfortable. Despite some concern the sleet would turn to rain Roy and I settled down to a comfortable sleep with plenty of space to stretch out. It was about 2 am when I awoke to a banging sound which was hard to locate until I realised Chris was shouting and trying to get through our entrance tunnel packed with equipment! He sounded somewhat alarmed and asked if our Igloo was OK and if so could they come in. There was some evidence the walls had thinned but the walls still seemed strong and so Mike and Chris piled in with all their equipment. It took some re-arrangement of sleeping layout to fit two more in to an Igloo only really designed to sleep two and Mike at over 6 ft ended up with his head right up close to a wall. Despite the squeeze we all managed to lay out and even get some sleep.

The reason for their sudden evacuation was due to a hole appearing in the wall of their Igloo due to wind. The wind was so strong that once the hole started to appear it rapidly expanded and it was all they could do to get their clothes on and equipment packed before the snow covered everything. It was obvious that Chris was quite alarmed at the conditions which knowing how experienced he is made us quite concerned. We all slept fully clothed and packed as much spare equipment as possible. It was perhaps as well that Chris and Mike had continued chatting well in to the small hours otherwise they may well have had much less time to evacuate their Igloo without losing equipment.
Fortunately our Igloo survived the night intact despite a few small holes and sagging of the wall from Mike’s breath! Breakfast was not the normal relaxed affair but at least we only had a short journey down the mountain to the cars. If we had camped high on the plateau the story may have been more “exciting” with the winds recorded on Cairngorm summit that night at 100 mph.

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Igloo Ed
Joined:Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:44 pm
Location:Lyons, Colorado

Re: Inverness Backcountry Snowsports Club - Igloo Camp Feb 2013

Post by Igloo Ed » Wed Jan 28, 2015 8:16 pm

What an adventure! It's been a few years... since I've had excitement like that.
I've been in some pretty high winds but usually it is cold and the snow is already wind packed and icy.
Busting it up and packing it makes it some pretty hard material that stands up better than cut and stacked blocks of the wind packed snow if the edges of the stacked blocks are exposed.
I've noticed in that hard snow, I am packing in little chunks of wind packed snow and that is what tends to erode the most from wind. The pock marks are small if the chunks are small...
Then there is the bottom/back corners, if chunks pile up in the corners and/or it doesn't get packed with fingertips, there is a void with nothing but chunks. The wind can get right at all those chunks if there is any gaps.
Your igloo looks pretty good but that is a huge hole in the other igloo.
Glad you guys are ok.
Banff Martin recently used a tarp to protect an igloo in warm winds. Don't know how one would fasten it in high winds without it shredding.

Banff Martin
Joined:Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:20 pm
Location:Banff AB, Canada

Re: Inverness Backcountry Snowsports Club - Igloo Camp Feb 2013

Post by Banff Martin » Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:49 am

Very interesting Andy.

Yes, I did use a tarp successfully this past Monday night, weighing it down with wood at the bottom and sealing the edges further up the walls with slushy snow. The sealing with snow worked very well to keep the wind from grabbing the tarp.

In your case I don't expect you'd bring a 12' square tarp however to have this option if you thought it was a risk beforehand (and no natural wind shelter was available for another build site). I wonder if 2-3 mylar emergency blankets, with seams taped to each other to make for greater coverage, could be used? If the windward side of an igloo could be covered like this with all edges sealed, I think it could work?
If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!

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