If you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty big fan of snow. Luckily we live somewhere with an abundance of the white stuff, and it’s good for more than skiing and snowball fights.
Saturday morning my friend Lewis McAll and I got an early start and headed towards our destination, Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond is located at the base of Mt. Bancroft which Lauren and I climbed last summer. Visiting the area in the winter proved to be a much different experience. The bustling jeep trail (Stewart Road) was sitting under feet of snow, and we only encountered two other parties (four people total).
It took under two hours to snowshoe two miles (over 1,000 ft of elevation gain). Once we were about 1/3 a mile from the lake, we started looking for the perfect snow drift. The lake is above treeline and very wind-blown. Lewis spotted a sizeable drift, and I was convinced that it was actually a small hill. The avalanche probe proved that the drift was 7+ feet deep.
We set down our packs and got to work digging. The snow was hard-packed and proved very challenging for digging. About four hours later, our snow cave was complete. The completed cave had room for us and our gear.
Around 5 PM we climbed into our snow cave. We cooked an excellent curry backpackers meal and called it a day. Despite the cold outside (probably 0 – 10 degrees), the snow cave was fairly warm. It was also very quiet and dark which made for a decent night’s sleep.
Lessons learned and/or things that proved helpful:
- Snow conditions can vary greatly. Leave plenty of time for digging. Each person should carry a shovel if possible (but you could get tendonitis…Lewis!).
- Bring extra gloves. We got really wet while digging. Even though our gloves were Gore-tex, when we took them off to let them dry, they froze stiff as boards.
- If you don’t have a winter sleeping bag, consider using two bags. Lauren and I both have 15 degree down bags. I stole hers and put ours together. I stayed nice and toasty. Also, don’t forget a sleeping mat. Staying off the snow is very important.