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Hollow It Out

Once your mound of snow has firmed up, you can start to hollow it out.

The first step in the hollowing process is to punch a number of foot-long twigs into your mound. These will serve as guides for you while you excavate the cham- ber. Don’t punch your sticks entirely through; leave roughly two inches of branch sticking out so that you can remove them later. Your mound will now look a bit like a porcupine.

The next step is to start your entry tunnel. Ideally, your entry tunnel will head a bit down- ward into the snow surrounding your mound before you start digging upward and into the chamber area. Your tunnel will then serve as a cold air sink to trap the warmer air inside the quinzee and make it quite pleasant to sleep in. (Don’t worry if you can’t do this. I’ve made plenty of quinzees where I couldn’t create a lower entry due to sketchy snow conditions, and I’m still here to write about it.)

Plan on spending the next couple of hours hollowing out your sleeping area. You can use snowshoes, pots and pans, tarps, shovels and your own feet to scoop out and remove the excess snow.

When you notice daylight through the snow walls, begin digging a little more carefully. Stop digging when you’ve reached your guide sticks. Ten inches is an ideal wall thickness.

Add Fresh Air and Ambience

When the majority of the interior snow is re- moved, you can move on to your quinzee’s final touches. Carefully punch two to three fist-size holes through your dome, about one-third of the way down from the top, to let fresh air in. A small trench around the base of the sleeping platform can help manage condensation and air quality. For maximum comfort, carve a few shelves in the wall for small candles. They’ll provide some mood lighting, but, more impor- tantly, they go a long way toward a warmer quinzee. Just be sure to blow them out before you fall asleep.

Now, all that’s left to do is to enjoy a great night’s sleep and look forward to waking up to a dazzling performance of sunlight through the snow. Watching the morning sun turn the walls a luminescent blue is a backcountry memory in the making. t

January + February 2010 » Washington Trails


Trail Book »

Here’s something new to the guidebook genre: a deck of cards detailing 50 trails in Western Washington that you can hike during the winter. Craig Romano’s latest work, published by Mountaineers Books, gives everyone plenty of reasons to go hiking in January and February.

photo by Diane Bedell.

Moving all that snow is going to take awhile, but keep at it!

What is a guide deck, you ask? It’s a stack of glossy 4-inch x 6-inch cards contained in a smooth, blue box. Each hike has it’s own card. One side describes the hike and provides driving directions, distance and elevation information, as well as sugges- tions of what else to do in the area; the other side has a map.

Quinzee Considerations

Due to the time and energy required, quinzees are a good choice for multiple- night excursions or backyard adventures.

There are distinct advantages to this card system. No need to haul a hefty guide- book up the trail or photocopy pages of it. You can just pick the relevant card and go, and on many of the hikes, the map is completely sufficient for navi- gation.

This structure is best built when one per- son is helping from the outside. Having someone else help move all that snow out of the way just makes the process that much smoother. (And, while construc- tion collapses are rare, it’s nice to have another person ready to help in case it does happen.)

I also appreciate the thoughtful selection of hikes. There are plenty that you might know (Hoh Rain Forest, Squak

Mountain, Dunge ness Spit), but there are many more that even the most diehard hiker won’t have heard about. How about the


Winter Hikes of Western Washington

by Craig Romano ($15.95, 2009)

Plan on sweating. Layer appropri- ately and be able to change your base layers completely if needed.

Don’t leave candles burning in the quinzee overnight and don’t use your cook stove inside. Make sure you have some type of fresh air flow to prevent car- bon dioxide build-up.

Chehalis River Surge Plain or the Hansville Greenway?

If I had one quibble with the concept, it’s that it is hard to keep the cards in the right order. But that is a small price to pay for the ability to stuff your hike of choice into your coat pocket and take a walk on a winter day.

  • Review by Susan Elderkin


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