Snow Shelters at The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School

snow shelter

One powerful part of The Immersion Outdoor School is the projects and adventures that each individual student chooses to engage and create for themselves. Due to the fact that we have only 3 scheduled class days a week, that potentially gives us 4 days where we are free to fill with whatever passions move us. Many take that time for work to support The Immersionexperience. Being an international student, I do not have work as an option, therefore I take my four days to follow my passions. Because the school has been here for so long, there is a plethora of people in this community that I can connect with to ensure that I get what I want out of this program. Part of The Immersion is learning how to learn.

This last weekend, a group of us looked over the syllabus and realized that there was no snow shelter component. We decided to make our own snow shelter day. Five of us piled into vehicles and headed up to Steven’s Pass where we knew we would find enough snow to build a snow shelter. We jumped out at Deception Falls, gathered up our backpacks and sleeping bags, and headed out into the woods.

We followed the creek, walked through majestic cedars, firs, and yes, and found a breathtaking spot overlooking the confluence of the Tye River and Deception Creek. One fellow in our group, had the experience of teaching hundreds of people how to build snow shelters in the Antarctic. He led us in our shelter building. It was incredible to see little train lines of people passing big chunks of snow to one another to our growing pile. We dug, passed, and threw snow for hours to make a massive pile of compressed frozen water crystals.  The falling snow was switching back and forth from wet snow to rain.  We were getting wet from the inside out and outside in. We persisted and continued to pile up our building material until we had a small white mountain to work with.

hiking, snow, nature

At this point, the sun was down and the light was fading quickly. We needed to work fast to begin the digging out stage of our home. We made a rotating system so that we could hollow out the dome as efficiently as possible. We worked into the darkness, following the glow of our headlamps to guide our work. In the end, it was a huge snow “quinzee” big enough to hold all five of us!  We piled up sticks and branches on the floor of our dwelling before laying down sleeping mats and bags. Beaming with pride, we looked upon the den we would be spending our night as winter sardines.

We shared stories and food over the fire as we did our best to dry our out saturated socks, mittens, and tuques (winter hats). We strategically crawled into our respective cocoon bags and settled down to listen to the muffled sounds of the moonlit activities.

fire, shelter, snow

It was a successful night. By that I mean the shelter did not collapse on top of us, most of us got some sleep and only one of us said he was a bit cold in the night. One person said it was even warmer than her room at home!

We crawled out of our shelter as the sunshine illuminated the world around us. We collected our possessions and headed back out of the forest exhilarated, proud of ourselves, and with a new appreciation of our dry, soft, beds in our homes.

by Mireille Evans (The Immersion 2015-16 Student)

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Wilderness Awareness School