British Columbia Hiking is alive and well even in the winter. 10 degrees below zero was the perfect temperature for our winter snowshoeing hike on McCulloch Lake near Kelowna BC.
Snowshoeing across McCulloch Lake was a great experience. Even though I have read how the ice is sometimes in layers, when it starts cracking in huge areas around you it is quite an interesting feeling. I also found it amazing that when we got close to the shore of two islands in the middle of the lake, the ice became very slushy and possible to break through. We found out that under the slush is a bit of water and then another layer of ice. We found this out because when one of our group actually broke through the top layer and he pushed his walking stick (shovel) down and felt a hard surface below. He was out before I could get a rope out of our packs to toss out to him. The moral of the story is even when snowmobiles are driving on the ice, you can never tell how thin it is in some spots. If you dare to venture out on ice – be prepared. When we went back to the forest service site where our vehicles were the next day, we had a rope to use as a safety line strung out from the first person in our group on back as far as it could go.
Once we all got to the island safe and mostly dry, we scouted around for the best Quinzee building spot. Some of the boys found the best spot right in the middle of the island. It was surrounded by pine trees that kept the wind out very well. We decided that we would make 3 Quinzee’s. After selecting the spot for each, we dug down to hard ground and then put the snow back onto the spot we just dug. We then piled the snow up as high as our heads keeping the snow broken up as we piled it so that it could crystallize as it set for a couple of hours. Once the pile of snow set we began to dig out – we actually had dug the beginning of the doorway and placed that snow on top of the Quinzee dome already. Our experienced Quinzee builder showed us how to push in small branches into the Quinzee after we had the snow piled up. The branches allow you to know when to stop digging when you are caving it out. The idea is to leave a wall 18 inches deep and to leave the dome 18 inches deep or more as well. After watching the smallest Quinzee collapse when the owner dug too far up, I realized that the fun of Quinzee building had an element of danger. If you are lying the wrong way when caving out and if the snow collapses on top of you, you could become pinned and suffocate! To ensure this does not happen, as you dig, keep a knee bent under your body so if the snow falls on top of you can push straight up. Also make sure someone knows that you are caving out as if the above occurs – you cannot call for help – so use the buddy system.
Once your Quinzee is built and if it is not raining, I can safely say that you do not have to worry about a Quinzee collapsing – check out the video below. To make sure my Quinzee did not collapse, I kept my walls at least 2 feet deep by having my son push a stick through to me when I was caving out and then estimate the distance that I could dig. ( the branches I put in to tell me this were too short)
The Quinzee’s were not really warm as I did not light a candle in mine but with a boughs underneath our thermal pads and nice cozy long johns and wool socks on under our sleeping bags we had a great night sleep!