The INSTC arranged an Igloo building demonstration with Chris Townsend who is an Honary club member in April 2010. Chris suggested a suitable location at Carn Ban Mor in the Cairngorm Mountains and a small group of members met at the Achlean Car Park in Glen Feshie on a sunny Saturday. The snow cover had depleted from the extensive cover of winter but on the high plateau there was still plenty to enable the demonstration.
File comment: The trudge up the mountain involved about 3,000 ft of ascent
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The hike up to the snowline was hard work due to the warm conditions and the snow was very sticky. The photo shows how high the snowline had become but the next photo shows the extensive cover on the plateau.
File comment: Cairngorm plateau on Carn Ban Mor
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Chris scouted out a suitable area on the east side of the summit where the snow always accumulates to a good depth. We chose a reasonably flat area to ease site preparation and checking snow depth were not able to reach the base. The snow was a mixture of surface sludge with coarse spring snow, frost and graupel layers below. Chris thought this would make building relatively quick and successful since little packing would be required compared with powder. Chris had built Igloo with Ed in Yellowstone and the Winds but it had been some time agovso getting started with us novice builders was a challenge for him.
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File comment: First few layers take the longest
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With three people supplying snow the builder had to keep up with the supply and we took turns using the form. This probably led to some variation in technique and less than ideal quality! There was a little confusion about what length the pole should be at a number of steps in the process so the wall profile was probably not the ideal Catenary curve. The building went remarkably well for our first attempt and the 9ft Igloo was completed in about 3 1/2 hours. Posing for a photo we heard a sound that turned out to be a slump in the west side of the Igloo. An almost perfectly round hole had appeared due to a very warm sun melting the wall in the afternoon. We made a desperate effort to patch the hole but the cracks in various places made us quite nervous about sleeping overnight.
File comment: Igloo complete and supper being prepared by Rob
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We had taken a small backpacking tent as a backup and two of us slept in the tent and Rob slept in the eastern half of the Igloo which had no sign of damage.
With temperatures dropping we needn't have worried since the snow froze up and the walls by morning were hard and secure. Rob had the more comfortable nights sleep!
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The clear skis not only froze the snow but provided a magnificent night sky display with the stars bright as diamonds in the clear mountain air. Chris was not able to stay overnight but we intend to run another demonstration this winter and will be using two Ice Boxes to allow more members to practice building.
The ski down the next day was a little scary because the snow had hardened to ice and the route was in shadow down to the snowline in contrast to Chris skiing down the previous evening in sunshine on perfect turning spring snow!