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eternalX

Winter Climbing

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Jens said:

And I've found that sleeping in the Muir hut in winter can actually be enjoyable when no one else is up at muir.

 

A welcome alternative to a tent, maybe. But hunkered down in a foggy, damp, dark frozen cave with 4 inches of standing slush on the floor isn't my idea of enjoyment. It's certainly great to have it available as an option, and it may even save your toes in bad conditions, but winter climbing on Rainier is very different from summer. Unless you've been on Denali, you'll never know that kind of cold. I promise you that. hellno3d.gif

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Flying_Ned said:

Jens said:

And I've found that sleeping in the Muir hut in winter can actually be enjoyable when no one else is up at muir.

 

A welcome alternative to a tent, maybe. But hunkered down in a foggy, damp, dark frozen cave with 4 inches of standing slush on the floor isn't my idea of enjoyment. It's certainly great to have it available as an option, and it may even save your toes in bad conditions, but winter climbing on Rainier is very different from summer. Unless you've been on Denali, you'll never know that kind of cold. I promise you that. hellno3d.gif

 

I guess I should have used another word as winter mountaineering would seldom be called enjoyable when you are really cold. As for the hut, the real pain for me seems to be other climbers snoring and stuff.

 

P.S. Thanks for the beta. I've summited Rainier in Winter and Denali

 

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Flying_Ned said:

 

A welcome alternative to a tent, maybe. But hunkered down in a foggy, damp, dark frozen cave with 4 inches of standing slush on the floor isn't my idea of enjoyment. It's certainly great to have it available as an option, and it may even save your toes in bad conditions, but winter climbing on Rainier is very different from summer. Unless you've been on Denali, you'll never know that kind of cold. I promise you that. hellno3d.gif

 

Winter camping in Nebraska can come close....

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catbirdseat said:

Use ear plugs if the snorers bother you. As for cold, even in winter, Rainier is not as cold as Denali in summer.

 

This is true, but add winter winds and moisture and it can certainly feel worse than a warmer day in the summer on denali.

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Find a place where you can dig UP into a big snow bank and the diggings will fall out your front door, saving a lot of work (most people look instead for a spot with a flat area immediately beneath a steeper snowbank, because it is a little more comfortable to start digging in such a location). A good night in a quiet cave can more than make up for the work involved - as opposed to sleeping poorly in a wind-rattled tent. Also, if you are going to be in there for a full winter night - all 16 hours of it - the additional comfort is a big plus.

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mattp said:

Find a place where you can dig UP into a big snow bank and the diggings will fall out your front door, saving a lot of work (most people look instead for a spot with a flat area immediately beneath a steeper snowbank, because it is a little more comfortable to start digging in such a location). A good night in a quiet cave can more than make up for the work involved - as opposed to sleeping poorly in a wind-rattled tent. Also, if you are going to be in there for a full winter night - all 16 hours of it - the additional comfort is a big plus.

There is also the fact that by having the floor of the sleeping area a little higher than the top of the opening, you will trap the warmer air and stay much warmer than in a pit or horizontal hollow. It always puzzles me that so few snow caves I see out there are made this way. Eskimoes used this practice with their igloos. The caves I have made this way were dripping wet in the morning. So you also have to make the roof as smooth as possible and have drainage ditches around the outside of the sleeping area. Also, make at least one high vent hole with a ski pole and poke it open a few times during the night. Pile the packs in front of the door. Erect a pillar or cone immediately in front of the opening as far away as the opening is wide and the same diameter. The area around the pillar will remain clear of blowing snow. One candle will light up the cave like a lamp and a stove will require extra ventilation.

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I was pondering the snow cave/stove combination as I drove home today. I've never fired up a stove while actually inside a snow cave. How do you decide when you have enough extra ventilation, and how do you provide this extra ventilation without spoiling your cave? Dig an extra kitchen room with a chimney?

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i aint ever had a problem with drippy snowcaves or felt the need to use a stove when encamped in vegas during the winter. thumbs_up.gif

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Your snowcave should come with instructions but as a general rule of thumb, one skipole basket vent hole per person and one per stove. two people and one stove = three vent holes. This is conservative. I have usually had one vent hole in a cave and cooked in the opening. If you are spending a lot of time melting water etc, you might want to add ventilation.

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You are right about the drips - you need to make your roof as smooth as possible and a nice clean dome shape or you are likely to have drips on your sleeping bag, but I do not use a bivouac sack or anything to protect my down bag. I have never seen a puddle inside a snowcave -- are you for real about the drainage ditches, Bug? I ALWAYS cook inside the snowcave, and not in front of the door. I pretty much always poke a ski pole or ice axe through the roof (I don't remember having to use multiple vents) but I will often plug it up with a snow ball to reduce heat loss overnight, after stoves and candles are out (not a good idea if there is a blizzard outside and the door may be blocked). Ventilation is rarely a problem unless you have a major blizzard outside, though I did once build a big snowcave and we had nine people and four stoves in there and ventilation was definitely a problem in that one.

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The one time I was in a snow cave, we went by the book and thought we did everything you're saying, but when we woke up the ceiling had dropped to within about 6-8 inches of our faces. Freaky. tongue.gif

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vegetablebelay said:

The one time I was in a snow cave, we went by the book and thought we did everything you're saying, but when we woke up the ceiling had dropped to within about 6-8 inches of our faces. Freaky. tongue.gif

yelrotflmao.gif ask fence shitter about that yelrotflmao.gif

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That happened in our 9-person cave, too. It is the only time I have ever seen THAT extreme amount of height loss, but I have certainly seen caves lose headroom over the course of a few days plenty of times.

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Ditto. The cave scenario does get dicey in a warming trend. I have had puddles in on the floor though, so trenching the perimeter sounds smart. And I seem to remember one of Norman Clyde's boots filling with water dripping from a low spot in the ceiling. The multiple vent instruction above is counter to my practice, where I simply try to create air flow, not a chimney effect. Does CO rise and stay trapped at the ceiling, sink and dissipate with cold air, or mix?

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Caves are nice if you are doing it for fun, but when it comes to climbing a tent is the way to go. The effort involved sucks and all the extra cloths make it a pain in the butt. Still I don't have a clue how to build a cave. My floor is lower than the entrance and the ceiling is never round.

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ChestBeater said:

Bug said: Erect a pillar immediately in front of the opening

 

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What can I say. I'm a happy guy.

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