This years Winter Long Hike aka Snow Caves, went really well. Thanks, Luc, for making it happen, and thanks to the others who offered to help. Weather was even a bit sunny Saturday and we had a full on blizzard for a while Sunday. The parking lot was full of cars and the cafeteria was full to bursting. Driving was short and tolerable and not too scary. The snow was lovely and abundant, no caves collapsed, many people were happy with their caves, and some will have made a list for what to do next time. (Bring a tent?) Some will do it again.
Here, in no particular order, I have tried to present all the good stuff which you can learn from a Snow Cave trip, so you don’t have to pay $200 to take the course. (warning, sarcasm)
Your lifetime companion, the cell phone, will become useless, because it is cold or because it ran out of battery because you took so many pictures, or because you didn’t bother to tell it to remember the phone numbers of all the other cell phones so you can’t call them and ask why aren’t they here.
A Seriously Warm Layer is good. A seriously warm down jacket is good. A seriously warm sleeping bag is good. All this stuff is heavy or seriously expensive.
You don’t have to sleep in your cave if you brought a tent. If you didn’t, then you are motivated. If you didn’t sleep in a cave you might feel that you are a failure. Get over it. There’s next year.
You can always find somebody who wouldn’t mind a bit of digging help especially if you aren’t trying to occupy some of the valuable space in their cave.
Digging seems to make you warm. Once you stop digging you tend to stop being warm and notice that digging seems to make you wet.
Leave your boots in a nice warm place during the night unless you are guaranteed to die during the night so you won’t need to put them on tomorrow. Gaiters are super-wonderful for keeping the snow out of your boots so they will be nicer to put on tomorrow. Spare socks are OK too.
Alcohol Toxicity seems to happen. Some students like to experiment with alcohol toxicity. One of the symptoms is you tend to sing really loud but only the first verse, over and over. If you are not doing alcohol toxicity studies yourself, you probably want to put your tent a long way from the kitchen, where the dancing and singing are happening. If in a cave, no worry because the walls of the cave absorb the sound really well.
Food–bring lots. Easy food is better. Feed me some, because we forgot some of our food in the car.
If it’s really cold, propane stoves aren’t very keen. If it’s only a little bit cold they are only a little bit not keen.
For warming your roommate in the evening, the hot water bottle trick is a good one, and cheap. Sticking them in your sleeping bag is OK too but later you have to get them out of it because it’s way too crowded otherwise.
To get the roommate out of your tent/cave in the morning, use the water from your hot water bottle to make about a litre of coffee. Feed half of this to your roommate; drink the other half. Soon s/he will get up due to bladder pressure.
Hot springs are nearly always warmer than snow caves, and less digging, but you don’t learn much about snow caves if you only go to hot springs.