Week 5, 2021

29th – 5th January

A snippet from my daily diary.

Breakfast in waist deep snow, morning hikes in -10, and the endless mountains keep us smiling. Week 4 of 2021, and we are still juggling our time between outdoor wanderings and head down laptop time. Work, play, run, ski, repeat. We do sometimes have some hiccups too, like this morning.

With the fresh morning snow crunching under foot, the sizzle of the frying pan propped on a small burner, and with snow melting in the Jet boil our mornings have become rather magical.

We’ve made a habit of early morning breakfasts, leaving the valley just as dawn breaks and the skies begin to fade from black. A 45 minute hike with fingers and toes firmly wrapped against the crisp air, we wade through the waist deep snow, pushing back the laden tree branches to reach our habitual spot in the hollow of a young tree line.

Each morning we turn our canvas of fresh snow into two compact bench seats and scoop out a shallow pit to set our small stove on. Once we’ve crafted a makeshift kitchen counter to prepare eggs, baguette and morning drinks we huddle under the blanket and warm our hands on the flames of the Jetboil.

With the mountains empty of tourists, the still air, there’s often such a calm magic in the mountain. It feels like we have the place to ourselves, and in a way, we do. Poppy potters around sniffing and chasing falling snow from the trees, as we snuggle up and take a moment to be at peace with the world.

This if often our start to the day – however, this morning Poppy put an abrupt halt to our peacefulness with the help from a large stick and some cleverly timed swipes in our general direction. In one fell swoop she proceeded to knock over our Jetboil, which by now had been brewed for a morning cup of mission tea, straight into our frying pan and thus launching our food, burning oil, tea and plenty of eggs into our laps, bag and beautifully crafted snow seat. We couldn’t help but laugh as she began to tuck into the remains.

Vanlife in the mountains with my family around me is pretty sweet. I’m craving my next adventure though. Only 51 days to wait, and rather still a lot to sort out.

Huge thank you to Ocean Bottle for this brilliant water bottle I’ve been taking everywhere with me – you can find yours HERE

Building an Igloo – Canadian Quinzhee Style

Building our vanlife extension in snow. Our Igloo is born.

Our cosy home under the snow for the night. Over the past week it’s snowed more or less all day every day. The village came to a stand still as the snow kept coming, and the monster machines that seem to literally move mountains trundled up and down the valley, battling the never ending flakes falling from the sky. For January, I’ve never seen so much snow in this village. Waist deep, then higher. With that, I ceased my opportunity to extend our van dwelling into the snow. It was time to build a full sized Igloo.

It took 3 days, and a tonne of snow – quite literally. One shovel after another I built bricks for the walls. I stepped out a neat circle of 5 feet from the centre point making our snow dome 10 feet in diameter. Eventually, after the first afternoon of heaving snow our walls were shoulder height and phase two could begin. Due to the size, I opted to turn our igloo into a Canadian style quinzhee. An igloo is built with bricks of snow stacked, leaning inwards, with a dug-out pit. (I built many as a child), but a quinzhee is simpler, yet more affective. Firstly, a sturdy walled circle was established, I then left the walls to set for two hours, and then returned in order to pile a mass of snow inside, to form a huge mound of snow, just above head height, into a large dome. Overnight, that set into place and then I climbed on top and began stamping it down. This was harder work than I had anticipated. My fingers blistered from the shovel and my back, legs and neck ached from the labour which my body isn’t comfortable with. In reality, not hard work at all, but I for one was knackered.

Once the dome had been left overnight to set and stick itself together, we took a bread knife (in the absence of a saw), and took turns to carve out an opening for us to crawl through. This was our entrance. It worked perfectly. The crawl-way was finished over the following few hours, using the snow from inside the dome to create our tunnel walls and roof. After a while, with snow still falling around us, we had carved out our igloo enough that the walls were still two feet thick, and the inside was big enough for us to sit on our carved out seat together with kitchen area and inlets in the walls for lanterns and candles. It was -10 outside, but just above freezing on the inside. With a blanket down and our legs laying in the tunnel we could sit, cook, and lay down, poppy with us too. Our cosy home under the snow was our mini 3-day project that we are very proud of. We even have 40 odd tea-lights to place around the dome for Valentines day. Cute, I know. Let’s hope it doesn’t melt..

With the light from the lanterns piercing the snow from the outside, and our blanket and cooking equipment inside, it was cosy and homely. I think I should build a second bedroom, don’t you?