My stock answer to most questions like this is always… ‘WHY NOT?!’ As I have said before, I crave adventure, I crave doing things ‘normal’ people don’t do and to top it off I love the mountains, I could stare at them for days.
Such magnificent, huge, beings, ever changing, ever evolving, beautiful, inspiring… deathly!?
And so my equally extreme brother Harry and I set off to Scotland to dig our home in the snow for the night. It was an experience never to be forgotten, in just over 24 hours there was extreme highs, extreme lows and a ‘hole’ lot of fun. For anyone with an adventurous spirit I can’t recommend it enough.
Here are our top tips for things you should and shouldn’t do to survive a night in the snow.
The DO’s of snowholing
- Bring plenty of snacks – you will use lots of energy and what better way to refuel but with tasty chocolate bars, crunchy nuts, sucky sweets and Staffordshire Chicken Tikka from a bag, Mmm.
- Bring lots of layers, spares, warm things – You will get cold, you will feel freezing, you will feel hot, you will sweat, your nose will freeze. Be prepared for everything, even if it means lugging an extra fleece up the mountain, it is always better to be safe than sorry. One particular and very useful tip from our guide was to bring plenty of spare gloves… and he wasn’t wrong. Cold hands are the worst and spending the best part of the day digging a giant hole in the snow your hands will get wet and you need something warm and cosy to put on to bring the heat back to your fingertips.
- Be FIT – This isn’t a walk in the park, it is trekking up a mountain with a huge pack on your back filled with spades and axes, it is digging continuously for 6+ hours before sleeping on a bed of snow in sub zero temperatures… if you can’t make it up the stairs without being out of breath then stay at home.
- Go with an expert – I did my weekend camping with Gary from Tarmachan Mountaineering and I wouldn’t have dared gone without him. Unless you are an expert with years of mountaineering experience it isn’t worth risking the potential pitfalls… getting lost and avalanches to name a couple.
- Take lots of photos and… enjoy the views! – This is what makes it all worth it, even on the way up when I could barely see a few feet in front of me due to the snow I loved it and then waking up to incredible blue sky’s and nothing but gorgeous, breathtaking mountains for company… you feel out of this world!
The DON’Ts of snowholing
- Take your gloves off – once your hands are cold it is nigh on impossible to make them warm again, so keep those gloves and thick warm socks firmly on to risk frostbite
- Do it alone – you need to look out for each other… enough said.
- Sleep through the night – ok so I did sleep through the night (as best I could) but our guide Gary was up for half the night digging out the snow that was blowing into our snowhole to stop us being quite literally buried alive… Cheers Gary, much appreciated!
- Leave without researching the weather – the weather can change in an instant and drastically changes as you move further up or down the mountain. It may be clear at base and a blizzard at the top. Research and make sure you understand it before you go.
- Rush home – you will wake up tired, cold and wanting nothing more than a cosy warm bed and a cup of coco… but don’t rush down the mountain, enjoy the mountains, savour the views, lap up your achievement. You did it… you slept in the snow and survived!
My weekend snowholing was tough yet enjoyable, tiring yet exhilarating, horrible and incredible. A weekend to remember and one I recommend anyone with an urge for the extreme to give it a go.