‘Why? WHY?’ My friends chorused as I told them I was spending my weekend climbing a mountain in Scotland, digging a hole in the snow and then… sleeping in it.

All smiles as we set off on our adventure
All smiles as we set off on our adventure

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!?

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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.

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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. 
Surprisingly tasty camp food.
Surprisingly tasty camp food.
  • 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.
layers off, layers on ... battling the wind to change clothes.
layers off, layers on … battling the wind to change clothes.
  • 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.
Hardcore trekker ... almost!?
Hardcore trekker … almost!?
  • 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.
Professional skills needed for a wall/window like this.
Professional skills needed for a wall/window like this.
  • 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 view from my bed of ice in the morning. Breathtaking
The view from my bed of ice in the morning. Breathtaking

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 
My bed for the night... gloves stayed on.
My bed for the night… gloves stayed on.
  • Do it alone – you need to look out for each other… enough said.
I recommend taking a younger brother with you... to do all the hard work for you ;)
I recommend taking a younger brother with you… to do all the hard work for you 😉
  • 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!
All snowed in
All snowed in
  • 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.
We could barely see a few feet ahead on the way up the mountain
We could barely see a few feet ahead on the way up the mountain
  • 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!
Harry's bed for the night... our snowhole even had stairs!
Harry’s bed for the night… our snowhole even had stairs!

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.

Clear blue sky

7 Comments

    • jlowthrop Reply

      It was amazing, certainly something different to do with a weekend away… not quite as relaxing as some might hope though, but a real sense of achievement 🙂

  1. Super fun! Love winter camping and have never slept in a snowhole, haha. How cold did it get? Did the snow hole provide any insulation from the cold?

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