Snow Cave: A winter adventure

By Christine Tefta, Priest River High School Class of 2019

Not long ago, in the early days of March, I set off near Silver Mountain on a backpacking exhibition. With a group, I began to trudge up the mountain, lifting each step high to give the snowshoes clearance to do their job adequately. Through the duration of three long hours over multiple miles uphill and many breaks later, my group made it up to the clearing in which we would be setting up our tents. It was chilly weather, but the hike had kept us plenty warm. We found a place to throw our heavy packs down and stripped out feet of the clunky snow shoes. We then raced the setting sun to make a clearing for our tent and set it up.

The tent that night was full of tossing and turning, with the occasional icy snow hitting the tent as it fell quickly from the trees above.

Following the set up, we trudged out of the wind-protected tent to cook dinner on the stoves we had packed. Clearing a place in the snow, we quickly cooked as a group, ate dinner, and began to nestle in for the cold night ahead. The tent that night was full of tossing and turning, with the occasional icy snow hitting the tent as it fell quickly from the trees above. Upon awaking, many were tired from an unrestful night and still chilled from the twenty-degree low temps. But regardless of how awake we felt, we had a busy day ahead of us. After quickly eating breakfast, we packed up our shovels and made our way a little down the hill from camp.

The sun had already risen high in the sky as we started moving shovel full upon shovel full of snow. Working together, we would take turns between shoveling and stomping down what had been shoveled. An hour or so later, we had ourselves the beginning of our snow cave.

Throughout the majority of the day, the group continued to build up the snow cave and then began the slow tedious process of shoveling it out. One at a time, we would work to chip out the snow from the inside, carving the entrance and ceiling. The day was filled with many laughs and good times as the group drove to shape and build the cave. Slowly but surely, it came along. Shortly after lunch, we were on the final stretch. We smoothed the inside celling and worked to level out the floor. When we finished, it was a solid three-person snow cave. With the team effort put into it, the work paid off as we saw the amazing finishing product.

As we sat there in serene silence, we all took in the glorious beauty around us. From the flowing, snow covered mountains in the distance to the towering trees around us, it was absolutely breathtaking.

When we were finished, we packed up our shovels and other supplies and headed back to base camp. There, we sat around a fire playing games and sharing laughter. As the sun began to set, we hiked out to the end of the ridge to watch it. As we sat there in serene silence, we all took in the glorious beauty around us. From the flowing, snow covered mountains in the distance to the towering trees around us, it was absolutely breathtaking. As the golden rays cast their last light before disappearing, we headed peacefully back to camp, thoroughly content with the day.

As a group we cooked dinner on our surrounding stoves and then once again began to get ready for the night. Wanting to sleep in the snow cave with a couple others, I packed up my sleeping back and backpack and headed to its location. As we crawled in and set up our space, we could not hear a sound around us. The cave kept all sound out as we began to drift to sleep.

The cave continued to keep us isolated from the surrounding world and noise throughout the night and we woke slightly less cold and more rested than the first night. Sadly, it was time to leave all the beauty and start heading home. After a quick bite to eat and packing up all of our supplies, we began the trudge down the mountain, leaving the breathtaking views and memorable times behind us.

Christine’s excellent essay was submitted to the 2019 Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness annual high school scholarship competition.

Voices in the Wilderness is a monthly column written by your neighbors, friends and visitors in the vicinity of the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. Voices features memorable personal experiences in wild places. If you have an adventure tale based in untamed country (it doesn’t have to be local), write to info@scotchmanpeaks.org for guidelines, or just send it along.

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About The Author:

Sandy Compton has been program coordinator for Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness since 2009. He is also a storyteller and author of both fiction and non-fiction books, and the publisher at bluecreekpress.com.

In addition to his other duties, he runs the FSPW All Star Trail Team (www.scotchmanpeaks.org/trails), which works on Forest Service trails in the Scotchman Peaks. He is a trail surveyor as well, and a C-Certified Crosscut Bucker/Feller and USFS National Saw Policy OHLEC instructor.

Sandy grew up on a small farm/woodlot at the south end of the proposed wilderness and lives there still. He is also board member of the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and a planning team member for the Northern Rockies Wilderness Skills Institute.

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