I’ve been waiting for this experience since last semester, when the winter camp had to be cancelled because of freezing rain and thawing temperatures.
I am really glad that I got this second opportunity.
My group, 6 girls in total, decided to build a quinzhee in which we all could sleep together, so it had to be big. We found a good spot which included a slope, so that we could build a low entrance, which would allow the cold air to stay outside. Then we estimated the size of the quinzhee and flattened the snow for the foundation on which our quinzhee would be built on. With the help of Mr. Brouwer we planned out an inner structure of the quinzhee, which included a wall to support the ceiling of our rather big quinzhee. Also we took some time in class to think of a good food menu for the night, which allowed us to fully concentrate on the quinzhee building process afterwards. In my mind the provident planning is a very important step, which my group from last semester did not do as carefully. In general the approaching of the building process was planned out better, thinking back to the group before, we just shoveled snow on one spot and instead of a shared plan everybody had his own ideas.
Compared to that my group from this semester communicated very well and we organised all the ideas together, before we started with the actual building process. That way everybody knew what was happening and that made it possible for us to work as a team.
Also we were able to speed-up the building process, as everybody helped and worked hard. In addition we cut out the snow in blogs while hollowing out the quinzhee, which made it a lot easier and faster.
Overall I can say that the communication and teamwork within my group was ideal and that thanks to that I had a fun time.
But there were also things which we could improve for next time.
Even though we communicated well within our group, we had some problems with the group who was going to use our quinzhee for the first night and helped us with building it.
It was hard for us to communicate with them because they have Outdoor Ed as an afternoon class, whereas we have it in the morning. This made it hard for us to clearly communicate ideas and plans, so we ended up with a shorter (and due to that also higher) entrance than we had planed. It also came to misunderstandings, i.e. when we were talking of a wall we meant inside the quinzhee as a supporter, but they understood a wall outside the entrance as a protector from the wind. So after the quinzhee was already halfway dug out without the basic approach of a wall we had to change our plans and dig out an obvious pillar instead (which worked as well). In the end everything turned out fine for us, though it was frustrating at some points, because we felt like it could have been better if we just had communicated properly.
In spite of those misunderstandings it was a great experience for me and our quinzhee also turned out to be just fine and warm enough.
For future groups I can definitely recommend to build the quinzhee on the top of a slope and a low entrance, this will save you the extra work of a platform/cold sink. First you have to find a group with which you enjoy working with and then make a detailed plan before you start building, while you are still in the classroom. I learned that metal shovels are the best tool to cut out blogs of snow when digging out the quinzhee. Last but not least you need to make sure that your sleeping platform is carefully flattened. In case it is not, one of you will have a sleepless night, just because of a tiny bump of snow right under your spine. No matter how you turn around this bump will make your sleep as uncomfortable as possible. Just like in the fairy tale “The Princess of the Pea”.
If you keep all these points in mind and you properly build your quinzhee, then, according to Mr. Brouwer, you will have the sleep of a lifetime.