Sleeping in a Snow Cave

November 04, 2019

ret's feet in a snow cave

Most people spend the day after Christmas holed up inside eating leftovers. Not Ret. 

Our fearless co-founder reminisces about that one (and only!) time he spent the night in a snow cave...

Last year on the night after Christmas, I slept in a snow cave.Like most who end up spending the night in a snow cave, I wasn’t really planning on it. I had trekked up to a little off the grid piece of land I own high up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just west of Boulder, CO. I wanted a chance to disconnect from everything, reconnect with nature, take stock of 2018 and set intentions for 2019. I had brought a tent and wasn’t planning on snow caving it, but it was something I had always wanted to do and it just felt like the right time. 

I used my avalanche shovel to dig out a small 7’ x 3’ x 2’ cave - about the same size as a coffin - in the side of a big snow drift right on the most magical part of my land. It took about 40 minutes. I poked a hole in the top to let the moisture out and the oxygen in. It occurred to me that if it collapsed, I probably wouldn’t emerge, so I jumped on the roof a few times then deemed it structurally sound.

I spent the afternoon busying myself around camp until I remembered I was there to take it easy. The fire helped with that and the cold, which was single digits with a howling wind. With little to do after the sun set behind South Arapahoe Peak, I crawled into the cave around 6pm. With two sleeping pads, two sleeping bags and all my layers on, I was warm . . . initially. The cold woke me later. I thought it was around 5am and was severely disappointed to learn it was only 10pm!

views from ret's snow cave

I laid awake for several hours, snow cascading down from the roof only a few inches above my nose every time I rolled over. The only thing keeping me from bagging it and hiking back in the moonlight was the desire to see the sunrise. I finally drifted off and slept another 7 hours. When I pulled myself out it was a total whiteout. I could barely see my gloved hand in front of my face, much less the sunrise!

So how was it? Not great. Ha! It definitely did, however, give me a greater appreciation for my bed and not having to hug my boots and water to keep them from freezing! I think about that night in the snow cave whenever a little gratitude is needed. I’m glad I did it, but yeah, at the time not awesome!

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