My Solo Experience — Winter Camping Adventure

Simon is a member of Group 7 of the Canadian Conservation Corps.

 The morning of solo, we had to indicate how comfortable we were going into the overnight camping experience in our own snow shelter.

Since it was supposed to be a much warmer day and night than our previous -20 to -30 nights, I felt confident that I could resist the cold. I opted to give myself an 8/10, trying to secure myself a spot with a lakeside view.

I started digging my trenches in a spot well covered by the trees. I saw a woodpecker knocking on nearby trees. It looked really cute so I stopped to observe it. Then it suddenly came really close and started knocking on my snowshoes. This made me smile and gain energy to go back to work. When I finish digging my quinzee trench, I felt confident, and was truly enjoying my experience. However, this was quickly about to change…

Since I was quite nervous about the idea of sleeping in a quinzee, I had already planned to make a secondary shelter where I was actually intending to sleep. However, as I was perfecting my cave to give myself more room to move, it suddenly all collapsed. I would now have to rely on my quinzee to sleep.

I had to work with my knees on the snow. I didn’t like that because it meant that my pants would get humid or wet. But it was the best way to go so I kept on digging. Then suddenly, my entrance collapsed. I saw that the quinzee was still big enough for me to fit, so I dug my entrance again and managed to go deeper. As I got about a quarter in, I heard my quinzee collapse by 1-2 cm.

Everything seemed to be all right as I made it to about half of my quinzee. But then, I heard the same noise that happened when my quinzee collapsed a ¼ of the way in. I instinctively jumped out, and a second later, everything crumbled. My quinzee had a huge crack right in the middle. In the frenzy I let go of my shovel which was still under the snow. I started digging in with my gloves, and luckily found it, as I feel this is the most important of all my belongings, and the only thing I can’t afford to lose. I’m now definitely not confident anymore and pretty scared that I won’t be able to spend the whole night out in the woods.

sled sleeping outside in winter

I started working on another sled shelter. I managed to make it long enough to fit me, so I try putting my sled on top. I gathered some pine tree branches and used them to cover the entrance to my cave. I put my sleeping bag in my cave and gave it all a try. As I got in, I felt pretty squished, but thought to myself, as long as I don’t move, I’ll be just fine.

As it was getting dark, I gathered a few more pine tree branches, and then settled in my shelter. I was too uncomfortable to take notes, so the only activity I had was my rubiks cube. After solving it once or twice, I decided to try to get some shut eye. I woke up, and it was completely dark. I had to go to the bathroom….

I tried everything I could, but still didn’t manage to finish the night outside. Today, I think that this experience showed me a lot about my character, and how I handle myself in difficult conditions.