Welcome to my blog. I'm an outdoor writer and photographer with a passion for wilderness and mountains. Use the links above to find out more about me and my books and walks. Click on a blog heading to see any comments or to add your own. -Chris Townsend

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Igloo Over Glen Affric

Slushy snow and a boggy path made for a squelchy start to an overnight trip in the Glen Affric hills. There was more heather than snow visible so the skis went on the packs, making for awkward loads. However not far above we could see the hills were streaked with big drifts and the corries and gullies were filled with snow. This was an Inverness Nordic and Ski TouringClub trip with the aim of combining ski touring with igloo building using Igloo Ed’s wonderful Ice Box. The numbers of intended participants dwindled as the weekend grew closer and in the end just three of us set off. Luckily three just happens to be the best number for igloo building.

Finding a long stretch of snow in a shallow burn gully we happily shed the skis from our packs, attached climbing skins and climbed more easily uphill. Crossing the burn to a huge bank of snow we decided this was a good site for the igloo. Not far above the land faded into the high mountain mist. Here we had views of the surrounding hills, a grand scene. There was also ample snow – the drift was twenty feet deep in places – which meant we could dig a big door for the igloo, making access easier. The air was still, the temperature a little above freezing, so there was no hurry to complete the igloo and we stopped for hot drinks with it half built and took time to admire the wild surroundings. As darkness fell the clouds dissolved and a crescent moon and the large bright circle of Jupiter appeared in the sky, soon followed by the constellation of Orion and a myriad stars. A chilly katabatic wind blew down the slopes above and the temperature dropped to -2.5°C. Shovelling snow is warm work though so the two of us doing this were in no danger of freezing while Mike, the snow block maker, was now protected by the rising igloo walls. The cloud clearance was temporary however and by the time the igloo was finished the sky was overcast and the temperature had risen to -0.5°C. Soon we were inside the igloo making hot meals and drinks and relaxing after the efforts of constructing our shelter. Andy produced red wine to celebrate our igloo and a very civilised evening ensued as we discussed outdoor literature and activities.

Dawn was damp and chilly with the cloud still clinging to the hilltops and the temperature around freezing. Reluctant to abandon the comforts of our igloo we lingered over an extended breakfast before finally venturing out for a short up and down ski tour. Deciding that navigating in the cloud didn’t appeal we skied up to its edge then turned and skied back down, a good descent with many turns, for me the first of the season. Then it was time to pack up and leave our little home and descend back to the glen. If it remains cold the igloo will remain though and I hope to return in a few weeks and see if it’s still usable.


  1. Now thats a trip I really fancy emulating. I wonder how many of my pals and colleagues would imagine that this was going on in the UK.

    You've got the dreams flowing Chris.


  2. It's really boys out having an adventure! Looks great fun.

    I wonder if we'll get any snow in deepest Berkshire...

  3. Was it an igloo you made, or a tardis?

    Looks small outside and big enough for footie inside.

  4. Wonderful to see you building more igloos, Chris.

  5. Sounds like a great trip Chris. Is it unseemly to cross reference to my blog post about fun in the snow involving other ex University of Wales graduates - but rather more lost in the mists of time?


    Trying to up the readership to make it worthwhile to post!

    David (@FellBound)

  6. Magic Chris! Great fun, and lets face it that's what these outdoor games should be. Bet you got a quieter night than any tent, (so long as your companions weren't snorers!)

  7. Al, yes a quiet night. Igloos are silent.

    David, please go ahead and cross reference to your blog. I've just had a look at your Aberystwyth Alps story. Sounds a great trip. Just looking at those balaclavas made my head itch!

  8. Thanks Chris

    I still have that balacalva. I reckon I might start using it again! It would certainly set me apart in these days of styled and stylish man made materials. Joe Brown used to wear one on many of his climbs. If it was the headgear of choice on Cloggy then it should still be good enough for a modest hill walk....

  9. Nice photo to show life inside the snow shelter. Do you normally have to use a bivi bag, or is it dry enough in there?

  10. I've never used a bivi bag in an igloo. It's surprisingly dry - usually drier than a tent would be as there's no dripping condensation.

  11. Great trip and the photos really do it just - I'd be paranoid the roof would cave in at any moment!

  12. Igloos are really strong. You can stand on top.