Wednesday, 1 December 2010

accumulation


The snow keeps piling in, so I set out for the shelter this morning to see just how much more it might have changed. I was prepared to spend some time sculpting the snow. Or, to be more accurate, I wasn't that prepared, because I could only find one glove.

The journey was exhausting because the snow is so light and uncompacted. It had drifted a little, filling the hollows and flattening the crests. Without a stick, I was unsure how deep I would plunge with every step. Sometimes it was around shin-deep, mostly knee-deep, but often waist-deep. On two occasions I went as far as my armpits. That was frightening, especially close to the gill where I had no way of judging where land stopped and water started. I couldn't afford to twist my ankle or fall awkwardly; no-one knew where I was. I became supremely cautious and watchful of every move. At one point I stamped some steps down a steep side, looked across the gill and jumped with both feet landing parallel, unsure whether to brace or relax into the snow. As it happened, the spot I had chosen to land on was relatively firm, the snow being no deeper than knee-height.
swallowtail
This trip seemed to be all about edges. Some blown, some blasted, some cut, some stamped and some eroded. Windward and leeward edges. Sharp horizons and snow-blown crests. Dark bellies and crystalised combs.
spider twigs
Upon arrival at the shelter, I hesitated. The driven snow had created beautiful arcs and bends around and over it. It seemed crass to change it, but I did. I compacted the snow with the intention of packing it around the wood and turning it into an igloo. However, the snow was so soft it just seemed to melt away. After a while I stopped, resolving to let time and weather do the work for me. It was warm and cosy inside as it was, and the insulating properties of the loose snow was obvious. Adaptation could be left to natural forces. I found my stick and came back across the open fellside, making good progress with the confidence that the stick-cum-probe provided. The snow was no thinner, but the going was easier.

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