Dec 14, 2010

Wilderness-skills on the FST5 channel : Part 1 Snowshoes and winter travel

Yesterday (the 13 of December 2010) an episode of the Uteliv was broadcasted on the FST 5 channel which is visible in Finland and parts on Sweden. During that episode I and the reporter "Sebu" travel across deep snow using makeshift snow-shoes and slept in a Quinzee. I decided to make a synopsis of the show in my blog.

Screenshot 1. So you forgot your snowshoes huh?
Part 1 Snowshoes and winter travel

We start of a few miles from the campsite. Sebu arrives by car and waits for a while for me to appear. Sebu has forgot to bring his snowshoes so we have to make a pair out of willows in a hurry.
Screenshot 2. Making poles

We made a fairly easy, but effective survival-model developed by Tom Roycraft. As the terrain is difficult we also need to make poles for additional support in traversing difficult spots in the terrain.
Screenshot 3. Tying the sticks together  in the end.

Making the survival-snowshoes took about 20 minutes each so we were able to make good time as we rushed to get to the campsite before nightfall. The snow-conditions in the South of Finland in March 2010 were unusual to say the least. There had not been any real thaw during the winter so the snow that blanketed the forest was just like powder all the way to the bottom, it was also very deep, 80 cm in places. There was however a thin crust on top of the snow in spots where the mid-day sun was able to reach the surface.
Screenshot 4. Tying the shoes on. 

I was wearing large traditional raw-hide laced snowshoes made by the Snowcraft Company of Norway, Maine. These where borrow from Pentti Kronqvist at the Nanoq museum in Jakobstad, Finland. I was packing aprox. 25kg of gear so my total weight exceeded 105kg, and these snowshoes only bearly managed to keep me on top of the snowdrifts. Sebus makeshift shoes worked surprisingly well as they had a large surface area. I noticed that the film-crew that used modern, smaller snowshoes made 10 cm deep tracks in the snow whereas my large shoes only made 2cm deep imprints.
Screenshot 5. Snowshoeing with poles for support.

The simple rope binding worked well for Sebu, which I also had to recourse to as my old and brittle binding made out of leather failed during the walk. 

Screenshot 6. Comparing the surface areas of the snowshoes.
The following lessons where learned;

1. Always bring cord and rope when snowshoeing.
2. If you have to make a pair, use the Roycraft model, it's simple and has a large surface area, don´t bother with the small bent-wood models when dealing with deep, powder snow.
3. Make poles, the are well worh the effort and give good support. 

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