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28 November 2015

Dig It

Last winter we had snow ten metres deep in places. We've had at least one hurricane force storm per month since August. This is not a recent phenomenon but it is the reason why Ittoqqortoormiit has the longest dog sledding season in the world.

This winter is well on the way to equaling or even surpassing that amount of shovel work. For nine months of the year, a shovel is used at home to clear away snow. At any one time only one of my sleds is in use. And it gets buried. During a journey a shovel is used everyday to fill a sack full of snow that's melted as drinking water for my dogs. I shovel snow to cover and weigh down the hovercraft-like skirt that surrounds my tent. A shovel enables me to dig down to ice or dirt to place ice screws or pitons or snow anchors called dead-men. These very important fixtures secure my dogs and tent no matter what the weather.

When your life depends on it, not every snow or avalanche shovel is designed or made the same. For instance, small shovel blades shift more snow, and fast. But not all small blades are well-balanced.

I use Voilé avalanche shovels because my life could depend on them.

The orange Voilé T-Wood T6 shovel and the red T6 Tech shovel.
The Voilé T-Wood T6 (orange) is a shovel that has a saw blade stowed inside its telescopic handle. The saw blade can cut wood or snow. So if you live below the treeline this would be my first choice for routine daily journey work and for building emergency shelters. The T6 Tech (red) shovel houses a snow-only saw blade.

Both were new to me at the start of this winter so I tried them out around the kennel, first to raise chains as snow deepened.

Trying the new Voilé shovels to maintain dog chains during snowfall.
I began to experiment with both shovels. I decided to combine the merits of two to make one and came up with a snow-only saw inside a non-telescopic handle and stable shovel face.

My current shovel for journeys.
Do anything for long enough and something will go wrong. If my tent were to be damaged beyond repair building an emergency shelter would save my life. I live in a land without trees so the tools I carry enable me to build a shelter from snow. Not all snow is the same. If it is soft, snow shelters can be built with a shovel. If it is hard, shelters can be built with a snow saw.

Jennifer and I went hiking the other day and on our return I built a shelter (for the fun of it) using my Voilé snow saw.

Building a snow shelter.
The next day another hurricane force storm belted us.

For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com