Don Pablo Edronkin

The Construction Of Underground Shelters (I).

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"One of the best ways to spend a night in mountainous and polar regions begins by building for yourself an underground shelter.

These constructions are preferable to anything standing above the surface because they are much more resistant to strong winds, and being less exposed, tend to conserve energy better.

An example of an improvised shelter.
A real-life example of an improvised shelter after a Patagonian
blizzard near the Glacier of Tears. On the background, the entrance
of the Blanco Valley, which has puzzled climbers and explorers for
decades due to its seemingly impossible walls. 

These underground shelters can be constructed with premeditation, or as improvised means when you face a climatic emergency while trekking.

If you plan to build a shelter of this kind, you should not only calculate its structural resistance to strong winds, but also to the weight of heavy snow and the action of the sun. Plastics tend to degrade easily on higher elevations.

Another view of the same shelter. The ponchos, sealed with duct
tape can be seen, as well as some explorers, including one cooking
with Napalm, which comes as a very handy fire starter and combustible.

Improvised shelter, indeed, will not imply such elucubrations. You will be usually in such a hurry to prepare them that no time allowance will likely develop in order to allow you to prepare your new shelter for future usage, but if you can, by all means, think about the future.
One of the best ways to improvise an underground or semi-buried shelter takes just the construction of a small 30 cm. height stone wall (you can also make those using logs or tree branches, if you have them). Such constructions are known in Patagonia as “Pircas” and are able to resist heavy winds while providing the shelter with some structural stability. 

An R6 shelter at Lago Los Rizos, Chubut, Argentina.
The R6 shelter built at Lake Los Rizos by members of the Gea. It took
nearly four days to transport the 150 kg. prefabricated structure. Seven
explorers took it on their backpacks across mountains, glaciers and
a 400 deep precipice. It took 15 days to build it. It can resist 150 km/h
winds, heavy snow, it has a stove, an external stone oven and has
enough place for eight people an dtheir complete gear.

Pirca construction was an art developed by the Incas, who erected splendid fortresses such as Macchu Picchu, Saxahuaman and Tilcara, among others.

Then, you should improvise a dry floor with a poncho, and cover the whole structure with another poncho as well. Using just two pieces of gear of this kind, you can build in less than an hour a shelter for three occupants, and such structures will resist even winds of up to 100 kilometres an hour. Believe me, for I have used them!"

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