Winter training

Yesterday and today were the kind of winter days that Canada is famous for. Sunny, cloudless, light wind, fresh snow pillowing the ground. It looks delightful, a winter wonderland, the stuff of Christmas cards, but there is a catch. It has been bitterly cold both days, close to zero Fahrenheit (about -17 Celsius). Yesterday I walked with my loaded backpack for a little over two hours. Because it was so sunny and warm inside the house, I elected to wear only a pair of summer pants over my legs. The rest of me was warmly bundled up with a fleece and a parka and my trusty Tilley winter hat. I also wore light gloves, the same ones that I will be wearing when I go for my walk in April. My reasoning was that I might be cold for the first few minutes, then my body would warm up and I would be fine. My reasoning was flawed.

You would think that I would know better after all the years in Canadian winters, but apparently not. I was cold for the first 15 minutes or so, then warmed up and was good for the better part of two hours. After that, however, my body got cold – my core temperature was dropping and I could not keep warm. By the time I got home my hands were numb. I opened the door with some difficulty, then had to wait about ten minutes before I had enough feeling in my fingers to undo the laces and get my boots off. I could have avoided this potential disaster if I had worn long johns under my pants. I just had too much of my body exposed to the cold and I radiated off a lot of heat over two hours, enough to be hypothermic.

Today I walked about an hour (with my long johns on) and although my hands got quite cool, they were never so numb that I could not use them. The message? Don’t fool with mother nature. She is neither benign or malign. She is indifferent. If I am too stupid or careless to put on sufficient and appropriate clothing for the conditions, nature just does not care. I won’t, I hope, make that mistake again.

2 thoughts on “Winter training

  1. I am a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, and we hike and backpack frequently during our famous New England winters. We have a couple saying in regards to clothing: “cotton kills” (due to its non-insulating properties, and slow drying when wet) and “its better to shed the layer you have on, then need the layer you don’t have”
    Its been brutal this winter. Stay warm, and layer up!

Leave a Reply