Clear Waters Rising: Send Gore-Tex!

After twenty-five minutes I reached the ruin of the old Vega Huerta hut. In the lee of one of its walls I checked the map again. Water, wind and the cold seemed to be penetrating every part of my body. I had also crossed a fold on the map and now had to extract it from its plastic bag, re-fold it, and then fit it back into the bag. In the high winds, this took five minutes, long enough for me to start shivering uncontrollably.

I was on the verge of becoming hypothermic. In less than one hour my brain would become confused, my body sluggish. Then I would become incapable of moving. I had only a few minutes to either make a move, or stop and make an emergency bivouac. In my rucksack I had dry thermal underwear and my sleeping-bag, and the bivouac bag with its repaired holes. But if the storm lasted another twenty-four hours I would become colder still. I might not have the strength to get off the Cornión. I had been fighting the wind and rain for seven hours, and was at the highest and most inaccessible point of the massif. There was no easy way off. My original plan, to descend into the Cares gorge, offered the least dangerous option.

—Nicholas Crane, Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe

I don’t understand how a man from the land of macs and wellies (not to mention all manner of exquisite woollen garments) can get into this sort of predicament. Would it have killed him to stick a plastic poncho in his pack? For the weight of his silly (and useless in the wind) full-size brolly he probably could have carried a poncho, balaclava, mittens, and fleece sweater. Not to mention wool rather than cotton socks. What was he thinking?!


5 comments on “Clear Waters Rising: Send Gore-Tex!

  1. Milan says:

    Also a demonstration of why the tear and waterproof Tyvek maps sold by Natural Resources Canada, and other such bodies, are worth the extra $5.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Really. Plus, a couple of Tyvek maps and some repair tape and presto, a raincoat! 😉

  3. Milan says:

    Although, if you are exerting yourself, wearing a non-breathing raincoat can be worse than getting wet (provided you are wearing a thermal layer made of something better than cotton).

  4. Sylvia says:

    I thought about that but there's a difference between body-temperature perspiration and freezing cold rain falling on and dripping off you, plus a stiff cold wind blowing against your drenched clothing. A poncho won't be dry inside but it will preserve body heat and thus your life.
    This is actually the problem with high-tech wicking fabrics. When you wick away moisture and let it evaporate you wick away heat. This is why wool is so superior in cold weather–it doesn't evaporate your body heat away and which is why it's warm when wet. If it's good enough for Everest it's good enough for me!

  5. Milan says:

    Everest is certainly icy, but it has nothing on Vancouver for rain.

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