Here’s a follow-up to my previous post, Send Gore-Tex!, in which our hero nearly succumbed to hypothermia in the Pyrenees due to a shocking lack of preparation. He continues:
Seeing the Alps sent a shiver down my damp back. To walk through the Cévennes to the Rhône would take another two weeks, which meant that I’d be climbing into the Alps at the beginning of December. I could not have timed it worse; I’d be traversing Europe’s mightiest mountains through the dead of winter. How long did winter last? Four months? Five months? How, I wondered, would I move through the snow? How would I live in the cold? How would I survive the darkness? I needed warm clothes. And I needed a tent.
I don’t think he timed it at all. Luckily he did have enough brains to get married before taking this little trip.
Next morning Grenoble dripped with freezing rain. My new rucksack was swollen to a staggering bulk, packed with all the paraphernalia of winter survival. Annabel had re-equipped me with a thicker jacket, a Goretex coat; thicker socks, a new shirt, thermal underwear and trousers. She also left me a larger rucksack and a small gas-stove, which would make cooking in the snow easier. And a paperback to help me through the hours of darkness.
Unfortunately, you can lead a husband to water…
The track climbed into light snow. I would have been wise to have fitted my new snow-gaiters to keep my feet dry, but I reasoned that the Col de la Faîta was now so close that I’d make a dash for the cabane on the far side. And anyway the gaiters were at the bottom of the rucksack.
The snow deepened as the track climbed steeply through the trees to 1,300 metres then disappeared in a whirling white-out. By the time I’d organized the compass and map and taken a bearing I was trembling with cold. My legs were wet from the knee down. Dusk rushed up. My spectacles clogged with snowflakes. I couldn’t find my new gloves. They too must have been buried at the bottom of the rucksack.
It gets worse…
My boots and trousers had got wet the day before and had now frozen. My toes were clamped by cold. I made my way slowly along the ride, beside the invisible void. The snow was knee-deep and the weight of the pack exaggerated the imbalance of misplaced steps. When Que Chova [the umbrella]’s handle caught overhead branches a deluge of powder-snow fluffed over my head and down the back of my neck. I wanted to sit down and think what to do next. But there was nowhere to sit. I hadn’t expected such an overwhelming change of rules: I could hardly move, or keep warm, or find the way, and then there were the avalanches to think about too. How, I wondered, was I going to manage another 2,000 kilometres of snow through to the end of the Alps?
—Nicholas Crane, Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe
Ya, I wonder too. I wonder if this guy, who claims to be an experienced outdoorsman, is really this thick, or if he is stretching the truth for effect? Either that or he has a serious case of hiker’s ADD. The Alps have snow? Who could have foreseen it! Oy.