12 things... that define a walker's winter

1 Cold hands

We live in a world where humankind can produce a car engine that runs on water and grow an ear on a mouse’s arse. Yet we still can’t make gloves that keep your hands properly warm and dry for more than an hour. Explanation? Anyone?


2 The smell of woodsmoke

At the end of the walk, walking into a pub to the cheery crackle of a woodburner and its cosily organic smoke is one of the most seductive experiences of the deep winter, prompting coos of ‘aah, salvation’ from all who enter. Sadly, for the same reason, those who are foolish enough to wander into said pub before embarking on a walk may encounter its evil twin: the ‘aah, sod it’ smoke.


3 Frustrating physics

Imagine the open-mouthed wonder with which early man may have examined an iPod had he tripped over one in his bone-littered cave. You now have something approaching the reaction the average hillwwalker gives to their water bottle when they withdraw it from their frigid sack as a clinking ice-pop. That’s right, kids – when it’s cold, drinking water freezes too. And no, sticking it in your armpit won’t help.


4 Apocalyptic TV weather reports

“It’s official. As you can see by our dramatic background graphic, yesterday was the coldest 17 January in 6,789 years, with some places experiencing temperatures below freezing. Sussex lost communication with Kent for 12 hours. The M6 was rolled up and taken in. No-one has seen Milton Keynes since Friday, though reports are coming in that snowdrifts measuring up to 4 inches deep have immobilised the stricken town’s milk floats. We know it’s scary out there folks, but the important thing to remember is to keep calm…” Oh, we will. Thanks…


5 Snowballs

You’re up a hill. Your mate’s stopped a little way ahead. There’s snow underfoot. Your eyes flick innocently to the ground, then flick shark-like back at your mate, a smile crossing your lips as you bend down, scrum some snow into your palm, stealthily rise and – Whap! Cue a goofy grin, a lairy noise and a second of ‘come on then’ arm-wagging swiftly tapering down to the inevitable, crushing anticlimax. What’s that? Best get moving? Yeah, you’re right. Sorry…


6 The feeling of putting warm gear on first thing in the morning

It’s the first day of your winter adventure. You peel crispy, warm, radiator-fresh layers of protective outer gear on and snugly steel yourself for the onslaught outside. Value this moment: it’s the only one when the expense of buying decent gear seems absolutely and completely worth every penny.

> On the next page: wet gear v. warm body, slo-mo speech & more!

7 The feeling of putting wet gear on first thing in the morning

It’s the second day of your winter adventure. You forgot to put your wet gear on the radiator, didn’t you? Someone won’t be starting today with a smile…


8 Slo-mo speech
Hard winter walking isn’t conducive to social mannerisms, and usually conversation is limited to grunts and manful coughs. Just as well too, walk in a frigid, stiff wind for an hour and you’ll end up talking with the kind of slurred enunciation that suggests you either need urgent hospitalisation or winding up with a large brass key.


9 Vanity

Something about winter brings out the Thor in all of us. Hence retrospectively mortifying, mirror-front posturing with an ice axe, brutal removal of hat bobble via Swiss army knife, and prominent-as-possible emplacement of viciously spiky crampons either side of your rucksack as you swagger along with a wrinkle-ironing squint to the beat of a suitable, breathily hummed anthem. Because you’re heading for the land of the ice and snow. And you’re a god. Dum dum dum DA DA, de dum dum dum DA DA…


10 Pain in the name of ‘fun’

There are those in this world who relish cold showers. Who endure hours of painful yoga, consider sitting in a sweaty box wrapped in a towel ‘therapeutic’ and swig vodka straight from the bottle. There is a word for these people: masochists. And if you enjoy skidding down a slope with scream-cold snow penetrating every crevice then you, mate, are one of them.


11 Worry

“How long does it take to get frostbite? Can you get it in this country? Can you? I haven’t felt my fingers for an hour…that’s bad, right? How far is it to the car? How far? That cloud looks a bit dodgy…we could get stuck in a one of those whiteout things. What’s the first symptom of hypothermia? It’s double vision isn’t it? Oh, God, if I don’t make it back tell Roy I lov…what?  Opal fruit? Ooh, yes please…”


12 Wonder

You could have been born in a dustbowl where the seasons all look the same. You could just have easily been born as a piece of algae living 3,000ft beneath the Atlantic.  It’s only by some freak of luck that you’re here at all. And just look where you are. Yep, it’s cold – but come summer it’ll all be gone – so soak it up, baby.

More: 10 things...

...that demand respect
...that are extremely distressing
...that define a walker's winter
...that defy explanation
...every adventurer needs
...to always remember