Are you really prepared for a winter trek?
Winter treks are gaining popularity thanks to the mesmerizing dreamy white land experiences it boastfully showcases. We are pretty much aware that the winter season makes trekking a challenging activity. The trekkers, presumably, love the adrenaline rush of sheer adventures of snow land. While we particularly focus on fitness for winter thrills, we tend to forget about a major factor that rules a winter trek, the COLDNESS!
One may be as fit as a Sherpa, however, one must know the skill to tackle the coldness of high altitudes. Obviously, layering of clothes is the primary precaution to prevent. Despite that, we get frequent queries from trekkers of feeling cold and shivering. Cold feet is the most common issue amongst trekkers. Hypothermia, a state when the inner body fails to remain warm which leads to AMS. Therefore, managing cold is extremely important to have healthy and joyful winter trekking memories. We have simulated some hacks to manipulate your mind about feeling cold.
- Cover smartly
If you read anything about winter trek packing, the first thing that pops up is layers of clothes. Instead of wearing one thick jacket, wearing 2-3 layers of thin fabrics work better. Thisworks by forming a sheet of air between the gap of 2 fabrics. Thus adding bands of insulation. Apart from this, try to cover up your head and ears every time. Do remember to remove the headgear in sun to avoid sweating in hair.
Similarly, wear layers of socks to cover the feet. The back of the neck has most of the thermoreceptors, hence always try to cover your neck with muffler or balaclava. Make sure to keep your core warm, ALWAYS!
Along with the layers, it is a necessity to keep your body parts in motion. This helps you keep warm and also prevents from localized numbness of the body parts. While walking and even when resting, try to do finger exercises like close-open of the fist, encircling each finger etc.
Immediate exercising of fingers seems difficult when they are chilled out. “We see trekkers freaking out when they try to warm their benumbed fingers in front of the fire. One should never immediately try to put chilled fingers in front of the fire. This will start a burning sensation in the fingers which becomes unbearable. Nobody can do anything that is how our body tries to fight the extreme cold,” says Sudhanshu, our trek leader. If the fingers start getting numb after washing hands, try to rub the palms against each other. It is a slow and efficient method to bring hand temperature to normal. Alternatively, try placing them between thighs or under the shoulders.
One should always do stretching after a long trekking day to relax the muscles. Cold causes the body to tighten, it may be painful sometimes. Hence, always swirling hands from the shoulder, rotating ankle, moving head sideways, bending sideways, small jumps etc are simple in place exercises to keep you warm.
- Sleep tight
Cold during daytime is somehow manageable. On a contrary night poses hurdles to handle the cold. Again wear layers if you feel really cold. Another tip is to keep your bottle filled with warm water within the sleeping bag. For chilled fingers try to keep them below your back, between thighs or fold your hands, keeping fingers in underarms.
Cold feet is the most common issue. Try to maintain a fresh unused pair of woolen socks especially for the bedtime. If this does not work, try to cover your feet between your jacket or keep warm water bottle below the toe. Always try to use a liner inside the sleeping bag for better insulation. Additionally, you can fuse 2 sleeping bags for more heat.
- Right food
Nobody ever thinks about how healthy diet can help you feel less cold. The more your stomach is busy digesting the more it can produce heat. Hence, a full meal especially rich dinner is a remedy to stop cold. Despite low appetite force in 2-3 rotis or carbs. During daytime sipping hot drinks also work wonders.
I know we hate garlic and onion, but keep them close on winter treks. Eat 2-3 cloves of garlic or have garlic water. Also, eat onion along with food to enhance heat production of the body.
- Make a habit
While the above hacks can be manifested on the spot during a trek, another method is to come prepared. Train your body to conduct low temperatures skillfully. When at home try to tolerate as much cold as you can. Let your mind and soul form a habit of low temperatures. “I used to bath with chilled water every day so that I get used to the cold,” remembers Shivangi Pathak, one of the youngest female Everester. While this technique may work, be careful not to fall sick in doing so.
We always hear, “We are used to the cold!” from trek leaders, porters and local guides who roam in thin shirts on the slopes. Just like the physical workout, you must train your body to manage cold too.
- Play with your mind
It is observed that the coldness is not the same for every person. One may feel cold other may not. There is a golden rule, that is important than the above hacks yet difficult to implement. And that is to control your mind. Many believe that sense of cold is based on our perception. If we can manipulate our minds we can never feel cold. Probably that is what the Sadhus in the Himalayas do!
Try to visualize happy memories about the first achievement, having a child, marriage, passing an exam etc. to release happy hormones that help to generate heat. Also, try to keep your mind busy by chatting or listening sounds around you, this way our mind gets diverted. The moment you shiver try to relax your muscles. Talking about cold will only make you feel colder.
Although playing these mind games is complicated, the brain can truly control the cold.
A strong mind is the greatest tool than a strong body. Apart from the backpack and working out, being mentally prepared is the key. Following the above suggestions will definitely prove to be beneficial before your winter trek.
TTH Official Content Writer