Skip navigation

Comments on Cold
(January 17, 2013)

Cycle South ExpeditionCurrent Position
Position Date: 2013-01-17 16:40:04
Position Lat: -79.5333
Position Long: -70.0148

Antarctic sastrugi'You're wearing your big coat?' Maria questioned as I walked out the door wearing my Bergans down jacket. I smiled to myself and kept walking. A cold front had moved through Colorado the day before and temperatures had gotten down to the low teens. It was the kind of cold that you can feel right away. It hits you in the face and you feel it in your bones. 'In Minnesota,' I thought. 'We would simply call this a coat.' Image: Antarctic sastrugi.

For whatever reason, a lot of people have an aversion to the cold - which I actually understand. It hurts to be cold - actual physical pain. No joke. It goes way past being uncomfortable. It takes a lot more work to be outside when it's cold, too and simple tasks like taking out the trash or walking your dog become major expeditions.

People always ask me if I like being cold, and I have to be honest, I don't. Not at all. Like most people, I like being warm, but what I guess what makes me different is that I like being WARM in COLD places. Being cold sucks. It doesn't matter where you are. But that feeling of warmth that radiates from deep inside and extends outward is amazing - especially when the weather is at its worst!

Hence my BIG DOWN jacket (which, by the way, is probably the best down jacket I have ever owned). My main cold weather platitude: There is no such thing as cold weather just not enough base layers.

Being cold in Antarctica or on my way to the North Pole. Now that is a little different situation. At the start of my last North Pole expedition, it was 50 degrees below zero! At that temperature, nylon cracks, plastic becomes brittle and any exposed skin can freeze in a matter of minutes. But surprisingly, the thing that I worry most about in situations like this (besides falling through thin ice and getting eaten by a polar bear) is getting too warm! When you are working, your body produces enormous amounts of heat and all I needed to stay warm at that temperature were three light base layers and a shell.

Conversely, when I was racing sled dogs, I would spend hours standing on the runners barely moving (at least when the team was running well) as the dogs loped along. Quite often, I would wear 7 or 8 layers with the outer two being insulated jackets. Of course, when you're wearing that many layers, it doesn't take much activity to break into a sweat.

I have to admit, I was kind of excited that it was cold when I got back. Transitioning from an expedition in Antarctica to 'normal' life in somewhat balmy Boulder, Colorado is not easy. Those icy landscapes have become a part of who I am and coming back to warmer climates seem weird. I guess it's because the world is different when it's cold. Trees are covered in frost. Or snow. Even traffic is different - car tires are quieter on roads with fresh snow. In fact, everything is quieter with fresh snow on the ground. Nights are clearer when it's cold. And stars are brighter. And when you come back inside at the end of a long day, you are more appreciative of all you have: a home is more comfortable and food tastes better.

Yesterday, my friend who runs The Gear Caster web site tweeted to tell me that it was colder in Ouray at than it was at the South Pole.

'How far away is Ouray?' I asked Maria when I came back inside.

If you've got a cold story to share, head on over to my facebook page where I am starting to collect stories your winter stories in my ongoing pursuit of everything cold. Check it out here.
© 2015 Wenger NA. All rights reserved