How to climb, when it’s cold
The best season for climbing – autumn goes away, but the desire to climb outdoor remains. Winter has come, the days are already short and cold, but we still have projects to climb. This is not so terrible if the crag where we want to climb is south facing. We need a quiet sunny day, clothes, desire and skills on how to use all this to turn a cold day in a perfect climbing day. When we climb a hard rout we know very good that the most important thing is good friction, wich is better at lower temperatures.
First we need to know which crags are suitable for climbing during the winter. If the temperature is -2 most important thing is that the rocks are on the sun. We have to consider that as the winter sun is low on the horizon, it is possible to hide earlier behind a hill and thus makes a climbing day much shorter. It is also good to know whether the rocks are exposed to a constant air or it is rather quiet. If it is sunny and quiet, even at a temperature of -5 degrees, rocks are heated and the climbing can be quite comfortable.
We all know that clothes are the most powerful weapon against the cold. Anyone who wants to climb on the sports crags during the winter, must have down jacket. Not a slim, city, beautiful down jacket, but a TICK down jacket. When we decide to choose a jacket, we have to think of some things. First, the down jacket must be appropriate size – big enough so that we can put on with more clothes and the sleeves have to be long enough. It is better to have a hood because sometimes the hat is highly insufficient. Down jacket warm much more if it have a dual seams. Another important thing is to choose a down jacket filled mostly with down, not with feathers. Down retain mich more air, thereby is a better insulator than the feather. This is checked very easily by groping carefully the filling – the feathers are hard. The last important thing for down jacket is the volume. Winnie the Pooh is again right – with more down is warmer. Approaches to sports crags are usually short enough, so that the volume and weight aren’t important.
Besides down jacket is important to know what else to put on, because there comes a time when we remove the jacket and start climbing. The best in this case is a thin woolen underwear. Synthetic alternatives aren’t warm enough and smells bad. Over woolen underwear is god to have polar with high collar. If it’s really cold it is necessary to have a scarf and, of course, a hat. During the winter we must wear legging under the pants. It’s better that the legging is woolen, but this is not as important. Most important is to be comfortable. Put on a wide climbing pants and trying to get rid of the feeling that we are like the little man on Michelin.
The socks are also very important for preserving heat. It is good that they are thick, wool and long. The bad thing is that climbing shoes can’t be pull on with socks. And when you take off the socks, the ankles remains unprotected. To protect them from the cold is better to have thin polar gaiters to cover them.
The biggest problem in climbing when it’s cold is the freezing of the fingers. They become insensitive and we can’t feel if we hold the crimp or not. Thick woolen gloves partially solve this problem. But what usually occurs is that when we start climbing, hands, just out of the warm gloves still have sensitivity, but soon freeze and lose it. There are two very effective ways to warm up the hands. Both are based on the principle that when you enter a lot of blood in fingers, they become warm. If there is snow, the best way is to make a snowball and keep it in hands until we didn’t feel the cold. Then put the gloves and prepare for the hellish pain that comes with warming. But once warmed in this way, it’s very hard to freeze it again. If you decide to try this method, you must be prepared for nasty pain once in cooling and the second time in warming. When there is no snow, it needs to find another way to warm up your hands. The easiest way is to do very energetic circles with your arms until we feel strong warming. This way also works well if we spend enough time whisking the hands with gloves. To be able to climb in the winter we need to pay particular attention to warm the hands befor climbing.
The fire was discovered a long time ago and on cold days it’s good to have it. Beside to stand around and hypnotic to watch, we can use it to warm up different parts of your body and equipment – chalk bag, climbing shoes, kneepads, socks. For climbing shoes good solution is to keep them in down jacket when we don’t climb, but the fire does a better job. If we use knee pads is good to be warm when we start climbing, because the cold rubber have worse friction.
Before climbing we need a good warming up. It’s good to run a little with all clothes. It’s a little difficult and uncomfortable because with all the clothes, running is more rolling, but does a good job. Cup of hot tea is irreplaceable in the winter. This makes the thermos required part of our equipment. If we don’t have a termos it’s good that the bottle of water is near to the fire.
When we decide we are ready for climbing, we take off all of warm clothes and are ready for sending. However, in the cold, sunny winter day, the conditions were perfect for climbing, if we know how to use them. The pleasure that you climb on the ricks, although all your friends explain in details how crazy are you, is great and worth the efforts.But don’t forget that the best things happen when you give a lot of yourself!