Early winter clothing

Early winter clothing

Now that the temperature at night drops below zero, once dusk comes it’s necessary to pack on layers of clothing. I find its good to use a mixture of the traditional and also modern technology.

The 3 areas of the body which really feel the cold first are the feet, hands and head. To stave off frostbite it’s essential to make sure these areas are well provided for. When real winter kicks in, the ears and nose also must be kept insulated.

Over the years I have learnt, through trial and error, just what works and what doesn’t.  An expensive all modern outfit might work well in a laboratory but will tear easily in the bush. Similarly, heavy wool garments might sound traditionally romantic but they’re often very uncomfortable and too heavy too manoeuvre in.

Samaritans in Svidnik

Samaritans in Svidnik

Whilst walking through Svidnik today I came across a display by the volunteer emergency and rescue group Asosiacia Samaritanov Slovenskej Republic – as-sr.sk. As my friend runs the branch, i got roped into being a guinea pig for a young girl who taught me the latest techniques in cpr – quite embarrassing to do on a dummy in the middle of a pedestrian zone. I also had my blood pressure checked by another volunteer, and then my finger was pricked and my blood tested for diabetes, all while a stern old nun looked on. This type of group needs as much charity support as they can get as I know they fly around the world at a moment’s notice to help in disaster zones

Solo deep forest sleep – out during the rut

Solo deep forest sleep – out during the rut

Yesterday evening, while suffering from flu, I got the urge to try sleeping out in the forest during the Red deer stags’ rutting period. I hadn’t done it during this period before because I’ve had problems in the woods with hormonal enraged stags during this time in the past. But the noise of multiples of the giant beasts braying and roaring throughout the forest just seemed really appealing to experience first hand, alone, and in their space.

By the time I’d decided to go, there wasn’t much daylight left and my kit list was a hurried affair. I took a green garden tarp and some bungees to make a low slung swag shelter – 3 sided,  with roof, back and floor, and front exposed to the fire. I brought an army bivi bag to sleep in, a kettle and some water for coffee.

The walk up the hillside and then through the forest to my intended campsite above a join in  two ravines took longer than expected as I was ill. I arrived drenched in sweat and had just enough daylight to put up the shelter. Then it came to firelighting time. I’d forgotten to bring paper or cotton wool so resorted to birch bark outer. That went up no problem but the kindling around was drenched and as the forest got darker and darker I couldn’t venture off looking for drier stuff, or grass, etc. During this time the forest came alive, with large beasts crashing around and the occasional stag braying. I was so focused on peeling birch a short ways from my camp with help from my head torch,  that a large growl nearby awoke me rudely. It took over an hour to get the fire lit using a cigarette lighter and I experienced dread throughout that time at the prospect of not having a fire through the night.

The importance of a fire can’t be underestimated. For cooking, for companionship,  for safety. I collected enough dead fall to keep it going until dawn and my mood improved massively. I could begin to enjoy the various screams, grunts, barks and calls, and the sound of branches snapping under hoof out in the darkness.

I slept until 3 am and then the forest just seemed to erupt. As it didn’t start getting light until 5.30, that was a very long 2 hours and I made sure the flames of the fire were visible to any curious 4 legged passerby.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it reminded me of the old saying that the best part of having an adventure is coming safely home… Thankfully, Veles had his dominions on short rein last night.

Moel Famau

Moel Famau

During our trip to the UK we stayed over at a friend’s house in Mold in North Wales. He and his family took me and mine up the mountain Moel Famau.

Despite it being the middle of August, the weather was horrific. The rain lashed horizontally in sheets, the wind roared and a thick fog blurred the view. This was a very good example for my children as to why to tackle hillwalking well prepared as the weather can be both unpredictable and dangerous, even if it looks sunny when you set off.