While the thermostat stays stubbornly below zero, it feels like just stepping foot outside is a serious feat. So, who better to turn to for advice on how to survive the cold snap than Arctic explorers? Read on for tips on how to beat the freeze from the experts.
Layering is key, says Eric Larsen
Polar explorer Eric Larsen has skied to both the North and South Poles. He’s also climbed the summit of Everest – all within a 365-day period. His first tip to take on tough conditions? Layer, layer, layer. ‘At any given moment on the trail, I’m adjusting layers — unzipping or zipping, pulling my hat off, putting it on,’ he says.
He divvies up his layers into three categories. Firstly, wear a base layer that wicks moisture away from the body – it turns out you can lose 25 times more heat through wet clothes than dry. Even so, the flaw with this strategy (assuming you’re hopping on the Tube and not climbing in the Rockies), is that sweat wicking fabrics get smelly very quickly. ‘It stinks, but after a couple weeks you don’t notice it’, says Larsen. For the sake of your colleagues, we’d suggest changing your thermals each day, rather than wearing the same layer all week. Over that you want an insulating layer, and finally wind protection on top, to really keep you snug – especially when you’re waiting for the next train…
Stay in your comfort zone, says Sir Ranulph Fiennes
The ‘world’s greatest living explorer’, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been to some seriously chilly spots. The first person to get to both the North and South Poles solely by surface means (that’s mostly by ski and on foot, to you and me) Fiennes has also journeyed around the world on its polar axis and climbed Everest. Famously, he had to cut off his own fingers after getting frostbite on a solo trek through the Arctic. So what’s his top tip for surviving the cold?
‘Do not try and get out of your comfort zone,’ he says. This causes panic, with dangerous consequences. ‘I was completely out of my comfort zone when climbing the north face of the Eiger. I had a moment of abject panic, which I am ashamed of, with a 1,200-metre total drop. I would have done anything other than remain there.’
If you’re stuck in a similarly sticky situation – let’s say the Oxford Circus tube is shut, or your train’s been cancelled – the best thing to fight the voice that tells you to give up: ‘In your head, a sort of wimpish voice is permanently trying to say, “Well, I must stop, or I’ll be having to cut my fingers off again.” But you’ve got to mentally fight that voice.’ Sage advice to bring to bear when you face delays on the Piccadilly line.
Make it mean something, like David de Rothschild
David de Rothschild joined his first expedition across Antarctica at the age of just 26, traversing the continent on skis for 2,000 miles, while dragging his supplies on sleds. At first he embraced the adventure: ‘Yeah, it’s crazy cold and my pee is freezing before it hits the ground, but let’s go harder, further, faster!’ was his initial reaction. But then he reconsidered. ‘I was like, “Hang on a minute. Is that really a good enough reason to do this?” Because it’s very selfish […] I started thinking, what if we could use this to get kids thinking about climate change and the melting polar ice?’
On returning home he started his environmental crusade, which has since seen him cross the Pacific in a boat made of plastic bottles, and break the world record for the fastest ever crossing of the Greenland ice cap. Clearly de Rothschild’s got the measure of things: even in the toughest of conditions, he’s remained chipper, optimistic and kept forging ahead. So yes, it’s grim outside and snow in March is a puzzle – but let’s stay positive – at least there’s central heating in London.