Looking for cold


This weekend was the weekend I’d planned to try out my new Rab baselayer.  

It may be the middle of November, and we’ve had a few frosty starts,  but the main problem was that it was forecast to be a lovely sunny day. I was expecting Rab’s usual technical spec along with wearable design and attention to what really matters when facing the elements. 

As well as hauling tyres about the place and preparing for skiing across Greenland, I do love to jump out of planes. It’s an addictive mix of freedom and concentration. Add to that a little bit of fear – you are 13,000ft above the earth – and you’re about there. 

A perfectly still and sunny November day is the perfect day for skydiving. I learned in the winter, so I knew it would be cold. On the ground it’s sweater weather. In the plane it gets steadily colder until you reach altitude (no heating or pressurised cabins here). And then the door opens. The temperature outside the door at 13,500ft yesterday was ‘f-ing cold’ according to one member of staff. That equates to about -15, temperatures it’s difficult to find in the U.K. anywhere else. 

It’s about at this moment that I usually start to regret the whole idea on the basis that’s it’s just too cold. I had my base layer on, with a t-shirt and fleece and finally my jumpsuit. It was the warmest I’d been on a winter jump – apart from my hands, which even in gloves were numb from about 10,000ft. I was out the plane and holding onto a rail as soon as the door opened, followed by two fellow jumpers. After that, you’re so focused on the jump that you don’t really notice the temperature till you land. 

Back on the ground, I needed to set up and test my tyre-hauling gear. This is the closest thing you can get to hauling a pulk (special sledge which is used to haul camping gear on cross-country ski expeditions) without snow. You wear a special harness which then connects to your tyre – and off you go. It was pretty warm after five minutes, so I was in just my base layer and soft-shell trousers.

The trick, I’m told, is to pull from the waist, not the shoulders, and to try and keep as upright as possible. I could barely lift the tyre, and dragging it was fine initially, but I could feel it in my legs pretty quickly. So this is why you need to practice. If I’m going to be doing this for 8-10 hours a day, I’m going to have to focus on leg strength and endurance. 

Even on the flat Wiltshire roads it was tough going but although I was warm I didn’t get sweaty. I can see me needed more padding on the shoulders as it was starting to rub even after twenty minutes or so. Apart from the neighbours thinking I’m crazy, a great first day tyre-hauling!! 

The merino wool felt smooth and comfortable next to skin and the length in the body was enough to be able to either tuck in to trousers or provide decent coverage over the waist. The sleeves were just right – not annoyingly long or draftily short. I went for the charcoal/ black, which I even wore later that day with jeans. 

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