5 mins

6 tips for coping in the cold – Victorian lady style

Mick Conefrey offers survival techniques from the grand dames of female exploration

Cope with the cold by dressing the part (Jeff Weston)

1. Think yourself warm

Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969) was an exponent of the art of tumo breathing, by which you think yourself hotter. The technique? On breathing out, banish thoughts of pride, anger, jealousy and sloth; on breathing in, try to draw in the spirit of Buddha. Breathe slowly and deeply, and visualise flames emanating from your solar plexus.

2. Pop sweets

Isabella Bird (1831-1904) combated the cold by wearing three pairs of gloves and a six-layer face mask; she also ate double peppermint lozenges.

3. Look after your skin

Mountaineering is bad for the complexion. In 1889, Lillias Campbell Davidson suggested women coat their snow-lashed, sunburned skin with sour cream; Geoffrey Winthrop Young suggested bathing the affected skin in very hot water then covering it with grease. Not a good idea.

4. Dress the part

For her 1891 expedition to Greenland, Josephine Peary packed two knitted skirts, a flannel wrapper, a pair of knitted stockings, a pair of deer-skin moccasins, a knitted kidney protector, a great fur overall, a muffler and snowshoes.

5. Eat well

Agnes Deans Cameron (1863-1912) got into Inuit cuisine, trying reindeer maggots (‘like sweet shrimp’), whale jaw (‘looks like a coconut, cuts like cheese, tastes like chestnut’) and frozen fish (makes bad fish taste better).

6. Plan your toilet stops

On their 1999 South Pole hike, Catherine Hartley and her tent-mate would dig a hole in the entrance to their tent after breakfast. While one packed up, the other would use the ‘facilities’ – the advantage being the ice was warmer and easier to dig after they’d spent the night in the tent.

These tips are a just a small teaser from Mick Conefrey's book How to Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt: A Handbook for the Lady Adventurer (Oneworld, £10.99). Order your copy on Amazon now.

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