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