(Our beloved readers may greet the return of Aunty Ice Axe with delight or despair - or possibly just complete indifference. The redoubtable aunt is however determined to step back into her role as the CTC's very own occasional agony columnist and random bestower of the fruits of experience upon innocent bystanders.)

Dear Aunty Ice Axe

I recently joined the tramping club and I wanted to do lots of trips, but now I am worried about camping in winter, with snow and everything. Have you got any tips?
Yours in trepidation,

Cold Feet

Dear Cold Feet

Well, Aunty has long reckoned that there are two ways to ensure a good winter tramping experience. The first, for private trips, is a snifter of 'Old Growler' 86.9% proof schnapps before bedtime (Aunty's tip 'carry in a metal flask' it seems to eat through plastic). However, since the CTC have very sensibly decreed against alcohol on club trips, you will have to rely on the second: the sleeping bag. In fact, Aunty cannot emphasise enough the importance of a good sleeping bag suitable for the conditions. Aunty herself has a whole battery of bags for every conceivable need. Lightweight tramping does not come any lighter than the Superfly (thistledown filling, parachute silk cover, shaped to hug Aunty's impressive contours precisely). Aunty's own favourite, for tough trekking in extreme conditions, is the Rhinobag: teflon-coated cover reinforced with leather at heavy wear points, wool and ostrich-down mix filling, aunty-shape (similar to a mummy but bigger and more generously cut at hips and feet). It is best to take an extra yak to carry it.

There are many examples of more practical bags and with the demise of Fairydown you may be able to source two lesser-known models from their 'Lethal Pets' range. The Rattlesnake is similar to the Cobra but especially suitable for dry conditions, with a beautifully patterned cover almost invisible when bivvying beneath rocks. Or try the Python: wraps itself around you very warmly but surprisingly capacious once you are inside.

Having your sleeping bag cleaned regularly (Master Valet on Lincoln Road has the doubtful privilege of the Aunty seal of approval) also keeps it so much warmer. And of course even those of you who do not have a purpose-built sleeping bag storage room with temperature controlled environment, racking, and doberman guard-dog should always store your bags in a dry place out of their stuff sacks.

Finally, Aunty takes this opportunity to clarify that while 'Old Growler' was to some extent implicated in the creation of the CTC alcohol rules, it was certainly not she who struck the match too close to the flask of precious liquid, and she was as inconvenienced as anyone else by the ensuing conflagration.

Happy snoring in the snow!

Aunty Ice Axe


-- Uploaded by Alastair Brown on 27 May, 2007