(Reprinted from Off Belay, by kind permission of its editor)


BOB Roth was a practical man. He knew good advice when he saw it. So when he received a collection of winter mountaineering textbooks and catelogs full of tips on keeping warm, he knew he had it made.

For Bob Roth was a winter mountaineer, and he never seemed to have enough tips on how to stay warm. In fact, he stayed miserably cold for the duration of every winter trip he had ever gone on. Understandably, then, he jumped at the possibilities these hot tips seemed to offer.

First, he bought all the equipment the textbooks recommended. He bought dacron underwear, dacron ensolite, dacron shirts, and dacron ice-axes. Then, he threw away the dacron rope, ice-axes, and ensolite because even though they were warm when they were wet, they were useless when they were dry. Next, he bought wool underwear, wool socks, wool pants, wool scarves, wool shirts, wool long-johns, wool hats and wool sweaters, and threw away his dacron underwear, pants and shirts, since one book said that only wool clothing should be used, and wool is wet when it's not dry, and warm when it's not wet.

Then, he bought a fifteen-gallon Stetson hat to annoy Ken Goddard, who only had a ten-gallon Stetson. With an eye towards utility, Bob had chosen the hat because someone had advised him that he could always carry water in it. Someone else had said that a woolen hat was just as good when it was wet, but Roth was a practical man. He knew that the argument just wouldn't hold water.

The day of the next expedition rolled around, and Bob Roth was ready. He donned his wool apparel and shouldered his dacron pack. Before beginning, he swallowed a chunk of rock salt and slugged a hearty slug of cold water since Yukon Pete's Medical Manual said, "Salt stimulates blood circulation and retains body fluids, thus reducing the possibility of dehydration, frostbite or hypothermia." He immediately felt nauseous, but Bob was a practical man. He might feel nauseous now, but he reduced the possibility of his getting frostbite later. Looking down, he noticed he had spilled some water on his fingers as he was drinking, and they had suddenly become frozen and numb.

When they had thawed Bob's hands, the climbing party began marching up the mountain. It was a clear, cold day, with a bright sun, so Bob slipped on his new snow goggles with the narrow slits, and stepped into a crevasse when he couldn't see where he was going. After he was rescued, he swallowed some more rock salt and a few ice cubes, since his water had frozen. He felt sicker than before.

As they trudged along, Bob suddenly began to itch all over, and realized that his wool clothing was asserting itself. But, practical as he was, he knew this was a small price to pay for being warm if he ever got wet. He thoughtfully munched some more ice cubes and rock salt as he walked along, feeling sicker than ever, and longing to get wet.

The party put on crampons and readied ice-axes as they reached the base of a precipitous ice-wall. But Bob's left foot was getting cold. Remembering that one textbook said, "If your feet are cold, wear a hat," he stuffed his Stetson into a boot, strapped on his crampons, and began to climb. As he got about half-way up, he realized his fingers were becoming cold. He recalled some wise words of advice from Yukon Pete, who said, "If your fingers get cold, a simple way to warm them is to whirl the arms like propellers around your head. This pushes blood to the fingers and gets them warm immediately." Forgetting for a moment that he was fastened only by crampon-tips to a vertical wall of ice, he dutifully whirled his arms and plummetted gracefully earthwards, knocking three other climbers off the ice as he fell. He successfully made it to the summit of the wall on his second attempt, and stumbled along after the group, nursing his bruises, scratching madly at his red, itching skin, and sucking on some more rock salt.

Ken Goddard rigged a traverse across a roaring glacier-fed stream. As Bob swung across, Ken let a rope go slack, since he was still annoyed by Roth's Stetson that was five gallons bigger than his. Bob struck the water with a resounding "Splat!", but was quickly towed to safety. The leader announced that they would bivouac there for the night, so Bob quickly set up his dacron tent and crawled inside. Using an ice-axe to undress, he realized that wool was cold when it was dry and frozen when it was wet. He rubbed his sore, red itching body down with vari¬ous organic salves, and noted that the dacron in his sleeping bag dissolved upon contact with the liquids. But Roth was a practical man, and he knew that worrying about dissolution would not help solve the problem. He crawled into his depleted sleeping bag

Bob recalled another tip from the Medical Manual advising that "eating cheese before retiring into the sleeping bag will help one stay warm on cold winter nights. "He reached inside his pack and pulled out a chunk of cheese and a handful of crackers, since he never ate cheese without crackers. He stuffed some chocolate bars into his sleeping bag too, since another textbook suggested he take some candy to bed with him, and eat a bite Or two when¬ever awake. He ate the cheese and crackers, saving the chocolate for later. He suddenly began to itch again, and realized that it was from cracker crumbs in his sleeping bag.

Bob felt cold and began to shiver. The cracker crumbs dug into his tender skin, and made him feel even worse. He chewed frantically on some rock salt to keep from getting frostbite, and cursed Yukon Pete's Medical Manual. His teeth chattered violently; Roth lost four fillings that night. But he was a practi¬cal man. A catalog had said that "Shivering in your sleeping bag is an excellent way to warm your bag," so he didn't feel so bad lying there shivering from the cold. He knew he was warm¬ing up his bag.

A short while later he felt the need to urinate. Recalling that one textbook said, "Be sure to urinate (even though it may seem inconvenient) when the feeling first arises," Roth shrugged philosophically, thinking about the cold outside. But then he recalled the extra admonition, "Don't wait. He unzipped his bag and sprayed the inside of his tent. Yes, Bob Roth was a practical man.

So he lay there, shivering, teeth chattering cracker crumbs scratching, until he remembered some more of Yukon Pete's advice : "Tensing and relaxing muscles will also help to warm one's body by generating body heat." He quickly arched his back and flexed his neck and thigh muscles. There was a resounding crack as all the seams of his mummy bag split and filled the inside of his tent with a swirling cloud of dacron fluff. Roth noted with a start that there was something warm and sticky trickling down his body, but was relieved to find that it was only his chocolate bars that had melted. He was also aware that he was shivering more violently than ever, but he was glad of that, since he would be warming up his sleeping bag more rapidly. Bob began sneezing and coughing as the dacron began to irritate his nose and throat, but the itching became less as the cracker crumbs became coated with chocolate and lost their potency. Bob stuffed as much loose dacron as he could back into his sleep¬ing bag, munched some more salt, urinated again, and shivering quietly to himself, went to sleep.

Well, Bob Roth was a practical man. He left the expedition the next day. When he got home he sold all of his equipment except for his evil-smelling tent, which he donated to the Bro¬oklyn Hiking Club, and his chocolate-covered, dacron-filled (with sprinkles) sleeping bag, which he donated to the manufacturer's research laboratory. They are still feverishly working to deter¬mine the origin of the sprinkles.

Bob Roth now lives happily by himself in Death valley, going once a month to Yukon Pete's Dialysis Center for treatment of a blood salt imbalance.

Yukon Pete, you see, was a very practical man.

P.S. Any similarity to catalogs, products, and outdoor manuals past or present is purely intentional, but you can't prove it!


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