The Mountain Hut
Hmm, where do we start. Anybody had cold hands before? What about in 80mph blizzards, and sub-zero temperatures? I have! Frostbitten, cold, stiff, hurting sore fingers from simple usage during extreme cold, what's the trick? Well, first rule to keep the hands and feet warm is to STUDY the HEAD gear section carefully, and know about 'dead air space' and have proper fitting clothes. Assuming this, if you keep your head toasty, then your hands will be warm. This is almost always true. Of course its no easy feat to keep the head 'toasty'. Everything needs to be buttoned up if the hands are cold, and I mean "everything". If you have drawstrings, use them all, and tie them off. drawstrings can be found on the lower of the parka, mid-waist of the parka, hoods, lower pant legs, pant waists, leg-gaiter tops, arm cuffs, and on alot of other pieces of clothing. This will keep the wind out, and heat in. Once this is accomplished, then be sure there's proper care on the feet, head, and then the hands. Be sure not to over tighten anything as to constrict circulation, this goes for the boot laces too.
Here's the gear. For hiking, its good to have some synth medium-tight fitting gloves. If its windy you can place a gore-tex velcro mitt over this. When at camp, or when really cold, place a glove liner underneath a 'looser' fitting pair of gloves, and use the mitt-shells as needed. Its always good to have a pair of synthetic fingerless gloves. These were my most used glove item. Over the fingerless i put on the cold mitt shell. I was able to use my fingers well, and could pull off the shells for more technical usage of the hands. If it is going to be sub-zero, then you should have a good pair of synthetic glove liners, a pair of synthetic tighter-fitting glove over this with some dead air space in them, then a good down style mitten, with either a built in gore-tex outer, or a looser fitting shell mitt over this. The hand now works/looks/feels sort of like a seal flipper does, or a wooden arm. :-) However, you can still use a trekking pole like this, barely, but not an ice axe very greatly.
Again, all this shouldn't be necessary if your keeping your core nice and warm. All you need to keep your hands warm is the pair of thinner gloves, which without the liners fit even looser, and over that the windproof waterproof mitt, and your toasty unless your bivy'ing or 'hanging' out in the elements. In that case, i would wear the down mitts in between. This brings back one vivid memory in particular. It was early morning, with a subzero stormy ice-blizzard still persisting outside. Sonny left the tent just after getting geared up for the outdoors as i decide to open my eyes. He nobly hung outdoors boldly challenging the elements, testing his gear to his amusement, while i warmed up in the limited space. I cooked up my own breakfast in the tent vestibule, took an hour break catching up on some morning reading, map studying, and listening to the weather radio. That was great, and a good example of 'hanging out in the elements' on his part. Otherwise, it would have been me cooking breakfast at the foot of the tent in the vestibule with the elements still closed out, and him couped up in the rear of the tent, or more likely, me cooking in the vestibule, while sitting in the blizzard with the tent screen zipped, and sonny laughing at me through it from inside the shelter of the tent. :-) Believe it or not, it is alot of fun! I would have just as responsibly cooked outdoors if the need arose, those are just the types of things you are prepared for if the need arises. But when there's a team effort going on, your fellow hiker knows that its his job to get crammed into the tent and take a siesta or help in the food preparation otherwise. This was just a unique time where we were by-choice tenting a more-than-24-hr. blizzard on the bald summit of Mt. San Gregornio near 11,500 ft. during a full wind storm, so Sonny wasn't going to miss the opportunity for some real man-to-nature morning mountain weather.
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