The Angry Corrie 3: Sep-Oct 1991

Perversions of the Scottish hills No. 1:
The Snow Bath

Words: Gordon Stewart

Pics: Ailith Foggo

"Whoever indulges in a snow bath on a mountain crest will continue his progress along the ridges with renewed zest and vigour"

Thus spake the great Dr. J.H.B. Bell, a man whose propensity for mortifying the flesh knew no bounds. In this day and age, when mountaineers have become used to a certain lack of discomfort, thanks to products such as pile jackets, duvets and double plastic boots (as opposed to holey jumpers, Harris tweed and tackety boots), there doesn't seem to be the same urge to participate in activities like going for a dook or, even more adventurously, rolling in the snow. Bell would no doubt have, quite rightly, written off the current generation of hillgoers as a bunch of jessies. However, there may be a few of you out there with whom the words of Bell strike a chord. Perhaps the idea of a closer liaison with Nature is quite appealing. It is to these adventurous souls that this article is addressed. It is also written as a warning to those who may be tempted to casually remark that they wouldn't mind trying it given favourable conditions. If you get into a fix like that, you may have to go through with it to save face, although the price to be paid for your integrity will almost certainly be to have your bum plastered over a full set of colour prints, later to be much thumbed by guffawing friends.

Anyway, here are some handy hints for would-be snow bathers.There are some basic DOs and DON'Ts:

  1. DON'T mention the subject unless you are really keen to try it. If your friends are like mine, you won't get a minute's peace until you've paid the full price for your bravado.
  2. DON'T go out on windless days of sunshine and powder snow because, if you do, someone will certainly say "Remember you said that on the first windless day of sunshine and powder snow..."
  3. If you do get caught out like this there may still be a chance. Here are a few useful phrases: "I think I can feel the wind getting up..."; "Oh dear. That cloud's about to cover the sun..."; "Pity the snow's not of a suitable texture..."; "Lunchtime would be a more convenient time..." (perhaps it will have clagged over by then).
  4. DO give some consideration, if possible, to the size and composition of the audience. The optimum number of spectators is one, and irrespective of sex you must feel confident that the sudden exposure of your entire body will not cause irreparable damage to your future relationship. Also try to ascertain if your companion has a camera. If s/he has, see No.3 above. There is no point in doing it on your own, as no-one will believe you and you will be made to repeat the exercise at the first available opportunity. Avoid large numbers, as they may get carried away with excitement, resulting in lewd remarks and possibly even chanting and handclapping - which do nothing to enhance the performance of the exposed individual.
  5. Remove all your clothing working from top to bottom (careful with those crampons!), and lay them neatly on your outspread cagoule. The sudden gust of wind is your enemy here, as you may witness your expensive garments and sole source of bodily warmth sailing off into space or trundling down a grade III gully.
  6. At this point in the proceedings speed is of the essence as you're already past the point of no return. Skip swiftly and lightly to your chosen spot. Contrary to popular belief, the part of your anatomy most likely to suffer from the cold is your feet. The minimum amount of rolling that will satisfy your friends is 180 degrees each way. If you have failed to immobilise the witness's camera, you may need to resort to cunning synchronisation and strenuous contortions to ensure that the finer points of your physique are left in the realms of the imagination where they belong, rather than displayed in an enlarged form for public scrutiny in your place of work.
  7. The deed is now done, and unless your companion is a cheap trickster your clothes will still be where you left them. Put them on without delay, as there is nothing to be gained by prolonging your exposure. You may now rejoin the ranks of normal mountaineers, with your reputation either enhanced or tarnished (depending on the circles in which you move), and you may resume your journey. The zest and vigour mentioned by Bell is the result, not of the efficacious nature of the snow bath, but of a frantic attempt to get warmed up afterwards. However, you will certainly be uplifted by your experience, if only for the reason that you know you will never have to do it again - as long as you have the good sense to keep your mouth shut...

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