I don’t feel ready this time. I didn’t last time but it was easier somehow. Winter in Wales is a completely different prospect to winter in Transylvania. There’s a cold snap forecast for the next few days, dropping to minus 13 at night before rising again to a more average minus 5 for the weekend.
I had more help in Wales of course, the share button being widely used and the messages flowing in, come and stay, come and stay. Here I’m camping a lot more, trying Couchsurfing again, using hotels as a last resort, trying not to drain my small weekly budget.
I set off late in the year, September 20th I started walking from Kiev and although I rationalised it by saying that I’d be walking through the winter whatever happened, I’ve realised that I’m not quite in gear yet. I thought that I couldn’t avoid the cold so it didn’t matter when I set off but the seasons are turning cold and I’m only just warming up.
But, having said all that, I am experienced and I am prepared, even if I’m bubbling with nerves under the surface.
I have, for sleeping, 4 layers of sleeping cocoon which should see me safely insulated in minus 20.
A silk sleeping bag liner
A down sleeping bag liner, thin layer of insulation
A full winter down bag, good to minus 9 on it’s own
Then a bivvy bag, to keep the condensation off.
Then there’s my mohair bedsocks, the merino wool baselayer I won’t remove unless it’s wet, the variety of two buff bands, a hat and a hood I can use to cover my neck, face and head. Plus a hand knitted nose warmer (I can’t bear a cold nose).
Underneath me there is an inflatable Neoair Thermarest mattress, plus a layer of laminated aluminium foil, plus the tent base and additional footprint to keep out the damp.
For really cold nights, or emergency situations where I can’t produce or retain enough heat to keep safe I’ve got a handwarmer that I can put against my skin to warm me up.
The hardest parts will be the mornings, the transition from bed to packed and ready, the shock of leaving my cocoon, feeling soft and vulnerable, rolling up a frosty tent with clumsy hands.
I have two pairs of gloves, one woollen, one waterproof. I have insulated trousers for during the daytime. I have a down jacket and a down waistcoat, plus a long sleeved lightweight fleece plus a waterproof jacket. I can swap these on and off, layering according to the weather and how hard I’m working.
It should be OK, it should work, it’s just that I haven’t quite tested it yet. I’m here on the cusp of winter, treading on the first few snow patches, watching the sparse flakes flutter. I’ve woken up to frosty mornings but the storms are yet to come, the snow drifts, the really tough section. Hopefully, once it starts, I’ll be too busy surviving to get scared. The fear is in the anticipation, isn’t it.