Winter camping at almost -30 degrees – the coldest night of my life

Silent darkness surrounds me. My thoughts wander, because I can’t really move – I’m lying in my tent, rolled up in two sleeping bags and under three caps. And I ask myself: how did I get the idea to go camping in the predicted -28 degrees? And how will the night be? But one after the other…

Rotes Zelt im Winter auf Skitour, Wintercamping
My first ski camping tour in January 2020

Of ski camping and stormy nights – how it all began

Winter camping has increasingly fascinated me in recent years. The silence on the mountain – because you rarely meet other campers – the extreme experience on your own body. To see how I and my equipment function when there is no warm summer wind blowing. The thrill of testing your limits, of exposing yourself to the forces of nature. To be with yourself and your thoughts. So I already experienced a stormy night alone on the Chaeserrugg, in which even my sleeping pad in the tent moved. And at the beginning of 2020, on my 5th ski tour, I fulfilled my dream of ascending with skis and backpack and camping in a magnificent winter panorama – I was able to share this experience with Vivian. I have written a blogpost about my experiences and learnings from that trip.

Tent in endurance test with intense winds and 15cm of fresh snow in February 2021

Boundary experiences: Get out of the comfort zone!

Now this year I wanted to go one step further – and experience storm, heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures in my tent. As a place for this experience, however, I chose this time a place that offered me a retreat in case of emergency – because at such temperatures it is not funny if something goes wrong. So my choice quickly fell on the Naturcamping Morteratsch, whose natural, wide areas between trees offer wonderful camping possibilities. While the first weekend in February there was still dominated by squalls and 15cm of fresh snow, pushing my one-person tent to its limits, the second weekend promised a completely different scenario – the lowest temperature in the Engadine this winter according to Meteoschweiz. The perfect preparation for the further planned winter nights outside – because who is scared of -10 degrees on a peak, if you have already survived a night with -30 degrees?

The experiment

So on Saturday I set off in the direction of Morteratsch – packed with about 17kg backpack, touring skis and boots. After meeting Noemi there, who shares my passion for winter camping, I strapped on the skis and prepared the ground for our tents – clearly the faster way than shoveling snow. Still, it took a good two hours to get our tents securely anchored. The cold was already biting us in the face – it was already below -10 degrees and falling continuously – and the damp air froze in our noses as we breathed. After dinner we went out to the campsite, warmed up and pumped the mat again. Because with the cold, the air contracts and the mat becomes continuously slacker. Then I slid quickly into my two nested sleeping bags and placed the bottle of hot water between my legs. With down socks and vapor liners on the feet, heat pants on the legs and 6 layers on the body I hoped to be prepared for the night. After also camera, powerbank and Co. – simply everything that must not freeze – was stowed in the sleeping bags and the down hood sat, the only thing that remained was to close the drawstrings around the neck and fall asleep.

How was it? The morning after

While I’m usually too warm in my sleeping bags in winter, I quickly realized this night that I had really reached a limit. My body was just at a comfortable temperature, my toes were too cold the whole night. Here I am looking forward for get the  Camp Booties which Exped provides me for my next adventure. Thanks for that! However, with another thermal jacket around my feet and my warming exercise that I had learned in my survival training, I managed to make the night pass in my sleep – albeit in lighter sleep than usual. When the first light illuminated the tent it was then there, the knowledge: also extremely cold nights are possible for me from now on! The first grip went to the thermometer in the tent and showed -26 degrees inside temperature. Later I learned that at the camp ground minus 29.4 and in Pontresina by Meteo Switzerland -30.5 degrees were measured. When the first rays of sunlight finally came over the mountain and bathed the bone-chillingly cold landscape in warm light, my joy and pride shook hands: There is hardly a better feeling for me than to push my own limits and then wake up in the winter paradise in the mountains!

Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored. The equipment was paid for by myself.

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