Naked at the Gasthof

Occasionally we glimpsed the surrounding peaks getting smaller. After several hours of zig-zagging upwards through the trees, we emerged from the forest onto the ridge and a welcome pause. We were going slowly and stopped for lunch just below the top. We were going slowly and stopped for lunch just below the top, Doug, Mira, mid-p1050335Jacques and Sylvie, then joined us for lunch and then to walk back up to the top of the hill, many people passing us on the fairly busy ridge trail.

Several looked a little surprised to see our group walking naked along the same way as they were, but were all friendly enough, with several smiles and waves exchanged, as one would expect when out on a mountain hike. Continuing along the spine of the alp, we quickly dressed to enter the Hochzelleralm Mountain Gasthof, nestling nicely on the shoulder of the ridge with extensive views of the lower valleys all around. We were just sitting down when Jerome, (organiser of the Brussels WNBR), suggested I ask the staff if it were possible to sit on their terrace naked. Naturally I thought they’d say no, but was happy to ask.

Guests at the Gasthof

The young and friendly waiter looked suitably surprised, but said that it was late in the day, with not many guests, and if the few that were here didn’t mind he had no objection either. So I asked a couple on the nearest table, and they said they didn’t mind, I dutifully fed the response back to the waiter, and he said, “fine, enjoy your drinks on our terrace naked by all means, then”.

We needed no further encouragement and our flimsy wraps and shorts came off, much to the surprise of one other couple, who’d I’d neglected to ask. They however were quite ok with us being naked too, furthermore they were happy to be video interviewed by the naked Gilles as to how they felt about more than 20 plus naked guests sharing their alpine coffee break with them. They seemed pretty comfortable about it all, the lady even removing her jumper to show some solidarity, (or perhaps she was just getting a bit hot).

We chatted for some time, greeting new arrivals with cheerful smiles as usual, and slowly drank our thirst-quenching schorles at this extraordinary well situated alpine Gasthof. The views were stupendous.

Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Richard Foley

In winter things get complicated

Then clothing. This will be necessary anyway at one time or another, especially at the outset, when the muscles are still stiff and cold. Once you get going, the muscles will soon warm up, then clothes become redundant and can be removed layer by layer. However, unlike shorts in summer which are quickly removed, in winter things get complicated.

I02 avril 2010, Vararey, Chartreuset’s an acrobatic feat to avoid soaking your clothes while undressing in the snow, not to mention dressing again in a hurry. So you need to choose your outfit carefully. In practice, what I find works best are over-trousers worn directly on the skin, which unzip completely at the sides so that you can keep your boots on, worn with polar-grade jackets and vests. In deep snow, gaiters will prevent snow getting into your boots. Heat loss is mainly from the extremities, so gloves and a hat are de rigueur.

Extra dry warm clothes will also be needed in case of sudden changes in temperature. Make sure you have really effective sunglasses, otherwise you will suffer sore eyes, or even snow-blindness. The rest of the gear is that of any winter mountain hike: water, food, warm gore-tex jacket, rescue equipment, including a snow shovel, phone, gps, maps, and camera.

Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Jacques-Marie Francillon

Into the sunlight

We came out into the sunlight at the top of the woods, and a large open swathe of bright grass led us up towards the gasthof on the ridge. We dressed, shortly before arriving there and, having brought our own lunch, continued along the mid-tegernsee-0018trail to get a little peace and quiet. 100 metres past the gasthof, we stripped off again, just as Tania began to demolish yet another raspberry bush.

A number of people joined the trail here from ahead and to the left of us, and a few cyclists came hurtling past, one trailing a camera and asking if it was ok if he took a photo. We didn’t mind of course, although we thought that if he’d stopped perhaps the photo would not be so blurred.

We continued along the easy ridge path, surrounded by trees again, until we reached an open spot, where we could stop for a bit of lunch.

Salami and sunshine

A little salami and cheese, some fruit and vegetables, a cool drink, a good view and companionable company. Naked in the high mountain sunshine, amidst the trees and foothills of southern Bavaria, we soaked up the atmosphere quietly.

Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Richard Foley

Too close to Nature

I learnt for the first time what it was not just to be amongst nature, but to be part of it. Boots had left me stumbling blindly across the ground, oblivious to what lay on it. mid-image45My clothes had insulated me, not just to the elements, but to the whole environment. Was I really not tough enough to handle a bit of wind, maybe an occasional spot of rain?

And while paths are often rough and gravel strewn did I really need boots for grass strewn slopes? While the climate of Scotland could be harsh, I realised there would always be days when nature welcomed me, when clothes, maybe even boots might not be needed.

Too close

However, you can sometimes get a little too close to nature. One particular example of this takes me back to a hot summer day on the north coast of Scotland. We had thought about finding ourselves a secluded beach to take advantage of the warm Gulf Stream waters, but instead we decided to climb a mountain, Ben Hope, one of the largest of the isolated peaks of the far north. Parked at the bottom of it, the weather seemed so good that for a moment I briefly considered leaving my waterproof jacket behind. But then I remembered this is Scotland, and we have a saying here – “if you don’t like the weather, just try waiting fifteen minutes.”

Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Stuart Pitsligo

Magical zone

The most compelling reason that I have found though for hiking in the nude, is the ease of sliding into that magical zone of existence while naked. As my freehiking buddies and I have all experienced, especially while hiking solo, it is the process of just wandering, and slowly drifting into that zone of existence mid-bb-07where you are acutely sensitive to everything around you, yet deeply calm, and passively observing. On one hike on an early spring day, I nearly tripped over a bright orange newt (a small lizard-like amphibian) amongst the green undergrowth at my feet, if tripping over a newt is possible.

I just had to squat down and stare at it for awhile. That newt was my total existence for that moment. On another hike, I found myself sitting during a rest break, upon a small ledge halfway up a hillside on the Long Trail in Vermont, in the Northeast Kingdom. Overlooking a medium size pond a few hundred feet below me, the water below was framed by clouds and mist boiling and spilling over the mountain tops several hundred feet above me. Sitting in my nakedness, temps in the low 50s , overcast weather, I was acutely aware of my environment, the sound of the rain drifting down through the trees, the lush green smell, the color of the light filtering through the mists above, the texture of the surface of the pond. I was totally at peace with that moment.

Heightened state

Parts of the past few years have been rather wet for hiking here in the northeast US, a blessing in keeping some of the tourists at bay. A relative delight in discovering how comfortable one can be hiking naked during the summer, in the rain that would otherwise have one miserable, soggy and chilled. This has come at the expense of the trails getting very beat up because they have remained so muddy that they cannot support the foot traffic when the sun and crowds do return. There has also been a lot of damage caused by the hurricanes and major storms experienced in my area these past two years.

A side benefit that I have noticed through this adversity though, backpacking sections of both the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail is that because the going is rough and much slower than normal, I have been able to notice many things along the trail that I may have unconsciously walked by under more normal conditions. The slower pace and the heightened state of my senses brought on by my nakedness have allowed me a deeper appreciation of some very special parts of this planet we inhabit. And yes, I have been asked by fellow hikers that I meet in the overnight huts, how it can be that my clothes have spilled out of my pack dry and why my spirits have remained bouyant. And I have been pleased to have been able to share my personal take on simple nudity with an open minded audience.

Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Dan Kidwell.

Stand and fight or run and hide?

No freedom has ever been freely given, freedoms have always been taken, and the only question is whether we stand and fight, or run and hide. The people who pioneer the new, (because not “normal”), views are inevitably regarded as extremists. Today, we bow to lesbian/gay rights, women voters, etc.Only because some people made a hard stand during difficult times.

Stand and fight?

When those people were fighting for OUR rights, most people called them extremists and nutcases.

Imid-20120717_103914f Emily Parkhurst had been “sensitive to the appropriateness of the situation”, I’m sure she would not have thrown herself under the King’s horse and women would probably still not have the vote. Nelson Mandela is another example of precisely the same case where one man suffers for years under the barbaric of the current regime, while today he is hailed as a hero. He was fortunate, he was able to enjoy his last years of life in freedom.

Alan Turing is another who was shamed, and forcefully chemically “treated”, by the government of his time, for the crime of following his own harmless activities. Turing was so persecuted that he committed suicide rather than face the rest of his life as a chemically castrated individual.

What fate awaits Stephen Gough?

My first naked hike

The hike started. We left the car park and after a couple of hundred metres we turned off down a path into the wood ahead. After the first corner, the organizer stopped the group and we had the opportunity to undress. Now this was exciting. All the hikers removed and stuffed their clothing into their rucksacks, followed promptly by putting sun-cream on. Some people even removed their shoes. So, now was about to begin my first naked hike.

Nearly overwhelming

The feeling, standing naked in the woods with 50 other naked people, was nearly overwhelming. I had been somewhat nervous about what would happen. But it began as every other hiking tour had: with the first step! mid-img_3788Then followed a second, and a third, and after a few hundred metres any nervousness vanished altogether and was replaced by an intense feeling of awareness of my surroundings. An absolutely amazing experience!

I opened up to the weather and began to soak in the surroundings with all my senses. It was a beautiful summers’ day. The sky could not have been more blue and the sun lifted any tiredness away. The air temperature was circa 25°C. The sun’s rays felt very pleasant on the exposed skin and a gentle breeze gave such a wonderful feeling. I looked at the trees around us, at the path which stretched ahead, and was impressed with both myself and the situation, that I was even able to walk along with such a large group of naked people. What a marvelous feeling!

With the first kilometres behind us I thought about what I had discovered. I love the bodily awareness of moving so freely amongst nature. Even the smallest of differences began to push in on my sense of reality. A small cloud pushed in front of the other clouds and created a magical shadow across my body. I did not freeze, but I could feel goosebumps appear over my skin. As the cloud moved away from blocking the direct sunshine, I felt even more comfortable than previously. The goosebumps disappeared as the sun’s warm rays once more caressed my naked body.

An extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Nicole Wunram.

If you don't like the weather

I learnt for the first time what it was not just to be amongst nature, but to be part of it.

Boots had left me stumbling blindly across the ground, oblivious to what lay on it. My clothes had insulated me, not just to the elements, but to the whole environment. Was I really not tough enough to handle a bit of wind, maybe an occasional spot of rain?

SONY DSC

And while paths are often rough and gravel strewn did I really need boots for grass strewn slopes? While the climate of Scotland could be harsh, I realised there would always be days when nature welcomed me, when clothes, maybe even boots might not be needed.

However, you can sometimes get a little too close to nature. One particular example of this takes me back to a hot summer day on the north coast of Scotland. We had thought about finding ourselves a secluded beach to take advantage of the warm Gulf Stream waters, but instead we decided to climb a mountain, Ben Hope, one of the largest of the isolated peaks of the far north.

Parked at the bottom of it, the weather seemed so good that for a moment I briefly considered leaving my waterproof jacket behind. But then I remembered this is Scotland, and we have a saying here – “if you don’t like the weather, just try waiting fifteen minutes.”

An extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Stuart Pitsiligo.

Etched across the skyline

Continuing up the now more sparsely vegetated valley, sweating under the clear blue sky, we could feel the mountain air glide gently over our skins, keeping us refreshingly dry as it did so.

Etched across the skyline

We could see the summit ridge and our target summit for the day. As we gained height steadily, we began to overtaken by faster hikers, all clothed, and all friendly. mid-p1100178First one couple, then another, then a family coming down the hill, several stragglers and finally we passed a group having a rest just beyond the Austrian/German border, at the col itself. We exchanged pleasantries, and took in the glorious view of the alps stretching away into Austria, before Emma and I settled down nearby to have a light picnic. Polly nibbled on bits of cheese and salami.

At this point the clouds were building and it looked wise to keep moving, so we ambled behind the closed Klausenberg hut, waving back to the friendly group of picknickers there, and followed the narrow and gentle ridge, along to the summit. The views from this deceptively small ridge are quite magnificent, down to the Chiemsee lake to the north, across to the Kampenwand to the west, and south into Austria and the higher snow covered alps.

A short stop on top, and then we followed the trail north along the ridge through more forest, coming to several memorials to people lost in the mountains. A particularly poignant wooden cross impaled in a rocky vantage point, had been erected by the local mountain rescue team to their fallen comrades.

An extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Richard Foley.

We exchanged pleasantries

Continuing up the now more sparsely vegetated valley, sweating under the clear blue sky, we could feel the mountain air glide gently over our skins, keeping us refreshingly dry as it did so.  On our right, etched across the skyline, we could see the summit ridge and our target summit for the day.

As we gained height steadily, we began to overtaken by faster hikers, all clothed, and all friendly. mid-p1100178First one couple, then another, then a family coming down the hill, several stragglers and finally we passed a group having a rest just beyond the Austrian/German border, at the col itself. We exchanged pleasantries, and took in the glorious view of the alps stretching away into Austria, before Emma and I settled down nearby to have a light picnic. Polly nibbled on bits of cheese and salami.

At this point the clouds were building and it looked wise to keep moving, so we ambled behind the closed Klausenberg hut, waving back to the friendly group of picknickers there, and followed the narrow and gentle ridge, along to the summit. The views from this deceptively small ridge are quite magnificent, down to the Chiemsee lake to the north, across to the Kampenwand to the west, and south into Austria and the higher snow covered alps.

A short stop on top, and then we followed the trail north along the ridge through more forest, coming to several memorials to people lost in the mountains. A particularly poignant wooden cross impaled in a rocky vantage point, had been erected by the local mountain rescue team to their fallen comrades.

An extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Richard Foley.