(Written by Karla)
Bring an umbrella? I chuckled. Obviously Richard was having a joke. Either that or it was going to be a gentle stroll lower down at the bottom of the slopes. In Scotland, if it's raining then it's also going to be windy. Actually, if it's sunny it's also more than likely going to be windy. An umbrella on a Scottish mountain might serve a use as a walking pole perhaps, or a make-shift lightning conductor stuck in the ground while you run down as quickly as possible. But not for keeping the rain off your head. That's what I have my hat for. It was this comment and the idea of a two hour train journey that made me take my fell-running shoes rather than my proper hiking boots. After all, Alps have paths and the climate is dry, compared to Scotland anyway.
Richard is a free-range naturist living in Bavaria and he runs the Naktiv website. We always do our best to avoid being naked on the hills in Scotland when other people are around. Germany has a far more relaxed attitude about nudity though. Eskimos may have thirty words to describe snow and Scots have thirty words to describe rain. Germans have three words for funny and one word for efficient. But they are the first to come up with a word for naturism; FKK, Frei Körper Kultur or free body culture. So it's not a problem if people see you naked on the hillside in Germany. Which is just as well as every mountain has a path, plenty of sign posts, several buildings and most probably some form of restaurant by the summit. Although nothing quite like the Brocken in the Harz which has a restuarant, a cafe, a proper tarmacced road, a hotel, a train station, and an old Soviet listening post.
Pretty soon after leaving the car-park and starting along a wooded path, Richard stopped by a bench and got undressed. Not really being familiar with the environment, or even sure where we were going, Stuart and I kept our clothes on. After a while we passed by an old man walking his dog and Richard's dog, being scared of other dogs had to be kept under control. The old man didn't react to Richard being naked and it was clear that the conversation would have been no different had Richard been clothed. We carried on and then it started to rain. I immediately remember Ben Klibreck and my regret about not staying naked and keeping my clothes dry so I decided to undress. I had a paclite jacket and trousers in my bag but it's better if you don't have to wear them. Stuart kept his clothes on and then later came to regret it as his T-shirt got soaked. He took it off and walked up topless.
I had to admit to feeling less socially awkward meeting other people if it wasn't just Richard that was naked. Outdoor nudity in unexpected areas is far less likely to be misunderstood as something else if it's part of a group, especially one that is mixed sex. There's one thing being told that a culture is more accepting of certain things and another thing seeing it for yourself. The next time we passed someone walking down the path Richard made sure to engage in a friendly chat and say Hello and I realised that it definitely helps to be fluent in German. After a while I learned to relax when passing groups of people as it became clear that no one was in the least bit uncomfortable.
The rain got worse and Richard opened his umbrella. My hat didn't stop me from getting soaked but I was happy to finally get a chance to walk up a mountain naked. Normally in Scotland, either there is too much chance of meeting someone else or we have to wait for a long time before our bodies are generating enough heat to keep us warm enough. This is why we only ever walked down naked. The one opportunity I had in Scotland was Ben Klibreck when I was in the middle of putting some clothes on after seeing other people ahead and was interupted by a thunderstorm that made us abandon the ascent.
Stuart and I hadn't been up a mountain for 11 months and so we both needed a break. It was still raining so we hid under the trees for shelter. Normally I would have put on an extra layer to keep warm but I didn't want to get them wet. When we started off again I had to put on my paclite jacket and trousers for twenty minutes to warm up. It was a welcome relief to stop the rucksack rubbing against the skin on my back but as I warmed up it all started to feel clammy against the skin so I got undressed again. Eventually the rain started to ease a little and we were greeted with a decent view from where we had come from.
As we got within sight of the summit, the rain stopped and we saw a patch of blue sky. The sun came out and we were then greeted with a view of the other side of the mountain. I decided that this would be a good spot to get properly naked and to take off my hat and boots. A couple who overtook us earlier were resting at a disused building that used to be rented out until regulations came in that made it economically unviable to continue.
There were serious storm clouds on the horizon but we judged from the wind that they would miss us. The sun came out on the final approach to the summit and I was surprised at just how warm it was. I didn't realise at the time that my shoulders were getting sunburnt. I just did not expect to get burnt in such a short period of time. Ironically both Stuart and I had brought suncream with us and missed the opportunity to save weight and share yet we didn't use it.
We considered whether to continue on or return the way we came. We decided to continue on along the path on ridge and followed the German-Austrian border through some woods. I started to take notice of the differences between the Alps and the Munros. There were plenty of trees and bushes growing by the summit. There were cows with cowbells round their necks on the edge of the woods. On the other side of the fence there were many flowers growing on the grassy slope. Soon the sky darkened and it started to rain again. Being a firm believer in wearing appropriate clothing for the mountains I put my hat on again.
The descent started to feel more like a munro than an alp and I started to regret not having my proper hiking boots. The path started to peter out and the terrain became more slippery and muddy. I was surprised at just how varied the environment was. Sometimes we'd be walking through woods, cliff faces sometimes rose above us, or we'd come across a green grassy slope with inhabited buildings and dirt tracks.
The path started to get particularly muddy and slippery as we got lower down and not having the appropriate footwear meant that I had to sometimes crouch down and slide carefully. The view opened up as we reached another dirt track. I was surprised and impressed to find alpine strawberries growing in the middle of it so I picked a couple of small fruit for their seeds. Looking at the picture you can see both the mud covering my legs, the grazing of the backpack and the sunburn on my shoulders.
We followed the road through a large flat grassy field and Richard told us there was a Gasthof coming up and it was a good idea to get dressed again. As I was getting dressed a couple of large cows came over to meet me. We passed the Gasthof and Richard took his clothes off again. I didn't realise that we still had a long way to go so I decided to stay dressed. It was just as well because my shoes later slipped when descending a steep muddy slope with steps cut out. I actually bounced so much that I landed twice with equal force. I was worried for a moment that the edges of the steps would damage my backbone but my backpack took the brunt of the impact. It has a metal frame to keep the fabric away from the skin to stop your back sweating too much and this must have acted like a spring. I hit the ground the second time on the other side of my body and worried for a moment that I had broken my arm. Luckily I escaped with some bruises and grazes but nothing major.
© Free Range Naturism