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Hypothermia Survival Stories

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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby SSSdave » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:12 pm

Well I've got a bunch of winter snow camping gear and have purposely backpacked into MILD winter storms the worst of which only dropped 11 inches of new snow and was 15F degrees the next morning. I would NEVER choose to backpack into major Sierra winter storms that often dump several feet and last for days.

I've also been a skier 3 decades and often storm ski because that is when fresh powder is best, dry, cold, and loose. Thus that is how I have come to know how dangerous cold plus winds really can be. Ski lifts have a way of occasionally breaking down in storms when winds are strong. Not so much today with modern ski lift technology but decades ago ski lifts were less sophisticated. So a few times have been stuck exposed up on a lift for several minutes multi dozen feet above the snowpack below, with temps below 20F, strong winds howling into every tiny crack in my clothing armor. In such a situation, it very very easy to imagine how quickly our ancestors caught outside in such conditions have died. After two or three minutes a person is really starting to wonder if the lift is ever going to start up again or its going to be one of those scary rescues with several teams with climbing gear pulling up to the lifts and harnessing in each person to the ground. One really wonders if gambling dropping 30 or 40 feet down instead of waiting to be rescued in time is the wiser choice.

When I read of people who plan to gamble backpacking into possible major early winter storms up in ranges like the Sierra, I tend to discourage such notions unless they are experienced mountaineers, prepared with winter gear, who are familiar with what they may be up against.



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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby gdurkee » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:28 pm

Ah George--the old naked ranger syndrome! I remember it well!

Mike


It was a good test of ranger presence and authority: "Badges? We don't need no steenkin' badges" Or clothes, either... .
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby whitelighter » Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:40 pm

It was getting dark, dropping quickly to freezing, and raining. Me & my hiking partner found a guy who was conscious, but soaked, and had slurred speech. What worried me most was his reduced shivering. We were 5 miles from the road. I knew how to start a fire in rain so getting him dry seemed top priority. We had a tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 water bottles which could be warmed, & warm liquids - he seemed able to swallow. I knew walking can raise body temp but also that moving a hypothermic person is dangerous so I went to get help & my hiking buddy stayed with him. SAR came & found them. I don't know if our makeshift treatment would've been enough to raise his body temp significantly.
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby gdurkee » Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:08 pm

I went to an interesting talk by an MD on hypothermia. He worked in a city ER as well as being a mountaineer. Interestingly, they see a fair amount of hypothermic patients come in even in mild weather urban areas. Many emergency responders are so busy treating the primary injury they forget the person is compromised and, often, slipping into hypothermia. This is especially true for drug or alcohol induced problems In wilderness settings, insulating the person needs to be a high priority in all cases.

One of his points was you just can't generate enough heat using water bottles or even another body to warm a person who's core is in the low 90s. So a fire is the best plan. You're right that you need to be gentle with a person in serious hypothermia. The danger is setting off an arrhythmia. I'm not sure when this is a critical danger. If the person's conscious, I think there's less danger. I ought to follow up on that. But with help 5 miles away, you guys had no choice anyway. Fire, dry clothes and go for help. Good work.

g.
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby whrdafamI? » Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:36 pm

Removed.
Last edited by whrdafamI? on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby maverick » Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:56 pm

Hi Whitelighter,

Welcome to HST! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, hopefully we will hear
more of your experiences in the Sierra.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby rlown » Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:30 pm

Wow! Bill. A tube tent in Humphreys basin. Glad you got in your bag. I would have just snacked in the sack.
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby whitelighter » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:08 pm

Thanks for the input. One other thing I was hoping someone could tell me - would hiking in damp clothing in cold weather cancel out any warming effect of staying active? It was taking longer for his clothes to dry than I'd expected and unfortunately what little spare clothing we'd put on him was hardly adequate.
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby rlown » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:20 pm

ok. wet clothes come off. You can go Hypo even just hiking. into the bag or bags. and warm as you can.

here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothermia

or here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothermia/DS00333


You warm the people you are with the best you can. That's as good as it gets if you're not near evac.

If you even think someone is hypothermic, put them in a bag.
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby gdurkee » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:34 pm

Good place to insert a suggestion to ALWAYS carry a set of long underwear and dry socks in a plastic bag. No matter what, you only use it when in your tent and sleeping bag.

Nothing really wrong with a tube tent, if you can set it up effectively. Until the mid-70s or so, that was really the lightest tent around.

The key, as Russ notes, is to recognize it in your group and deal with IMMEDIATELY -- not wait to find the better camp spot or your intended destination. In my experience, the fatal cases have been following multi-day tropical storms in the Sierra. People keep hiking to get out and succumb on the way rather than get in the tent and wait it out..
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby maverick » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:59 pm

GDurkee wrote:
In my experience, the fatal cases have been following multi-day tropical storms
in the Sierra. People keep hiking to get out and succumb on the way rather than
get in the tent and wait it out..


This is very important because many folks believe if they keep moving they will
keep their body core temperatures in the safe zone, but this is incorrect, and
once we stop, especially if it becomes or stays windy, our body core temps plummet
causing a sudden onset of uncontrollable shaking that leads to even more dangerous
consequences if not dealt with immediately.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby BrianF » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:02 pm

A long time ago (so this may not be current training) when I was an EMT on a SAR team, we were taught that in cases of Immersion Hypothermia (from being in cold water for a period of time) it is dangerous to try to have the victim walk or move about to rewarm. In cold water blood flow to the extremities shuts down quickly allowing the pooled blood in the legs and arms to cool to much lower temps than the core temp. If the victim begins to run about it can result in a sudden inflow of that cooled blood back into the core suddenly lowering the core temperature by quite a bit and can result in ventricular fibrulation or at least worsening the situation. Best to dry off, and apply external warming and keep core elevated.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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