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Hypothermia Survival Stories

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.

Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby HSTuser » Sun Oct 27, 2013 11:51 pm

Was listed as moderately hypothermic on the mountain rescue web page, but the symptoms matched more advanced moderate or severe hypothermia.

I summited Mt. Hood with one crampon, haven broken the other on the way up (crap rental). Upon attemping to return back to the lodge after the summit, one of my partners fell down the "Old Chute." He was bruised up and limping badly so we were making very little progress, and we were very low on food and water. I fell on the same portion along with my partner, and even managed to lose my axe, as it popped out of my hands since I made the attempt to stop too late into the slide. After losing the axe I dug my heels in and kept sliding, finally stopping because the grade wasn't too severe.

At this point I was already feeling the effects of hypothermia because I had climbed with a thin shell and even took off the jacket and gloves at the top because I was sweating uncontrollably. Once we collected ourselves from the slides, I decided that I would let my partners go on without me and that I would catch up, figuring that I would be able to overtake them eventually (I was exhausted at this point). Shortly thereafter I believed that my other crampon had broken, so it was very difficult to make it down the solid ice that had formed. I was later told that I had imagined that my crampon broke and that in reality it was found in my backpack, removed and unbroken. Used my axe, cutting side to side due to the grade, and made slow progress. Once night fell, I lost all control of my mental abilities and collapsed on the ice. I tried to pull the beacon for the MLU (beacon), but realized about 20 minutes later that I had not properly pulled the pin (lucky that I found out). Hallucinated that my friends had returned with help, but that was all in my mind.

After some time on the ice, I got my mind back together for a short period and tried to make my way down. I ran straight down the ice, which at this point was not too steep, but fell on my knees repeatedly badly bruising them. Later on they swelled to the size of large grapefruits. Took a few days for the swelling to go down.

The ski area on the mountain over was lit up for night skiing, but I imagined that it was a house with lights on in the windows. I kept screaming at them to help and thought I saw people walking around on the "deck" of the "house". I also remember the wind picking up and hearing voices being carried over, so I kept yelling for help.

I began to see boulders, and thought that they were demons, so I got down on one knee, made the sign of the cross, and went to battle the demons.

I spent the night slipping between hallucinations and periods where I was conscious and able to attempt to make my way down, but everything looked the same to me. I saw a glimmering forest that turned out to be the city of Madras (? most likely, given where I was found).

I guessed that I was in purgatory, having to fight my demons to reach heaven. All hope of surviving had passed, so I began what I thought of as terminal burrowing. I dug my arms into my jackets and huddled on the ground in a small clump, as compact as possible. I dug the ice axe into the ground and wrapped my legs around it, using it as an anchor to keep myself in one position. I was debating removing my clothing or killing myself with the ice axe, thinking that I needed to die to escape this false reality (ala Inception). My fingers inched dangerously close to the axe as the night went on.

I imagined the devil appearing above me and offering an end to the suffering, as long as I gave in to his temptations, but I rejected him at every offer. The mountain above had a menacing aura of sorts, but even that is not a proper description. I thought of it as its own entity, indifferent to my suffering but not contributing, either. Rather I saw it as an eternal shrine to the Universe while I was a mere speck on its side, insignificant to the big picture. I could hear a loud scream being carried by the wind, more primal than of fear, every time I looked up at it.

Finally, I rejected the devil's offers one final time, and angels appeared to carry me away. Those angels were in fact the headlamps of the mountain rescuers (Portland Mountain Rescue, who along with Clackamas County SAR saved my life). I immediately asked them how long it had been, thinking that weeks had passed. In reality, only 20 hours had gone by since the beginning of my climb.

After 45 minutes of warming in the ambulance, my body temp. was still at 93 degrees Farenheit. The rescuers truly saved my life.

I was 17 years old when this happened, with no previous climbing experience. My parents thought I was at a sleepover.

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Re: Hypothermia Survival Stories

Postby maverick » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:43 am

Hi HSTuser,

Welcome to HST! Quite a dramatic first post, glad you made it out alive.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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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