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blackbird04217
09-04-2015, 14:53
A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I went hiking in Washington, Mother Mountain Loop, and it was the first time I've had to bail out on a trip, but better safe than sorry.

You can read about the trip here, with some pictures: http://www.timbeaudet.com/blog/2015/09/04/hypothermia/

The summary was my girlfriends pace is slower than mine so our bodies remained cooler than I would have expected alone in similar conditions. This combined with skipping lunch, and the weather ramping up put us in a moderate-severe hypothermic state where I made the decision to pop up camp to get dry and warm. When my girlfriend said "I don't know how to do that" to the simple task of taking off the wet clothes, I was a little alarmed at the situation. I knew we were cold, but that was an alarming moment that she was -really- cold. This was the first time my "dry layer" theory was put to the test, and I'm happy to report it worked great, we got warmed up in a few hours. Spent the night in the tent and walked out the next day.

However, I need to learn to read the signs of hypothermia on others. At what point did "I am cold" become a warning sign. I had been pushing us on to get over the top and down to treeline, but the cold had been colder than I anticipated. I myself started getting mildly hypothermic while setting up the tent. It is impossible to watch shivering on someone else while walking. What could I have done better?

CarlZ993
09-04-2015, 17:23
When things go south, they go south quickly. 'Feed the furnace' is something I've been told when dealing w/ cold situations. Eat & drink as you go. I couldn't tell if you guys were wearing rain pants or not. If you don't, you really got to hustle to generate enough body heat to avoid hypothermia.

Glad it worked out okay for your guys.

JustaTouron
09-04-2015, 17:28
I would say an important part, is knowing the other person. If your gf is not a whiner, than the first time she said she was cold, should have been enough to cause concern.

Second, u mentioned her lack of speed as a factor. Then u weren't wearing enough clothes. You should have enough warm clothes to be comfortable during an extended rest break, and then strip down from there based on your body heat. Not be dependent on constant movement for warmth.

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Vegan Packer
09-04-2015, 17:41
Wow, sounds like you were there around the same time that I was there. I did the Spray/Seattle Park Wonderland Loop from August 3 to 5, and I was lucky enough to have great weather, even at that 6,400 foot spot.
31894

As a scuba instructor, I can tell you that hypothermia related issues can quickly become deadly. Even by the time that someone starts to shiver, that person's core temperature is dangerously low. Water soaks up heat so much quicker than cold air, and it's capacity (how much it can absorb) is much more than air. In water, a person cannot generate enough heat to reverse the situation simply by doing vigorous activity.

The short version is to dress properly for weather conditions, and to assure that you never get wet enough for the issue to start, or to get dry as soon as you do. Prevention is the only way to go. In addition to proper insulation of your core, head, hands and feet are major sources of heat loss; make sure to adequately insulate them, too.

Once hypothermia starts to occur, the only things that you can do are to remove yourself from the wet condition, dress in dry clothing that insulates, and, if able to tolerate it (not if the person is less than fully responsive enough), to drink hot liquids, which will do more than eating. There are other measures that can be done, but it is not practical to do those in the field. Shock is a major risk, so observe and treat for that, should it occur.

blackbird04217
09-04-2015, 18:32
Thanks guys for the input,

CarlZ993 - Yes, in the case of my situation I was just "reasonably cold" but was certainly lightly/moderately hypothermic by the time I got in the tent. It was shocking how quickly it set in on me, never having experienced it before.

JustaTouron - That is something I need to learn, we've hiked together a few times, and she isn't overly whiney but I obviously didn't account for how cold she was. I knew it was cold going, and in previous experiences moving on keeps you warm, but that requires pace which I've learned is something we don't have in such a situation. An extra wet layer is on order for any similar hikes as are the rain pants. We did have enough layers to be warm had we stopped moving, but I deem the thermals and jackets as dry wear only, something that came in useful once we got in the tent and could put dry clothes on.

Vegan Packer - We were in that area August 14th and 15th. I can tell what is going on with my own body, having dealt with it enough, but I greatly need to improve upon understanding others that I take out.

I feel pretty awful the situation evolved as it did, obviously the extra layer will help next time, but still a skill I'd like to really have an understanding of so it doesn't catch me out. I nearly stopped 15 minutes or so before we actually setup, but there was some insistence that we continue, I'm glad I stuck with the call the second time, it was the right thing to do.

Heliotrope
09-04-2015, 20:43
Thanks guys for the input,

CarlZ993 - Yes, in the case of my situation I was just "reasonably cold" but was certainly lightly/moderately hypothermic by the time I got in the tent. It was shocking how quickly it set in on me, never having experienced it before.

JustaTouron - That is something I need to learn, we've hiked together a few times, and she isn't overly whiney but I obviously didn't account for how cold she was. I knew it was cold going, and in previous experiences moving on keeps you warm, but that requires pace which I've learned is something we don't have in such a situation. An extra wet layer is on order for any similar hikes as are the rain pants. We did have enough layers to be warm had we stopped moving, but I deem the thermals and jackets as dry wear only, something that came in useful once we got in the tent and could put dry clothes on.

Vegan Packer - We were in that area August 14th and 15th. I can tell what is going on with my own body, having dealt with it enough, but I greatly need to improve upon understanding others that I take out.

I feel pretty awful the situation evolved as it did, obviously the extra layer will help next time, but still a skill I'd like to really have an understanding of so it doesn't catch me out. I nearly stopped 15 minutes or so before we actually setup, but there was some insistence that we continue, I'm glad I stuck with the call the second time, it was the right thing to do.

Sounds like you did a good job. I was close a couple times last year in early September. Both times it was late in the day after a long day of hiking and sweating a lot. Once I stopped for a few minutes I got very chilled. I changed to dry layers and made a hot meal. One of the times it wasn't day's end but it was raining in the late afternoon. I didn't want to break the hiking pace we were on. But I knew I needed to warm up. So we stopped at a shelter and I made hot food. Then I could hike comfortably til nightfall. My lesson was to pay attention and be willing to stop to warm up. Use the gear you have in your pack. Stop and get into your sleeping bag if you must


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Vegan Packer
09-05-2015, 02:04
BTW, after you try to warm up, just because you don't feel cold anymore does not mean that your core temperature is back up to normal. A good rule of thumb is to warm yourself until you start to break a sweat. Obviously, you will want to dry yourself when that happens, to avoid a repeat episode.

MuddyWaters
09-05-2015, 07:56
Some terrain isnt strenuous enough to keep warm. Particularly easy flat, and steep downhill which causes to slow down an pick foot plavement.

Always good to have extra layers. In cool wet conditions.

garlic08
09-05-2015, 08:16
Washington State has plenty of similar memories for me, most recently a spring bike tour over the North Cascades Hwy. Here's an excerpt from my journal:

"Today was an exciting one. I decided to try Sherman Pass today, though at 5500' it's considerably above yesterday's 4500' snow line. The ascent went well. I had plenty of energy and strength. But the rain got pretty heavy on the pass, and as much as I tried, I could not keep dry. I kept my thickest jersey dry in the pack and I donned it at the summit, but I was concerned about the descent. I had a cold headwind, too.
On the descent, a strange thing happened. My bike has been very stable with the load in the back and none on front. But now it started wobbling. I finally figured out it was me, shivering. That's not good. I stopped just below snow line and ate lunch. Of course, immediately after eating, it got worse. I'm used to that from winter trips. So I started doing squats of a sort, up and down from the saddle, using the thigh muscles to generate some heat. To my surprise, that worked. Then I tucked as tight as I could to keep the wind off my torso and that helped too, in a way, but I didn't like going over 40 mph in the first stages of hypothermia.

The steep descent lasted about 10 miles and the air warmed a bit and the rain slackened, so the crisis was over and my clothes were even dried out before I got into Kettle Falls."

I've purposely over-used my thigh muscles on hiking trips to generate heat on descents, most memorably on the PCT in Washington during a very wet August.

But absolutely, as mentioned already, keeping well fed and even hydrated (oxymoronic during a rain storm) is extremely important in those circumstances. It is really difficult to stop and fill up a water bottle and drink it in a freezing, soaking rain, but it's so important.

It sounds like experience won the day for the OP, and he added another tool to the kit. Knowing when to bail out is a critical skill.

Pedaling Fool
09-05-2015, 08:45
Washington State has plenty of similar memories for me, most recently a spring bike tour over the North Cascades Hwy. Here's an excerpt from my journal:

"Today was an exciting one. I decided to try Sherman Pass today, though at 5500' it's considerably above yesterday's 4500' snow line. The ascent went well. I had plenty of energy and strength. But the rain got pretty heavy on the pass, and as much as I tried, I could not keep dry. I kept my thickest jersey dry in the pack and I donned it at the summit, but I was concerned about the descent. I had a cold headwind, too.
On the descent, a strange thing happened. My bike has been very stable with the load in the back and none on front. But now it started wobbling. I finally figured out it was me, shivering. That's not good. I stopped just below snow line and ate lunch. Of course, immediately after eating, it got worse. I'm used to that from winter trips. So I started doing squats of a sort, up and down from the saddle, using the thigh muscles to generate some heat. To my surprise, that worked. Then I tucked as tight as I could to keep the wind off my torso and that helped too, in a way, but I didn't like going over 40 mph in the first stages of hypothermia.

The steep descent lasted about 10 miles and the air warmed a bit and the rain slackened, so the crisis was over and my clothes were even dried out before I got into Kettle Falls."

I've purposely over-used my thigh muscles on hiking trips to generate heat on descents, most memorably on the PCT in Washington during a very wet August.

But absolutely, as mentioned already, keeping well fed and even hydrated (oxymoronic during a rain storm) is extremely important in those circumstances. It is really difficult to stop and fill up a water bottle and drink it in a freezing, soaking rain, but it's so important.

It sounds like experience won the day for the OP, and he added another tool to the kit. Knowing when to bail out is a critical skill.

That's funny. Same exact thing happened to me, but luckily thru the Appalachians, so my descent wasn't nearly as long. I made the mistake of setting up camp (along Blueridge Parkway) at the end of the day, after a very tough climb, this was a tour I was on in Sept/Oct time frame. I woke up the next day to a very cold, damp, foggy morning. I started my descent and before long my legs were shivering so bad, for a minute I thought it was my wheels coming off the frame. I remember looking down and seeing my legs vibrating uncontrollably.

Lesson learned: Never stop for the night on top of a hill; always begin your day with a climb:)

I could see a similar thing happening during a hike, but at least you don't have the windchill factor, unless of course it's a very windy day:D

Snowleopard
09-05-2015, 11:29
Here's Old Fhart's excellent Hypothermia article on WB:
http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/content.php/199-Hypothermia

You needed to be wearing warmer layers and possibly have better rain gear. When it's cold, it's always good to have food and water constantly available and be constantly eating and drinking.

Your sleeping bag getting wet could have become a big problem; maybe once you were nicely warmed up you should have checked your site and even moved the tent to stay dry.

pyroman53
09-05-2015, 11:48
I'm not sure its possible to stay dry when hiking in the rain. In fact, if I'm hiking in anything more than 50 degrees I'm wet, maybe to the core. Saying I should stay dry is, for me, unrealistic. Staying warm during a break is also. Eating constantly, hydrating, and moving purposefully is what I have to do. Then, I have to be ready to quickly set up camp and into dry clothes at the end of the day or if any of the above fail to stave off severe chilling. Being able to monitor my condition is the critical part of my hike and one that keeps me awake at night.

JustaTouron
09-05-2015, 14:40
Sounds like a possible case of being too UL. I don't need warm clothes nfor during the day, just for at night, I can stay warm during the day by hiking faster.

You hear a lot of very seasoned vets urging newbies into being UL. That IMHO is a mistake. Everyone should start off by packing too much and trim as they gain experience, as oppose too add when they realize what they didn't bring almost killed them. Even if the OP brought enough clothes for his level of experience, his gf did not.

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blackbird04217
09-05-2015, 16:12
Sounds like a possible case of being too UL.

You have obviously not hiked with me and I can assure you it was not a case of being too ultra light, I find this a bit offending and I'm trying hard not to.

You are correct, the layers taken would have been enough for me had I been alone at my pace. Obviously I misjudged the amount of body heat vs pace change that occurred on this particular trip, previous trips didn't have the same cliff on pace, and I'm positive that was caused by not stopping for lunch. An additional wet layer, and rain pants would have helped. I've learned this.

I was hoping to learn what to notice about the condition of others to be able to stop/bail earlier if needed.

The rain jackets are brand new and performed their jobs splendidly. Rain pants are being added to the packs, along with an extra long sleeve top layer that we allow to get wet. Part of the situation was caused by me not allowing us to put on the jackets in order to keep them dry, but then that tactic also came in extremely helpful, so I'll do that again in the future. Rain pants and top layer should prevent the same situation in the future, but doesn't help my ability to detect such a situation earlier, which is why I brought up the question.

Fredt4
09-05-2015, 16:39
Doesn't appear you or her were hypothermic, perhaps approaching.

Knowing the symptoms can make it clear when you need to take preventive measures. Generally knowing your limits and conditions helps you avoid approaching hypothermic conditions.
Options:
Keep hiking till you get to a hot shower, if that's an option.
Set up camp, get dry & warm.
Find someone else that has a dry camp if you're unable to setup a adequate camp.
Cook a hot meal &/or beverage.
Hike out, if possible.


From WebMD:
Hypothermia symptoms for adults include:

Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person's heat regulation systems are still active. )
Slow, shallow breathing
Confusion and memory loss
Drowsiness or exhaustion
Slurred or mumbled speech
Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
A slow, weak pulse
In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse

Feral Bill
09-05-2015, 16:53
On the Kettle Crest (WA) a few years ago I was camped with my son in the snow. He noticed my shivering a bit and ordered me into my bag while he made dinner. I warmed up pretty quickly, but it was concerning. In decades of winter camping in serious cold, this was a first for me.
So: If you are with others, monitor each other often. If alone, relentlessly self monitor.

Water Rat
09-05-2015, 23:41
Doesn't appear you or her were hypothermic, perhaps approaching.

Knowing the symptoms can make it clear when you need to take preventive measures. Generally knowing your limits and conditions helps you avoid approaching hypothermic conditions.
Options:
Keep hiking till you get to a hot shower, if that's an option.
Set up camp, get dry & warm.
Find someone else that has a dry camp if you're unable to setup a adequate camp.
Cook a hot meal &/or beverage.
Hike out, if possible.


From WebMD:
Hypothermia symptoms for adults include:

Shivering, which may stop as hypothermia progresses (shivering is actually a good sign that a person's heat regulation systems are still active. )
Slow, shallow breathing
Confusion and memory loss
Drowsiness or exhaustion
Slurred or mumbled speech
Loss of coordination, fumbling hands, stumbling steps
A slow, weak pulse
In severe hypothermia, a person may be unconscious without obvious signs of breathing or a pulse

There are 3 stages (mild, moderate, severe) of hypothermia. A person can progress through the stages extremely fast... As the girlfriend made the comment, "I don't know how to do that," I would personally take that as a sign of confusion. Only attaching my response to Fred's response in order to add to it.

Anyone experiencing hypothermia needs to be warmed up, but do not attempt to warm them up too fast. If you are dealing with a person who might be hypothermic, wrap the person in blankets and let his/her own body rewarm to temperature. Give them warm fluids to drink. In a more severe situation, wrap the victim with another person to slowly bring the victim's temp up. In an extreme situation, those with adequate training can introduce carefully warmed fluids intraveneously. NEVER immerse in warm water (shower/hot bath). The sudden change of extremes is just too much and the blood pressure can drop fast.

Five Tango
09-06-2015, 09:03
Would now be an opportune time to ask what sort of snack might be the best to help stave off hypothermia?I note the OP mentioned skipping lunch as a factor.I would think some foods might work better than others in an emergency situation?

Another Kevin
09-06-2015, 09:43
Would now be an opportune time to ask what sort of snack might be the best to help stave off hypothermia?I note the OP mentioned skipping lunch as a factor.I would think some foods might work better than others in an emergency situation?

If hypothermia is already setting on, quick energy from something sugary. A lot of the mountaineers around here swear by drinking hot Jell-O in that situation. Then you need to follow up with something fatty - nuts, cheese, chocolate, sausage, peanut butter crackers, whatever works for you - to keep the fire stoked once it's going again. I've hiked with one guy who brings a bag of chocolate covered almonds in winter and munches a few at intervals all day long.

One important thing in winter is that you need to have at least some trail food that can be eaten even if it freezes. Cheese, sausage, energy bars, and so on all should be cut in bite-sized pieces.

It's just as important to stay hydrated, and dehydration can make hypothermia much, much worse. Some hikers take most of their water with meals, so the skipped lunch might have been a factor here, too. It's easy in the winter to forget to drink because you don't notice that you're sweating, much less the water you're losing with breath.

Carry your water bottles upside down, because ice floats. Even if they're half frozen, you can still get at the remaining water. In winter I use Nalgene bottles with Reflectix jackets (lighter than Thermos bottles). If I can spare the fuel, I fill one with boiling water when I'm cooking, so that I have some hope of finding at least one bottle unfrozen. I find that if I carry a Camelbak in my pack, it generally doesn't freeze because it's right up against my back, but I have to remember to blow the hose clear every time I take a drink, because it will get choked with ice. I really don't like depending on a Camelbak in cold weather, so I don't always bring it.

Five Tango
09-06-2015, 12:53
Thanks,Kevin.I note from a post you made the other day that it's good idea to fill tomorrow mornings cookpot tonight in cold weater so if the water freezes it's in the pot already.Never would have thot of that or the "invert the bottle" trick.I have never been a fan of drinking tubes but I do have one,including one that is insulated.Never would have thot about cutting up the energy bars in case they freeze either.Good points!

garlic08
09-06-2015, 13:30
...One important thing in winter is that you need to have at least some trail food that can be eaten even if it freezes. Cheese, sausage, energy bars, and so on all should be cut in bite-sized pieces...

Another good tip is to have meals that do not require cooking. Especially if you're alone and hypothermic, you might not be able to light a stove or fire. Instant mashed potatoes and ramen noodles are two hikers' staples that can be eaten without cooking.

Ditto the simple carb snack immediately (I carry dried fruit, usually raisins), with or followed by fatty food (nuts for me). That definitely falls into the prevention category, as well. If you, like me, depend heavily on keeping the furnace going to stay warm, you gotta feed (and water) the furnace.

The partner saying "I don't know how to do that" to a simple task was a good catch that things are going very bad very quickly. A friend on a winter trip caught that when a partner started talking about the World Series, in January. Paying attention like that and acting promptly probably saved a life.

JustaTouron
09-06-2015, 15:52
Sorry if I offended you, that was not my intent. I have never hiked with you so I can only go by what you wrote.

As I read your post, the primary issue was NOT your or your gf inability to realize you were cold, it was the lack of equipment to fix the problem.

When I hike with my kids I don't stress too much over if they are cold or not. When they get cold they mention they need to stop, they get a layer out of their bag put it on. If they get too warm, we stop and they take a layer off. The only time I would get concern is if one of my kids complained they were cold and they were wearing all of their available clothing. This does result in some day hikes in which we come home with clothing that was carried up and down the mountain having never been worn. It also means that on some XC skiing trip we might have three times as much clothing in our daypacks than on our bodies except for the brief time we stop for lunch.

Your gf knew well before the onset of hypothermia she would be more comfortable if she put on a layer or two. The problem is she didn't have a layer or two to put on. As for why she didn't, I made the speculation it was because you were trying to save weight and accused you of going too UL.

I would rather 9 times carry an extra jacket up a mountain and not need it, than on the 10th time be cold and not have the jacket. Pretty much the antitheses of UL.

Fredt4
09-06-2015, 23:04
You hear a lot of very seasoned vets urging newbies into being UL. That IMHO is a mistake. Everyone should start off by packing too much and trim as they gain experience, as oppose too add when they realize what they didn't . . .

Exactly, in a thread earlir this year someone asked if they needed a rainjacket. My opinion is that if you need to ask, you need it. As your skill level goes up, you can start tossing gear, until then you shouldn't be going UL.

blackbird04217
09-08-2015, 12:42
JustaTouron no hard feelings, I shouldn't have taken it quite as harshly as I had. I'm in the same boat as you, I'd rather carry something that may be needed and have it, than not need it. We had other layers, I just deemed them as dry at all cost layers that we don't use while wet. And for good reason. We just need to add an extra layer that we allow to get wet, due to the slower pace. But still the major fault in that day was the lack of lunch. I'm sure the food and extended break would have given more energy for the climb up and over. I just don't understand why we didn't stop at the spot we found after the bear, it makes no sense to me. But such is life. Live and learn.

JustaTouron
09-08-2015, 14:43
JustaTouron no hard feelings, I shouldn't have taken it quite as harshly as I had. I'm in the same boat as you, I'd rather carry something that may be needed and have it, than not need it. We had other layers, I just deemed them as dry at all cost layers that we don't use while wet. And for good reason. We just need to add an extra layer that we allow to get wet, due to the slower pace. But still the major fault in that day was the lack of lunch. I'm sure the food and extended break would have given more energy for the climb up and over. I just don't understand why we didn't stop at the spot we found after the bear, it makes no sense to me. But such is life. Live and learn.

Glad we are cool. Not having lunch was definitely a factor. Maybe one of the reasons you didn't stop was if you did you would get even colder.

For a backpacking trip I feel you need pretty much two complete sets of clothing. One for hiking and one for sleeping. However I don't stress too much about sweat getting fleece or wool wet one your are past the second layer. Here is what I mean. Absolutely you need 2-3 pairs of long johns and the next layer. But if I have on a wicking longsleeve shirt and a turtle neck and wool shirt, I am not worried my sweat is going to render the wool shirt useless that night. Yeah the bottom two layers might get damp and I will change them, but long before I sweat enough to soak the shirt it is going to be off and in my pack. AND it will keep me warm even if it is a bit damp as long as the layer next to my skin is dry. As long as you don't have cotton on any layer and the layer next to your skin is dry a bit of moister in an insulation layer is not a big deal.

Also always take a winter hat. For the amount of warmth they provide they involve very little weight. And as an added bonus they are the easiest clothing to use to regulate temperature. Don't need to remove your pack to take it off or put it back on just shove it in your pocket.

Traveler
09-08-2015, 16:27
Also always take a winter hat. For the amount of warmth they provide they involve very little weight. And as an added bonus they are the easiest clothing to use to regulate temperature. Don't need to remove your pack to take it off or put it back on just shove it in your pocket.

I have always been, and continue to be, amazed at the value of a cheap winter Navy Pea Hat that can pull down over the forehead and ears. Its remarkable how much body heat you can conserve with this simple garment. I don't believe there is a month out of the year I have not found my trusty hat useful at some point. I believe this simple hat has saved me from hypothermia more than once or twice and is one of my "must have" items in my pack wherever I am.