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  1. #21
    Registered User carouselambra's Avatar
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    Was that 2008? I spent a cold 4th of July weekend in Grayson Highlands in 2008.

    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    The GSMNP website recommends rain gear for any hike in the back country.
    https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/hikingsafety.htm

    Once was camped at Icewater Spring shelter on the 4th of July. Noticed the weather was unseasonably cold, and learned the next day that LeConte Lodge had recorded an overnight low of 38F.
    With rain gear, sleeping bags, and emergency shelter (in case anything kept us from getting to the campsite) meant that I was prepared and not in danger of hypothermia. But it points out that hypothermia in the south can still be a concern in the middle of summer. Something many day hikers to the area don't consider.

    On the subject, again things turned out fine but I had a relative vacationing in the Rockies. Their hotel was at a low elevation and they drove up into the mountains for the day. Reached a location with snow on the ground and they got out of their car wearing shorts to check it out. The car wasn't in park and started to roll away. Fortunately jumped in the car and stopped it in time, at which point they realize just how screwed they could have been if they hadn't been able to stop the car.

  2. #22
    GSMNP 900 Miler HooKooDooKu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carouselambra View Post
    Was that 2008? I spent a cold 4th of July weekend in Grayson Highlands in 2008.
    No, the time I experienced lows in the 30's on the 4th of July in GSMNP had to have been within the last 5 years (that's how long my middle child has been camping with me in GSMNP).
    I don't think it was last year, and two years ago I would have been getting ready for a JMT thru hike. So it was likely 2015.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Set up camp and hunker in. "The trick is to always stop and get warm" Translation: Set Up Camp. Backpackers have gear and have good options to deal with hypothermia. We carry tents and bags and sleeping pads and stoves (most of us) and extra clothing and rain gear and even some Hot Hands pouches if needed.
    And then there are times when hypothermia nips at the heels so closely that the digits won't even operate. How to set up camp then? Heck, there have been times I could not even turn my front door's knob after winter bike rides or long hikes! Others with Raynaud's know what I'm talking about!

    Some tricks I learned a long while ago:

    1: Always be fit, so I could "hurry" and generate heat if I had to.
    2: This meant having easily-accessible snacks (since human heat is mostly generated through the use of calories) that didn't freeze solid. No zippers, no hard-to-open pouches, no exposed digits.
    3: Mittens instead of gloves, or, worst case scenario: hike with hands buried in the armpits or in the crotch. I think those of us who love cold-weather hiking/camping have all had to do this at one time or another. If it weren't for my crotch I'd have no fingers!
    4: Hand-warming pouches, like skiers use. (I carry these as a back-up all winter here in high-altitude Utah, despite hating creating waste.)
    5: Hot drinks. I actually carry a Thermos in winter. I realize this is impractical during thru-hikes, but it is entirely sensible during the cold, dark months. I just heat the tea in the morning, fill the liter-capacity Thermos and sip when needed.

    Then, of course, set up camp! Small (or large) fires have saved my butt many times.

    I'm one of the freaks who enjoys pretending survival is at risk and getting as closely to its dark edges as I can. Winter is the perfect time for it, in addition to having a lot more people-less space with which to roam. Here in Utah, just as it is elsewhere, we're lucky. Outside of spring and fall, the land is lonely and spacious.

  4. #24
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    I had two brushes with early stages of hypothermia after my thru hike, which was my only hiking experience to that point.

    The first was hiking from Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney by moonlight. I didn’t eat breakfast or drink anything until I was near the top. I went to have a snack and it stuck to the top of my mouth so I grabbed my water bottle which had ice crystals in it and mumbled a curse word. I started to rush up the mountain but calmed myself when I saw the emergency shelter. The stoners sleeping inside could tell I was in a bit of trouble by my delay in responding to them. They offered to make me tea while I got in my sleeping bag and caloried up before the sun rose.

    The next year in the French Alps I stupidly tried to beat the weather over a pass and wound up being sweaty when the rain and sleet started. Thankfully there was an emergency shelter at the sign telling me the hut halfway through the day was two miles away. I made some tea, changed out of my wet shirt into a puff jacket, got in my sleeping bag and ate before stopping for the day at the next hut.

    In each case the weather was fine when I started and neither hike was more than 10-15 miles but I had to stop halfway through each.

  5. #25
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    In early April of this year we were finishing up Pennsylvania, from Pt Clinton to DWG.

    Our itinerary included a couple days of slackpacking. One day we slacked 8 miles in 7 inches of snow from Smith Gap to Wind Gap. Not too bad. The next day we slacked 12 miles in 4 inches of snow from Lehigh Gap back to Smith Gap. Light rain started soon after we got up the Lehigh climb, and continued through most of the day. We were underdressed. We had borrowed tiny daypacks from our host, but they were too small to carry much of anything. I was wearing a base layer and rain gear. I might have been wearing a fleece vest - I don't think so, but it's hard to remember. I had some gloves.

    After we finished the climb, the trail stayed almost level on what appeared to be a snow-covered service road. It was kinda fun to scuff along through the slushy snow, but we didn't generate much heat. There was no sun. Rain continued. Started getting cold. Later we got up to an area near a tower where the trail crossed a service road and patchy snow obscured blazes painted on rocks. We lost the trail, followed some footsteps down the road, getting really cold, needed to eat, but didn't dare stop. Went back to the tower, found the trail, and went on. Kept going, going, going. Clothes were soaked. Boots and socks were soaked. Gloves were soaked. Don't stop, keep moving. The miles seemed to take forever. The theme of the day was Walk or Die. I don't ever want to do that again.

    Thankfully our shuttle was waiting for us at the end, and took us promptly to a hot shower.

    We should have taken one of our full-size packs with room for dry insulating layers, and a rain cover for the pack.

  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uriah View Post
    And then there are times when hypothermia nips at the heels so closely that the digits won't even operate. How to set up camp then? Heck, there have been times I could not even turn my front door's knob after winter bike rides or long hikes! Others with Raynaud's know what I'm talking about!

    Some tricks I learned a long while ago:

    1: Always be fit, so I could "hurry" and generate heat if I had to.
    2: This meant having easily-accessible snacks (since human heat is mostly generated through the use of calories) that didn't freeze solid. No zippers, no hard-to-open pouches, no exposed digits.
    3: Mittens instead of gloves, or, worst case scenario: hike with hands buried in the armpits or in the crotch. I think those of us who love cold-weather hiking/camping have all had to do this at one time or another. If it weren't for my crotch I'd have no fingers!
    4: Hand-warming pouches, like skiers use. (I carry these as a back-up all winter here in high-altitude Utah, despite hating creating waste.)
    5: Hot drinks. I actually carry a Thermos in winter. I realize this is impractical during thru-hikes, but it is entirely sensible during the cold, dark months. I just heat the tea in the morning, fill the liter-capacity Thermos and sip when needed.

    Then, of course, set up camp! Small (or large) fires have saved my butt many times.

    I'm one of the freaks who enjoys pretending survival is at risk and getting as closely to its dark edges as I can. Winter is the perfect time for it, in addition to having a lot more people-less space with which to roam. Here in Utah, just as it is elsewhere, we're lucky. Outside of spring and fall, the land is lonely and spacious.
    Nice thoughts. It's funny but when I'm in the worst conditions with a backpack there's usually no time for snacks. Sounds weird but it's true. I just can't stop long enough to take the time to pull out an energy bar and chew. This is most especially true if my snacks are in the pack because that pack is not coming off no matter what. Keep Moving is the mantra---I think Snake Plissken once said this in a movie. Very good advice.

    For me, the worst conditions mean I must squat and camp at the first place I find, even if it's in the middle of the trail. Why not?

    Regarding mittens---they really help keep the hands warm and even dry with the right gear (like MLD eVent mitt shells or Nilas down mittens). And it's fun to leave camp at 0F with a hot hands pouch in each mitten. Sayonara cold hands. You can tear open a used hot hands and sprinkle the harmless ingredients into a fire pit and burn the empty paper pouch---ergo no waste.

    Cold hands down my crotch? That's risky for me cuz I have a biting iguana down there---might lose digits!!

  7. #27
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    when I see trail runners at distance from a road the "what ifs " come to mind

    so much more resources when you are set for camping

  8. #28
    Garlic
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    Good stories, good lessons.

    I've never had a close call on a hike or ski. I learned my lesson on a pass descent on a touring bicycle.

    That was on a sunny beach in No. California, on a windy, mildly chilly day (mid 50s F) in May. I'd just climbed a steep 2000' grade from an inland valley at 80F and got myself soaked with sweat in cotton clothing, then coasted down to the beach. By the time I stopped, it was a struggle to open a pack to change clothing, or open a package of food, much less set up a stove. Scariest thing, I was confused about how best to handle the situation. Mistake there was not stopping to rest and eat and change clothing at the summit. I was fatigued and probably dehydrated, not to mention young and ignorant.

  9. #29

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    Aha! That CA story reminded me of a third "close call".... I grew up with the Big Red Machine (Reds) in Cincinnati, and in 1974, we did a road trip following them to CA, saw a couple of Reds/Dodger's games in LA, then off to see them in San Fran.... Yikes! About 40 degrees and drizzly at game time, here we were in shorts and t-shirts watching baseball in July in San Francisco, drinking beer and shivering uncontrollably. Yikes! "The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco!" (Mark Twain, I think).

  10. #30
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    Hands so cold you can't operate zippers, or even get your cold wet gloves off, legs so cold you can't manage to step over a knee high rock or get your leg over the top-tube of your bicycle to get off, uncontrollable shivering, heck, these were all standard fair growing up in Oregon and doing things outside in the winter time. We never thought much about it as early stage hypothermia, we just thought of it as miserably cold, uncomfortable, and inconvenient . . . the key being, at least as kids, we were never in these states of physical cold (and often soaking wet) where we were more than an hour or two from a car, house, lodge, or other shelter within reach as long as we kept moving. As an adult, I've certainly been in similarly cold and wet situations on a couple of occasions in the back-country where we needed to stop early and get into sleeping bags to get warm, but I never thought of it as being on the scary edge of hypothermia, I thought of it as being crazy cold and needing to take action before it got scary - or we lost the ability to think of it as scary.

    By far the coldest I've ever been, and the only time I thought of myself as being truly and problematically hypothermic was once when, along with all the other symptoms listed above I also lost the ability to speak coherently. Luckily I had capable people around me and it was mid-summer and 80+ degrees in the shade. So, once on land and out of my wholly inadequate and dysfunctional wet suit, getting warm wasn't a problem.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.I am wondering if anyone has ever used one of those emergency mylar blankets or shelters before and how it performed.I have one,weighs under 4 oz,and I have always wondered about how effective it would be when the chips are down.
    On our second section hike, which was almost entirely in the rain, our last night was unexpectedly cold. I had tossed the mylar blankets in my pack as an after thought. That night we were colder than I ever remember being. I pulled out the blankets and was thrilled to have them. While they were quite noisy, they did keep us warm. Since then, I always carry some in our packs.

    Sent from my SM-G965U using Tapatalk

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riocielo View Post
    . . . mylar blankets . . . I pulled out the blankets and was thrilled to have them. While they were quite noisy, they did keep us warm. Since then, I always carry some in our packs.
    I've found emergency blankets of limited use backpacking. Yes, they can be helpful when you have nothing else. But, if you are carrying a pack with shelter and insulation in it, you are better off adding 4 oz of weight to your sleeping bag insulation or carrying a shelter that is 4 oz heaver and more effective than you are carrying 4 oz of emergency blanket.

    Day hiking is another story. I still don't often carry an emergency blanket on day hikes because I carry my poncho for rain gear and emergency shelter. When I don't carry my poncho, I have been known to carry a SOL emergency bivvy that is essentially a folded over emergency blanket taped closed into a sleeping bag. And, for super-ultralight overnights when I don't take a shelter because I don't expect any weather, I might take an emergency blanket as an ultralight emergency tarp in case the unexpected occurs, but then, why not just take a bivy that weighs a little more, breaths better and provides more weather protection and allows me to carry even less insulation?
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  13. #33

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    I've had many brushes with hypothermia while hiking, and want to stress that this can be a problem at relatively warm temperatures (40s, 50s and even 60s), especially in a steady, wind-driven rain. My fingers have been chilled to the point where I can't even unbuckle my pack. Yes, I'm an old woman and relatively thin; younger, more robust folks may not be similarly affected in these conditions. The advice offered in this thread is very good, and I have little to add, except for being aware of how your body reacts. I would never skimp on raingear or base layers, even in summer.

  14. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiptoe View Post
    I've had many brushes with hypothermia while hiking, and want to stress that this can be a problem at relatively warm temperatures (40s, 50s and even 60s), especially in a steady, wind-driven rain. My fingers have been chilled to the point where I can't even unbuckle my pack. Yes, I'm an old woman and relatively thin; younger, more robust folks may not be similarly affected in these conditions. The advice offered in this thread is very good, and I have little to add, except for being aware of how your body reacts. I would never skimp on raingear or base layers, even in summer.
    The Wooden Hand phenom goes with cold weather backpacking. My hand writing in the trail journal after I set up camp looks like something scrawled out by 121 year old Jack Crabb---it's all over the page.

    Are numb wooden hands the end of the world? Naw, you just somehow get the pack off and the tent up. Blowing warm air in the hands while all this is going on is the only way to eventually sit inside the tent.

  15. #35

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    Naw, you just somehow get the pack off and the tent up.
    Yes, that's just what I did, though it was a hammock, not a tent. I know it's not the end of the world, but it is an issue that can be the first of cascading issues, particularly when you hike alone, as I do. Tipi, you backpack in extreme conditions; I don't.

  16. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiptoe View Post
    Yes, that's just what I did, though it was a hammock, not a tent. I know it's not the end of the world, but it is an issue that can be the first of cascading issues, particularly when you hike alone, as I do. Tipi, you backpack in extreme conditions; I don't.
    As others have mentioned, extreme conditions can mean hiking in a 45F rainstorm---welcome to Wooden Hands. Hunkering in for several in-tent zero days is usually called for during "really" Extreme Conditions.

  17. #37
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    One thing I learned years ago from a ski instructor when my fingers became so cold they were painful and/or useless: do windmills. By wind-milling your arms rapidly for just a bit, the centrifugal force pushes blood into your fingers and solves your problem. I may not be describing the science correctly, but the end result never fails. Warms fingers every single time.
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoSpirits View Post
    One thing I learned years ago from a ski instructor when my fingers became so cold they were painful and/or useless: do windmills. By wind-milling your arms rapidly for just a bit, the centrifugal force pushes blood into your fingers and solves your problem. I may not be describing the science correctly, but the end result never fails. Warms fingers every single time.
    That's one that I have heard before but had not thought about lately.Thanks for mentioning it.I have heard Shug talk about foot stomping to warm feet up before bedtime too,same principle I suppose.

  19. #39
    Garlic
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoSpirits View Post
    One thing I learned years ago from a ski instructor when my fingers became so cold they were painful and/or useless: do windmills. By wind-milling your arms rapidly for just a bit, the centrifugal force pushes blood into your fingers and solves your problem. I may not be describing the science correctly, but the end result never fails. Warms fingers every single time.
    I think any motion does the trick. What you need is circulation--the blood needs to return to the core to heat up again--not just pushing blood one way. Constricting clothing makes things worse (which is why wearing my jacket to bed makes me feel colder).

    Also remember there's a physiological reason your feet and hands get cold first. When faced with falling temps, the body will shut down blood flow to the extremities to save the core. If you're seriously hypothermic, forcing cold blood from the extremities back into the core could be harmful. There's a case where a father and son were caught out in winter overnight. The father died, the son lived with frostbitten hands and feet. The father was on medication that improved blood flow, and his extremities acted as radiators for his body heat. The son's core was warm enough but he lost fingers and toes.

  20. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    Also remember there's a physiological reason your feet and hands get cold first.
    I like to put things into sound bites---like my definition of backpacking: MANAGING DISCOMFORT.

    I have one for winter backpacking: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE HANDS AND FEET.

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