Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tips for Surviving Cold Weather in the Wilderness

Mt. Hood is the most climbed mountain in the United States, but that doesn't mean it's a walk in the park. As we saw with the three missing climbers who tackled the mountain in early December, even experienced climbers can lose their lives if things go wrong. There have been six deaths on Mt. Hood this winter season, but in the past one hundred years, there have been over 130 deaths. Mt. Hood is not considered to be an extremely difficult climb, many beginners summit the mountain, but the weather can change in an instant, leaving climbers in white-out conditions with zero visibility, and no safe way to descend. There may come a time when knowing what to do when faced with below freezing conditions could keep you alive long enough to be rescued.

There are some key factors that will prevent loss of body heat, which is one of the first concerns when exposed to the freezing elements. You can loose 40-45% of your body heat through your head. A simple beanie can help keep the heat circulating through your body, adding a protective layer between your brain, and the harsh elements at hand, but the better your head gear, the less heat you'll lose. But too many layers and you may sweat, which in freezing conditions, could mean death. Besides the head, keeping the neck, chest, wrists, and ankles warm helps to keep the blood supply warm. Shelter provides an escape from the elements, as well as additional protection against loss of body heat.

Keeping warm and dry are essentials when facing cold tempuratures. When clothing gets wet, body tempuratures can drop 25 times faster. If your clothing becomes wet, it is better to strip them off and dry them, which would require building a fire or other heat source to quickly dry your wet clothing. Take great care not to allow your body to overheat, which will also produce dampened clothing. Once clothing is wet, freezing to death becomes a very real possibility.

In an attempt to hydrate the body, many people would instinctively eat snow. The logic is that snow will melt into water in the mouth. However, eating snow will actually cause you to lose more body heat, and it is highly recommended that you melt the snow and drink the water. Use ice if it's available, because ice melts faster and produces more water than snow. If you have a fire and a tin can, melting ice would be easiest, but you can also use a water bag between the layers of your clothing if you must keep moving or there is no fire.

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Blogging the local Mt Hood area of Oregon. With skiing, snowboarding, hiking, shopping, wind surfing, live bands, resorts, movies, and much more to do, you'll never be bored in the Mount Hood area.