The following information should be used as a guide only and is not intended to provide specific medical advice. Please always consult your personal physician for medical advice, prescriptions and instructions for use of medications.
Hypothermia can kill in mere minutes. Cold temperature, but also strong wind causes the body to rapidly lose heat. You start to shiver in order to maintain body heat from the rapid muscular shaking. If your body temperature drops to 35C/95F, you may get dizzy and disoriented, then the shivering stops. The body now maintains temperature only around the important organs; heart, brain and lungs and shuts down blood circulation to the arms and legs. Your pulse becomes weak and slow. Your blood vessels widen. Now, you feel hot and want to remove your clothes, finally slipping into unconsciousness. Eventually, your heartbeat stops.
Full blown Hypothermia will not be improved by additional clothing since clothing doesn’t generate heat. In difficult climbing situations, you need to put hot water bottles in your armpits, to your crotch and/or stomach – or you can strip and get into a sleeping bag – together with another undressed person, to warm up by the others body heat (yeah, yeah – keep your dirty imagination to yourself!).
Otherwise – keep moving until at safety. In 1998, a climber died of hypothermia on the North Side. All that was found left of him was his clothing neatly folded below the summit. This is quite typical of the condition. Confused, the brain tries to bring some order in the situation, thus folding the clothes.
Again, prevention is key! Here are some tips:
– Stay well nourished to help your body produce heat and shiver effectively when needed.
– Stay well hydrated and well rested.
– Change wet inner garments promptly
– INSULATE! (head and neck are key!) – great materials include Gore-Tex, Thinsulate, Flectalon
– Follow the C-O-L-D clothing principle:
– Open – when exercising to reduce sweating/wetness
– Loose/Layers – to retain heat
– Dry – to limit conductive heat loss