[at-l] 4 days in '97 when hypothermic

giniajim jplynch at crosslink.net
Mon Feb 27 09:26:35 CST 2012


Actually, it should be a big help! :)  Since the big challenge in winter 
camping is avoidance of hypothermia!

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Amy Forinash" <aeforinash at gmail.com>
To: <at-l at backcountry.net>
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 10:06 AM
Subject: Re: [at-l] 4 days in '97 when hypothermic


>
> All this talk about hypothermia is not helping me in my quest to get 
> better at winter camping. :/
>
> -amy
>
> Sent from my iPhone
>
> On Feb 27, 2012, at 9:07 AM, "South Walker" <southwalker at windstream.net> 
> wrote:
>
>>
>> For a chilling account of people who got into serious trouble in the cold
>> you might read "Not Without Peril", 150 Years of Misadventure on the
>> Presidential Range of new Hampshire by  Nicholas Howe.
>>
>> Some survived, some didn't.
>>
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: at-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:at-l-bounces at backcountry.net] 
>> On
>> Behalf Of RockDancer
>> Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2012 7:57 AM
>> To: 'AT-L'
>> Subject: [at-l] 4 days in '97 when hypothermic
>>
>> This morning I got to thinking about the perils of hiking alone in cold
>> weather, esp. thinking of my '97 thruhike when, looking back, I exhibited
>> surprising lack of judgment. I humbly admit to being caught in the late
>> season rush to Katahdin although at the time (and even years later) I 
>> would
>> only say that I was trying to do the hike "right". That meant trying to
>> enjoy each day for the views and lessons it offered, and to resist the
>> temptation to Flip even though I knew by Sept. 20 I didn't have much 
>> chance
>> to reach Katahdin before Oct. 15. Here are the 4 entries from my journal
>> where I censored the fact that I was hypothermic to some degree during 
>> the
>> day. My new notes in parens for each day. --RockDancer
>>
>> September 20 - Carter Notch Hut (Day 180 ~ milepoint 1845.9) A wonderful
>> welcome here at the hut after a cold, wet, windy, strenuous hike. I 
>> arrived
>> slightly dazed by the experience and was greeted by Gold Thumb who had 
>> lots
>> of questions for me! He was certain I was ahead of him, so "what 
>> happened?".
>> I told him the stories of my tent repair, sleeping behind the Ragged
>> Mountain Store, the hitch to North Conway, etc. As I finished I remarked
>> that I needed to eat something warm & get something to drink. Next I hear
>> one of the Boston AMC group invite me to supper with them
>> - pasta with meatballs, bread & ice tea! Cards after supper, conversation
>> about Boston Chapter members we know, and then lights out at 9:30 p.m.
>> Cold in the bunkroom tonight but much better than sleeping outside. The
>> lakes nearby had a cold, forbidding appearance as I came by, not the 
>> cool,
>> refreshing look they have on a hot, summer's day.
>> Latknee, the caretaker, did a great job answering questions and helping
>> organize the cooking & cleaning up. Then he just blended into the
>> background, quietly knitting a new wool stocking cap.
>> (Goldthumb remembers me arriving at the hut differently. I was slow in
>> speaking, moving only stiffly. He acted to get me inside, into dry 
>> clothes
>> and stayed with me until I came around. I hadn't sunk too deeply into the
>> cold though and didn't have the drunken behavior or the unrelenting
>> shivering as I warmed up.)
>>
>> September 23 - Gentian Pond Shelter (Day 183 ~ milepoint 1872.9) The 
>> trail
>> today is the last section that I've hiked in previous years. Each time 
>> this
>> happens I seem to gain memories or renew them - of who I was with, our
>> goals, and a snapshot of who I was at the time. Today was no exception.
>> I remember that dayhike as a fine, Fall day with this shelter as our 
>> lunch
>> stop. I explained to my group the network of shelters stretching back to
>> Georgia and encouraged them to read the register and look for messages 
>> being
>> passed forward and back. One long entry was a goodbye present from a Brit 
>> to
>> his fellow hikers, a long poem about the primitive "blue wode warriors" 
>> of
>> Britain. There were many Thank You's in reply to his writing this down, 
>> he
>> had recited it for many.
>> I thought how it would be for me to travel so many miles, on foot, with 
>> new
>> friends, and now be approaching the end. How to say goodbye? Now I'm here
>> and forced to do my best.
>> Rain, cold, mud today doesn't diminish the beauty of these woods. But
>> reminds me that very cold times will occur soon and I should move as 
>> quickly
>> as I can.
>> Heard a moose today, snorting like a horse and then clomping away from 
>> me.
>> My head was down and the rain hood blocked my view, all I saw were the
>> branches swaying back into place.
>> (Spent the cold night alone & mostly awake in the shelter tucked away
>> sitting in the best corner in dry clothes, in sleeping bag, wrapped in 
>> the
>> body of my tent. On arrival I was shivering in a very exaggerated way. It
>> was hard to handle the operating of my stove, a canister type, but made
>> soup, hot drinks and nursed myself along.)
>>
>> September 29 - Bemis Mountain Lean-to (Day 189 ~ milepoint 1921.7) Here's
>> what I wrote in the register: "Resting here this afternoon after a cold, 
>> wet
>> morning. Not sure what's wrong but I needed to get out of my wet clothes 
>> and
>> into my sleeping bag to warm up. Now, 3 hours later, I feel ok, but it's
>> still rainy and cold and windy so I'll call it a 5 mile day."
>> I've had time, for the first time, to really read the register and absorb
>> what each of us GA->ME folk is doing/has done. I'm in awe of how each 
>> hiker
>> is not just pluggin' along, but finding joy/peace/beauty even at this 
>> late
>> stage of our journey. You are all wonderful folk! I don't know how you've
>> kept your sense of humor through it all! It's a lesson I'll remember.
>> I've read notes from about 30 hikers who've passed me, dating back to 
>> 7/24 -
>> that's over 2 months man! Brother Paul leads the pack. And your notes 
>> have
>> reminded me of our time together, however brief. I'm glad you've stayed 
>> with
>> the trail.
>> I still hope to catch Rhymin' Worm, Hiker Ned & Sweet Pea, Mossman & 
>> Tonic,
>> Trail Snail, 180 degrees, One Hit, Skeeter & Osgood. But mostly I hope to
>> finish the trail "right". Whatever that means.
>> (The temp was just below 40 but the rain was punishing all morning. I
>> decided to "hike wet" knowing that the heat I generated was compensating 
>> for
>> the cooling effect. There was no wind along the protected trail but I 
>> would
>> get episodically cold when crossing rocky outcrops. The day was only 4.8
>> miles because I was only stopping for lunch. My lunch break became scary
>> when the shivering hit & I retreated to dry clothes and my sleeping bag. 
>> It
>> was 3 hours before the shivering stopped. All along I was feeding myself,
>> making soup and hot drinks. When the shivers stopped I was out of trouble
>> but the rain was continuing and the thought of putting on wet clothes was
>> anathema.)
>>
>> October 2 - Poplar Ridge Lean-to (Day 192 ~ milepoint 1950.2) The wind 
>> was
>> blowing a steady 50 mph with gusts up to 60. The temperature was mild
>> though, around 35, so the wind chill was only around -15 degrees F.
>> Snow had plastered all the rocks so the white blazes were all hidden from
>> view, so I had to find the cairns that mark the trail and follow them. As 
>> I
>> made my way over Saddleback today, the 3 miles of above-treeline hiking, 
>> I
>> remembered that if I stop or lose the trail I really could die under 
>> these
>> conditions.
>> But it all went smoothly. I took my time to make certain I stayed on the
>> trail, ducked down behind rocks a couple of times to rest and have a 
>> snack,
>> and when I couldn't find the trail made methodical circles until I came
>> across it. Met no one else up there today.
>> The wind tore open both pockets on my jacket and I lost my handkerchief.
>> Otherwise I was fine, but a bit drained, from the experience. As I 
>> descended
>> the Horn of Saddleback the cloud cover broke open and gave a dazzling
>> display of bright, white ice contrasted against the garish Fall red, 
>> yellow
>> and orange hillsides. Spectacular Day!
>> Met Charlie Brown, a south bounder, here at the shelter. Nice guy - I 
>> wished
>> he was heading north.
>> (Charlie Brown came into the shelter about 4 hours after I arrived. By 
>> that
>> time I was well on my way to recovering from the day. It was similar in
>> feeling to my Sept. 20 hike but here, again, I can't tell how far gone I
>> was. My mental sense was along the lines of "I'm in trouble, be sure to 
>> do
>> everything right, this is important, you have to get dry and get warm". )
>>
>> Me again: The insidious thing about hypothermia is how we can be taken
>> without knowing, and that our internal sense of "Danger, Danger" will be
>> diminished as you sink deeper and deeper into the cold. There is a point,
>> however, where we cannot rescue ourselves. That could be from lack of
>> physical ability to change clothes, seek shelter, prepare food; but it 
>> can
>> also arrive because we no longer sense the danger. There are only a few
>> anecdotes of those who rescue themselves from deep hypothermia. Read the
>> story of Beck Weathers and the 1996 Everest disaster, for a miracle 
>> story.
>> For a story of suicide by hypothermia in the White Mountains look up the
>> story of Guy Waterman. His death was off the AT, on the north summit of 
>> Mt.
>> Lafayette.
>>
>> Arthur D. Gaudet
>> RockDancer on the Appalachian Trail
>> Rockdancer97 at comcast.net
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
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