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

Amy Forinash aeforinash at gmail.com
Mon Feb 27 09:55:06 CST 2012

The part where experienced people get it anyway is what's bugging me. 

I think my main question at the moment is how do you keep your clothes dry while walking? I can't go any slower, and when it's windy I freeze if I wear less. 

And I wish I could use aqua Mira, because both filters and steripens are problematic in cold. 

Oh yeah, how do I tell if my filter froze and broke internally?

Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 27, 2012, at 10:26 AM, "giniajim" <jplynch at crosslink.net> wrote:

> 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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