Hypothermia can be a very real threat in winter conditions whilst up in the mountains, so knowing what to look for, and what to do when you see the the signs, could save your, or someone else’s life!
Your body aims to keep your vital organs and brain at a core temperature of 37 deg C. The rest of your body parts are normally around 3-5 degrees C cooler. Hypothermia happens when your core temperature falls and your body doesn’t have enough energy to reverse it the current conditions. If your core temperature falls below 28 degrees C you will die!
So what are the signs? The first signs of hypothermia are called exposure, cold, shivering, possibly have pins and needles and even cramp. Ignoring these signs can lead to Hypothermia. When this sets in, uncoordinated movement, unreasonable behavior, slurring speech, blurred vision, violent shivering and finally unconsciousness, coma and death.
If you see or feel these signs you need to take action as soon as possible. Find some shelter from the elements, put extra layers on, rest and drink a warm drink if available, eat high calorie snacks and discuss the situation. Next step is to turn around, get down the mountain, back to your car. If already Hypothermic, call the rescue services, mountain rescue if in the mountains, get in to a survival or bivvy bag, cover up with extra layers above and below, use body heat to warm the person in trouble.
You can cut down the risks of Hypothermia by doing the following: wear the correct kit, choose a suitable route for you ability, eat and drink regularly, taking a warm drink with you, be aware of windchill and cover up quickly, have an escape route planned on your route, and use it if conditions get to harsh.
Another key way to avoid Hypothermia, is to look for the signs in your friends and fellow walkers, if you notice something, act on it! You could save their life!
If you would like to know more about staying safe in the mountains, the book below is a very helpful pocket guide: