Don’t let the cold hearted killer get you

Staggering forth, shivering, soaked to the bone and exhausted, my body plummeted performing a face plant into a stream.

Staggering forth, shivering, soaked to the bone and exhausted, my body plummeted performing a face plant into a stream.

Capt. Williams wrenched me up and inquired as to my physical status.

“I’m fine,” I slurred in response.

Feeling no pain, only drowsiness, I continued blindly to climb.

This was no time to drop out, a number of other officer cadets had fallen to the wayside due to fatigue and injury.

My pride blinded me to what my body was communicating.

Reaching our destination, my body slumped to the damp, chilled ground.

Within minutes I was shivering violently.

The next moment I awoke enshrined in daisy-fresh sheets and pajamas, wondering if this was life after death.

Reality kicked in as I observed the intravenous violating my body. Needles, what a barbaric practice.

It was 1979 and I was an officer cadet at CFB Chilliwack when I was personally introduced to hypothermia.

Pride and youthful arrogance had blinded me to the signs of fatigue: shivering, stumbling, slurred speech, disorientation, and drowsiness.

Once hypothermia had me in its talons I didn’t have the coordination or presence of mind to do anything about it.

Luckily there were others there who were able to evacuate my chilled body off that mountain top.

Since that day I’ve learned to listen and monitor my body when in the back-country, especially on the North Island where temperatures aren’t extreme, but the rains and wind are ever present.

Hypothermia can sneak up on you even at temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius or because of a combination of body contact with a cold object, unusual exertion and a lack of food.

Basically the mechanisms of losing body heat are radiation, conduction and convection.

Evaporation constitutes most of the remaining heat loss in the form of perspiration.

Think of yourself as a fire which requires a continuous supply of combustible fuel to remain burning.

If your fuel source becomes depleted or you leave your fire open to harsh elements your fire dies down or may even go out.

It’s easier to keep an existing fire burning than attempting to restart a new one, especially in windy and wet weather.

There are a few simple suggestions to practice for staying warm and dry: don’t over exert yourself, avoid overheating and consume an abundance of nutritious supplements to maintain your energy levels.

Clothing is of utmost importance: a good rain-and-wind-resistant outer shell, a good insulating and wick-performing material for your inner layers and, as for hats and gloves, there are many products out there, but personally wool is still the best especially when it gets wet.

Wool will continue to insulate where as thinsulate material found in many gloves and hats once wet gives minimal protection in comparison to wool.

And you can never put a price on quality water resistant, well-fitted boots because once you lose use of your feet, you’re pretty much fodder for the scavengers.

Besides your basic emergency gear carry an extra pair of good insulating socks and a extra inner layer your pack during the wet chilly months.

Of course, you need not practice any of these suggestions, which may result in an embarrassing hit and run of the rectal thermometer, as it usually the only reliable method to measure your core temperature — that is if there’s someone present to rescue you from exposure.

Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who lives in Port McNeill.



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