If you’re involved in outdoor sports than you likely know a bit about the dangers of hypothermia. I do; I know the warning signs, steps to take, etc… but I never fully appreciated just what a danger it could be until I went for a long (4 hour) trail run by myself Saturday morning. 22°F temp, 18mph wind, an inch of fresh snow.
Which is beautiful for a quick :30 run. A whole other ball game when you’re out alone for hours. Out in the woods, walking uphill while I refuel/hydrate, you notice how quickly the sweat gets cold and your body temp starts dropping. Fast. In hot, summer weather this works to one’s advantage. In cold weather, it can be deadly.
I love endurance sports, particularly in the dead of winter. But I have a new appreciation now for how much more dangerous things can be when the weather turns cold. Turn an ankle deep in the woods in the summer and you make a cell phone call for someone to help you hobble out. Turn an ankle in the winter and you could die in the two hours it takes for someone to get to you. Break through a frozen stream, get your feet wet, and it’ll only compound the situation.
Precautions? Carry extra nutrition and hydration. An extra set of dry clothes. And an emergency blanket. (Yes, a small trail running pack is necessary for this.) That’s a start. Educate yourself about the symptoms of hypothermia and the early warning signals of it’s onset – especially if – like me – you go it solo. Also, keep moving; winter isn’t kind to those who sweat, stop, and let their body temp drop. Lastly, leave your route with someone and a return ETA. Don’t head out with no one knowing where you’re headed.
Have fun out there, but know what you’re getting yourself into. Be safe! Here’s a great hypothermia resource guide – you should know this stuff like the back of your hand; your life could very well depend on it. ADVENTURE SPORTS ONLINE – Hypothermia Guide