risk management

Treating Hypothermia

I’m just snuggled up by my fireplace on a cold rainy day which is inspiring me to talk about the cold, specifically hypothermia.

 

Problems with the cold have been on my mind a lot lately. I did just return from working in Antarctica where it was quite cold. Since being back in California, it has been raining and snowing, a lot. We are being hit by the “atmospheric river,” and while these are relatively warm storms, it is still colder and damper than most people are used to – especially in sunny California. On top of that, I recently attended a lecture by the renowned cold physiology scientist, Dr. Giesbrecht aka Dr. Popsicle, on hypothermia and crevasse rescue[i].

 

All of this led me to write this article. Let’s talk about what’s going on physiologically when we get cold, discuss the decision process needed to determine when it is causing a problem, and the actions to take to prevent it from becoming something significant (AKA hypothermia).

 

So, first things first, cold will always be a problem when we are losing heat faster than we can replace it.

 

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Managing Risks in the Mountains

Adventuring in the outdoors requires almost constant risk management skills, and I’ve spent decades creating systems and structures to do so.  Today I want to talk about these systems and how I use them in the mountains. 

 

I was recently on a trip to Colorado where I went to climb a 14’er by myself.  On my way down, a horrified hiker appeared, commenting that I shouldn’t have hiked in the dark, by myself, when there are mountain lions.  It caught me off guard; I was being questioned about my risk management.  And, of course, when you have weird interactions with people, you always think of all the right things to say later.

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Wilderness Medicine Case Study # 2: Rock Fall on Descent

This accident has been adapted from Accidents in North American Climbing 2021. The accident was real. The discussion of actions is a hypothetical exercise to review wilderness medicine practices and critical thinking in emergencies.

Throughout this case study, I’ll indicate the scene and what happen in italicsQuestions for the reader to consider before moving on are underlined. Everything else will be a discussion of wilderness medicine practices.

skip to the bottom of this post if you prefer to watch the video version of this case study discussion.

The Incident

In this incident, there are two people headed out to explore potential boulders to climb. It is March in the Pacific Northwest, so we can envision a lush, wooded area, with a fair bit of weather swings.  This was during the pandemic, and thus they were trying to be socially responsible by avoiding crowded areas.  In their exploration they used creek beds and erosion pathways to hike off trail.  The incident took place on their descent which was returning the same way they had hiked earlier.

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