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Dead of cold, Hypothermia, Alone in the high mountain ?

We hadn't seen each other for a long time, but this long weekend we had agreed and we were finally in a wonderful country house, near Asturias, all by ourselves.Juan and four couples formed the heterogeneous group. To some we like the mountain, others simply support it. Some die for the soccer of armchair and others would never leave the city, but there we were. The food had been great and after-dinner conversation meal to tell about.Juan and four couples formed the heterogeneous group. To some we like the mountain, others simply support it. Some die for the soccer of armchair and others would never leave the city, but there we were. The food had been great and the desktop meal to tell about. But now we had to get organized.Juan, my wife and I went to town to buy some food, some of us started to wash up, others to pick up... the usual stuff. We returned to the house, already late, at two lights, the temperature had changed, it was cool, some wind had risen and the clouds began to "spit" with how good it was this afternoon in the sun! Now I felt like going inside and warming up in the fireplace.

Hypothermia Only in the high mountains?

I noticed that Alvaro and Maria were missing, I asked for them and they told me that they had gone for a while to clear their heads, their jackets were at the door and their backpacks were in the living room, they had left with their hands in their pockets. My concern was growing, I talked to Juan and when we were preparing the backpacks to go out looking for them the door opened and there they were, with their hands under their armpits, wet, shaking, a little scared and freezing.

Pilgrim in O Cebreiro

There was no time to lose, we had to warm them up. Dry clothes to get rid of the wet ones, a hot drink, some rubs and the heat of the house corrected the situation, although the scare took longer to go away. Already after dinner, gathered around the fireplace, Mary, breaking the melody of the crackling of the wood when she gives her soul to the flames, murmured - I have never been colder in all my life, a little more and I do not arrive - there was a silence and after drinking a good sip from her glass John said - it is called hypothermia, We have all heard about it, but we mountaineers know it well, every time we do any activity it stalks us and watches us patiently waiting for us to make a mistake, it is one of the diseases produced by the cold and in the most serious cases it can produce death.

But doesn't hypothermia ... occur in the high mountains with very low temperatures? I saw a movie recently and they were talking about it, Maria said. Juan, who was already giving a good account of the box of chocolates, put his glass aside, got up on the couch and said with a certain air of an old professor: I'm going to tell you a few things about hypothermia that any mountaineer knows or should know.

What is hypothermia?

We talk about it when the central temperature of the human body is below 35 degrees Celsius and the tools it has to maintain it at its ideal temperature begin to fail.


What's their process?

If the body is not able to maintain the temperature of 37 degrees, it will first reduce the blood supply to the periphery and extremities to try to maintain it. If it still does not succeed and continues to cool down, the person will begin to have tremors, which are an involuntary muscular activity that generates heat, they can be intermittent, in which case there is still no hypothermia, or continuous, in this situation it can be considered that the hypothermia is mild or moderate, in both cases the person remains conscious. If the situation is not corrected the next stage is severe hypothermia, at this point the tremors disappear, and hallucinations, delusions, moderate muscle stiffness and progressive loss of consciousness appear. Still, the thing can be complicated with the loss of this conscience, slow and regular pulse, the heart still beats but the rigidity is important, here we are in front of a hypothermia that we could consider very serious. This is followed by coma, lack of pulse, cardiac arrest and possible death.

Here Juan paused and while he put another chocolate in his mouth he observed in a funny way the hallucinated face that most of the group showed.

Now comes the best," he exclaimed. As he looked at Alvaro and winked at Maria he asked himself a question with as much irony as he could

What are the things that promote hypothermia?

Combat the cold

Wind and its cooling power, alcohol intake, dehydration, humidity, inadequate equipment, lack of food intake, inaction, hypoxia and physical exhaustion among other factors contribute to it. There are also hypothermias that can be associated with accidents where there are traumatic injuries and where that drop in temperature becomes an additional problem.

So the drinking of alcoholic beverages for warmth is not true?

I ask Yolanda.The answer is a resounding no," said Juan. "Notice that when you ingest alcohol, it gives you a warm sensation that lasts only a short time, which is produced by the dilation of the peripheral vessels, facilitating the arrival of hypothermia later on. Another thing I think it is interesting to highlight, this time in relation to the equipment, is that gloves, hat and socks are essential, since the areas that lose heat most quickly are hands, feet and head.

And what can we do when faced with a case of hypothermia?

If the person is conscious, with a mild degree of hypothermia, we must prevent further heat loss, protect them from the cold by seeking shelter, take off any wet clothes and put them on dry, if this is not possible, put extra layers of clothes on top of the wet ones, insulate them from the floor, rub the person to generate heat, hydrate them is essential whether with hot drinks or not, but never give them alcohol or tobacco.


Bringing it close to a heat source if we have one, or bringing it close to the warm body of another person with direct contact, are also correct maneuvers. If the hypothermia is serious, the problem is very serious, we would start by protecting the person from the cold, moving him/her very gently and then asking for help, medical rescue and evacuation to a hospital. The victim is very likely to be unconscious; we will also have to check if he has a pulse or not, in case there is no pulse we will have to start the cardiac massage. It is best not to overheat it, and much less energetically, because it can cause cardiac arrest.

Here I anticipate your question, if it is essential to reheat the person on site, for example on expeditions, hot water bottles wrapped in mittens or rags can be applied in the area of the armpits, trunk and groin, where the large blood vessels are. Body to body contact inside a sleeping bag or a dry coat with another person who is keeping warm may be necessary. Evacuation to a hospital must also be accomplished...but this is another story.

By now, good John had finished his drink and had finished almost all the chocolates. It was late and the day had been intense, the group was leaving to fall into the arms of Morpheus. Juan and I were left alone to pick up everything and when we were about to go to bed he told me: The trick is to prevent rather than cure, don't you agree? I looked at him, approached him, touched his stomach and said laughingly, I couldn't agree more!


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