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Op-Ed By Robert Speik
Bulletin Guest Columnist
Published on November 28, 2010

The Sunday Bulletin’s Fall/Winter High Desert Pulse article "Surviving the cold" by reporter Briana Hostbjor, might be helpful for some but it misses a good opportunity to give novice to advanced hikers, snowshoers, skiers, hunters, snowmobilers, climbers and other outdoor folks, facts they need to mitigate the inherent risk of hypothermia (exposure) during outdoor winter adventures.

Ms. Hostbjor advises us to 1. Avoid severe cold if you are able, wear layers and a hat, drink warm liquids, “and have access to a shelter or know how to make one in case you become stranded outdoors”. Travel in groups so you can help each other and share body heat. 2. Stay dry and remove wet clothes as soon as possible. 3. Don’t wear cotton! Wear wool or fleece. “And if you have an outer shell that repels water and can keep you dry, all the better.” 4. Avoid alcohol and 5. Help the young and old.

Three large illustrations show a man wearing a heavy shirt and big heavy jacket, wide open at the neck, and a big hat and mittens. The text in the illustrations features the Fahrenheit core temperature of individuals with mild, moderate and severe hypothermia, of clinical interest to medical personnel with anal thermometers. The statement, ”If you’re stuck outdoors, curl into a ball, sitting upright”, is bad advice, read below. This Pulse article misses an opportunity to provide informed, practical information for Bulletin readers who venture into the outdoors in winter.

Avoiding hypothermia on a winter’s day adventure starts with a trip plan.

Base your trip plan on your study of a good map, for a snowshoe walk, a hunt, or a climb to a summit, all best done with companions. Carry a $7.00 USGS topo map, a $25.00 clear base plate compass adjusted for our local 16 degrees magnetic declination error and perhaps a simple current $100. to $150. GPS receiver, now accurate to 4.1 meters, no matter what the weather.

Next in importance is a weather dependent collection of personal clothing layers.

Wear synthetic base-layer underwear that wicks moisture, mid-layers of insulating Polypro and pile that do not absorb moisture and an absolutely essential waterproof-breathable jacket-and-pants for rain, wet snow and wind protection. (Non-breathable rain gear virtually ensures heavy sweating resulting in dehydration and wetness.)

The purpose of having clothing “layers” is to prevent base and mid layers from becoming sweat-soaked when very active, by removing insulating layers.

Cotton clothing, wet from absorbed sweat, rain, snow, foliage, etc. can induce hypothermia by the efficient conduction of cold weather by water from, even 50 degree, air.

Each person must wear and carry the best clothing system needed for an overnight in the seasonal and forecast weather. Carry various hat and glove layers, not just your big woolly hat and mittens. Stuff your puffy down jacket and breathable rain gear into your light day-pack. They will help insulate you at lunch stops and through a long night.

The onset on hypothermia in a companion is unmistakable to an informed observer.

The moment your body losses essential heat faster than it is producing heat, you will begin to shiver involuntarily and your body will begin to shut down blood flow to your extremities to maintain temperature in its core. You will begin to lose control of your hands, motor skills and reasoning. You will have the “Umbles” - you will mumble, grumble, stumble, tumble, fumble and bumble.

Immediate action needs to be taken by your group.

Slow down or stop! Body heat is lost at a high rate from heavy breathing. Don’t permit an individual or your group to sweat. Don’t exhaust the limited glycogen energy reserves. Trying to find your way or reach an unrealistic destination can be a fatal error.

Starting a fire in a snow storm is generally impossible; “sheltering” in the snow requires special skills, insulating pads and snow shovels.

You body produces heat from digesting food and from muscle contractions including uncontrollable shivering. Do not “curl up into a ball, sitting upright”. Exercise vigorously in place, snack and drink.

Here is how to “Be Prepared”:

You must "plan for the unexpected". Each person should dress for the seasonal and forecast weather and carry additional clothing layers for protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, an insulating pad for the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate snack food, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a map, compass and inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them together. Carry the traditional "Ten Essential Systems" in a day-pack, five pounds in summer, sized for the season and the forecast weather.

Tell your Responsible Person where you are going, where you plan to park, when you will return and make sure that person will call 911 at the time you specified. Carry your common digital cell phone, as well.
If you become injured, lost or stranded, talk with 911 immediately, don't wait until nightfall and you are desperate.

Help take the ‘search’ out of search and rescue. SAR’s volunteer services are free in Oregon!
Copyright©, 2010 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Speik lives in Bend and writes for his website,


The rest of the story

Deschutes County Sheriffs Search and Rescue Volunteer Coordinator Al Hornish, a 12 year veteran of DCSAR, stated the following in an interview published on January 26, 2012 in the Bend Oregon Source Weekly: "We have grown a lot over the past decade." "The nature of missions has changed as well. There are more Rescues and less Searches, mostly because of the better technology available." Read More. --Robert Speik, January 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, or nearly four months since my fall off Mount Temple. After so much time, there is much to dwell on. The negatives: the pain of so many fractures, the sleeplessness, the drugs and the messed up things they do to you. It’s easy to get stuck in the negative; yet some part of me is drawn there by some morbid fascination.
How big am I then? Not very. I made a mistake, a pretty small mistake. Or more honestly, I made a series of pretty small mistakes. I almost died for these transgressions. I would have died if it had not been for a cell phone and the chain of events it was able to put into motion. (I’ve owned a cell phone for barely six years.) I might not have died that very day, March 25, 2010, but from where we were, we were a long, long way from the medical care my injuries demanded: a trained trauma surgeon in an Emergency Room. Perhaps I would have lasted one night. Maybe not. It changes my perspective about what a day means. Carpe diem no longer seems some frat-boy cry to party. Today, means everything.  The Steve House Training Blog

Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Deputy Jim Whitcomb, assistant SAR coordinator reports on a recent 911 "false alarm". He notes that the inadvertent activation happened in a pack with an older SPOT-1 device. Whitcomb said it was a first-generation version that’s easier to accidentally set off while in a pack. “It is important to remember that technology can be a great asset, but can just as easily be a liability,” the deputy said in a news release, urging users of such devices to regularly monitor such gear. SAR will respond to all SPOT activations, treating them as an emergency, unless contact can be made with whoever is carrying the device, to confirm otherwise, Whitcomb said.  Read More about this incident,   Yuppie 911 Devices can take the Search out of Search and Rescue.
--Robert Speik, July 22, 2012.



A suggested minimum standard media advisory for all backcountry travelers

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Oregon to Plan for the unexpected. Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing to provide
protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out. Each person should carry high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a topo map and
declination adjusted base plate compass and an optional inexpensive GPS (and the skills to use them together). Each person who has a cell phone should carry their ordinary charged cell phone (from a service
provider that has the best local backcountry coverage). A SPOT-2 GPS Satellite Communicator is an option for some. Each person should carry their selected items from the new 'Ten Essentials Systems' in a day pack sized for the individual, the trip, the season and the forecast weather."

"Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain
time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. Call 911 as soon as you become lost or stranded. You will not be charged. Do not try to find your way until you are benighted, exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Your
ordinary cell phone call can take the 'Search' out of Search and Rescue."



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be IN PART, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
Op-Ed, Good maps are vital to the wilderness experience
Three snowshoers found safe after nights lost on Mount Hood
Hurt Hiker dead but for cell call to 911
Hikers found by SAR on Tam McArthur Rim in November
Two Lost Hikers Found Near Tam McArthur Rim in July
Lost Hood climber posts to Facebook before rescue
Angeles Forest solo hiker dies in June 2012 - what can be learned?
Pole Creek Fire including Google Map, adjust scale for good detail
South Sister climber injured, rescued with helicopter
Hantavirus hits a ninth visitor to Yosemite
Sisters hiker collapses, dies despite rescue effort
Two lost hikers rescued in Three Sisters Wilderness
Whoops: GPS locator switches on- sparks search
Lost hiker rescued near Horse Lake by SAR
Hiker lost on trail around Elk Lake, turns back just before reaching camp
Mount Hood - Climber slips and slides down icy face from the Hogsback
How can I avoid, recognize and treat Hypothermia?
Op-Ed: Prepare for the unexpected before setting out in the winter
Mount Hood - Analysis of the December 2009 deaths by hypothermia, of three climbers on Reid Glacier Headwall
Climber on Mt. Rainier dies of hypothermia in brief storm. What happened
Prineville hunter lost 4 days and 3 nights in the Ochoco National Forest
South Sister, solo hiker found unconscious near the summit
Three stranded hikers assisted from atop South Sister by SAR
Several lost hiker incidents near Sisters, Oregon, resolved by SAR
Fallen solo climber on Mount Thielsen, rescued by chance encounter
Locator beacons "supposedly" can take the search out of Search and Rescue 
OpEd: Yuppie 911 devices can take the "search" out of Search and Rescue 
OpEd, Cell phones critical in the wilderness
In Memory of Chris Chan, July 9, 2010
Avalanche kills snowmobiler near Paulina Peak
Snowshoer, "lost" near Wanoga snowpark, rescued by SAR
Gear grist, an article written for The Mountaineer, the monthly magazine of The Mountaineers
Robert Speik writes: "There is no denying the sense of cell" for The Mountaineer
Snowboarder lost overnight near Mount Bachelor, rescued by SAR 
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Woman leaves car stuck in snow near Klamath Falls, dies from exposure
Man rescued from crevasse just off South Sister climber's trail
Climbing South Sister: A Prospectus and a Labor Day near disaster
Trail runner survives fall on ice with cell phone call
Once again, hypothermia kills stranded Oregon driver
Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
Lessons learned from the latest lost Christmas tree hunters
How do digital mobile phones assist mountaineering and backcountry rescues?
Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
Lithium batteries recommended for GPS backcountry use
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why is the digital cell phone best for backcountry and mountaineering?
Why are "Snow Caves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
Three climbers missing on Mt. Hood, all perish
Prineville hunter lost 4 winter days and 3 nights in the Ochoco National Forest
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl Found In Lane County After Lost On Hiking Trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail - OSU Trip - Lost, No Map, Inadequate Clothing

 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"