Monthly Archives: July 2012

Symptoms of Hypothermia in the Alaska Wilderness

Symptoms of Hypothermia

Does this picture tell you a story? Every time I see this picture, it reminds me of the symptoms of hypothermia.

This picture also reminds me that learning something, reading it, committing this knowledge to memory and action does not compare to experience.

Experience is one of the core-values of Pioneer Outfitters. We are dedicated to providing experience.

Experienced Professional Guides. Guiding guests into the untouched, unexplored wilderness, safely and comfortably.

Experienced Professional Big Game Hunting Guides, judging and selecting the best trophy for our guest to be proud of and happy to remember for a lifetime.

Experience is what we offer our Trainees in the Survival & Guide Training. In the field, made one of an important team, hands-on experience.

Experience is what makes Pioneer Outfitters the best choice in leading your Horseback Adventure into the wilderness of Alaska.

Experience is what Pioneer Outfitters offers each guest that chooses to be welcomed to Chisana, which ever Adventure he or she chooses.

Experience is the practical contact with and observation of facts or events; to encounter or undergo; an event or assurance that leaves an impression on someone; the knowledge or skill acquired by such means over a period of time, especially that gained in a particular profession by someone at their work. (~This is me in “lecture mode”!)

The picture above? It is first hand experience, up close and personal, of the Symptoms of hypothermia.

Hypothermia is the condition of having abnormally, dangerously low body temperature. Hypothermia is also our (Pioneer Outfitters Guides) one constant enemy.

You don’t need to be experiencing sub-zero temperatures to encounter hypothermia and your judgement will be greatly impaired, which puts you and those with you under your care at risk of having an accident.

The cold wont kill you. Being wet wont kill you. Being hot and sweaty wont kill you. Not recognizing the signs of hypothermia, WILL kill you.

The symptoms of hypothermia are:

  • Uncontrollable shivering (although, at extremely low body temperatures, shivering may stop)
  • Weakness and loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Pale and cold skin
  • Drowsiness – especially in more severe stages
  • Slowed breathing or heart rate

The story that goes with the captured moment above is as simple and on a day so typical, that it will never escape my notice again.

The story of the picture:

We were on a Pack Trip Adventure, 10 years ago, give or take. It was a wonderful Pack Trip with energetic and happy folks and lots of Alaska’s never ending sunshine.

Except when the sun wasn’t shining.

We were soaked repeatedly by mountain storms on our last two days in the field. We were still having a great time, it was simply a soggy great time! We were on the short stretch to home, back at the Lodge in Chisana.

Coming around the side of the mountain, a few hours earlier, we had been drenched again by a rain storm with an attitude. As if the rain falling from the sky wasn’t enough of an adventure for one day; it began to rain sideways, with a little help from it’s partner in drama, WIND.

So, yeah, we were all wet and cold and getting a little tired of traveling in the wet fog. As the discussion continued around me, up and down the line of riders, I remember thinking, but saying nothing, “I don’t care, I just want to be done.”

It wasn’t until later I understood, that should have been my first clue.
~I always care. I never want to stop riding!

Doug and Rob, two of my crew had been really getting on my nerves with their constant nagging and noise. Telling me I should get off my horse and walk awhile. (Chaps and long riders are NOT made for walking up a muddy, uneven and sometimes absent horse trail.) Jabber, jabber, just being overbearing know-it-alls and basically wearing on my last nerve.

This should have been my second clue. I missed the concern in their voices, never bothered to look back and see the worried expressions on their faces. Both of these guys are good friends and had been for years. We had spent many rainy days together in the saddle, in the wilderness and on the mountains.

We reached one of our camps, we intended to ride on through and make it home to the Lodge for dinner. That was the plan. We rode into the big stand of old, big Willows and everyone began to dismount and tie up their horses.

When I felt a hand shaking my leg it occurred to me that I might be more tired than I thought. I hadn’t seen Master Guide Terry Overly walk up to me, didn’t hear him speak at first. Then he looked at me and said in a loud voice “Unload them, set up camp.”

What!? I wanted to go home!

Then Rob was standing next to Terry and when he reached a hand up to me, still sitting in my saddle and it was as I was leaning down to the guys to take me off my horse, I realized what was happening.

Symptoms of Hypothermia.

I remembered looking up at Rob, saying “I’m sorry” and the next thing I remember about that last evening on the trail, was waking up in the tent with everyone either sitting or laying next to some piece of me. Each time I woke for the next few hours, someone was there with a thermos of hot tang or hot water for me to drink, and there were always at least 4-5 people in the tent with me.

It wasn’t the wet that would have killed me. It wasn’t even that I didn’t know the symptoms. It was the fact that I didn’t understand the symptoms. I didn’t understand that I wasn’t being a wimp or a whiner, that no one was picking on me. What I never really understood was how deviously and slippery hypothermia can slip in and take over. Body and mind.

The symptoms other people can see:

  • Slowing of pace, drowsiness, fatigue
  • Stumbling
  • Thickness of Speech
  • Amnesia
  • Irrationality, poor judgment
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of perceptual contact with environment
  • Blueness of skin
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Decreased heart and respiration
  • Stupor
  • Death

Things have gotten VERY serious and immediate action MUST be taken if these hypothermia symptoms are present:

  • Poor articulation of words
  • Disorientation
  • Decrease in shivering followed by rigidity of muscles
  • Cyanosis (Blueness of Skin)
  • Slowness of pulse, irregular or weak pulse

It is an experience I will never forget.

Do you want to be part of an incredibly satisfying profession? To be an Alaska Guide? We will help you do that.

Sheep on the Mountain!

Sheep on the mountain

As you all know, I love quotes! Inspiring, motivating, reminding-me types, all kinds of quotes. When I followed the link that caught my eye, I found what I had needed to find at the end of a really long few days, evaluating and seeing in person, what is what and where. “Sheep on the mountain!” Continue Reading

Will You Survive?

Will You Survive?

In the 2010-2011 Alaska Hunting Regulations, I was struck by a section of the letter that Corey Rossi, the Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, wrote. “First and foremost, we as a society are losing our connection with the land.” ~Stop. Think about that. Ok, to continue… “For many, the importance of open space, Continue Reading

Good Hunters and Terrible Guides ~ My view as an Alaska Guide

The Pioneer Outfitters Team

No matter where you, the Outfitter, are located, what state, Provence or country, your guides are your most valuable asset. An Outfitter’s guides can make or break your business. “Guiding has little to nothing to do with hunting.” Alaska’s first female Registered Guide, Elizabeth Hickethier, Master Guide Terry Overly’s mother, told me this when I Continue Reading

Wintertime in the Bush

Alaska Chick, Wintertime in the Bush

This post comes from questions and speculations made about what goes on during the Winter, after most of the Guides have left and returned to their homes, after our Fall Hunting Season comes to a close. When the last of our Fall guests leave and the majority of the Guides have gone home, remember, The Continue Reading