Hiking Tips: Avoid Frostbite & Enjoy Winter Hiking

I woke this morning to temps in the single digits and a windchill of negative 15, but it wasn’t stopping me from going for a hike. Sure, there were some who said I was crazy and others who gave me credit for going, but honestly I was only doing what I love. Besides, it was my day off and after a week of being cooped up inside working 9+ hour days I was long over due for getting outside.

I decided to hike and explore the top of Locke Mountain. Locke Mt. is just one of the mountain ridges that surround the Cove. I drove to the top where I parked, put on the rest of my winter gear, strapped on my pack and headed up a game land trail heading north. The snow was frozen solid, harden by the extreme temperatures. Each step I took was met with resistance as my feet planted on the snow without sinking. The sun glared off the snow and ice making the trek across the frozen ridge so bright that sunglasses were a necessity for concern I’d burn a retina or go blind.

The only tracks were those left by hunters from previous days when the snow was soft and slushy. A few rabbit, fox and coyote tracks could be seen, but for the most part it was barren. Most likely every critter was hunkered down in their homes staying warm sleeping, awaiting the first signs of the winter thaw.

Several times along the way I would stop to take a picture as I do so often. I’d remove my glove so I could operate the camera and quickly take the picture. My hand wasn’t exposed for more then one minute each time I took a shot, but in that brief time my hands wold begin to hurt. Frost bite will set in on exposed skin in short amount of time under extreme cold.

windchill

Based on the chart above, if I had left my hand exposed for 20 to 30 minutes frost bite would have set in.

I hiked for another thirty minutes before turning back and heading to the warmth of my car. Along the way I continued to snap pictures of the views from atop Locke Mt, and doing so with safety so as not to get frostbite.

Hiking in the winter can be fun and invigorating as well as beautiful, but safety and preparedness is a MUST. Otherwise you’ll find yourself struggling and eventually in danger.

Fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose are the areas most susceptible to frostbite. Your body works hard to keep internal organs and your head warm, and sometimes extremities get left behind.

Usually, when parts of your body get too cold, they turn red and hurt. Symptoms of frostbite, however, include a loss of feeling and lack of color. Anyone showing signs of hypothermia or frost bite should seek medical attention immediately.

Avoid wearing cotton. Instead wear wool. Use mittens instead of gloves. Pack something hot to drink for the trail. Dress in layers. And NEVER remove clothing if/when you feel warm and sweaty. Move to a warm spot out of the cold before removing wet clothing and quickly change into clean dry clothes.

Remember, hiking is meant to be fun no matter what time of year or season, but safety and basic skills are important.

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