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The cold world of alpine climbing.

The cold world of alpine climbing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Climbing Cold?


I spent 12 hrs out yesterday. Not a big deal but recognised a few things I think worth mentioning.

To climb in the most efficient clothing system I think you have to climb what I consider, "cold". You want to run your clothing system at a level of heat that is well short of sweating the majority of time. So you want to be almost a tiny bit chilled a majority of time if you stop moving. And everyone starting off should feel a tiny bit chilled.

Almost the perfect storm for me yesterday. Dehydrated from the day before and little sleep the night before. Too much to get done in real life so I could get away for the day. Sound familiar? Been nursing a bad knee for several a weeks and finally had another MRI done to make sure I wasn't risking bigger injuries and more down time. So I was tired from the chronic knee pain of the last couple of weeks and had been trying to ignore the massive doses of Ibuprofen which is what I needed to get healed up.

At the trail head there was a huge temperature inversion that we didn't recognize in the predawn start. We had gained 5000' and it was cold. Seemed reasonable.

So I bundled up. With all the wrong things happening in the last 48 hrs I didn't want to be cold and uncomfortable. Being tired, dehydrated and edgy from the knee pain I just didn't tolerate the cold well that morning. It should have been an alarm bell.

Couple of hrs later we were well out of the temperature inversion. It was above freezing now and we were in the sun. I was over heated, sweating and stripping clothes as we climbed higher in the glacier basin. 1/2 way into the walk I noticed 3/4 of my day's water bottle was already gone. That was a little shocking as I generally pay careful attention to how I go through my water. That was my first alarm bell to just how out of it I really was.

What I had brought for water would have just barely been enough if everything went perfectly and we summited in 4 maybe 5 hours. I'd be dehydrated but could easily suck it up till we got back to the car.

Then the final straw was it took a full 6 hrs of trail breaking just to get to our 1500' climb. We knew the game was over 3 hrs into the walk but pressed on anyway to at least see what we in such a hurry to get up. Time to make this one a "teachable moment".

Quick bottom line? I over dressed because I wanted to me more comfortable. Unnoticed, I drank my water quickly because I was dehydrated from the previous 24 hrs. I then over heated because I over dressed, carried more than I should have in gear and clothing and not enough water.

So now as I get even more dehydrated, I get cold feet from wet boots I sweated out from being too warm. Then I am getting cold again because I am dehydrated and physically tired and having to add layers I can't easily technical climb in. Things have gone down hill fast in 6hrs. But it all started 56 or 72 hours beforehand I just didn't recognise it.

Truth is I should have stayed home and gotten some rest and re-hydrated and waited a day or so before going out again.. I would have climbed faster and better if I had done so.

My thought is if you are physically incapable of "climbing cold" do yourself a favor and stay home. I let the weather and my desire to spend time with a buddy sway me. We all do it.

The better we can identify what goes wrong and why the easier it is to have a better trip next time.

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