ACTIVITIES / WALKING & HIKING
Reading the mountain
For every 300 metres rise in altitude there is a 2C drop in temperature in overcast conditions (clouds act as a blanket) and in dry, clear conditions the drop may be 3-4C. In Alpine areas the difference between the valleys and mountain summits could be much greater than 10C.
Mountains can be very exposed to wind and the strength on the summits may be several times as strong as in the valleys. Wind and temperature act together on the body to produce a cooling effect know as wind chill. The more strenuous the effort the greater the cooling effect.
Weather forecasting and signs
Although meteorology is a demanding science it is possible to become moderately proficient in forecasting local weather changes by:
+ Studying a few texts and interpret weather maps in the local and national press.
+ Careful observation of cloud forms and other natural phenomena.
Cold weather clothing
Wear thermal or thick woollen clothing, several thin layers rather than one or two thick ones and a windproof outer shell. Pay particular attention to head covering and hands.
Hypothermia or exposure
On mountains this usually occurs in cold, windy and often wet weather. It usually affects individuals who are hungry and tired.
Symptoms - shivering, pallor, complaints of coldness, listlessness, failure to understand instructions, violent and abusive language, failure of vision and collapse into coma.
Treatment - Prevent further heat loss, proceed to shelter, feed with glucose and hot, sweet drinks. Never give alcohol.
Prevention - Ensure adequate clothing and food intake. Descend to shelter in severe conditions.
This occurs in similar conditions to those that may induce hypothermia. Frostbite may be either:
• Superficial (frostnip)
Superficial frostbite is much more common in skiing and is rapidly reversible by gentle warming and protection of affected extremities such as nose, fingers ears etc.
Symptoms - White patches on cheeks etc. Flesh cold and soft. Victim can feel little or nothing in the affected area.
Prevention - Adequate clothing and food intake. Avoid constrictions. Be alert to the risk.
A common complaint with skiers, particularly during periods when the sun is warm and snow cover is extensive.
Prevention - Use suitable suncream (protection factor 10-15) and lip salve.
Acute mountain sickness
It is possible to experience mild symptoms of this sickness at lower alpine altitudes.
Symptoms - Lassitude, headaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and sleeplessness.
Treatment - Descend to lower altitude and rest. Seek medical advice if persistent.
Prevention - Ensure you are acclimatised before over exertion at high altitude.
With forethought and care none of these problems should occur. It would be foolhardy not to be aware of them.