Bob's True Story of Hypothermia

On my 2005 TGO Crossing I was on day two of my walk across Scotland in very poor May conditions. I started at 6am after a poor nights sleep and it was still raining sleet. After 4 hours across the sodden mountains the weather and my mood hadn’t improved. Arriving at a field of peat hags some 1km wide, I remember thinking it looked like my idea of the Somme! Rusty long abandoned wire fences twisted and wove in and out of the many ditches and streams below a dark, moody grey misty sky.

This took almost 2 hours of slipping, sliding, falling, back tracking and getting angry, at times knee deep in cold wet sticky peat. By the time I reached the next obstacle, an 8 metre river, I realised hadn’t stopped all morning for a brew or much to eat. It was bitter cold, a biting wind, I was shivering and i recognised that my mental state was slipping. The bothy at Maol-Bhuidhe was not too far away on the other side which offered some kind of shelter, so I stripped off, put on my Crocs and stepped into the fast flowing icy torrent, which was thankfully just over knee deep.

I crossed quickly and with ease, however I could feel the first effects of hypothermia kicking in with a vengeance. My thought process was slow trying to get my body to do what the brain wanted. The cold had got through to my core and even writing this now, I can't begin to describe the lethargic effect it was having on me. I was shivering so much and couldn’t feel my hands, so I fumbled to put my boots and clothes back on. Eventually, it could only have been minutes but felt like hours, I crawled up the slippery bank to the track, which after 1km of more peat and mud took me to the bothy.

All the time my mind was thinking negative dark thoughts and feeling very low. I just couldn’t be bothered to eat any of the snacks in my pack, and I knew I really needed the shelter of the bothy as soon as possible.

Once inside I did all mentioned here. I removed my wet clothes and wrung them out, rubbed all the water off my body, had a hot chocolate drink, and put on my dry clothes, while waiting for the meal to cook. I felt I wasn't hungry, but forced it down all the same.

Once the warm food was inside me I started to think more rationally but it still took almost an hour and a half to fully recover.

Then, topped up correctly with food and warm drinks, I put my damp clammy clothes back on and continued feeling fine. Thank goodness for bothies!

Conclusion: Lesson learned! From that trip onwards, I have always ensured I take on food and drink before I start the day. Especially what looks like to be a miserable cold day! Your energy level soon evaporates when your body is losing heat and you haven't taken on fuel. Since then I have always kept a small bothy bag in my pack if I think the weather will be that changeable and I'll appreciate a quick shelter to rest or take on food/drink. Thankfully it doubles as a tent footprint as well as a windshield, so it is well worth the few extra grammes.

PS: The image at the top of the page was taken on that day

Part 1 - Awareness and Prevention

Part 2 - The Effects

Part 3


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