Hypothermic Jeans & Trainers Man Rescued from Snowdon

Hypothermic Jeans & Trainers Man Rescued from Snowdon

26/01/14 A man wearing jeans and trainers has been rescued from Snowdon

Hypothermic Jeans & Trainers Man Rescued from Snowdon  

Jeans & Trainers Clad Man Rescued from Snowdon

A man has been rescued from Snowdon after getting into difficulty close to the summit.

BBC Website
Grough Website

Discussion topic opened on this issue - scroll down

Comment from MountainSafety

There's so much to say about this story, yet so little, as most of it is obvious. I do try to keep these 'comments' objective and not point fingers, but this one is a tough one. However, we can all remember this story and learn from it or remind ourselves of some aspects of hill craft.

On Sunday 26th January 2014, the weather forecast for the UK mountains was awful, leaving only the toughest or most foolhardy to venture outside of the pub or outdoor shops. The conditions were so bad in fact that the RAF helicopter could not make it to assist later, when called.

Jeans are always a bad idea as they get wet quick and dry slowly, leaving wet clothes next your skin, meaning that you lose heat through conduction 25 times quicker than having dry clothing, thus leaving you susceptible to hypothermia. This chap was clearly not wearing suitable clothing for that mountain on that day. 

A normal walking day on Snowdon should demand a pair of boots. Ok, you'll see crazy fell runners in trainers - special trainers - but fell runners are a special breed with no emulation to be attempted by mere mortals. Fell runners aside, most mountains demand boots, always. The conditions on Snowdon were full-on winter conditions, with rescuers needing to use crampons - and no doubt ice axes too - to get to the stricken walker. Anything white underfoot is a big clue to requiring spikes on ones feet, especially if there is any hint of ice, compacted or consolidated snow.

The time of day... When the emergency services were alerted, it was about 6:35pm. Sunset would have been 4:50pm, with approx 30 mins light after sunset. So by 5:30pm it would have been pretty dark - quite normal for this time of year - and should have been no surprise. I wonder if he had a torch... It was another hour before a 999 call was made, so one can assume that he was still on his way up. Planning a route, including time estimations and sunset times, is an important part of any day in the hills.

Upon realising the detrimental change of conditions underfoot, we should all remember that one can turn around and walk away as the hill will be there another day. Make sure you are too.

This mountain rescue meant that two mountain rescue teams (Llanberis & Aberglaslyn) had to risk their own lives on the side of a dangerous mountain, in the dark, so that they could rescue a total stranger who had been stupid to the extreme. (Sorry, objectivity lapse for a moment.)

About Hypothermia

On initially reaching the walker, it was said that he was unable to walk down under his own steam. One of the symptoms of hypothermia is that simple movements can become difficult, leading to trips & falls, and it would seem in this case that the walker exhibited such symptoms. The reason for the difficulty in movement can be traced to the body's self preservation techniques, as it starts to cut-off the blood supply to the extremities, by a process called vasoconstriction. Warm blood is retained towards the core of the body to keep the internal organs functioning, as without them, you die. The body sacrifices movement for internal warmth. It's because of vasoconstriction that it's important never to rewarm a casualty too quickly, especially do not rub their skin to make them feel warm. You could kill them. When the body thinks it's getting warmer on the extremities, it stops holding on to the warm blood in the core and starts to release it outwards, by a process called vasodilation. This is where things turn bad, because warm blood moving outwards means that cold blood moves inwards, thus cooling down the casualty even further, and if you're unlucky, killing them. Giving a nip of alcohol has the same effect as rubbing someone to get them warm. Never give a suspected hypothermia casualty alcohol. Read more about understanding hypothermia and symptoms in detail.

Upon reaching the casualty, the teams would have gotten him into a storm shelter to remove him from the harsh extermal environment and save him from getting any wetter, prevented cooling by convection, aka wind chill, then wrapped him up in a blizzard bag or blizzard blanket and after an amount of slow re-warming, given him a blizzard jacket and walked him off the mountain.

Personally, I always carry a storm shelter, blizzard bag and blizzard jacket in winter. Not necessarily for me to use (I hope never), but if ever I came across someone in a hypothermic state such as this I would be duty bound to help them. However, I wouldn't do that by putting myself at risk in the process, so a little extra kit carried may at some point may prevent me entering a danger zone whilst helping someone else. I often walk alone too, so the extra warm stuff could actually save my bacon.

Incidentally, thanks to Llanberis & Aberglaslyn MRTs for always turning out to collect people from the mountains, especially Snowdon. I know there is sometimes frustration that people go so badly equipped, or just get lost and have to be rescued, but the teams will turn out anyway.



For Discussion

If you see someone walking up a mountain, where their apparent readiness for the terrain and conditions is perhaps questionable; should you:

  • leave them to it, it's their life
  • stop and have a chat with them. Make a judgement on their preparedness and perhaps suggest that they would be safer in descending