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Topic: Hike ends in disaster. But we can all learn, from it.< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 5:57 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Caught in freezing rain, Illinois man, 2 sons die while hiking on remote trail in Missouri
Published January 14, 2013
Associated Press


Searchers found the soaked bodies of 36-year-old David Decareaux and the two boys — ages 8 and 10 — on the Ozark Trail on Sunday, a day after Decareaux declined a passerby's offer of a ride back to the lodge where they had been staying, Reynolds County Sheriff Tom Volner said. The cold had killed them, he said.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 6:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

:( :( :(

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 6:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A little preparation would have probably saved all three.  Very sad!
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 6:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The weather changed that day from 65 degrees to well below freezing and rained incredibly hard turning to freezing rain. Early in the day it was perfect out. Not typical for the area. Sounds like a day hike gone bad. Along the Ozark Trail it is easy to get turned around. But also typical to see lots of day hikers out. Very sad.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 7:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

They were offered a ride to safety.

Sad indeed.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 7:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The classic wrong situation is people hiking in cool/cold weather in the rain with a lot of clothes on.
The clothing will become damp then wet from perspiration and possibly from rain getting in too so you start to lose a lot of body heat .
Much better to walk faster (or at least at a steady pace)  with very little on and keep eating and drinking if you can.
When you stop you must get out of your wet gear and this is why is important not to wear all your layers when walking.
The time I fear most is when it is around 32f and you get sleat or just above that with freezing rain...
(BTW good reason to have a stove to make a hot cuppa ,even on day walks , in those conditions. A Jetboil can be handy here)
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 8:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sad.  However to be more diplomatic than wwwest was I would say it sounds like a lot of poor decisions were made.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 14 2013, 10:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Especially with two such young boys out with him.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 11:45 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It's easy to judge the series of bad decisions from afar on a warm keyboard, but likely by the time he was getting in trouble, his judgement was impaired enough that making good decisions was that much harder.  Hypothermia does that, pretty quickly.  Anybody who feels they'd make great decisions when cold and shivering probably hasn't ever been terribly hypothermic (or with anyone who has).  Mistakes happen.

The really sad part IMO is the two kids, who followed dad as they would understandably do, and weren't really old enough to question him (like a 15-year-old might have) when he was refusing a ride back to the lodge.

One can judge if they want... personally I just find it sad, without needing to assign blame.  And DD's title was right, we can learn from it, so at least something good can come from such a tragedy.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 11:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well put, GBH.

A man and his two sons died doing what they thought was going to be fun. They may not have been as well prepared as some would judge, but I have been in similar circumstances (wet and hypothermic) despite being well prepared. If one of my boys had been with me that could have potentially made my decision making abilities even worse.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 12:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

More information on this very sad tragedy now below.  May they rest in peace and their loving family members find comfort and support.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news....ri.html

snippet:

Decareaux had been wearing only a light jacket, while one of his sons was clad in a fleece pullover, and the other a sweater, all three died of exposure to the elements.
-----------------------------------------

We read about people getting lost hiking out on lonely trails every year.   Most of the time a person or group is able to find their way back to front country or search parties rescue them.  But this story is a reminder of how serious venturing out into the backcountry can be.  Each of us reflects on such possibilities every time we pack our daypacks with extra gear just in case the unexpected occurs.  Any time one is hiking remotely at a time of year when weather or temperatures have potential to overnight at levels of deadly exposure, one ought to prepare for the worst with recommended minimum essentials even though that may require carrying a few more pounds.  

For we backpackers the issue of being prepared is of course almost always there.  Especially in mountain regions where even in summer, night time temperatures regularly drop to deadly levels if one is dressed only in shorts and t-shirt.  For those of us that often set up campsites well away from trails, especially solo adventurers, there is the related issue of not being able to find one's campsite which is particularly an issue on moonless dark nights.   Just wondering a few dozen feet away from camp at night must be done carefully, something I learned on my very first backpacking trip decades ago.

I was camped tentless sleeping bag atop a ground sheet about 100 yards from a small stream about heavy forest in the Yosemite backcountry in an area infamous for bears. (they came every night)  On a chilly dark moonless late May evening with no one else about for miles, I got out of my warm sleeping bag wearing little and decided to walk over to the stream, wash my face, and brush my teeth.  

Kneeling down at the stream bending over, my headlamp popped off, falling into the shallow cold water.  Suddenly everything was very dark.    Groping into the dark cold water I pulled out the headlamp but found the battery compartment had opened and batteries had escaped!  

I could only find one battery after considerable blind effort.  It was very dark and I immediately realized if I was off on my return direction just a little, I might miss my camp...and die of exposure! Was very difficult to see anything in such a dense dim forest.   When I had carefully walked about the correct distance, I began a methodical XY survey back and forth and luckily managed to locate the spot.  

After that experience I have ALWAYs carried during nights in addition to my headlamp, a small spare flashlight and tended to carry more minimal survival gear than most folks even on day hikes just in case.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 12:40 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

They were offered a ride?  Sounds like pride won out over logic.   How tragic.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 12:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Dave Senesac @ Jan. 15 2013, 12:17 pm)
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.  Any time one is hiking remotely at a time of year when weather or temperatures have potential to overnight at levels of deadly exposure, one ought to prepare for the worst with recommended minimum essentials even though that may require carrying a few more pounds.  

+1.  Your're absolutely correct but so many people just don't get it.  Just this weekend I went x-country skiing on a popular trail but it does go fairly deep into the backcountry.  Temps never rose above 6 or 7 degress F. In the winter, my day pack approaches 17-18 lbs with all my gear such as extra clothes, food, water, bivy blanket, shovel, etc.  I always carry enough that I could survive a night although admittedly I probably wouldn't enjoy it.  My point is that I passed several groups who were woefully unnprepared.  Some didn't even carry day packs since they were just going a  little ways.  One guy even made disparaging remarks about my "heavy pack". My point is that if anything had gone wrong, these guys would have been in real trouble with those temps. They could have easily ended up like the folks in the OP's story. Peace of mind always makes my pack seem a lot lighter.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 1:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(hikerjer @ Jan. 15 2013, 12:40 pm)
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They were offered a ride?  Sounds like pride won out over logic.   How tragic.

That was my initial reaction as well, but it only says they were offered a ride 3 hours into their hike.  It doesn't really say if the weather had even changed at that point.

Incredibly sad ending for his widow and 3 surviving children :(


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 1:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Right you are Dave and Jer. About 2 weeks ago there was a concert at South Lake Tahoe. One teenager, clad in yoga tights and wearing a ski jacket attempted to walk to her hotel, about 3 miles away. The weather that night was -13 degrees. She never made it. The highway worker who found her body a week later, said that her jacket was next to her. Those that live in mild climates, have no idea how to dress for the cold, and how to conduct themselves while out in it.
It seems that too many people plan for the moment, instead of pondering the what ifs.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 3:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I posted this once before some time ago.  It's an article I wrote for a local hiking magazine about an incident that due to my own stupidity almost cost me my life.  It taught me some real lessons and I'll never head to the hills without being properly prepared again.  It's a bit long winded so don't feel obligated to read it, but if you do, I hope you enjoy it.

                             Lost in the Beartooths: Cold, Wet, and Confused
                                                       by Jerry Kessler

It was like the fabled mountain man Jim Bridger once quipped, “I can’t ever remember being lost, but I do recall being considerably confused for a few days.”

I can attest to not knowing exactly where I have been on a number of occasions, but the only time I really felt lost was several years ago on a day hike in the Beartooth Mountains. The Beartooths are an extremely rugged range with plateaus of 10,000 feet or higher, cut with deep and rocky side canyons. The plateaus are generally above treeline and as such are barren, treeless, and windswept. They make for spectacular walking and incredible views during good weather, but they offer scant protection when the weather turns bad, which it does rather regularly.

On a beautiful Labor Day weekend, I set out for a day hike across the Red Lodge plateau just northeast of Yellowstone Park. I started out early on a circular route up the Mary Creek drainage to the top of the plateau, a climb of about 3,000 feet. I planned to walk about six miles across the plateau before dropping down the Senia Creek drainage, where I had left my truck.

The weather was perfect—mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky. I took only a light lunch, a poncho, and a wool sweater. As was usual on easy hikes, my Labrador retriever accompanied me. The morning was glorious but at about 2 p.m., when I was on the highest and most exposed part of the plateau, the clouds started to roll in and a light drizzle began. Still, I wasn’t worried. I was more than halfway through the hike and it was all downhill to my vehicle. At lower elevations, trails in the Beartooths are typically well marked and easy to follow.  However, on the high plateaus they become faint or nonexistent. Where the trail is not discernible, rock cairns generally mark the path every 50 to 70 yards. They make for easy navigating in clear weather but on that early September day, as the weather continued to deteriorate, I began to think that things might not turn out as planned.

The temperature dropped steadily and the wind and rain, which soon turned to a cold sleet, intensified. Still, I was getting closer to treeline and the actual trail. However, within ten minutes, the clouds lowered and I could see no more and than 100 feet in front of me—often less. Worse, I could no longer make out the cairns or other landmarks. Soon I was totally disoriented.

I stopped to assess the situation and set my small daypack down (which contained my lunch, map, and compass) and went to reconnoiter the best route off the plateau. Big mistake! When I went to retrieve the pack, I realized I didn’t have the slightest idea where it was, nor could I see more that 20 yards in any direction.

The weather continued to worsen and I had absolutely no shelter. I was still well above treeline and totally exposed to the increasingly heavy wind, rain, and sleet. The temperature dropped to around 30 degrees, creating a textbook hypothermia situation. And without my map and compass, I had no idea how to get off the plateau. It began to dawn on me that I was lost.

By now I was in a survival situation. If I didn’t get to a lower elevation soon and find some sort of shelter, I was in real trouble. After wandering around in the dense fog and sleet for about 20 minutes, I came to a small stream—just a rivulet really, but I reasoned it had to flow off the plateau at some point. I started to follow it downstream, hoping that it would lead below treeline. After following the stream for a short distance, it became obvious that it would also plummet down a dangerously steep, rocky, and slippery sidecut in the plateau wall.

Staying on the exposed plateau was not an option. My lab was following me faithfully, but now she was whimpering and showing even more apprehension about the route than I had.

As I descended, the defile became steeper and more rugged. The side walls, where I could glimpse them through the fog and snow, loomed dark and ominous like some landscape out of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stream continued to snake and tumble its way through and over the talus, boulders, and more and more deadfall.

Many spots were difficult for me to get across, but they were impossible for a dog to negotiate. I ended up pulling, shoving, and literally carrying my lab over obstacles almost constantly. Any slip or misstep could have resulted in a fall and serious injury. Even a minor injury, such as a twisted or sprained ankle, could have created a life-threatening situation. By now I was certain I was nowhere near the route I had described in a note left at home. If something did happen to me, no one would be looking for me here.

After nearly three hours of exhausting, wet, and frustrating scrambling, the canyon began to widen and the terrain to level out.  I reached tree line. At about 6:30 p.m. I found a large spruce with low, thick branches—the kind you make forts under when you were a kid. It turned out to be the perfect shelter—dry and out of the wind, which was now blowing down the canyon at gale force. I immediately crawled under the lowest branches on to a bed of pine needles with the dog close behind.

The storm continued to intensify and evening was quickly closing in. The combination of the weather, approaching darkness, and my exhaustion made for no chance of continuing, so I tried to get as comfortable as possible by covering myself with spruce bows and huddling next to my dog, who gave off a surprising amount of warmth, somewhat redeeming herself for having to haul her off the plateau.  Surprisingly, I actually slept through most of the night. Four new inches of snow greeted me when I emerged from under the tree at first light.

It was still snowing as I headed down the now wide and gentle canyon. After a couple of hours I picked up a faint hiking trail. As the elevation dropped, the snow began to diminish. The trail became more distinct and eventually ended at a dirt road which I followed for several more miles until I came to an area of summer homes. One had smoke coming out of the chimney, which made for one of the more pleasant views I’ve experienced in my hiking career.  I didn’t think twice about approaching. After graciously being admitted inside and given coffee and chocolate, I discovered that I had descended the east face of the plateau rather than the south side (my intended route) and was nearly 30 miles by road from where I had intended to end the hike.

In retrospect, I obviously did some things wrong. I should have gotten an accurate weather report rather than just assuming the weather would hold, especially given that the Beartooths are high enough and large enough that they can create their own weather. I should have prepared for severe weather with more than just a sweater and poncho. Of course, leaving my lunch, map and compass behind certainly didn’t help things, although I’m not sure how much good they would have done with such poor visibility.

Taking the lab was a debatable move. Admittedly, carrying her over the rocks and deadfall during the descent off the plateau was dangerous. But she was better company in the situation than some of my regular hiking companions might have been.

I also did some things right. Most importantly, I didn’t panic. Consequently, I made the right decision to follow the stream off the plateau and eventually find shelter below treeline. Upon finding adequate shelter, I had the presence of mind to take advantage of it rather than push on into the night.

By thinking the situation through and with a little luck, what could have been a disastrous and tragic event turned out to be merely an uncomfortable and long, but educational, evening. The worst part came the next day when I had to explain my absence at work by admitting I got lost. Those things, I found, take a long time to live down.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 3:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The thing is, as Jer points out, nearly everyone in the early years of their outdoor experience--and perhaps several times since--has probably made some bad decisions somewhere along the way.  Most people, with a mix of seemingly good decisions (which everyone remembers) and a healthy dose of luck (which most seem to forget) get away with it and chalk it up to "a lesson learned."  Some, as the guy in the OP, don't get so lucky.  99 times out a hundred he'd probably have made it back to the lodge where his kids would get some hot chocolate and he'd have a story to tell with the caveat "we'll be smarter next time."

Before folks routinely thumb their noses down at others (aka the "Darwin Award" nominees), I think it's a good idea to look back at your own past, and perhaps realize a situation or two when--due to a turn of different luck--some past moment may have ended in a news story if things had gone differently.  Very few folks with much experience can claim otherwise for an absolute 100% of their past.  They may not have made the same mistakes as the guy in the news story, but no mistakes?  Never ever?  Not terribly likely.

My own $.02 anyway.


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(hikerjer @ Jan. 15 2013, 9:40 am)
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They were offered a ride?  Sounds like pride won out over logic.   How tragic.

Or fear.  Or reluctance to be a "bother."  All poor reasons, in retrospect.

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(RebeccaD @ Jan. 15 2013, 1:13 pm)
QUOTE

(hikerjer @ Jan. 15 2013, 9:40 am)
QUOTE
They were offered a ride?  Sounds like pride won out over logic.   How tragic.

Or fear.  Or reluctance to be a "bother."  All poor reasons, in retrospect.

Maybe at the time, daddy genuinely knew where he was and how to get back (versus he didn't know but wasn't  going to show his shortcomings in front of his kids) -- and perhaps it was because of the rain that it got dark so much earlier than anyone expected and they then got lost because they couldn't even see the back of their hands (as per the article).

IOW, we likely won't ever know...


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 4:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Ben2World @ Jan. 15 2013, 1:18 pm)
QUOTE

(RebeccaD @ Jan. 15 2013, 1:13 pm)
QUOTE

(hikerjer @ Jan. 15 2013, 9:40 am)
QUOTE
They were offered a ride?  Sounds like pride won out over logic.   How tragic.

Or fear.  Or reluctance to be a "bother."  All poor reasons, in retrospect.

Maybe at the time, daddy genuinely knew where he was and how to get back (versus he didn't know but wasn't  going to show his shortcomings in front of his kids) -- and perhaps it was because of the rain that it got dark so much earlier than anyone expected and they then got lost because they couldn't even see the back of their hands (as per the article).

IOW, we likely won't ever know...

Agree, Ben. And when I say "in retrospect," I'm referring to the wonderful 20/20 hindsight we all have.

I'm throwing no stones.  Those who recall my TR from Hawaii last spring will know why.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 4:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(RebeccaD @ Jan. 15 2013, 1:24 pm)
QUOTE

(Ben2World @ Jan. 15 2013, 1:18 pm)
QUOTE

(RebeccaD @ Jan. 15 2013, 1:13 pm)
QUOTE

(hikerjer @ Jan. 15 2013, 9:40 am)
QUOTE
They were offered a ride?  Sounds like pride won out over logic.   How tragic.

Or fear.  Or reluctance to be a "bother."  All poor reasons, in retrospect.

Maybe at the time, daddy genuinely knew where he was and how to get back (versus he didn't know but wasn't  going to show his shortcomings in front of his kids) -- and perhaps it was because of the rain that it got dark so much earlier than anyone expected and they then got lost because they couldn't even see the back of their hands (as per the article).

IOW, we likely won't ever know...

Agree, Ben. And when I say "in retrospect," I'm referring to the wonderful 20/20 hindsight we all have.

I'm throwing no stones.  Those who recall my TR from Hawaii last spring will know why.

I never thought you were throwing stones.  The only one throwing stones here is the one who made the idiotic "darwin award" remark!  Just wanted to remark that when daddy refused the ride, it could be due to any of the reasons stated -- or a genuine belief that everything was fine.

But again, stating the obvious, we will never know for sure.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 4:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Interesting article, hikerjer. Thanks for posting it.

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(schlanky @ Jan. 15 2013, 4:58 pm)
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Interesting article, hikerjer. Thanks for posting it.

Yeah, I never make mistakes, hiking or otherwise.  I just have a lot of experience.  So far I've survived all of my experiences, and I might actually be learning in the process.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 5:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well, I have absolutely no hiking experience whatsoever.  Experience is too often the smoking gun that points to past mistakes.   :D

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The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.  -- St. Augustine
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 7:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 7:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

From post 15 :
"The highway worker who found her body a week later, said that her jacket was next to her. "
That is called paradoxical undressing. Some take most of their clothes off.
long explanation of why that happens but it is a typical sign of advanced to severe hypothermia.
As GBH has stated , at that point your are confused so no logic/experience  applies any longer
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 15 2013, 8:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Franco @ Jan. 15 2013, 4:50 pm)
QUOTE
From post 15 :
"The highway worker who found her body a week later, said that her jacket was next to her. "
That is called paradoxical undressing. Some take most of their clothes off.
long explanation of why that happens but it is a typical sign of advanced to severe hypothermia.
As GBH has stated , at that point your are confused so no logic/experience  applies any longer

I remember reading that in some cases, when the body shivers to generate desperately-needed heat -- a person can actually feel too hot -- and start undressing!  Of course, then comes the time when the body can no longer replace any more heat loss... and the person goes quickly after that point.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 1:52 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

That's got to be a miserable way to die. My heart goes out to them and their family.  :(
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 9:32 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 15 2013, 5:04 pm)
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Good judgement comes from experience.  Experience comes from bad judgement.

Yes and no.

Experience is a great teacher, but it's a higher thing to learn from others, accept their counsel, and live by it.

Example, two boys have a penchant to stick a fork in the electric outlet. Both fathers warn the boys of the consequences. One boy takes his father at his word and avoids pain. The other boy doesn't and learns the hard way. I would say both learned.

I don't have to crash a plane to know it's something I want to avoid...

At the end of the day, I'm religious about having the right gear for any hike, including a day hike. Mother nature is a cruel teacher.


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Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty. – Socrates
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 9:43 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I know Brad.  It was a lighthearted quip.

But regardless of the counsel of others, there isn't a person on these boards that hasn't learned something in the woods by making a mistake at some point.  Odds are you had much better instruction in your earlier days than the dad described in the article, but that hardly makes anyone infallible.


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