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Making Water From Ice and Snow

Making Water from Ice and Snow
If you have a choice between using ice or snow to make water, always choose ice first. Ice will give you more water than snow of equal size. Also, ice is usually cleaner and may not require filtering before you use it. The big problem with snow is that small twigs, rocks, and other foreign objects may be in it. Ice, is usually from a stream, tree limb, or other water source and not on the ground.

You can then melt the ice or snow by placing it in a container or a white pillowcase near a fire, not over the top of the fire. Even if the ice or water looks clean, we recommend you either put water purification tablets in it or boil it.

Finally, unless you are desperate, do not melt snow or ice in your mouth to quench your thirst. While often seen in movies, this is just basically dumb. Using your mouth will not only lead to chapped lips, but will also lower your body temperature. The heat used to melt the ice or snow will come from your core temperature, thus lowering it in the process. 

Another old trick that you may have heard of, is to fill a container with snow or ice, place it in your shirt and allow your body heat to melt it. Well, speaking from experience here, it works but you will get a terrible chill. There are easier ways to melt ice or snow. Both of these procedures could seriously affect you, if you are close to experiencing hypothermia (the lowering of the body's core temperature).


How To Survive An Avalanche

How To Survive An Avalanche
There have been miracle stories about how people have survived awesome avalanches that would kill any normal human being. The survival of avalanches is by no means an exact science. The following are some of the things survivors have done during their ordeal. While these worked for them, they do not work all the time. Luck plays an enormous part in whether you do or do not survive an avalanche. Here are a few tips just in case it happens to you.

Try to get out of the slide: Anything you can do to get out of the way will help. People have skied out, escaped by running up the sides of slopes, dug in ice axes and held on for grim life as the flow passes over them, and got away by leaping uphill as the avalanche breaks away. Perhaps the best advice is to make one last desperate leap uphill as you hear the tell-tale crack of the slope breaking away.

Try to stay on the surface: If you do get caught and carried away, the next most important thing is to stay on the surface. Buried victims are three times more likely to be killed than those who do stay on the surface and those who are buried have a much greater chance of survival if they are close to the surface. There seems to be different schools of thought on how to do this, but the consensus is:

Get rid of anything that might drag you down: skis and ski poles in particular are more likely to drag you under if attached. There's probably not a lot you can do about skis, except hope that the bindings release. But the clear advice is to undo powder leashes, loosen pole straps, and anything else that might catch and drag you down before venturing onto a suspect slope.

Use swimming motions to stay on top: from the accounts of survivors, it's clear that this is not easy. But it seems equally clear that fighting to stay on top (whether swimming, pushing off from the bottom when you hit, or just simply fighting it) increases your chances of survival.

Fight like mad for breathing space: Remember that two thirds of victims die of suffocation. The final stage is therefore to try your best to keep a breathing space clear. There are two aspects to this:

  • Try to keep your mouth clear of snow: Probably easier said than done when upside down in the middle of a slide, but it is critical to prevent your mouth becoming blocked by snow. Some experts recommend wrapping a scarf across your mouth before tackling a potentially dangerous slope to improve the chances of keeping your airway clear.

  • Make one last desperate effort as the slide slows: Pretty much all accounts seem to agree on this one. As the snow slows, pressure builds up and it can harden into lumps as solid as concrete. All the accounts recommend that you save your last desperate effort to try to force a space around your mouth, or punch a way out to the surface. Any airspace you can create will massively lengthen the time you can stay alive under the snow and therefore increases your chances of being found and dug out in time.

Stay calm and conserve air: If all this fails and you are buried under the snow, the advice is to stay calm and try to conserve air. Your friends will be looking for you, and all you can do is to give them the best chance by using up as little air as possible. Relax, stay calm, breathe shallowly, and above all do not panic. Probably easier said than done!


How To Climb Efficiently

How to Climb Efficiently
There are two techniques that are widely used in altitude climbing.   They are: pressure-breathe and rest-step. Together, the two techniques are the best way to minimize fatigue when you're hiking up a mountain. So how does it work?

For pressure-breathe, inhale deeply as your foot comes off the ground, then use the force of stepping uphill to facilitate a complete exhalation, squeezing the carbon dioxide out and setting you up for another breath.

For the rest-step technique, drop the heel and completely straighten the leg with each step, which puts the weight on your skeleton and allows your muscles to rest momentarily. At lower altitudes it is probably your leg muscles that need a rest while at high altitudes, this technique gives the lungs a much needed break.


How To Fight Altitude Sickness

How to Fight Altitude Sickness
Along with ascending slowly and taking time to acclimatize, try the herb ginkgo biloba, used by the Chinese for more than 5,000 years. "Take 100 milligrams twice a day, starting a few days before your climb," says Dr. Peter Hackett, the president of the International Society of Mountain Medicine.

"We don't know why ginkgo helps, but in tests it reduces both the incidence and severity of AMS [acute mountain sickness]." The herb also increases peripheral blood flow, so your hands and feet may stay warmer.


Dealing With Frost Bite

How to deal with Frostbite
Follow these rules and you should be right:

  • A frostbitten person should never be subjected to re warming before help is available, unless it is done in optimal conditions. After re warming, the victim remains invalid, due to the swelling of the extremities.

  • A frostbitten area should not be rubbed, beaten or re warmed (in front of an open fire).

  • As soon as possible, a general re warming and a good re hydration should be started (hot and sweetened drinks). The re warming of the frostbitten areas can be done in a warm water bath ( 37C ) to which a mild non-alcoholic antiseptic has been added. The pain can be relieved during the re warming with analgesics (aspirin). After each bath (30 minutes, 4 times a day), the frozen areas should be covered with sterile gauze and a very loose bandage.

  • Special attention must be paid to the risk of infection that can compromise the possibilities of healing. If there is suspected infection due to the persistence of pain after re warming, antibiotics should be administered for a period of 8 days.


Detecting A Crevasse

How to Detect a Crevasse
The first step in safe glacier travel is figuring out where the crevasses are and picking a route through them. Route finding on many glaciers is part planning, part experience, and part luck.You can sometimes get a head start on the planning by studying photos of the glacier before the trip, because some crevasse patterns remain fairly constant from year to year. Seek out recent reports from parties who have visited the area.

Once your on the glacier, its a constant game of find the crevasse. The following are some tips on how to find them.

  • Keep an eye out for sagging trenches in the snow that mark where gravity has pulled down on snow over a crevasse. A sagging trench on the surface of the snow is a prime characteristic of a hidden crevasse. The sags will be visible by their slight difference in sheen, texture, or color. The low-angle light of early morning and late afternoon tend to accentuate this feature. (The sags may be impossible to detect in the flat light of a fog or in the glare of a mid afternoon sun, and it takes additional information to distinguish them from certain wind forms.)

  • Be wary after storms. New snow can fill a sagging trench and make it blend into the surrounding surface. (At other times, however, the new snow can actually make the sagging trench more apparent by creating a hollow of new snow that contrasts with surrounding areas of old snow.)

  • Be especially alert in areas where you know crevasses form, such as where a glacier makes an outside turn and where slope angle increases.

  • Sweep your eyes to the sides of the route regularly, checking for open cracks to the left or right. Cracks could hint at the presence of crevasses extending beneath your path.

  • Remember that where there is one crevasse there are often many


Climbing Scree

How to Climb Scree
We have learnt from climbs on Mount Rinjani in Indonesia, that scree can be a frustrating medium to walk on. Here are a few tips:

  • Climbing scree is a little like climbing a sand dune: You can work awfully hard and end up in pretty much the same place you started.

  • But unlike sand on a dune, scree isn't very deep. You can actually kick steps into it and get purchase with the front of your boots. Even so, it's a laborious way to climb.

  • Another choice is to try to switchback by traversing the slope and gaining a little elevation at a time. This makes the climb less steep.

  • As you ascend, you'll probably see bigger rock chunks here and there. These can make good footholds, but test them first since they are subject to the same law of gravity that keeps trying to pull you downhill: A stable-looking rock could be sitting on an unstable layer of scree that will start to slide just as you put your foot on it.

  • Don't try and do the hill in one go, you will only frustrate yourself and exhaust your body.  Do each hill in small sections, such as 15 or 20 steps, then rest.  At altitude these rests will be mandatory.

  • Be patient


Detecting Avalanche Conditions

How to Detect Avalanche Conditions
The following is a basic to observing general avalanche conditions.  Again, nothing can replace experience so listen to your guide.  Look and listen for:

  • Old Slide Paths - An avalanche path that has slid once will slide again. Look for old scars in timber and avoid steep gullies and steep, open slopes.

  • Recent Avalanche Activity - Look around; if you see new avalanches you should suspect dangerous conditions.

  • Sound and Cracks - If the snow sounds hollow, particularly on a slope full of wind-blown snow, conditions are probably dangerous; if the snow covers cracks that are found running in the snow, slab avalanche danger is high.


Preventing Heartburn In Nepal

How to Prevent Heartburn in Nepal
This is a very common complaint at altitude. We have found that visitors to the Khumbu in Nepal, end up drinking much more tea than they usually do at home. The usual tea brewed in this area is black tea that contains lots of tannin, which is abrasive and irritating to the stomach. 

We recommend herbal tea (which also eliminates the diuretic effects of caffeine). Many of our clients have had a complete resolution of their heartburn when they gave up drinking so much of the local tea. Antacids may be helpful, and many find relief with OTC ranitidine.

Can I take Sleeping Pills at Altitude?
Almost everyone has trouble sleeping at high altitude. Most sleeping pills, however, can be dangerous and actually predispose you to altitude sickness.

If you're acclimatizing, acetazolamide can help a lot with the periodic breathing that disturbs sleep. Melatonin is an OTC sleep aid that helps many and has no contraindications at altitude. One prescription sleep aid that has shown NOT to disturb breathing at sleep is zoldipem; you may want to discuss taking this medication with your doctor. Any other hypnotics/tranquilizers should probably not be used at altitude.