INLAND NW ROUTES
From the title of this BLOG, you may assume that cotton clothing is a hazard in the mountains.
In our lives in the cities and towns, cotton t-shirts and other cotton clothing are very comfortable and work well to keep us warm and stylish.
However, in the mountains, any cotton clothing can and has caused people to die.
Cotton absorbs sweat and other moisture it come in contact with it.
Cotton does not dry quickly, or wick moisture away from our bodies.
Hence, the moisture builds up and causes all your other clothing to become saturated.
When this happens, our clothing becomes cold, and cold wet clothing does not hold heat in our bodies.
In fact, wet clothing, zaps our bodies heat, and if not dealt with immediately, can cause hypothermia and/or other cold related conditions.
These conditions can cause our body and brains not to even realize we are getting cold.
I led a backcountry ski trip to Stevens Peak, in January years ago, in which a ski buddy stared unzipping his jacket, dropped his gloves in the snow, took off his beanie, and could not answer simple questions.
It took all six of us over an hour to warm our ski buddy enough to convince him that we all needed to get out of the mountains and seek medical help.
But it isn’t just cold weather that can affect you.
On another hiking trip to the Twins of The American Selkirks, we started the hike in 75° temps.
Up near the Twins we found a place out of the sun to have lunch with a view. My thermometer read 92°.
About half way thru lunch, a sudden storm rolled in from the west, that we didn’t see coming because of our hide out from the sun.
It rained heavy, and it adversely effected one of us on the hike.
When the thunder started about half way down the trail, she frantically insisted that the people in Bonners Ferry were shooting mortars at us. The thunder echoing in the canyons, didn’t help.
The other girl on the trip was a friends, friend from Japan, and spoke little or no English.
I used hand gestures to let her know what we needed to do, fast.
The Japanese girl was also getting cold, so I put one on each side and grabbed their arms over my shoulder.
It took hours to get them down to the car.
Because of the effort the Japanese girl exerted, she warmed up enough to help get the other girl safely to the car.
But she was not out of the woods yet, I put them in the back seat under a blanket to transfer body heat. I also placed our water bottles up by the defrosters to warm them.
If the girl that owned the car found out the speeds I was driving down the Pack River Road, to get her to the hospital, I’d be in big trouble.
By the time we got to the hospital, the staff assured me she was out of danger.
Later I found out her polypro was in the laundry bin waiting to be washed. She had on a long sleeve cotton t-shirt.
Those are the words I used in my lecture at NIC, during all my Backcountry Safety classes.
I want to emphasize that what you wear, is an important as what you know and what you do in the mountains.
Base Layers should only be polypropylene of equivalent.
Warmth Layers should only be polar fleece or equivalent.
Both of which wick moisture away from your body.
Outer Layer should be waterproof, breathable, and should be treated every year to insure its water repelling capabilities are working.
This suggestion should also cover every piece of clothing or accessories you take into the mountains.
Just remember…COTTON KILLS
In our RESOURCES section, David and I have listed the equipment we take into the mountains.
Below are links to each section, you should read and adhere to, to be smart safe in the mountains.
Of course, there’s a whole lot more you need to know, above this BLOG POST, so I encourage you to read all of our RESOURCE section.
With cold weather only a month or two away, NOW is the time to look at your gear, and bring it up to safety standards.
If all of this seems like a lot to deal with, try dealing with being hospitalized for hypothermia or worse.
Our sole wish, is to provide the information you need to know, so you can be safe in the mountains, and return to your loved ones.
If you have other suggestions, please send your comments to
Chic at email@example.com.
Chic Burge Davis Crafton
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