You are a trip leader for a winter ski program. It's the second day of a week long (7-day) tour. Your route is point-to-point through rolling, heavily forested terrain where dead wood is readily available and fires are permitted. The entire route follows old forest service roads with excellent camping along the way; there is no avalanche danger. Halfway through the dinner on the second day it begins to snow heavily. The flakes are HUGE and very wet. Snow accumulates quickly at a rate of 2-3 inches per hour. It's necessary to wake every few hours throughout the night to knock snow from your tents to keep them from collapsing. By morning the snow has stopped and your campsite is buried beneath three feet of new snow. It seems to take forever to make breakfast and get out of camp. Breaking trail in the deep snow is hard work. By mid-afternoon everyone is wet from a combination of falling down and sweating. You decide to stop at the next available spot to dry out and camp for the night. A couple of your students are completely exhausted by the time camp is set-up. One, Katie, disappears into her tent and sleeping bag as other prepare dinner, look for wood, and start a fire. When dinner is ready, you send one of the students to wake Katie. The student returns saying she is in her bag and wants to sleep. You let her.
The temperature drops to -15º F during the night and everyone is slow to wake again the following day. Katie does not appear for breakfast. You go to check on her and can't fully awaken her. In the process, you notice that she appears to have slept in her wet clothes and much of her sleeping bag is frozen.
What is Katie's current problem, what should you do about it, and how could you have prevented it? Click here to find out.
Don't know where to begin or what to do? Take our Effective Outdoor Program Design & Management workshop and one of our wilderness medicine courses. Guides and expedition leaders should consider taking our Wilderness First Responder course.
Looking for a reliable medical field reference? Consider consider purchasing one of our print or digital handbooks; our digital handbook apps are available in English, Spanish, and Japanese. Updates are free for life. A digital SOAP note app is also available.
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