Image of the June 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
June 2019 Issue
Home / Articles / Editorial

The silent menace

LandSAR Turangi’s Blake McDavitt says people often ignore the first symptoms of hypothermia Photo: Martyn Davies

Reading this month’s feature on hypothermia, I realised, quite worryingly, that I have been through the early stages of the condition several times. And the chances are, you have too. The numb fingers refusing to cooperate. The cold mouth seemingly so paralysed by botox it can’t form words properly and what’s enunciated is mostly gibberish. They’re both early warning signs that your body is cooling dangerously and that hypothermia, or the ‘silent menace’ as Search and Rescue volunteer Cliff Jones describes it, is not far off.

And that’s the thing that is really worrying about these symptoms: It’s not until you’ve reached the hut and try to unfasten your pack or start the cooker that you realise your hands aren’t working as they should and you can’t speak too well. What if there was no hut, or it was still a way off? Would I realise I was becoming so cold I might die?

Sadly, unless others noticed my stumbling and slurring, probably not. Hypothermia really does sneak up on you – even the experts, like the six LandSAR operatives who developed hypothermia while trying to rescue three other hypothermic victims, can get caught out. And it’s truly insidious – it can even trick your mind into thinking you are so hot you take off your clothes. By that stage, you’re pretty much done for unless you get to a hospital. In the backcountry, that’s unlikely to happen.

You have to nip it in the bud early and act before cold stress turns to hypothermia. That means finding shelter, getting out of the wind, drinking warm tea and eating food.

Hopefully, our story will help make you aware of the danger of hypothermia and alert you to the risks.

Support Wilderness

Since 1991, Wilderness has had one simple goal: to help Kiwis ‘See more, do more, live more’ of New Zealand.

If you value our mission, please consider subscribing. As a loyal supporter, you’ll receive these benefits:

  • New Zealand’s best outdoor journalism We’ve won multiple awards for our journalism and magazine production.
  • NZ’s best trips. Browse more than 610 trips with downloadable maps and route notes.
  • Trustworthy gear reviews. Each month we review gear we’ve been bashing and thrashing for months so you can determine if its worth your money.
  • Web exclusives. Each week we publish stories you won’t find in the magazine. View our latest web exclusives.
  • Member benefits. Our WildCard provides discounts at more than 20 partners throughout New Zealand.
  • Your support goes a long way. Your subscription will help us fund NZ’s best outdoor journalists and writers and ensure Wilderness will be there to inspire the next generation of outdoor Kiwis.

A subscription costs as little as $7.00/month for instant access to all articles, trips, gear reviews and gear guides.

View all our subscription options and join the club.

Already a subscriber? Login Now.