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M.D. Chris Van Tilburg Weighs in on Rescue Efforts of Missing Mt. Hood Hikers

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

vantilburg3

Author and M.D. Chris Van Tilburg, a member of Oregon’s Hood River Crag Rats Search & Rescue Team, has been participating in the rescue attempt of the two hikers who were reported missing on Mt. Hood last Friday. Van Tilburg and his team were on the mountain all day Sunday before having to retreat due to bad weather. We spoke to him on Monday afternoon:
 

AMK. As of this writing, the two hikers have been missing for more than three days. What should they be focused on right now in order to improve their chances of survival?

CVT. Building a snow cave and hunkering down. It’s all about shelter from the elements at this point, trying to stay warm, and not trying to move about the mountain in foul weather.

AMK. It’s been reported that they have at least one bivvy sack or lightweight sleeping back between them. What should they do with it?

CVT. If they’ve got one, they can share it, use it for a ground pad. They can also stick their feet in their backpacks or use their packs for ground padding. Insulation from sitting on the cold snow is just as important as covering up.

bivvy
The hikers packed a bivvy sack

AMK. According to reports, the hikers had planned to come down the south side of Mt. Hood. Have you hiked or climbed this part of the mountain? Is it particularly tricky this time of year?

CVT. I climbed to 10,500 feet on Sunday, and turned around just short of the summit due to dangerous conditions — avalanche risk, whiteout, cold temperatures and high winds. Any time of the year in any conditions, the south climb can be dangerous — even in clear, windless skies.

AMK. Temps are in the low 20s at night. According to media reports, there is the threat of avalanches, which is preventing full-on rescue efforts. What would you advise the two hikers do next – stay put, try to stay warm, or try their luck making it down the mountain?

CVT. Dig a snowcave, stay put, and try to signal rescuers by any means possible.

AMK. The hikers have been outdoors for more than three days; at this stage, what is the biggest threat to their survival?

CVT. Hypothermia and dehydration.

AMK. Bluntly, at this point, how would you rate their chances of being rescued alive?

CVT. It’s really hard to say. We had a group in the 1970s that lasted 14 days on Hood. There are a lot of variables at play. In this storm, lightly equipped, without injury, after 3 days I’d say chances for the hikers start plummeting. If they have a snow cave and a stove to melt snow for drinking water their chances improve.

AMK. What essential pieces of equipment do you advise hikers or climbers take with them before embarking on Mt. Hood or other hikes or climbs during the winter?

CVT. Extra clothing, a bivvy or blanket for warmth or shelter; food, water and a stove to melt snow in; communication and navigation equipment like a GPS, cell phone, mountain locator unit, a transceiver, signaling mirror and rescue whistle; avalanche safety equipment, including a shovel; gear for crevasse travel, including rope, harness, carabiners, russic cords, plastic boots, crampons, ice ax, helmet. It’s a long list and a heavy pack.

Chris Van Tilburg, M.D., is the editor of WMS’s Wilderness Medicine and the author of eight books on the  outdoors. His most recent book is Mountain Rescue Doctor. He lives in Bend, Oregon.

Heatsheets Bivvies in Action at Eco Primal Quest

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

As the Eco Primal Quest continues – teams are faced with cold temperatures and rain.  Below is an update from the official website with a photo of our Heatsheets Bivvy in action – keeping the teams warm and dry on a cold morning.

Heatsheets Bivvy at Primal Quest

Here’s a photo taken just minutes ago from the checkpoint.

Teams Brace For More Bad Weather!
Posted on 08/19/09 7:53 AM| by Kraig

Wednesday morning brings us another round of incliment weather, as Primal Quest Badlands presented by SPOT stretches into its fifth day. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures today, with rain a distinct possibility. The combination of the two can make for a long, cold, miserable day out on the course.

At the front of the pack, OrionHealth.com, Salomon/Crested Butte, and Merrell/Zanfel Adventures are venturing into the Badlands at last, but many teams are still reaching the waters of Angostura Reservoir, where they face a swim and paddle orienteering course. The waters of the reservoir are a constant 75º F, but the air temperatures are currently quite cool and could play a part throughout the day.

You can follow AMK’s Kyle Peter and Team iMoat on their website.

Product Testimonial – Heatsheets and Thermo-Lite Bivvy

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Here is a recent testimonial that we received from Travis Macy – a Professional Multisport Athlete, racing for Team Salomon/Crested Butte.

Let us know if you have a similar story to share!

“Two years ago, amidst a hailstorm in the middle of the night, I hunkered down and pulled out my space blanket, only to be showered with little metallic shardes that had once been part of the useless clear sheet I held in my hand. Needless to say, that was a miserable night!

Since then, I have been an avid user of the Thermolite 2.0 Bivvy and Emergency Bivvy from Adventure Medical Kits. Whether I’m competing in expedition-length adventure races like Primal Quest or the Adventure Racing World Championship or just out for some training or backpacking, these items are crucial in my gear kit.

Combine one of these bivvies with your choice medical kit from AMK, and you’re good to go. I slept in a single Thermolite 2.0 Bivvy every night at Primal Quest Montana, and the warm sleep provided was paramount in pacing our team to a podium finish.

I highly recommend these products to anyone looking for a high quality emergency or planned-sleep option–and to all of us who have experienced the disheartening shower of metallic shards at 2:00 a.m.!

Travis Macy
Professional Multisport Athlete, Team Salomon/Crested Butte

Share your AMK story or send us feedback!

Survival kit in my hydration pack – best options for under $50?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Question:

What are some good components for a survival kit to put in a medium hydration pack?

Thanks, Zach

Answer:

When I am going light and space is tight, I carry The Pocket Survival Pak and Heatsheets Bivvy. The Pocket Survival Pak has everything you need but a shelter, hence the addition of the Heatsheets Bivvy. I carry this setup whether I am backcountry skiing in the winter or mountain biking in the summer.

BE SAFE,

Frank Meyer, Marketing Director/Co-Founder

ASK YOUR QUESTION – CLICK HERE

AMK Heatsheets Bivvy Donation

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

By Nate Offenberg, Product Manager at AMK

Once in a while, a project comes across my desk that makes me truly happy.  I have to admit – I have a pretty sweet gig here at Adventure Medical Kits.  As AMK’s Product Manager, I get to design the best medical kits and survival tools in the industry and I get to do it with a lot of people who I really like (and I’m not just saying that because they will eventually stumble onto this blog) – it really is a great job.  That said, there are always projects that take the cake, and this project in particular was perhaps the one I am most proud of this year.

Last week, on a late and unseasonably cold December night, our Quality Control Manager came to me to inform me that we had about 200 of our Heatsheet Bivvy Sacks that unfortunately could not be sold – the color was a below our stringent standards and the weight of the product was a bit heavier than our specifications.  At first I was a bit miffed – nobody likes to scrap good product.  I sat at my desk for a long while and brainstormed – what could somebody do with nearly 200 perfectly functional, slightly off color, highly heat reflective bivvy sacks? – Then it hit me – I should give them to the people who need them the most.  Not professional athletes, not light and fast through-hikers, not search and rescue professionals– none of these.

I would give these bivvys to those less fortunate – those who have no-where to call home and little to call their own.  My original emotion of disappointment in the product failure quickly turned to pure joy.  You know Heatsheets as the ultimate thermal blanket for emergency situations but they are also absolutely ideal for those who live outdoors.  The pliable, thin material is significantly more durable than your standard emergency blanket ensuring many uses, and the coating reflects more than 90% of your heat making even the coldest of nights bearable.

The next day, I took my lunch break to write instructions that were less geared to core outdoor adventures and more geared to the homeless in my area.  Along with the help of my co-workers, we bagged each of the Heatsheet Bivvy’s, bundled them with instructions, and prepared them for donation.  It didn’t take long for me to find a highly recommended non-profit facility called the Multi Agency Service Center for Self Sufficiency which operates a small supply dispensary out of Berkeley.  I went down there the next day and suffice to say, the Heatsheets were a HUGE hit – I gave nearly all of them away before I even made it in the door.  It’s like Winston Churchill says, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Experts say that there are over 25,000 homeless people in the Bay Area and the Federal Government estimates that on any given night in 2008, there were approximately 675,000 people without homes in the US.  This is a huge problem and although I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I take a lot of satisfaction out of the fact that 200 of these people are sleeping a lot warmer and will be a lot more comfortable during this winter season thanks to Adventure Medical Kits.

Will my sleeping bag fit inside my bivvy?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Question: Do you think i could fit a sleeping bag inside your emergency bivy?

AMK Answer:

Ian,

Thanks for your question.

It depends on how big your bag is. Most bags will, however extra long or below zero bags might be a tight fit.

The Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy is non-breathable so if you put a sleeping bag inside of it you would create a bit of condensation and perhaps get the outside of the bag and insulation wet. It would get you out of the weather however, so a little condensation would be a small price to pay. If your bag has a water resistant outer shell this would help kepp your insulation from getting wet.

I have used the Thermo-lite 2.0 Bivvy with a sleeping bag inside and although I did get some condensation, it was not of significant consequence. The Thermo-lite 2.0 Bivvy has a foot vent and side opening so there is more air flow helping to keep condensation down.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Thanks,

Frank Meyer

Marketing Director/Co-Founder

ASK YOUR QUESTION – CLICK HERE

AVALANCHE AVOIDANCE: TIPS FOR SAFELY ENJOYING RECREATION IN THE BACKCOUNTRY

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Doug Abromeit - Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center


By Doug Abromeit – Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center

Avalanches typically kill more people in the mountains in the West than any other natural disaster, and the winter of 2007-2008 was particularly grim. Last year 36 people died – the worst on record. Two of those people were killed by avalanches off of house roofs, one was killed in a ski area and thirty-three were killed doing their thing in the backcountry — snowboarding, skiing, climbing or riding a snowmobile.

I am often asked why this past year was so bad and the short answer is that dangerous conditions existed virtually everywhere and they existed for extended periods of time. Typically one or two geographic areas will have bad avalanche conditions and the rest of the country will have relatively stable conditions, but that was not the case in 2007-2008.

Although there were many complex reasons for the spate of avalanche fatalities this past season, the weather – specifically, an unusual snowfall pattern — played a major role. In general terms, most mountainous areas started with relatively light snow fall and cold temperatures. These conditions produced a weak faceted snow layer that could not support the additional weight that was piled on top it by a subsequent series of large snow storms. The weak basal layer was analogous to the strength of potato chips; the big storm layers to the weight of a brick. Obviously potato chips have a hard time holding up a brick and so the basal layers collapsed and avalanches occurred.

The freakish weather wasn’t the only reason for the uptick in Avalanche deaths. Last winter, more people were out in the backcountry because the powder happened to be awesome just about everywhere. Technology exacerbated the situation. Because our skis, boards and snowmobiles are much better than they were just a few years ago it’s now easier and more tempting to get into steep avalanche-prone terrain.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO AVOID AN AVALANCHE

There is only one absolutely certain way to avoid being caught in an avalanche and that is to avoid all avalanche terrain. Avalanches can only occur on slopes steeper than about 30 degrees, so if a person stays on slopes flatter than 30 degrees they are almost guaranteed to never get caught in an avalanche. But that’s easier said than done. Western mountain ranges all have an abundance of slopes steeper than 30 degrees and much of the best backcountry skiing, boarding and snowmobile riding occurs there. So if you choose to go into terrain steeper than 30 degrees – and most of us do – then you can only reduce your risk, you cannot eliminate it.

The most effective way to reduce your risk is to have the tools and skills necessary to identify avalanche terrain, assess snow stability, and carry out a fast and effective rescue if things go bad.

When you go out, along with bringing your dedication to following low-risk travel protocols, you must have a slope meter to determine slope steepness, an avalanche probe and know how to use it, a shovel, extra food, water and clothes, an emergency bivvy or blanket, and a good first aid kit. But the most important tool you can have is avalanche awareness skills. And the best way to develop those skills is to routinely read and/or listen to your local avalanche advisory provided your area has one, take an avalanche class (for information look on avalanche.org or go to your local outdoor shop), read books like the Avalanche Handbook and Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, watch videos like Think Like An Avalanche (available from Black Diamond mail order) and check out the Forest Service National Avalanche Center website at .fsavalanche.com.

There are no shortcuts; it takes time to learn how to assess avalanche danger and how to make reasonable decisions based on your assessment. I urge everyone who goes into the backcountry to take the time and make the commitment to develop your skills so you know when to say “go” and when to say “no”.

Doug Abromeit

Director of the Forest Service National Avalanche Center

(The NAC coordinates all the Forest Service Backcountry Avalanche Centers in the US, facilitates research, and manages the Forest Service Military Artillery for Avalanche Control Program, among its other duties)

Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy or Thermo-lite 2 Bivvy?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Question:

I live in N.E. Ohio and every Oct. I check and update all of my kits (first aid, winter truck pack and home kit). I have been looking at your two bivvy sleeping blankets for my truck kit. Can you tell me which one works the best in very very cold weather?

Answer:

Cassie, They both work well. The main differences are that the Thermo-Lite bivvy will breathe better – meaning less moisture condensation inside – due to the foot vent opening and Velcro side closures. If you are inside your truck, out of the wind, this would be my choice. The Thermo-Lite bivvy is also made of a stronger material. On the other hand, I like the Heatsheets bivvy because of its weight, size and the waterproof taped seams. Either bivvy will help you spend the unexpected night out in your truck.

Thanks for the question.

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AMK Heatsheets Bivvy Temperature Rating

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Q:
Hi Dr. Can you tell me, in degrees F, how an AMK Heatsheets Bivvy would improve the temperature rating for an adventure sleeping bag. I have a sleeping bag which is rated functional to 40 degrees F.

A:
A Heatsheets Bivvy – will add 10 – 15 degrees F. to the temp. rating of your sleeping bag. If you use it on the inside of your bag – plan on a damp night as the material does not breathe. If you put it on the outside of your bag, you will stay drier and warmer, but the outside of your bag will get damp from the condensation. this won’t be a problem if you are using a synthetic bag or a down bag with a water repellent coating on the nylon shell.

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Emergency Bivvy

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Q:
Is it better to put the sleeping bag inside the bivvy, put the bivvy inside the sleeping bag, or ? Please let me know what you think.

A:
Robert, If you use it inside the sleeping bag – you will get clammy and experience the condensation next to your skin. You will also be quite warm. This option will keep your sleeping bag dry. If you use it on the outside it will act as a water and windproof barrier for your sleeping bag and will raise the bag temp. rating by about 15 degrees F. The outside of the bag will get moist, but you will sleep dry. If you are using a down bag with a non waterproof shell than the down could get wet from the condensation and reduce the thermal capacity of the bag. Frank

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