What kind of special planning is necessary for hiking in the extremes?
Remember in extreme cold to add 250-500 Calories/day. Your body will be running the furnace at full blast to keep your core temperature within reasonable limits, but the layers you are wearing should keep you from using excessive Calories to keep warm. The real Calorie burner is the extra effort it takes to move more gear over worse terrain. Even relatively level terrain is more challenging if you are post-holing into knee-deep snow at every step. Small, frequent snacks are the most effective way to fuel your muscles. Add 4-8 extra servings of high carbohydrate/high fat snacks per day. (Avoid high protein snacks, as they increase your water requirement and reduce your cold tolerance.) Timing your meals will also make a difference in how you feel. A hearty snack just before you go to sleep (500-1200 Calories) will help you sleep warmer and more soundly.
Beside needing more fuel yourself, you'll need at least 3 times more stove fuel to melt snow and heat it to boiling (not correcting for additional environmental losses due to conductance, exposure to wind, etc.). Everything will take longer--take plenty of fuel.
Be mindful of the effect subzero temperature will have on your food rations. Take chips or cheese crackers instead of bread or bagels. Generally, the less water in any food, the better. The lower water content makes them less likely to freeze solid. Pack dehydrated soup and instant cereal mixes, candy bars or granola bars--foods that require little/no preparation time and that contain no water. (See Water.)
Keep snack breaks short and put on another layer before
you get chilled. Or rather than stopping, plan to nibble as you hike along.
EXTREME HEAT (over 100oF)
The most critical nutrient is water, and all the more critical at temperatures over 100oF. The kind of temperatures you'll encounter in the Grand Canyon, the Mojave Desert or arid sections of the Continental Divide Trail. Water will determine your itinerary. Water will dictate your survival. If temperatures go over 100oF and your water supply has evaporated, you had better stay put and pray someone misses you enough to send a rescue team. If you have 1 quart of water left, you may survive 5.5 days if you stay where you are. You only have 3.5 days if you try walking only at night, resting when exhausted. Not much room for error, is there? Refer to John Annerino's Hiking the Grand Canyon. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1993), pp. 110-111.
With every breath, you are losing water. At high temperatures, sweat will be draining you dry. Watch the color of your urine. If it is clear, you are not in the danger zone (yet). Try to drink enough water so that what goes in comes out. Drink before you are thirsty. Reduce your body temperature by keeping a wet bandana over the back of your neck, a hat with a brim on your head, and rest frequently at any shady opportunity.
Expect your appetite to be suppressed, but now is the time to include those salty snacks in your menu. Jerky, peanuts, or pretzels--it will not require a lot to replace the salt lost in your sweat, but you can justify eating them with a clear conscience, knowing the salt will be washed away in your sweat, rather than creating an extra burden on your kidneys or circulatory system.
About 1000 mg sodium (almost 1/2 teaspoon salt) is lost in each quart
of sweat. Avoid diuretics such as coffee, which will only make you
lose more fluid.
EXTREME WET (more than 4 days of rain)
If you haven't experienced this one yet, your time is coming. Expect it. After 4 rainy days, the odor of mildew will assail you at every step. The squish and slog within your boots will rot your feet. Mud will cake your legs, adding insult to injury--carrying unwelcome weight down a slippery treacherous trail. And you ask yourself, "Why did I think this was fun?"
First, don't let the weather dictate your mood. Remember that
one of the reasons you are in the Wilderness is to be reminded that there
is more to your existence than beating the traffic to work and beating
the traffic home again. You WANT to be reminded once in awhile that there
is something bigger than yourself--Out of your control. What better reminder
than four solid days of unrelenting rain?
You CAN walk in the rain, but if the threat of lightning impedes your progress as you approach a summit, find shelter and catch up with your journal, sketch the flowers at your feet, or just take a nap. Use the time creatively. Have a special treat hidden away for these kind of circumstances: a Dark Chocolate Milky Way, an instant Cheescake, something special. Use this opportunity to prepare a labor-intensive meal: burritos or a 4 course extravaganza. DON'T whine about the lousy weather to your partner--he/she doesn't control the weather any more than you do. If, by some lucky chance, the skies relent, halt where you are to spread damp tents/tarps/socks in the sun. If you put off an opportunity, you have likely lost an opportunity.
ALWAYS line your sleeping bag stuff bag with a plastic bag, protecting
your bag from a downpour OR from immersion in a stream. The same for clothes.
Always have one (knit/polypro) shirt protected in a plastic bag so that
when everything else is water-logged, you have at least one warm dry thing
to wear to bed or around the shelter/tent as you wait for gear to dry.
All your socks wet? If dry socks are a high priority, wring out
the cleanest pair, wrap them in fleece if you've got some, and sleep
with them inside your sleeping bag.
EXTREME ELEVATION (over 10,000 feet)
As elevation increases (over 1 mile high), the most noticeable changes are a loss of appetite and decreased endurance. Oxygen is harder to extract from the air, hormonal changes are going on that increase the availability of muscle protein to fuel muscles, and you feel weary! If it is simply weariness, rest assured that the body will adjust within about 3 days to the new altitude--if you remain at the higher elevation for that long. If nausea is severe, however, you may be experiencing altitude sickness which can be fatal. Get off the mountain! Reduce altitude.
At extreme elevation (over 3 miles high), food may not be as well absorbed, which may cause diarrhea. As a result, dehydration is more likely, due to increased respiratory and intestinal losses. Drink fluids in small, regular doses. Plan ahead for transporting/purifying water--it will most likely be frozen.
For those spending more than a few days at high elevation, consider
E supplements/sources in your diet. Because the atmosphere is
thinner at high elevation, your body is exposed to more oxidative stress.
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant (see Vitamins),
so make sure you get slightly more than the RDA (1.5 times the RDA is plenty.)
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