Hypothermia happens when the body gets too cold. As the core temperature drops – even by a fractional amount – the body begins shutting down, and if the cooling continues, it can be fatal. One of the first signs that someone may be slipping into hypothermia is that they start behaving strangely. They might become uncharacteristically quiet, wear a jacket they don’t normally need, be incoherent, or clumbsy in their movements. I have heard several stories of people with severe hypothermia believing that they are too hot and removing clothing even though their life may depend on doing the exact opposite.
What scares me about this, is that it is never the person affected who notices the changes in their behaviour. It is those travelling with them that detect the signs. During this expedition I will be alone and so there is nobody with me to pick up on the fact that I am behaving strangely or making inappropriate decisions. What happens if, through hypothermia, exhaustion or general disorientation, I can no longer rely on my own brain to make reasonable, considered choices? How will I know if I am making a decision for the right reasons?
I feel that this is one of the biggest differences between setting out on an expedition alone, rather than with a team. I have to make a conscious effort to examine every decision I make to reassure myself that I am remaining objective. Dr Pack has given me a system for analysing decisions I make by breaking down the process to reveal the driving emotions behind each choice made. This is called resilient thinking. For example, if one day I decide after 8 hours skiing to make a detour from my route that will, I believe, save me some time and distance I could analyse this choice by asking myself some questions. Why am I making this decision now? How am I feeling? Bored, scared, tired? Is this decision something I’ve been considering for a while or is it driven by the fact that I’m tired after 8 hours of skiing and changing my route would provide a welcome novelty to alleviate the monotony of the day? This kind of thinking can be applied to decisions big and small, and with some practise I hope it will become a quick and easy way to check up on myself.