OC Hiking Club
The Orange County Hiking Club, is a charitable 501(c)(3) nonprofit which exists to promote physical, mental and emotional wellness through connection with nature. In addition to outdoor recreation for our members, OC Hiking Club nurtures stewardship that protects trails for future generations and provides education, encouragement and nature-empowerment for people of all ages, families and at-risk youth through mentorship and leadership development in the outdoors.  
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A 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Copyright © 2006 to Present OC Hiking Club/Hike Everywhere, All rights reserved. Distribution or publication of this site's content without prior written permission is prohibited.


Frost and snow

People in California are often not prepared to deal with problems related to prolonged exposure to the elements. If you are planning on hiking or backpacking in an area where there is snow or where it is cold, it is very important to be properly prepared for what you may be dealing with, such as frostbite, sunburn or hypothermia. Improper preparation for the cold or snow can lead to loss of limbs, blindness or death.

General Tips for Hiking in the Cold and Snow

Hydration and nutritional needs are very different in the cold. The body burns more calories to stay warm and needs to hydrate more frequently to metabolize nutrients effectively.

Preventing Sunburn

The reflection of the sun on the snow poses a greater risk for sunburn.

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is, in essence, sunburn of the eye tissues.

Snow blindness is dangerous and can result in permanent blindness. The cause is increased exposure to ultraviolet rays reflected from snow, sea, or even sand. High altitude contributes due to a 4% increase in UV intensity for every thousand feet of elevation above sea level.

To Prevent Snow Blindness

Wear sunglasses! Purchase sunglasses that absorb nearly all UV rays large lenses and a design that covers the side of the eyes.

Symptoms of Snow Blindness

Like sunburned skin, symptoms aren’t evident immediately and it can take several hours for injury to manifest.


Hypothermia results when body temperature falls below the threshold to maintain normal metabolism due to prolonged exposure to cold, wind, wet environments, inappropriate dress or a combination thereof.

Hypothermia will kill you. DO NOT fall asleep!

Prevent Hypothermia by Dressing Properly

In order to prevent hypothermia, you must shield your body from the cold by wearing proper clothing. Layering is key!

Symptoms of Hypothermia

Initial Hypothermia

The initial stage of hypothermia requires immediate intervention. Body temperature drops below normal resulting in:

As hypothermia progresses, a warm sensation may be felt. This is not recovery but the beginning of moderate hypothermia. Vision may become impaired.

Moderate Hypothermia

The moderate stage of hypothermia includes

If weather conditions permit, keep victim moving and do not let them fall asleep.

Severe Hypothermia

The severe stage of hypothermia is a life-threatening medical emergency.

If weather permits, keep the victim talking and moving in the direction of safety. If they fall asleep they will probably not wake up.

Treatment of Hypothermia

If you or someone in your group suffers hypothermia go seek immediate and specialized treatment by medical personnel as soon as possible.

Depending on the situation, continuous movement to a warmer location is recommended.


Frostbite is localized tissue damage to the skin and deeper tissues due to exposure to extreme cold.

The most serious cases occur at snowy, higher altitudes, usually in the extremities (hands and feet). The face, often left unprotected, is also at high risk.

As exposure to cold causes surface blood vessels to constrict to maintain core temperature; the combination of cold and low blood flow can result in the body tissues freezing. Low oxygen to the affected area causes nerve damage and feeling is lost. The formation in ice crystals in the cells destroys the cell walls and the result is tissue death.

Symptoms of Frostbite

Prevention of Frostbite

Treatment of Frostbite

Warm the victim by wrapping in blankets or moving to a warm environment. More aggressive means should be conducted by medical personnel. The victim requires medical attention as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage. The area may need to be amputated.

Black Ice

Black ice takes its name from its appearance on asphalt. It is transparent, difficult to see and is not limited to highways. An ordinarily passable rock surface can become as slick as a hockey rink without warning.

Chains may be required for vehicles; ice grippers or crampons may be as necessary footwear as are warm boots.

Familiar to drivers as a cause of skids and accidents in winter and also known as black ice, clear ice or glare ice.

Falling Ice/Avalanches

You are more likely to encounter falling ice as temperatures increase rather than in the winter. A roof, rock surfaces above, tree branches overhead, antenna structures can have icicles or other ice formations that can either collapse under their own weight or break free and strike those below. Be aware of what is overhead.

Whispering in avalanche territory may help prevent an avalanche, but advance awareness of terrain is a must.

Before hiking or backpacking in any area, have an advance awareness of risks:

Never hike alone. An honest assessment of you and your hiking partner’s skills will help you avoid risky situations.

What to do if Your Tongue becomes stuck to a metal cup or spoon

If you are unfortunate enough to find your tongue stuck to a metal cup or spoon while in the backcountry, do not pull away or try to get up enough spit to work free.

Warm the metal with your gloved hands or pour warm water on the metal until free.

Prevention is best, don’t lick frozen metal.

What to Do if You Fall Through Ice

The best thing to do is to avoid walking on thin ice; but if you fall through ice, the greatest danger is not drowning but hypothermia.

A 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Copyright © 2006 to Present OC Hiking Club/Hike Everywhere, All rights reserved. Distribution or publication of this site's content without prior written permission is prohibited.


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