The magnificence of the Australian outdoors on a sunny summer's day, can blind us to the reality, if bad weather hits.
This photograph was taken in April 1985 at Blue Lake, a time when snow is not normally expected. When the tent was pitched the evening before, the weather was fine and warm and there was no snow at all.
WARNING: the 121.5MHz EPRIB System has ceased to operate. Walkers should replace their old EPIRBs with the new PLB (Personal Locator Beacons) on 406 MHz.
Hypothermia is the reduction in the core temperature, by a few degrees, of a human being. It can result in death in an hour.
It is agravated by the combination of cold, wind and wet. A person suffering from hypothermia is likely to walk aimlessly, talk non-sense and feel unconcerned about their fate - ie sit and "wait untill it all gets better".
The condition is very hard to judge without lots of experience. A person who is wet, in ANY wind is likely to suffer to some degree. Get them out of the wind, in a hut, a tent, behind a boulder or off the ridge. Get them into a sleeping bag, or wrapped in a foil groundsheet. Feed warm liquid, but not alcohol. Nor put them too near a fire, as their heat will be drawn to their outer skin. Warm against other bodies.
To avoid getting hypothermia, wear multi-layered clothing, that keeps the wind out.
The NPWS has the view (given in writing) that EPIRBs will save a person in this state. This is unlikely, as a helicopter would rarely arrive in time. However, they are better than nothing. Huts, tents and correctly built snow caves provide immediate shelter.
Are you ready? Any time of the year?
EPIRBs or PLB?
EPIRB stands for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. An EPIRB is different to Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) in that EPIRBs are designed for use on a vessel such as a yacht, will transmit for 48 hours and and tend to be larger.
A PLB is will transmit for 24 hours, and ids smaller, light-weight, and designed for land use by an individual.
Still, with GPS, Mobile Phone (in a few locations) and a PLB, some of the risks of bushwalking and skiing are very much reduced for a party.
Renting or buying a PLB
PLB's can be rented from Epirbhire or other providers (search the net!)
Updated 27 February, 2015