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14er Heat Exhaustion

14er Heat Exhaustion Incident on Mount Shavano Spurs Safety Reminders

CHAFFEE COUNTY, CO – On Saturday, July 9th, Chaffee County Search and Rescue – South (CCSAR-S) and Chaffee County EMS responded to a report of heat exhaustion on the Mt. Shavano standard trail. This incident marked the first heat-related emergency of the 14er summer climbing season in the county.

CCSAR-S and Chaffee County EMS crews attended to a 24-year-old woman who had successfully reached the summit earlier in the day but was displaying symptoms of heat-related illness due to running out of water.

Emergency personnel quickly rehydrated the woman using intravenous fluids and assisted her back to the trailhead. The woman had started her day with two hiking companions, all carrying a few liters of water each, which unfortunately proved insufficient for the conditions they faced.

Although mountain temperatures are generally lower than those in surrounding valleys, the risk of heat illness and dehydration-related symptoms can rise rapidly, especially during strenuous activities such as climbing 14ers in hot July weather.

This incident serves as a crucial reminder for those taking on Colorado’s majestic peaks to adequately prepare and understand the potential dangers they may encounter.

In addition to packing the 10 Essentials for mountain hiking and climbing, it’s critical to stay regularly hydrated by following a “drink to thirst” approach. CCSAR-S recommends alternating between water and sports drinks designed to replenish electrolytes and salts, particularly during summer months.

When undertaking strenuous exercise in summer, the average person can lose up to 6.6 liters of water in a 24-hour period. Therefore, climbers must pack their bottles accordingly to ensure they have enough fluid to avoid dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

Safety Tips and Lessons Learned

The Mt. Shavano incident emphasizes the importance of proper preparation and awareness for anyone planning a trip in Colorado’s high country. Here are a few key lessons:

  1. Proper Hydration is Essential: During strenuous activities like mountain climbing, regular hydration is a must. Remember to drink frequently, alternating between water and a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes and salts.
  2. Pack Enough Water: Underestimate the amount of water needed can lead to severe heat-related issues. On hot days, you should carry more than you typically consume to compensate for the increased sweat rate.
  3. Understand the Environment: Even though mountain temperatures are generally cooler, the risk of heat illnesses is still present, especially in the summer months. Pay attention to weather forecasts, plan your day to avoid the hottest periods, and remember that the higher you go, the stronger the sun’s rays can be.
  4. Start Early: Begin your hike early in the day to avoid the peak afternoon heat and to allow plenty of time to descend in case of fatigue or illness.

Stay safe and enjoy your adventures responsibly. Learn more with our comprehensive mountain safety guide.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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