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TimL

Frost Nip

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Last Sunday I was climbing ice in -25c for most of the day. Like almost every time in cold weather I got the screaming barffies a couple of times, but towards the end of the day, I was belaying the last pitch and I felt my fingers get really cold then numb. Nothing unusual happens all the time. I tried to warm them up a little, but since it was the last pitch and the car was a five minute walk away, I figured I would just wait until I got to the car.

 

Got to the car and I warmed my fingers up and I noticed the tips pinky, ring and middle fingers were totally numb after I warmed them up and devoid of sensation but they were very sensitive once I put them under warm or cold water. Now four days later, I regained sensation in my middle fingers, but the tips of my pinky and rings fingers on both hands are still numb, although a little better than Sunday.

 

First I thought it could be frostbite, but there is no discoloration, blisters or any other signs. Then I thought that I could have bashed them really hard while climbing, but they are not swollen or discolored. This would only lead me to believe that I got frostnip and maybe a little nerve damage.

 

Has anyone ever had this happen before or have any experience with frostbite/frostnip? What happened? What did you do about it? What do you do to prevent it in the future? I am concerned about it especially since I'll be in the Canadian Rockies next week.

 

Thanks, bigdrink.gif

 

T

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Tim,

 

Good to hear you're getting some ice!

 

I've had the symptoms you describe from a mix of cold and altitude. In my case, they went away after a couple of weeks. The downside is that you will be much more susceptible to cold injuries in the future.

 

The worst I've seen it is in my brother, from Ranger school in the Florida swamps in 12 deg. F (!!) weather. His fingertips and toes were yellowish with poor capillary refill (squeeze the nail; goes white; blood should rush back in quickly, not slowly, when you release pressure). This took him months to get over, assisted I think by a variety of herbs like cayenne pills that supposedly help with peripheral circulation. There was something else he took (B12?) that really helped.

 

Hope it heals!

 

Shirtless climbing in Vantage on Sunday. No global warming here, nossir.

 

- J

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I have had tips go stiff & numb before without any blistering. The worst lasted about three weeks total but was getting better during that time. I also have gotten surface nip on my cheeks. It turned black and peeled off a couple of days later with virtually no damage to the tissue below the first layer of skin. Obviously real damage but only on a very small area without any depth.

 

I think the difference on those less than true frost bite examples is the amount of overall warm circulation beneath the surface. Your fingers were cold throughout and probably got a touch of nerve damage without significant damage to the surface. I think that after full recovery you won't be any more susseptable to frost damage because nothing froze hard enough to start exploding cells.

 

Blood circulation is the key and aggresive finger movement or swinging your arms to keep the slugish blood flowing might have helped your fingers.

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Tim that has happened to me before as well. One time it was a matter of days an other time longer. Once on my toes I had a numb spot that last for about a month. It should go away eventually.

Also from what I remember reading about it contrary to popular belief you are not more suseptible to frostnip or frostbite in the future, unless there has been damage to your circulatory system. Check this web page it has some good basic info.

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Where were you climbing? We were climbing near Ottawa in the same temps and my partner got the whitest nose i've ever seen. Only noticed it when we got back to the car and it took a few hours for it to get back to normal colors. A paramedic friend called it frost nip although i didn't ask if he was feeling numbness a few days later.

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Thanks for the replys and the information! It is very useful.

 

MM - We were climbing in Bancroft. Pretty much everything was in. Rollorcoaster and the climbs above. Hidden Gully and Amazing Glaze. I climbed Dirty Harry and it was around M5 WI4-. It was about 8 meters of rock and ice to get to the ice. Fun climb.

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I've had lingering numbness that lasted for a week or so then went away after climbing in similar conditions - no major, permanent damage as far as I can tell.

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I had a similar experience last winter in -10 degree weather and attributed it to frost nip. The tips were numb for a long time after and several of my fingertips are now super sensitive and go numb quickly. I had always taken pride in the fact that my hands don't get cold but now have had to go out and get a couple new pairs of gloves and mitts

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Shirtless climbing in Vantage on Sunday. No global warming here, nossir.

 

- J

 

hellno3d.gif No one wants to see your man boobs Jerome.

 

bigdrink.gif

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My right big toe is still numb months after a really cold day on Rainier... Not frostbite; doctors have no idea except maybe some nerve damage. Hmmm...

 

drC

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Had it happen to me on a mild day in the summer once. My crampons were strapped too tight on my leathers. Took about 2-3 months to get back all the senstation in both feet. Weird.

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I got it skiing last year after getting a good chill. My fingertips were numb and tingly for a week or week and a half, and I got chilled easily during that time. Take care not to re-chill them, and hopefully you'll be fine.

 

It was my first experience with frostnip, and frankly, I was surprised at how easily it happened.

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I had second degree frostbite in all my toes some 25 years ago. After extreme blistering the toes turned black; later all the skin and toenails dropped off. I spent a week in hospital. I was treated with IV fluids, vasodilators and oxygen. I think they rewarmed my feet with a water bath, but I don't remember for sure. This was after dehydration and 2 days delay in a storm in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Tight snowshoe bindings over soft boots were the main contributing factor. My feet felt fine while I hiked out of the mountains. I drove myself to the hospital and didn't know anything was wrong with my feet until I got my boots off in the ER. This case was bad as it gets without loosing digits, yet I had no problems in the ensuing years, until getting bad frost nip/ trench foot in all toes and fingers this year. In this recent case it was also storm delay, dehydration, cold and wet conditions that did the damage. In the recent case dehydration and days of wet feet and hands were the main contributing factors. On the morning of the last day of this epic, rock climbing in wet snow wearing wet aproach shoes and wet shoeller gloves, my hands and feet were very numb. I had symptoms of frost nip and trench foot for two or three weeks on this occaision. All did to treat myself was rest for a few days, eat well, hydrate, and take aspirin.

 

My advice is to hydrate well, carry a light stove if there is any chance you might need one to get water. Eat well. Carry extra gloves and something like gore tex socks to bolster up your foot gear if the weather gets ugly. The biggest gloves in the world won't help if you stand around at a belay in cold weather too much. Hydration is critical, even on day trips. Aspirin can help keep your circulation going.

 

If any body parts go numb try to keep the circulation going by moving, hydrating, drying, insulating, putting feet or hands against a warm companion's torso (inside their parka) etc. If you have full on frostbite don't rewarm and then re freeze your body parts. If you need to get out of the mountains walk out on frozen feet and go straight to a hospital. If you thaw your feet (perhaps by walking out on them) and they don't blister at all, you probably only have frost nip and don't have to worry. If you do have blistering or black flesh (or are in doubt about how bad it is) then get to a doctor.

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You know there has been some talk that Viagra would help out blood circulation. I wonder if it would help these types of conditions out too? As well as high altitude climbing.

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Sounds like frost nip to me TimL. I got it on my face and eyelids a couple of years ago in Antarctica. A tell tale sign is the skin is devoid of pigment while it's still cold. Also it's possible to do nerve damage without frost bite. Another tell sing will be skin pealing whenever the affected area experiences a change in temp for a sustained period of time. My eyelids still peal every time after a day of skiing. If this starts happening pretreat the area with lanolin before going out into the cold. Not the lotion kind but sludgy stuff.

Edited by SublimeSalamander

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