Almost lost consciousness in sub-zero and very windy conditions 9

No easy way of writing this.

On Friday the fifth of March I set off walking the Great Wall after spending yet another day weather bound in the tent due to snow. Things were going well. I knew I was a little low on food and liquids and was on the lookout  for a village with people which I knew I would find when I entered the next valley, if not before.

After walking about 7 kilometres, I stood in front of the final ascent before entering the valley. Behind me in the distance, I could see a small village, but no people. It was hidden in a valley, which is the reason I had not seen it before. I didn’t want to backtrack just to find out that there were no people there

I was at a little less than 1700 meters above sea level.  It was about -10C, and almost no wind. I sat down to eat, drink and rest knowing it would do me good before the final ascent.

I rose, packed all the equipment, and started on the climb. It was fairly steep and long. The newly fallen snow didn’t help either. As I walked, I noticed that the walking stick handles had become very cold after the break, but I thought I would warm them up again as soon as I got warm.

As I got further up, the wind got stronger. After a while it was making my face very cold. I had to start taking rests increasingly often. It felt like my energy had disappeared as I was standing there. At this point I was getting pretty close to the top. I thought if I could get over it, the wind would probably get weaker as I descended.

My condition then started to deteriorate very quickly. I started walking with shorter paces, couldn’t follow a straight line and noticed I was losing the feeling in my fingers. The rest of my body was also losing heat due to all the pauses, exposed in the wind. What was worse was that I was starting to lose my ability to reason properly.

Soon I felt like I had to throw up, and soon after, as though I had bad diarrhea. Then came the worst part – I noticed I was losing consciousness. I had to drop quickly down to my knees in order not to pass out. I stood up again, but just ten meters further on, I had to kneel down so as not to lose consciousness.

I then realized what was happening and knew the only way to manage was to set up the tent.

Luckily there was a little area big enough to set up the tent only 3-4 metres behind me. When I took off my rucksack, I noticed that I had almost no feeling left in my fingers. At this point it was a race against time. I had to drop to my knees twice more as I set up the tent, and just hoped I would manage to get myself and my equipment into it in time.

I did, but didn’t have strength to use any tent plugs. The tent has a very sturdy dome construction, and I was pretty sure it would manage the high winds without the plugs. I was incredibly grateful when I managed to zip down the outer tent door to get completely out of the wind. I got both sleeping mattresses ready. It was a battle just to pull out the sleeping bag from the rucksack.

I was very very cold, but no longer afraid of passing out. It didn’t take long before I fell asleep. I slept for two hours, and woke up shivering at 4 PM.

Quick note. Got back to Datong the day after. Went straight to bed, and have been there ever since because of a virus. High temperature, feeling cold, very hot, sweating, no appetite etc. That’s why I have not written before. It is probably also the reason why I lost all my energy so incredibly fast.

Have thought a lot about the incident. Will write more tomorrow. Time to rest now.

9 thoughts on “Almost lost consciousness in sub-zero and very windy conditions

  • Trude S

    Jeg er så ubeskrivelig glad at det gikk bra, det må ha vært enormt skremmende når du begynte å miste bevissthet.. så bra at du klarte å få opp teltet! Godt å vite at du er i Datong.. selv om du er syk. Varm hilsen fra meg

  • Leif Lindh

    Tack och lov att du klarade dig igenom detta, jag tror inte så många hade klarat av det du gjorde. Krya på dig!

  • Bryan

    You really used your head well in this situation. Many people would have panicked but you did the right thing by taking it easy. You know it could have been a lot worse. I’m very glad that you made it safely to Datong and you can rest and take care of yourself there.

  • Kim

    Glad to hear you are safe now and I hope you get rid of the virus soon, so you can continue your walk on the wall.

  • Gina and Gerry

    So sorry to hear that you have had such a scarey experience and relieved that you made it back to Datong to rest and recuperate.
    Take care of yourself and, frustrating as it may be, give yourself time (that magical word) to fully recover. You will need all your strength as you continue your journey. (cluck! cluck!)
    Our thoughts and best wishes go with you.:0)

  • Synnøve

    Hei Robert!

    Godt du stoppet i tide og slo opp teltet da du skjønte faren, og at du ikke presset deg for langt. Jeg og Øystein Berg har akkurat lest siste historien din på nettet – og ønsker deg virkelig god bedring! Øystein sier: Legg inn større marginer på resten av turen! Vi har lyst til å se deg igjen her i Norge! Øystein inviterer på seiltur i VARMT vær. Jeg skal gå Birken om 1,5 uke, men ingenting slår dine opplevelser.


  • Liz

    Oj, dette hørtes dramatisk ut. Godt at det gikk bra. Dette er litt av en ekspedisjon! Og du er utrolig modig. Lykke til videre på ferden!

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