For Alfons Esterlichsergeant of the Technical Unit of the GREE of the Firefighters of the Generalitatthe mountain must not give “fear”but it must impose “respect”. And more at the end of the summer season, prone to sudden weather changes that cause sudden drops in temperature and can complicate the progress of hikers or disorient them and end up seriously compromising their safety. A real danger also for “well prepared” people like the two French citizens who died this Thursday after being rescued with extreme hypothermia in the Valley of Boiwhich, in the opinion of this specialist in mountain rescues, “were not negligent”.

    This was the latest in a series of accidents that have occurred in recent days. Last weekend, two other hikers died and another 12 were injured or lost in the Aragonese Pyrenees.

    In the case of what happened in the Vall de Boí, the two victims, aged 65 and 67, had left the Ventosa refuge and were on their way to the Estany Llongan itinerary of Aigüestortes National Park that implies moving through heights that exceed 2,000 meters and overcome the Coll del Contraix, but that is not particularly demanding. But the virulence of the storm – which was planned – surprised them during the journey. It started at about half past nine in the morning and brought rain and winds of up to 70 km/h. “The temperature dropped to 6 or 7 degrees positive,” Esterlich details. These conditions, possibly, were what prevented the couple from continuing to the refuge of Estany Llong.

    “If you go out of the house for a moment to the garden during a storm, and you just have to go pick something up and come back, it will be easy for you to return and you won’t get disoriented. But if you are outdoors, in the mountains and you suffer from the storm constant, keeping moving and orienting yourself will be much more difficult,” Esterlich warns.

    The pair of French citizens apparently did not get lost – they were located next to the path, very close to the Contraix pond – but they could not advance either: the weather conditions were so adverse for both of them that they could not reach the next refuge. They were also unable to call for help because there was no coverage for mobile phones. It was another hiker who found them the next day, more than 24 hours after they had left the Ventosa refuge, and who ran to the Estany Llong refuge to sound the alarm.

    helicopters of the Medical Emergency System (SEM) and the Bombers came to rescue them right away. Both, given their serious state of health, already unconscious, were urgently transferred to the Vall Hebron Hospital, which has the specific instruments to treat hypothermia. But it was too late.

    “In the mountains the same thing can happen as in the water,” stresses the sergeant. “Our body has a constant temperature of 36 degrees and if the environment steals heat from us and we cannot recover it, because we are in the water or wet under a storm, it begins to fail. The organs suffer. One of the first to do so is the brain and symptoms of incoordination, hallucinations or strong apathy appear”, he explains, trying to relate in an understandable way how the hypothermia.

    Appropriate clothing

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    Esterlich advises hikers heading to the mountains to equip themselves always with warm clothes. Also during the months of July and August, when it seems inconceivable that it could end up being so necessary. “In the mountains, in a matter of minutes, a bright sky can give way to a rainstorm, wind or fog and if you are not equipped, and well trained, the chances of getting lost and suffering from hypothermia increase,” he says.

    Throughout the month of September in Catalonia have been carried out about fifty rescues. They are a few less than those made in the same period of the previous year. “Getting lost in valleys is not usually so delicate, but doing it above 2,000 meters, with the lowest temperatures, is much more so,” he remarks. “In the mountains you have to have common senseEsterlich asks.

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