Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Cycling to work the morning before the frostbite incident

I seem to have just managed to get a minor case. Cycling home from work at -20 oC, my feet were fine for the first half hour, cold for the next 15 minutes and then really numb for the last 15. I unclipped from my SPDs and tried to wiggle my toes lots but they were totally numb by the time I got home. Half remembered advice from climbing instruction manuals I've read many many years ago was rewarm in luke warm water, so the rather ridiculous scene followed of me standing in my cycling tights in a baby bath of warm water crying in pain as the hot-aches set in. After this I had some sensation in the tips of my toes, but they were puffy and hard to the touch. At this point I was envisaging them going black and falling off, which seems to be obligatory ending point of many a great work of Himalayan mountaineering literature, but would seem a trifle extreme as the end result of a daily commute. I decided to seek medical advice but in an effort to avoid over-loading the already over-loaded Finnish national health service (OK, so really I was just embarrassed) I phoned a mountaineering friend who's wife is a doctor. After they both stopped laughing, she gave some good solid "pull yourself together man!" advice and told me not to worry unless they start going black and blistering. My friend who is a PhD in biochemistry himself, and works in drug development, gave me the excellent prescription of a double single malt to be taken orally. He actually had a convincing medical reason for this, although I forget what it was and was just happy to head for the Talisker under doctors orders. My toes are no longer waxy white and have gone an alarming shade of pink, but this is - I believe - an improvement.

If they do go black and fall off, I promise to post photos for your amusement.

Wednesday morning update: toes appear to be in good condition although slightly tingly still. They feel a bit like they have been bruised. I would like to welcome the reader who arrived after Googling "how can you avoid frostbite?" I'm not sure what I can suggest besides don't ride a bike home when it's -20 oC.

It was -24 this morning when I got up, so I got the bus!


A.E. said...

Hope you feel better.

I had an unfortunate incident in the cold too last week. The feeling is just returning to my toes, haha.

nikko said...

Examples in evaluating the seriousness of the situation of the victim after a potentially hazardous mishap:

1) Mountain biker crashes on a downhill run. His first response to iquiries about his condition is:"How's my bike?"

Diagnosis: He's not badly injured.

2) A bicycle-commuting mountaineer freezes his tootsies on his way home. His first reaction is to report it on his blog.

Diagnosis: See example one.

Sounds like there will be more climbing next weekend...

Dave C said...

Nice one Toby, glad your toes are still apparently intact. You've just reminded me of one more reason me & Ms C decided to move back to Oz!