Frosnip? Frostbite?!?

Sun peeking over the horizon next to one of the airstrips.
“hey! Do you want to go out to Phoenix and Pegasus tomorrow?”

“Of course.”

I like doing two things: 1) going outside and 2) doing dumb shit. The above was an invitation to get out of the clinic and link up with the fuels team to head out to the runways to check on the fuels levels and refill them if need be. So #1 was checked off. Now, about #2….

There is a bit of an argument going on in town about the actual temps on the ice the day before I went out. There was an “official” temperature of -101F, but apparently that was done with an older calculation and the more likely temperatures, based on a newer calculation, were only in the -90s. So pretty sure that heading out onto the ice the next day *could* be considered as having fulfilled #2.

I occasionally get grief from my friends down here on account of my clinic schedule and warm, controlled environment. They like to remind me that they “work for a living.” All in good fun, because I do have a pretty sweet gig. No two ways about it. It’s warm in the clinic. My hours are sweet. So I was hellbent that I would get no frostnip while on my little outside excursion. I would never hear the end of it. The ribbing is appropriately merciless down here and that would be fuel to the fire (water to the ice?). I was bundled up from head to toe. I borrowed some extra warm boots from a friend since I was issued boots more appropriate for an indoor job. I had hand warmers stashed in various locations. I was good to go.

Once we finally got outside, the temperature was probably only in the -30F range. Which is what it had been the day before until a mighty wind picked up. When the wind kicks up, the temps go down. Thankfully, the winds were mild to non-existent. -30F without wind is very tolerable. A little later in the day, the winds picked up, but nothing like it had been before. I would spitball it only got down to the -50s and only briefly. Nonetheless, I tossed a couple hand warmers in my boots. I didn’t need them, but they certainly feel luxurious.

One of the tanks was quite low and would take some time to fill up. We opted to turn the lull while it was filling into our lunch break. Out came the snacks and off came the boots. It was then that I first noticed a problem. I couldn’t really feel my right big toe. This has happened to me plenty of times in the mountains, but I was being extra cautious. I stuck two hand warmers on my toes and enjoyed my lunch. The feeling came back a little, but it was not the typical “screaming barfies” associated with digits that are rewarming. I started to get a little nervous. I took my socks off and my toes were white. Not like pasty white, because I’m entirely pasty white at this point (no sun in 3 months? 4 months?), but like a problem white. At about this point, I found a little stream of hot air coming from under the dash. I stuck my foot under that.

The feeling in my toes started changing in about 15 seconds. Again, no screaming barfies, just a pins and needles type tingling. And it was happening far too quickly to be tissue rewarming. It didn’t look like frostnip, so what was happening?

I had had thick socks on underneath boot designed for the polar regions, underneath insulated Carhardtts. I had been sitting on my foot to try and rewarm it. And then it all made sense.

It wasn’t frostnip, my foot fell asleep. But now it was all sweaty on account of all the handwarmers I stuffed in my boots.


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