Big Temperature Drop Preparedness – High Altitude Africa Trail Run at Afriski, Lesotho

What is preparedness? Disasters, vehicle collisions, medical emergencies? Yes, for sure. It’s also about thinking through simple elements such as the big temperature drop that can happen when the sun sets or if the wind picks up. Join me for a Better Preparedness episode in the incredibly beautiful southern African mountain country of Lesotho for a trail run from the Afriski Ski Resort, yes, ski resort!

A person can be caught out by a serious change in the weather or temperature, and learn a lesson the hard way but it doesn’t need to happen. For this June trail run during the southern hemisphere winter, I knew that the sun would be setting by time I finished my 90min run but I also had in mind, what would happen if I got lost, injured or stuck in these high mountains at high altitude.

By experience in these mountains, there is a big sudden temperature drop when the sun’s rays are no longer accessible. Being at 3,250m (10,600ft) of altitude, warmth is temporary and only occurs while the sun in on us. Give some though to what parts of you will need to be protected in the event of injury.

I have a number different packs for trail running, hiking, mountain biking, or cross-country skiing. Ultimate Direction (Check them out makes my go-to trail running pack and I use this for both ultra-marathon races and mid-range trail runs. Salomon also makes some awesome packs: While I like my five-year old Ultimate Direction pack, I select from my packs depending on the amount of gear or the stability needed for the load.

In my case for this trail run, I expected the temperature to drop but I also forgot the fact that the first half of my run was mostly uphill. This meant that the second half would be downhill and that turned out to be in the shadow of the mountain and the setting sun. Not only had the sun set behind the mountain I was on but descending creates less body warmth and therefore I needed those layers in my backpack.

Anticipated layers vs emergency elements. I packed a thin jacket, some thin gloves, and a tuque (called a beanie in some countries). This was what I expected I might need for a temperature drop. In addition, I also had a mylar rescue space blanket to provide heat retention, wind protection, and visibility in case of injury or other emergency.

Create some minimalist emergency kits for the outdoors for use when just you and some scaled for use with X number of people. Ensure that everyone has their own so they can be equipped should they get lost, should there be multiple injuries, and so on.

The episode and article below on minimalist kits is aimed at getting you establishing your needs, risks and solutions. Minimalist does not mean reckless. It means being wise, perhaps having some compact elements for improbable-but-potential use.

When will you turn to that emergency kit? It’s hard to predict, isn’t it? While I turn to my emergency kits in a small or serious situation, it also happens than I just need to do a quick repair with some of the duct tape, or I need the wind-up flashlight to see inside something, or I get a small cut or blister and need to protect the skin. With the kits always packed and some of them already in my running packs or with my cycling kit, I just grab and go. The only change is if there is an additional factor different from the usual that I want to prepare for.

You can also join me for the following trail run and look at preparedness for that outing in the northern South African Drakensberg Mountains.

For long distance sporting events, there are additional factors to consider, both event requirements and personal needs. Check out this Better Preparedness episode:

What are your top tips for preparedness such as big temperature drops? Put it in the Comments section below.

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