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When I went to Stok Kangri trek, while climbing down from the peak, on the snow-filled slopes, I felt terribly dehydrated. I was having ample amount of water throughout the climb and yet, I felt dehydrated on the snow-filled slopes. However, once I was out of the snowy slopes on to the solid land, this feeling of dehydration went off.
Hence, my question is: is there a possible scientific explanation to the feeling of dehydration? i.e, if one is surrounded by snow, can the body end up losing water through the pores of the skin leading to a feeling of dehydration?

P.S.: I am NOT referring to eating of snow in place of drinking water. I am asking about a possible threat of dehydration when in a snowfall area.

EDIT: Solid land refers to slopes with no snow. It doesn't mean the end of efforts or an easier track. There was absolutely no difference in the gradient of the slope or the difficulties involved. The effort was made on the same day and it was as good as flipping a switch once I left the snowy slopes (the feeling of dehydration went off in a matter of minutes).

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As already coming up in the comments to the answer of Amine: What time scales are we talking about? Was this switch from dehydration to none within the same day or over some days? Was it like flipping a switch when you left the snow or was it more like it went away over some hours? –  Benedikt Bauer Oct 30 '13 at 16:58
    
@BenediktBauer I have added additional information as required. –  Unsung Oct 31 '13 at 5:08
    
Thank you for those clarifications, did you notice any difference in term of dryness or humidity between the two places ? –  Amine Oct 31 '13 at 12:15
    
@Amine Not much to be honest. I was above 5500 mts and there was no humidity(in the air) at all. –  Unsung Oct 31 '13 at 12:47
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4 Answers 4

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You do not provide any evidence that you were actually dehydrated, but only felt dehydrated - I assume you felt thirsty.

Symptoms and signs of dehydration are described here in great detail: http://www.ehealthstar.com/dehydration/symptoms-and-signs In short: thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, nausea, decreased skin elasticity, dark urine, sudden loss of weight...

Also, it is not possible to be dehydrated and then become well hydrated by consuming no water. So, we are talking about feeling of thirst, which could be triggered psychologically by being surrounded by snow. The snow (or anything else) could make you anxious from some reason and this could cause dry mouth and this thirst.

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I think that was it. Dehydration and anxiety coupled together. –  Unsung Nov 14 '13 at 4:53
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If being in air below 0C is not normal for you, the difference is probably caused by breathing through your mouth vs your nose.

Where there is visible snow, it's colder than 0C. You can feel uncomfortable in your nose breathing in this cold. You won't actually get ice crystals forming in your nose, but you can feel that you are. Your reflex will be to breathe through your mouth more, even though it's safer in say -20C to breathe through your nose to warm the air and spare your lungs. (It doesn't matter at 0 how you breathe, 0 is not that cold.) Breathing through your mouth dries your mouth out.

You descend a little, it's 1 or 2 (or even 5) degrees warmer, you relax, and you breathe through your nose again so you stop drying out the inside of your mouth.

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'the difference is probably caused by breathing through your mouth vs your nose' -- I'm not completely convinced. Because, I run long distance and I use my mouth for breathing all the time. The feeling of your whole body feeling dehydrated vs mouth being dry are different. You mention lungs being spared from cold air while breathing from nose. What effect does cold air have on lungs? Can it cause this behavior? –  Unsung Nov 16 '13 at 16:59
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I am assuming that, as you moved out of the snow field you were also descending, therefore, I think it is more likely you were experiencing altitude sickness and your symptoms reversed as you descended. The presence/absence of snow was purely coincidental.

Dehydration contributes to altitude sickness through,

  1. lower air density which increases respiration and, therefore, water loss, and
  2. lower air pressure which increases evaporation of moisture from the skin.
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We were actually going along a ridge. The decline was pretty negligible. But you might be right. It might have been mild altitude sickness. But, that fails to answer why while climbing, or on the top (6100m), there was absolutely no trouble. And we were on the top for at least an hour and I felt fit and fine. (Maybe pure adrenaline rush prevented the signs?) –  Unsung Nov 1 '13 at 16:27
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Cold weather is usually associated with an increase of urine production. This urine production is a consequence of a body strategy to prevent heat loss. The urine production increase might be responsible for your dehydration.

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But that cannot really explain why this feeling is gone as soon as you leave the snowy area, right? –  Benedikt Bauer Oct 30 '13 at 16:48
    
Well "solid land" is not really defined so I can only hypothesize that conditions in "solid land" were warmer than on the slopes. Also, does the “solid land” step means the end of the effort? –  Amine Oct 30 '13 at 16:53
    
Good point. It's not clear if we are talking about time scales of hours or days. –  Benedikt Bauer Oct 30 '13 at 16:55
    
@Amine Dehydration due to excessive urine might have had a hand in the feeling. I can't completely agree upon it though. I've added edits to the question in order to clarify some of the points raised. –  Unsung Oct 31 '13 at 5:09
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