There are people who had to survive one or more nights in altitudes above 7000 m at temperatures far below zero, without tent, sometimes without sleeping bag or even a proper jacket. Some examples are described here. Some dug snow caves. What are other helpful strategies/personal traits to survive such bivoucs?

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    All the people in the link were trained fit mountaineers with some some gear and most if not all a shovel to dig a snow shelter. There are duplicates on surviving cold.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 15, 2017 at 21:58
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    I wouldn't call the last three (Beck Weathers, Joe Simpson or Aron Ralston) situations a Bivouac.
    – user5330
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:40
  • I remember one account where the person kept awake and moved periodically to generate some warmth.
    – ab2
    Feb 16, 2017 at 1:18
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    This is an interesting question but it is not very narrow and lets room for speculation. E.g. the list is long but of course it is not complete. So there are so many extreme bivouacs somebody survived. I guess your question just askes for any survival strategy. This would be too broad for a good question. If you search for the reasons those people survived this depends also from case to case. And it's not only about survival strategies, it's also about training, mental strength, and a lot more. You can e.g. read on Wim Hof how to withstand cold.
    – Wills
    Feb 16, 2017 at 9:00
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    Thanks for the link, which helped already. Tried to narrow the question.
    – Sophia
    Feb 16, 2017 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


I that most of the cases in the article you linked are an example of selection bias, most people in those situations would die.

In other words, the people in that article became famous by surviving things that would kill the vast majority of people. They got lucky, if you will.

The one who bivyed on K2 didn't survive by much.

The next morning, John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway found him continuing down while on their way to the summit. Wickwire lost parts of two toes and underwent lung surgery due to blood clots on his lungs (pulmonary emboli); he also caught pneumonia and pleurisy. The Pakistani army helicoptered Wickwire right from the glacier at the bottom of the mountain, and Wickwire immediately underwent lung surgery.[10] The surgeon expressed uncertainty about Wickwire's ever climbing at high altitudes again.


The man in the first example on Nanga Parbat was aided by Pervitin (Meth)

Buhl took the drug Pervitin (methamphetamine) during his solo climb to the summit and back.


Which apparently protected against the frostbite,

There was no prospect of movement without light, and nowhere to lie down or even to sit. He took some Padutin tablets to stimulate the circulation and protect against frostbite. His spare pullover was far below, in his rucksack. He had no bivouac sack. Fortunately, the night was virtually windless.


But in the end the frostbit still got to him.

Buhl was carried to the roadhead and was treated for his frostbite injuries in hospital first in Gilgit, and then in Lahore. In the end he lost two toes.


So I wouldn't use these stories as an example of something that you could survive.

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    Minor nitpick: Pervitin is indeed meth, but the Padutin he took against frostbite seems to be a different medication based on the enzyme Kallikrein. It seems it's still available in Austria, albeit prescribed for improving sperm motility rather than bivvying in the death zone...
    – Pont
    Feb 16, 2017 at 8:41
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    It's not only that "they got lucky". Mountaineers like Bonatti trained hard to get used to the cold. He misses on the list the same as Messner misses. It's american press I assume... Still you can't compare the regular person, those are trained mountaineers and indeed some bloody hardass guys. The fact with Buhl and Pervitin is right but please don't (anybody) assume he just survived those situations because of drugs. He was one hell of a mountaineer.
    – Wills
    Feb 16, 2017 at 8:55

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