Yesterday I was hiking in partly deep snow where postholing was inevitable. I had no problems until one moment when I was getting cramps in the femoral. Luckily it was close to the end of my tour and walking got easier because the snow height decreased. But if this wasn't the case and I had to hold on for hours I'd been in trouble.

What can I do to quickly get rid of cramps so I am able to get to the camp or the end of a hike?

I think dehydration plays a major role here so I would pause, drink and get some calcium if I have. What else to do? Which drugs are helping?

  • 2
    I think dehydration plays a major role here Dehydration is a medical condition with a scientific definition. If you reach the point of dehydration, it will be long after having experienced overpowering thirst.
    – user2169
    Apr 12, 2015 at 17:12
  • @BenCrowell So you think I am not dehydrated when I am not feeling thirsty? Is it just the exhaustion then?
    – Wills
    Apr 12, 2015 at 19:35
  • 1
    Cramps can have many different causes. Dehydration is one of them, but even mild dehydration is preceded by intense thirst, so if you didn't feel thirsty, you weren't dehydrated. It is possible to have an electrolyte imbalance without being dehydrated.
    – user2169
    Apr 12, 2015 at 22:36
  • 1
    One possible cause of cramps is heat exhaustion, which can progress to heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can occur with or without dehydration. Probably not that likely in your case, since you were in snow, although it is possible to overheat in snow, depending on clothing and sun. If it was heat exhaustion, then you'd want to realize that and not just deal with the cramps, which are only a symptom. Heat exhaustion is basically a condition where your organs, especially the brain, overheat, so a lot of the possible symptoms are neurological, such as decreased responsiveness or loss of balance.
    – user2169
    Apr 12, 2015 at 23:11
  • Thx @Ben. So I think it wasn't heat exhaustion. Still I was pushing the speed from time to time so that I was at the upper limit of heart rate. I don't think this is a fault in general but maybe it could quicken the electrolyte imbalance.
    – Wills
    Apr 13, 2015 at 4:34

2 Answers 2


Its well-known to relate Cramps and Dehydration. So its obvious that you talked about hydrating yourself. But, in most of the situations muscle cramps can be stopped if the involved muscle is stretched. Be a bit careful about stretching at the same time.

The safe stretching exercises that I opt for involves stretching ankle by pulling the toes up and lying flat with the leg as straight as possible.

Treating muscle cramps in Calf:

  • Straighten your leg and lift your foot upwards, bending it at the ankle so that your toes point towards your shin.
  • Lightly massage the area until the cramp subside.
  • Walk around on your heels for a few minutes.

That may not be the case, but check if its temporary Claudification.


Depends on what's causing the cramps.

In your situation, high stepping is what was causing your quads to seize up. The best solution there would be to slow down and stretch frequently. If you start chugging fluids you can actually give yourself more cramps, the kind that you'd have to simply wait out.

I think electrolytes are the best way to get rid of most cramps that you can't stretch out, aside from rest. I keep a bottle of those electrolyte water drops to squirt into my water bottle if I need a little extra recovery.

One thing that I'll do in this situation–when I know that I'm going to post hole no matter how lightly I tread–is actually break the surface before transferring my weight to my leg. I do this by spearing through the crust with my pointed toe. It takes less energy to kick with each step than it does to lift your whole body out of the hole, so you fatigue slower, and put less strain on your muscles.

  • I've been in situations where we were sinking up to our hips, and the snow wasn't getting any less deep, we got to the point that we we so fatigued we just started rolling down the mountain because it was too much effort to try and get up of out of the holes we were making, and the crust was just hard enough that we only sank through after we had stepped all the way up out of our previous hole and were in the process transferring our weight to our the foot to make the next step. I think the best strategy for any amount of snow is always carry snowshoes as back up.
    – ShemSeger
    Apr 12, 2015 at 22:48
  • +1 for the hint with those electrolyte drops. Good to know what you wrote about postholing but I also had similar problems when going on a long and strenuous hike in summer.
    – Wills
    Apr 13, 2015 at 4:31

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