The risks of hiking in the mountains are sometimes underestimated. Yet you can have a lot of influence on the safety of going into the mountains yourself. With these 11 simple tips, you limit these risks to a minimum so you can enjoy your mountain hike to the fullest!
Start your training at home!
You can’t compare a mountain hike to the simple forest walk you do at home. In the mountains, you come across height differences, probably with a backpack on your back. Chances are your body is not used to this kind of hiking. But not to worry, if you make sure you’re fit, anyone can do it! Start easy and make sure you choose a hike that’s suitable for your skill level (and that of the people you’re going to walk with). To get used to the effort of walking with a backpack, it’s wise to do some trial-runs (no, not trail runs ;)). It’s a nice way to make sure you’re ready for the real deal!
Preparation = fun! Take your time
Well begun is more than half done! Really, there’s so much you can prepare at home and before you start your hike. And it’s fun to do as well. You can prepare your trip with walking maps, guides, books and Google maps. Or go online and look for experiences from other hikers that already did the mountain hike you’re planning. Also check in advance whether the paths, routes and the mountain huts that you want to use are open. Always visit the local tourist office or a guide company, they have the most recent and accurate information about the area. Last but not least: make sure you have an alternative route in case the conditions are disappointing for whatever reason. If you have announced your arrival in advance at a mountain hut (which is a sensible thing to do), please inform them accordingly. The bill for the unnecessary search operation will be sent to you.
Don’t let the weather surprise you
Nothing changes like the weather in the mountains. Make sure you’re well aware of the weather conditions in the area you’re visiting. In the mountain huts, you will always find an accurate weather report specifically for that area. Don’t forget to check that when you leave. If you don’t understand the weather report, ask the staff for clarification. They often have a lot of experience with the changing weather conditions in the mountains. This does not give you 100% certainty, so it is useful if you can recognize, interpret and respond to sudden changes yourself. This can prevent unpleasant surprises during a hike!
Did you pack everything you could possibly need?
If you do end up in an unexpected rain or snow shower, make sure you have the right clothes with you. Waterproof pants and a raincoat are indispensable if you go hiking. In addition, a hat and gloves can prevent a lot of discomfort. Of course, things can also work out different: you walk in the sun all day. Be generous with sunscreen and make sure you take enough from home. Walking in the sun all day while your head is all red with sunburn is very uncomfortable. Furthermore, extra food, sufficient drinks, a first aid kit, a map and compass, and a charged phone containing the emergency telephone numbers and the phone numbers of the mountain huts are indispensable in your backpack.
You’re as fast as the slowest person in the group
Suitable shoes: a must have when you go hiking!
Don’t think you’ll manage that mountain hike on a pair of All-Stars or running shoes. Make sure you have a pair of sturdy mountain boots. A set with some good profile will provide you with the necessary grip. High mountain shoes give more stability to your ankles, which is nice if you walk in uneven terrain. If you are certain that you are walking on flat paths and do not have to walk through the snow, lower shoes can also be a great option. Are you in such trouble that emergency services have to come into play and they find out your equipment was not suitable for the hike you were on? Then you can expect a sizable bill.
Stick to the path
It can be really tempting to skip a part of the path and just clamber a little. However innocent this may seem, there may be considerable risks involved. These pieces are often steeper and the surface can be very loose and therefore more dangerous. In addition: the beaten track is there for a reason. If everyone were to make their own route, unnecessary vegetation would be destroyed. As people, we leave our footprints in enough places as it is, don’t you think?
Keep your head in the game
Even when you’re hiking with a group, you always want to be alert in the mountains. Also, pay attention to the other people in the group. If the person leading the pack missed a turn and everybody follows him or her like a herd of animals, you’re still lost. So make sure you always know where you’re going, even though you’re not the one in the lead. Also, try to keep an eye on the other people in your group. For instance by looking at the breathing of the person in front of you. Does it look like he’s struggling? Make sure you pass this on, so the people in front can adjust the tempo.
Doing a mountain hike in a group? Take each other into account
As I mentioned before: hiking is supposed to be fun! For you, but also for the other people on the trip. To make sure the hike stays fun for everyone, it’s important that you take each other into account and adapt to each other as a group. Does someone have a hard time or is the pace too fast? You’re only as fast as the slowest. To keep the group together, it may be a good idea to let the person that’s struggling go to the front of the group. Here, he or she can determine the pace and keep the group together. Or maybe there can be some weight taken out of his or her backpack and be divided among the other hikers.
Leave nothing but footprints
One step at the time
Twisting your ankle during a hike is something you want to prevent! Especially if you’re high up in the mountains and you’re carrying a backpack of considerable weight on your back. Make sure you pay attention to the way you place your feet. Don’t’ walk too fast and do not jump, you might lose control. Even when you’ve been walking for a few hours, you still need sufficient energy to remain alert to prevent falls and slips.
Take a break every once in a while!
When you’re planning your mountain hike, make sure you calculate some time for breaks during the day. And try to make a habit out of it to eat something everytime you stop, even though you might not feel like it at the time. This food is an important fuel for your body to keep going. If you’re tired from the hike, your body won’t give signals that you need food. But as soon as you start eating, you’ll notice you’ll get more energy. It might be convenient to store a bag of nuts and dried fruits in your pocket. This way, you can eat during the walking as it’s not wise to eat large quantities of food at once. Your body has to work very hard to digest this when you start walking again. And that energy doesn’t go to your legs at that time!
Respect the environment
When you are in the mountains, you remain a guest in the living environment of all kinds of animals, even though you will not always see them. Be aware of this and act as a guest. Do not leave your garbage anywhere, but put it in a pocket of your backpack. Once you’re in a village or city again, you can throw it away there. Mountain huts must also ensure that the waste produced by them gets down from the mountain. So do not leave your waste here, just the waste of the consumptions that you’ve bought there. This way everyone can continue to enjoy the mountains!
I hope you’ll find these tips helpful when you’re planning your mountain hike! Make sure to send me a message if you have any questions 🙂