Walking Mountain trails brings you closer to nature and can have a wonderful effect on your health and general well-being.
From the wondrous views of pine-crested peaks and sharp rock cliffs above the tree line to the colourful flowers sweeping across unspoiled meadows, you will be surprised to find more than dramatic rock faces.
Walking in the mountains, however, requires a certain degree of knowledge and experience to acquire survival habits. The best way to do this is to read literature in this area, collect information from the Internet and participate in organized hiking tours before you head for the hills.
You should be aware that in the wilderness, there is always the possibility of unpredictable situations. Mountain hiking trails still present risks even on the most well-trodden paths.
In this article, we take a look at six must-know safety tips that will help to make your mountain trail smart. No matter how experienced you are walking in nature, do not overestimate your abilities when you turn your focus to the mountains.
#1 Never Hike Alone
It’s not wise to go walking on mountain trails alone. However, if you don’t have another option, at the very least, make sure that you inform people that you are heading up a mountain; a reliable friend or family member, a mountain ranger or at your hotel reception. Tell them when you are leaving and the time you anticipate you will return.
Remember that nature is unpredictable. You can easily get stranded in a flash flood or bad weather meteorologists didn’t anticipate. And there is always the possibility that you will slip or fall and sustain an injury that makes it impossible for you to make the return journey.
There is also the possibility of getting lost – so don’t stray from the signposted route. If you are planning to work a route that has been marked as difficult, hiring a professional guide or someone that knows the mountain is a better option.
Whilst a smartphone with remote wi-fi connectivity can be a lifesaver, there is no guarantee you will be able to connect to the network. Some high altitudes don’t receive a signal. There is also the off chance that you will lose or damage your phone.
Hiking in a group is always a better option anyway. Not only is group walking safer, but it’s also more sociable and enjoyable. It’s recommended to hike with at least two other people.
Walking in a group also means making much more noise than when hiking alone, and this keeps animals away – so, the odds of being attacked are much lower.
#2 Pack Hiking Essentials
Packing the right equipment and necessary essentials is important whenever you go hiking. It is doubly important when you’re walking a mountain trail because of the terrain and energy you use.
Quality, well-planned and skilfully packed equipment will solve a large part of potential problems in the mountains. Remember, that you should be prepared for anything as much as possible.
However, the highest quality equipment is not enough for the safety of mountaineers. It is equally important to use it correctly and carefully. Even the best shoe is worthless if you don’t pay attention to where and how you step.
With that in mind, the first task to perform before your go walking in the mountains is to invest in a quality pair of hiking boots. You can find more tips in this article.
We also recommend that you purchase appropriate footwear well in advance of your mountain trail adventure. You will want to make sure that the boots are properly bedded in before you go walking, The last thing you want is to suffer from sore feet.
With that in mind, we also recommend reading our article about how to take good care of your feet for long-haul hiking. This will serve you well for walking mountain trails.
Carrying the right equipment is also important due to the prevailing conditions in the mountain. There are important factors to consider, namely the weather, certain characteristics of the trail and the season).
Whilst mountaineering equipment can be said to be universal, none of it is 100% safe. For example, a helmet does not provide protection from large stones. It is still advisable to invest in high-quality equipment from recognised brands.
The equipment should meet the requirements of functionality, lightness, durability, and protection. But ascents to high mountains, especially in winter and other extreme conditions, in addition to adequate equipment, also require the prior acquisition of the necessary knowledge that will reduce the risk of various dangers.
Basic mountaineering equipment consists of: shoes, backpack, clothes – wardrobe (pants, hooded jacket, raincoat, active clothes, sweatshirt, hat, gloves, socks), walking sticks, small equipment (goggles, face mask, headlamp), medicines, cosmetics, first aid kit, hygiene products, food and drink, orienteering accessories.
Having said that, there is also the issue of packing too much equipment. A heavy backpack is not a good idea when you are mountain walking. Heavy backpacks tire you out quicker and slow you down. This can delay the time it takes and you may not have time to get to the summit and back before nightfall.
Heavy backpacks can also affect your balance. If you have to cross a narrow ridge or cross a river on a narrow bridge (a tree trunk is not out of the question), carrying too much weight makes the pathways more challenging.
The good news is that most mountain trails rarely require you to pack more than the absolute basics; proper hiking shoes, a backpack, appropriate clothing, first aid kit, route map, torch (just in case), nutrition bars and sufficient water.
If you’re new to mountain trails, tackle the easy routes. This not only gives you the experience but also gives you enough time to invest in the proper equipment you’re going to need for riskier trails.
It’s worth bearing in mind that financial restraints may hamper the probability of you investing in new equipment on your first adventure.
#3 Look At The Weather Forecast
The weather conditions are most often a crucial factor for the success of mountaineering activities and our satisfaction in the mountains. Occurrence of rain, fog, low visibility, storm, thunder, blizzard, frost, sweltering heat, hot wind, etc. she is not pleasant to anyone.
These are all circumstances that can create inconvenience and difficulties, and sometimes they happen to be the cause of an accident. That is why, before leaving for the mountain, it is very important to gather as much information as possible about the predicted weather in that region and any specifics that prevail there.
Whenever possible, it is worth planning a backup option – the possibility of shortening the tour in the event of an accident. Even when we go for a walk in the mountains with the predicted good weather, we should not lose sight of the fact that sometimes the weather can change at an incredible speed, especially in the summer.
In case of an unfavourable weather forecast, rather give up the planned goal. Otherwise, even if you achieve it, you will not experience satisfaction, which is why we go to the mountain. Never ignore the weather forecast and don’t force a hiking tour, because sometimes you can get into life-threatening situations.
#4 Protect Yourself From The Sun
In the mountains, more than usual, you are exposed to all the dangers caused by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. In order to protect the skin and avoid the consequences of burns, it is necessary to protect and hide the parts of the skin that are most exposed to the sun’s rays.
Protect your face, nose, ears, and neck with creams with a protective factor or cover with a scarf or towel, while you should always wear a hat, cap, etc. on your head. Failure to comply with these measures increases the risk of burns and more serious skin diseases. Don’t forget – the mountains are “closer to the sun”.
Snow blindness: the action of ultraviolet rays is strongest and most dangerous in snow and fog (reflection and diffusion). You usually become aware of it late – when you can no longer see anything. Although temporary and without permanent consequences, snow blindness is very unpleasant and painful, and in such situations, often planned enjoyment turns into torture.
To avoid this, it is best to use sunglasses with side shields, although regular sunglasses are much better than nothing.
#5 Take Smaller Steps And Take Breaks
As mentioned briefly above, walking mountain trails exerts more energy. Even slight inclines make your muscles work harder. This can mean you will tire earlier than you expected – and if you over-exert yourself too early, it will take you longer to recover.
The tried and trusted solution amongst experienced trail walkers is to take small steps. This puts less strain on your muscles and helps to preserve more energy so that you get further in a shorter time spell.
In addition, take a steady climb and walk at a pace you are comfortable with. If you notice you are tiring, slow your pace down. The most important thing is a light, careful and flexible walking enables you to cover more distance in less time (due to rest stops).
Do not run or walk too quickly downhill either. When descending, walk carefully and do not jump. The body should be upright because this way it realises the full capacity of the lungs and enables the proper distribution of the load. Evenly waving your arms and establishing a rhythm with your steps also make walking easier.
Try to always walk properly because any unnatural position (bending the spine, walking crookedly, twisting the foot…) causes additional pain.
Breaks during hiking should be neither too frequent nor too rare, and they shouldn’t last long either. It is best to take a break of 2-3 minutes every thirty minutes, and a short break of ten minutes every hour and a half. It is preferable that it be in a place sheltered from the sun and wind, preferably dry.
Immediately after stopping, you should put on some warmer parts of the equipment, primarily because you are wet from sweat. It is best to place your legs in a somewhat elevated position (on a rock, tree stump, backpack…). These breaks are suitable for eating and drinking, as well as adjusting clothing and equipment.
#6. Be Mentally Prepared
A positive mental attitude is required for walking mountain trails. This is true whether you are walking alone or with other people, The going can get tough.
If you’re alone, a weak mind will prompt you to turn around without achieving your goal. And if you’re walking with other people they don’t want to have to turn back or listen to you whining.
The big disadvantage of solo hiking is loneliness. The hiking gets boring and the trails long. But everything depends on the man himself and his psyche. It is important to know that hiking alone is different from staying home alone.
If you hike with more people then they can motivate you if you give up, they can make you go further. But that’s not the case when you’re alone. Many hikers will give up and create a psychological barrier for themselves.
No one will carry your gear when you are alone. If there are more people hiking then part of the equipment can be distributed, but when you are alone you have to take care of everything.
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