Perhaps the most important tip for safe mountain hiking: never go out alone. In the mountains, you are often too far from civilization to get help. If something happens to you in the mountains with a group, at least there are others who can either provide first aid or get help.
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An additional risk in the mountains: you can end up in dense fog or in a rain shower from one moment to the next. Needless to say, you should definitely stick together as a group in these situations!
When things go wrong
Never leave a victim alone and ask if someone else can get help. If, despite everything, something goes wrong, keep calm and get help quickly.
Bringing a smartphone with you is of course always useful, if only for navigation. A few tips:
- Charge your phone well in advance and switch it off on the go to keep the battery full.
- If the range is poor, walk to a higher position as far as possible. The best chance of a good reception is where you have a view of the valley.
- In the cold, a battery does not work or works less well. Therefore, carry your mobile in a jacket or trouser pocket against the body.
- Remove the pin code during the holiday. This way, someone else can call for help with your phone and all-important phone numbers are immediately available. 112 can be called at any time, even without calling credit and without entering a PIN code.
- In the mountains, it is advisable to call the mountain rescue service (pre-program!). They usually know the situation in the mountains better than the 112 operators.
The alpine distress signal can also offer a solution to call for help. This can be done with sound (shouting or with a whistle) or with a visual sign (flashlight, reflecting sunlight with a mirror). Beep six times a minute and then be silent for one minute. Repeat until there is an answer (one signal three times per minute).
Weather in the mountains
RAIN AND COLD
Nothing is more changeable than the weather in the mountains. So always take a sweater and raincoat with you, even if the sun is shining in the morning and the weather reports are favorable. For example, with every 100 meters you ascend, it gets 0.7 degrees Celsius colder! If you end up in the fog, or in a rain or snow shower, it is better to turn around and descend when in doubt.
Thunderstorms in the mountains are always dangerous. Thunderstorms due to heat usually occur in the late afternoon. It is safe to leave early in the morning, then chances are you will be back home by the time the thunderstorm breaks. Tips for on the go:
- Keep a close eye on the growing and darkening clouds. Descend quickly while you still can.
- If you do get caught by a thunderstorm, find a safe place quickly. Safe means:
- Never stay at a high point in the area.
- Avoid a lonely tall tree.
- Don’t take cover by the water.
- Is the thunder coming very close? Then squat and huddle on the floor. Keep metal objects such as a walking stick and iron wire ropes at least 20 meters away.
However cold it may be, the sunlight is much brighter at high altitudes than at sea level. When trekking through snowfields, you absolutely need a good pair of sunglasses. Ordinary sunglasses do not suffice here, but sunglasses that also block UV radiation. You can buy these at any outdoor sports store. If you don’t put on sunglasses, you risk ‘snow blindness’, which is an attack on the corner of the eye. This can lead to temporary blindness.
Snow and ice
If you get above 3000 m, you will have to deal with snowfields and glaciers. As long as snowfields are not too steep, they pose no danger. During the day they can soften or melt due to a rise in temperature. This increases the risk that you will suddenly sink. It is useful to make pickles with you on these types of tours. This allows you to keep your balance and judge the quality of the snow by poking it. Despite all the caution, the risk remains that you will fall and slide down on a sloping snowfield. One tip that can save your life: lie on your stomach and press your elbows and your toes into the snow. Usually, this is enough to slow down. Glaciers are a separate risk. Without alpine experience, it is absolutely inadvisable to walk on it. They can be full of invisible crevices and holes. The use of ropes and pickles is an absolute must.
Fear of heights
Many people wonder whether they can hike in the mountains with a fear of heights. Rest assured: almost everyone has (a little) fear of heights. Some people just suffer more from it than others. That is why there is no unambiguous advice. In any case, do not torment yourself unnecessarily if you are afraid of heights. Start safely with a simple (valley) hike on well-maintained paths and build it up slowly. Never go out alone and make sure your tour companion is aware of your fear of heights. Of course, it is no shame to go back, as soon as it turns out that you actually do not dare to continue. Safety before everything!