Every year accidents happen in the mountains. Partly by falling or tripping. But in part, there are other causes that can also be prevented. Hiking is beautiful and fun, but keep it safe!
Mountain hiking training
A good mountain hike requires careful preparation and you will learn that in our practical and theoretical workshop. How do you choose a mountain hike that suits you? Included are equipment, safety, weather, altitude sickness, and walking techniques including walking sticks. The Deutsche Alpenverein (German mountain sports association) has been compiling accident statistics among its members since the 1950s. They do that every two years. The latest data (dated May 2019) show that in 2016 and 2017 a total of 558 accidents occurred, of which 30 were fatal. This only concerns people who are members of the German Alpine Club, it is not yet a total overview.
What dangers lurk?
Problems during a mountain hike can arise because you lose orientation, bad weather conditions, and difficult terrain, or a combination of all of this. In ‘Sicherheit und Risiko in Fels und Eis’, a standard work on safety in the mountains, Pit Schubert described numerous practical examples of accidents in the mountains, which show that an accident can happen in a small corner. One of the examples is about a couple who wanted to go on an altitude hike in the Schladminger Tauern in Austria from the Planet to the Preintaler Hütte in the 1990s. Despite the bad weather at the start (snowfall on the tops and bones) they took the cable car, which takes you up to the Planet at 1,900 meters in a few minutes, and started walking. On the way, they lost sight of the route markers due to poor visibility. They got lost and ended up in a block field (a field full of boulders), where there was no path to be seen. They couldn’t find the markers anymore. The path was now snowed under. Two days later, their bodies were found two hundred meters from the trail. Due to a combination of difficult terrain (no clear path) and bad weather, things went wrong.
Examples of tricky terrain
A blocked field is an example of terrain in the mountains where there is no clear path anymore. Other examples are very steep routes, which are sometimes secured with steel cables (and sometimes stairs) to give the walker a little more grip. Or snowfields. These are all pathless terrain, which requires step security and where you have to be free from vertigo. As a novice mountain hiker, you can be unpleasantly surprised when you end up in this type of terrain, especially in bad weather with little or no visibility. So only start if you have sufficient experience and the weather forecasts are favorable.
Choose a route that does not exceed your level
It is important that you start with a route that does not exceed your level and preferably is slightly below your level so that you always have something left in the event of an unforeseen situation. You must therefore always have sufficient stamina to complete the route. In addition, no ‘blockage’ may occur en route. By blockade, we mean that, without there being an accident, you will no longer be able to continue the route. You cannot continue because, for example, problems arise with orientation or because the terrain itself is too difficult to move through or a combination of those factors.
Plan the route in advance
To determine the feasibility of your tour and to gain insight into the time it will take for it, map out the route in advance on a hiking map. A hiking map gives you the necessary information about distances and the type of terrain the route passes through. The color indicates forests, snowfields, glaciers, and rocks. The important contour lines on a hiking map give you information about the number of vertical meters that can be bridged and about the steepness of the terrain. By reading a map carefully, you know what to expect on a route. That way you can also avoid difficult routes.
Learn to read maps
To use a hiking map properly, you must be able to read it. How do you learn that? A good tip is to start with a map to go hiking in an area known to you. That can simply be in the Netherlands. View on the map how the environment is displayed. If you are in an unfamiliar area, check the map every 15 minutes. As soon as you do not remember your position on the map and you cannot find any landmarks in the landscape (a stream, a bridge, a mountain top, or a hut) on the map, you have to walk back (15 minutes) to the last point from which you sure it was good. If you have a smartphone that has GPS, you can consult ‘help desk services’ to help you with your problem.
A golden rule in mountain hiking is an early start. This way you not only ensure that you are inside before dark (even if a trip unexpectedly takes longer than planned). On hot days in the mountains, heat thunderstorms can occur, usually in the afternoon. Make sure you are well inside for this.