Be Prepared for Your Walking Trip
Advice to walkers on how to make sure they are prepared for venturing out into the mountains or in remote locations
by William Armstrong
This is the first of three articles about staying safe in the mountains or remote locations. This article looks at how you should prepare yourself before you set off for your walk. The others will look at preparing your rucksack and what to do in an emergency.
This advice applies equally to people venturing out for the weekend in UK mountains as it does to mountainous or remote regions abroad. It also applies to our independent walking holidays in mountainous regions such as our trekking tour in the Queyras and our self-guided holiday in the Vanoise region of the French Alps.
Saftey in numbers: It is always safer to set out as a party of at least two. This is especially so if you are not an experienced walker. We strongly advice against undertaking our independent trekking holidays if you are travelling alone unless you are a very experienced walker in mountainous terrain.
This is not to say that I would deter everyone from going out alone as it can be one of the best experiences you'll have in the mountains. However, make sure you are experienced enough before doing so. First go out with a friend or join a club to gain plenty of experience. Learn how to use a compass and read a map in the mountains and how to read the mountainous terrain.
Fit for the trip: An obvious piece of advice but one that is not always heeded to, as our busy daily schedules mean that we never get round to doing those walks or hours in the gym we planned before the walking trip comes around. Also see our article about how to keep going when the walking gets tough. Make sure you prepare for a difficult walk or long trek, by building up your walking distances and difficulties. It will also serve to wear-in new boots. See article on looking after boots. Walking requires stamina and perserverance. By going out walking on a regular basis you can build up your distances gradually, preparing both your body and your mind for the trip ahead. This also reduces the element of the unknown. The last thing you want is your body to break down on a remote mountain ridge. And, accidents involving slips, mis-placed steps etc are much more likely if you're tired or physically unprepared.
Checking the route: This is important even if you're being provided with detailed walking descriptions, as is the case on our independent holidays. Make sure you can trace your intended route on the map. Take a mental note of points of reference such as mountains, villages, cliffs, rivers, forests etc and the approximate distances involved. If you have a view from your hotel or car park of your intended route on the mountains try and follow the route with your eye. This will help you prepare mentally and will be invaluable in case of hill fog. Set rough goals in terms of where you should be at certain points in the day. In this way if you are forced to stop for some reason for a considerable length of time or if you are going very slowly you can estimate whether it's still safe to continue or whether you should turn back. Unless you are very experienced, you do not want to be walking at night in mountainous terrain if the terrain is difficult and dangers such as cliffs are close by.
Leaving route details: Always leave a route card with your last overnight stay or with friends and family, with the name of your next overnight stay and the route by which you intend to get there. Also tell your next overnight stop your intended arrival time. This will provide the emergency services with useful information in case of a problem.
Check the weather: Checking the weather forecast is vital in mountainous regions before setting out for your walk. Severe weather can be a real danger especially on remote or exposed paths. If severe weather is forecasted do not be afraid to delay your departure or find alternative ways of getting to your next overnight stop.
Pack for emergencies: Always make sure your rucksack contains a minimum numbers essential items when you are walking in the mountains or remote regions. Our next article will outline what you should include in your rucksack for a day in the hills.
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