Hiking and climbing in safety
10 recommendations from the Alpine associations
Hiking in safety
As an outdoor sport, hiking is a great way to get fit, meet people and have fun. The aim of the following recommendations from the Alpine associations is to make hiking as safe and enjoyable as possible:
- Getting fit in the mountains
Hiking is an endurance sport. It makes the heart and circulation work, which requires you to be healthy and to realistically assess your fitness. Try not to rush and walk at a tempo where nobody in the group gets out of breath.
- Careful planning
Hiking maps, guide books, the internet and experts can inform you about the length, height differ-ence, difficulty and current conditions of a hike. You should always choose which hiking trails you will take according to the skills of the group. Pay particular attention to the weather forecast because wind, rain and cold increase the risk of an accident.
- Complete equipment
Make sure you have the right equipment for the hike you are taking and that your rucksack is not too heavy. Protection from the rain, cold and sun should always be packed in your rucksack, as should a first-aid kit and a mobile phone (European emergency number 112). Maps and GPS will help you find your way.
- Appropriate footwear
Good hiking boots protect and provide relief to your feet and improve your footing. When choosing a pair of shoes, make sure that they fit perfectly, have non-slip soles, are waterproof, and that they are light.
- Sure footing is key
Falls as a result of slipping or tripping are the most common cause of accidents. Make sure that you do not lose your footing or concentration because you are going too fast or are tired. Also watch out for falling rocks: by walking carefully you avoid loosening rocks.
- Stay on marked paths
In areas without any signs there is an increased risk that hikers will lose their way, will fall or that rocks will fall. Avoid short cuts and go back to the last point you recognise if you stray from the path. Steep old snow fields are often underestimated and very dangerous as one can easily slip.
- Regular breaks
Regular rest helps hikers to recover, enjoy the landscape, and makes the hike more sociable. You need to eat and drink to sustain your concentration and energy levels. Energy drinks are ideal for quenching your thirst. Cereal bars, dried fruit and biscuits will satisfy your hunger while walking.
- Responsibility for children
Discovering the landscape in a fun and varied way is very important for children. In passages where there is a risk of falling, an adult can only look after one child. Very difficult hikes, which require long periods of concentration, are not suitable for children.
- Small groups
Small groups are more flexible and allow members to help each other. Tell everyone in your group your end destination, route, and return route. Stay together in your group. Attention to those hiking alone: even minor incidents can require serious emergency assistance.
- Respect for nature and the environment
To protect the natural mountain areas, do not leave rubbish behind, stay on the paths, do not disturb wild animals or livestock, do not touch the plants, and respect protected areas. Take public transport or use carpooling to get to your destination.
Safety on via ferratas
There are risks involved in the use of via ferratas. Insufficient preparation, inadequate equip-ment and inappropriate conduct increase the risk of falling. Alpine associations recommend that you train with a qualified expert before following any via ferrata:
- Plan carefully
Planning is the key to ensuring safe and enjoyable via ferrata tours. Make sure you are fully informed of the difficulty, length, ascend and descend, the weather, and other conditions.
- Base your goals on your capabilities
If the via ferrata you have chosen is too difficult, it will reduce your enjoyment of the experience and may increase the likelihood of you finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
- Ensure you have all the equipment you need and that it meets the required standards
Climbing harness, via ferrata set and a helmet. Only by using the equipment correctly and professionally will you have a safer via ferrata experience. In emergencies you should have a first-aid kit and mobile phone at hand (emergency number in Europe in 112).
- Do not use via ferratas if there is a risk of storm
Thunderstorms endanger people’s lives. Rain, wetness and cold increase the risk of falling.
- Check the wire rope and anchoring equipment thoroughly
Pieces of rock, snow pressure, frost wedging and corrosion can all damage the via ferrata. Do not climb via ferratas which are closed or barred.
- Check on your partner when climbing
Monitor each other: check that the climbing harnesses, , the tie-in with the via ferrata set and helmets are securely in place.
- Stay an appropriate distance apart
Only one person can move on the cable-segment between two fixed anchors.
- Clear agreements when you overtake
Communication and care prevent dangerous situations when overtaking others or when you encounter people going in the opposite direction.
- Watch out for falling rocks
Careful climbing reduces the likelihood of falling rocks.
- Respect nature and the environment
Travel on public transport or by car pool. Do not litter and avoid making noise.
Created in collaboration with the Arc Alpin Club and Alpenverein Südtirol.