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Safe Mountain Hiking

Andrea Boffo explains how to stay safe and injury free while mountain hiking.

Walking for health. It is not just a saying; It is NHS-approved. In fact, all forms of walking, including brisk strolls, cross-country walking, and mountain hiking, our CMO (Chief Medical Officer) recognized activities that can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease… not to mention hiking is a fantastic form of exercise that works to strengthen the leg muscles while also boosting endurance. It is not surprising to learn that mountain hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the UK.

There is, however, one very big concern when it comes to mountain hiking: Safety. A common question that is often asked is 'how dangerous is it to hike in mountainous environments?'. According to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), mountain hiking is actually a lot less dangerous than many people believe. While 1000 accidents are reported for every 100 million hours of walking, ROSPA notes a much higher 7000 for cycling and an even greater 10,000 accidents per 100m hours for horse riding. Mountain Hiking

Despite the apparent safety of mountain hiking when compared to other sports and activities, it is important to remember that accidents can — and certainly do — happen. And these incidents are becoming increasingly commonplace. In fact, according to statistics published by the British Mountaineering Council, mountain rescue incidents increased from just 45 in 1964 to more than 3000 in 2001. It is vital that hikers take measures to ensure they remain happy and healthy on the mountain.

Minimizing the Risk of Injury

So how should sports coaches be advising their clients when it comes to minimizing the risk of injury on the mountain? While there are many angles that can be taken with regard to overall mountain climbing safety, perhaps the most effective approach is to primarily focus upon the most common forms of injury. According to a report by Mountain Rescue England, by far the most common cause of injury for mountain hikers is falling. In this instance, 'falls' includes slips, trips, stumbles, falls, and tumbles. Injuries

Clothing Considerations

This highlights just how important it is for sports coaches to advocate for the correct footwear to be worn. The problem, of course, is that there is no such thing as standard mountain hiking boots, with different gear required for different environments, different abilities, and different weather conditions. Consider, for example, the significant differences between low cut hiking shoes which tend to be ultra-lightweight, and high cut backpacking boots that offer greater ankle support and stiffer midsoles.

Similarly, sports clothing as a whole must be taken into consideration as wearing the correct clothing can significantly help to minimize the risk of injury when mountain hiking. When sun exposure poses a risk, for example, lightweight, breathable fabrics with long sleeves are an essential piece of kit for hikers. It is often advised that mountain hikers browse sport clothing deals to ensure they have a variety of suitable clothing available to them to match both the walking route and the conditions on the day of the hike.

Medical Considerations

After falls, the second most common cause of injury to mountain hikers is listed as medical collapse and illness. Hikers should make it a priority to pack any necessary medications that may be required through the duration of the hike, and to take these medications as necessary. It is also imperative to remain well hydrated, to eat small, frequent meals comprising of high-calorie snacks, and rest regularly. Most importantly, if a hiker feels unsure about continuing with the route, it is best to return to base.

Further Aspects to Think About

While having the correct clothing and prioritizing personal health are perhaps the two most essential considerations for minimizing the risk of injury when mountain hiking, there is much more to think about when it comes to staying safe. Here are 4 further aspects that should be taken into consideration.

Why Take a Hike?

Quite simply, if a hiker decides not to participate in a planned mountain hike, they should not be forced into doing so or feel as though they are required to do so. A loss of interest in the once favoured activity is remarkably common in sports, and in many cases will prove to be a temporary state of mind. However, even a temporary loss of interest can result in a loss of motivation to prioritize safety and take the necessary precautions on the mountain, increasing the chance of injury and the need for rescue.

Social Hiking

For many, mountain hiking is a solitary activity. However, for hikers who are new to mountain environments, or who feel unsure about hiking alone, hiking with a coach, partner, or group can make walking a much safer event. It all comes down to understanding the importance of teamwork and acknowledging the responsibility a hiker has not only to themselves but to others. Open encouragement, support, and motivation, along with knowledge sharing, can go a long way.  social hiking

Ensuring Readiness

Attempting a challenging mountain hiking route without ensuring that the body is prepared for the degree of difficulty, the particular terrain, and the duration of the walk can easily result in injury. Hikers should always ensure that the muscles are primed and ready for the challenge. While building up to a mountain hike with a series of shorter walks is often recommended, where time proves to be an issue it can be beneficial to set up a budget home gym, focusing on equipment to strengthen the lower limbs.

Recognizing Improvement

How to recognize improvement is an important skill for all sports people, of all abilities. However, in terms of safety specifically, perhaps an even more essential skill is how to acknowledge — and how to be content with — a lack of improvement. Improvement will occur naturally the more a person participates in mountain hiking. However, trying to improve at too rapid a pace may result in attempting routes that are beyond current ability, increasing the risk of injury. Hikers should challenge themselves sensibly.

Conclusion

Mountain hiking can be a very beneficial, very challenging, and very enjoyable sport. However, with uneven terrain, variable weather conditions that come with changing altitude, and the possibility for poorly defined paths, this is a sport that can also be dangerous. Fortunately, there are a number of ways that mountain hikers can minimize the risk of injuries, such as wearing appropriate footwear and clothing, prioritizing their health, and understanding more about their motivations and physical abilities.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • BOFFO, A. (2019) Safe Mountain Hiking [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article394.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Andrea Boffo is a passionate writer who loves to share thoughts and tips about sports activities, sports fashion and everything connected to the sport.

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