Let's talk about safety in the mountains. This Easter Stu and spend the weekend up in the mountains hiking and camping.
Day 1: Cathedral Peak Hotel - Orange Peel Gap - Cathedral Peak - Over Buggers Gully - Bells Traverse - Twins Cave
Day 2: Twins Cave - Elephant - Cleft Peak - Castle Buttress - Lower Ndumeni Cave
Day 3: Lower Ndumeni Cave - Organ Pipes - Camel - Ribbon Falls - Cathedral Peak Hotel
The weekend was full of fun and adventure but the topic of safety is what we thought was important to share this time around. Consider these 15 factors regardless of how big or small the mountains you are exploring are.
Make sure you have some basic navigation skills both for a map on your phone as well as a printed map. Also have a plan A and B for your route choice.
Know how many kilometers you can roughly do in an hour and be aware that downhills are not necessarily faster.
Make sure to sign the mountain register and give an accurate route description of where you intend to be and for how long. Include what you are wearing and the colors where possible so it is easier to be found should something go wrong.
Let people know where you are going and when you intend to get back. You can back this up with a live tracking device so that you can be followed.
Should something go wrong, know who best to call. The signal may be limited but if necessary you may need to do your best to find some. This is obviously easier if you are in a group.Make sure to have mountain rescue’s contact number on your cell phone.
Conditions can change drastically and quickly in the mountains - make sure you have necessarily layering. Use your waterproof gear sooner rather than later to maintain your core temperature. Wearing high visibility is also important. Learn how to layer yourself to keep warm - base layers/thermals, fleece, puffer jacket, rain jacket/shell.
Make sure to wear good quality hiking/trail shoes/boots and socks. Keeping your feet as dry as possible will help you later on. If you are camping, taking a pair of slopes when you arrive at your destination will be appreciated to let your feet breathe.
Cover your head, apply sunscreen and keep warm when it is cold. Take a headlight if you are traveling overnight with spare batteries.
Always take an emergency space blanket or bivvie. This can help you stay warm and also acts as good visibility for anyone out there looking for you.
Take a first aid kit emergency kit and know how to use it. For any injuries or illnesses you will need to be prepared.
Be familiar with the terrain you are enduring and where you can find water. Take enough nutrition with you to sustain your energy levels. If you have access to clean/running water I would highly recommend taking dehydrated meals. This will provide a nutritious meal that will sustain you and it is light. You do not have to eat it all in one go as you can close it back up. The ziplock also serves as an extra carrying facility should you need one.
Be familiar with the snakes and animals in the area and what precautions to take.
If you are overnight hiking choose a camp spot that is best protected from thunder/lightning/rain/wind or any other adverse weather conditions. Be familiar with how your tent works in case you need to set up at night and in the dark. Setting your camp up on flat terrain will make your life a whole lot easier.
Take everything you need but nothing more! A heavy pack already changes your center of gravity and makes the mountainous terrain a challenge.
Lastly, pack your sense of wonder, adventure and a good sense of humor for when things do get hard!
There is a lot to consider when you are out in the mountains. Have fun and be safe out there - climbing any mountain is a privilege!