Planning to go mountain trekking for the first time? It may be exciting, as you’re looking forward to the stunning view you’ll be seeing and the amazing trip you’ll be having, but at the same time, it can be intimidating because of your lack of experience. So, don’t leave home without any preparation. Start now by reading these mountain climbing safety tips for first-timers:
1. Start Working Out
The first thing you have to prepare before going on a hike is not the gear – it’s your body. Climbing a mountain is a vigorous physical activity, so you must start getting fit before going on a hiking trip to ensure you can endure it and avoid injuries.
First of all, if you have health issues, consult with your doctor that if it would be fine for you to hike. If you have not been physically active lately, it is recommended that you begin a regular exercise regimen for a month or a couple of weeks before the trail. If you’re already an active person, keep up the good work and don’t skip your workouts especially before your trip.
Whether you are active or inactive (physically), you need to prepare your body in two aspects:
Perform exercises that will strengthen your leg muscles so that you can endure prolonged walking. You can also do push-ups to improve your arm strength, as you might need to get a tight grip on stones, branches or ropes as you go along.
Extensive cardio workouts will be a big help in training your body to increase your stamina. It’s good if you’d practice wearing a heavy backpack while you exercise because it will be the imitation of what you’ll feel as you climb the mountain there.
You also have to consume carbohydrate-rich foods days before, so that your body could be fueled up and energized.
2. Plan Your Trip
For beginners, of course, it is recommended that you start with a not-so-difficult trail. Don’t be tempted to go to major hikes immediately just because that’s what your friends are going for. For a first timer, know your limits and be OK with it – there’s no need for you to rush. You don’t want your first hike to be the last one, right?
Once you’ve picked which mountain to climb, here are some other important things you need to consider before the big day:
How long will the whole trip be? Knowing the duration will determine what and how much stuff you need to pack. Because you’re a first timer, then probably you won’t need a tent to bring in with you. Pick a good mountain to hike that won’t affect your intended schedule or the schedule of others you will bring with you.
As we’ve mentioned the “others,” it is good to have someone to accompany you on the trail because it’s your first time. If you are going to a mountain that is a hiking destination, then most probably there are trekking guides you can hire to assist you. It is important that you have a guide by your side all the time, plus a friend who is an experienced hiker. You need them to guide you in the right path (literally) and to be there when the need arises. It’s safer for everyone that way, and it’s more fun too.
Stick to how much you are willing to spend. Although mountains are public property, there are still fees you need to pay for. It varies from one place to another, so go and first ask how much money you will need before going there. Of course, prepare for transportation expenses. You might also need to pay for guide fees, tourism fees, environmental fees, and other stuff.
Be informed of the weather news in your planned hiking site prior to your climb. That way, you would know which types of clothes to wear, what additional stuff you must bring – in short, you need to be prepared for what’s going to happen there. If the weather forecast is bad, it’s best to postpone the trip so you can be safe.
Know if you are going to deal with inclined steps, in-between rivers, thick forests, and so on. Get yourself familiar with details like if the mountain trail would be sandy, snowy, rocky, grassy or muddy. Prepare your mind, body, gear, and backpack for what you are going to face.
3. Prepare Your Hiking Wear
As stated in the tips above, your gear will depend on the expected duration of your hike, the weather, and terrain, as well as the budget. If you don’t see mountaineering as something you would want to do, again and again, don’t buy expensive stuff yet like special trekking shoes or professional hiking outfit. Just choose outfits that are comfortable, versatile and lightweight (but not too thin), and make sure they are able to cover your skin well enough to protect yourself from scratches or the weather. The safest bet would be long-sleeved shirts – you can take them off or roll the sleeves up if it gets hot, tact pants or long socks to shield your legs, and gloves that cover half of your fingers to protect yourself if you need to hold on to rocks or branches for support.
When it comes to footwear, wear shoes that are comfortable enough for hours of walking; tough enough to endure the hike; and safe enough to protect your feet. You can choose from boots, gaiters, sneakers, rubber shoes or any of your ball sports shoes.
Again, the proper hiking wear would very much depend on the weather during the day of your hike and the terrain of the mountain.
4. Prepare Your Backpack
First of all, you don’t want to burden yourself on the trip with a bulky backpack. As you are just beginning, your trail might last for a day or a couple of hours, so don’t be afraid to leave some of your beloved stuff at home.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Hiking is dehydrating, and most likely, there will be no available clean, potable water source there as you climb. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you, maybe a liter or two.
Of course, there’s a great chance that your tummy would crave for food during the trail, so you need to pack fuel for your body. Packed dry food is recommended such as sandwiches packed in foil paper, protein bar etc.
- Extra clothes/fabrics/sundries
If you get all sweaty due to vigorous physical activities and if your hike is on a hot summer day, pack a spare shirt and a small towel. You can also bring sunglasses and sunscreen to protect your eyes and skin. If you’re in cold weather, then you might consider bringing a jacket, scarf, or hat.
- Waterproof bags
If your mountain hike involves crossing a lake or a river, it’s best to bring waterproof bags to protect your gadgets and important belongings.
You can download an offline map in your smartphone for the area you are planning your trip to, and it will serve as your map, tracker, and GPS. There’s a slight possibility that it might still catch signals there, so you may use it to call for help in case of emergency. Keep it fully charged.
- First-aid kit
Because you are going to the wilderness, prepare for the unknown and unexpected. You won’t know when insects would plague or some wild animals attack you out of nowhere. But the most common setbacks experienced during hiking would be: sprains, cramps, blisters, wounds or scratches; or maybe fatigue, exhaustion, dizziness, dehydration or fainting – so you need to be prepared for yourself and for your companions. Bring a couple of Oral Rehydration Salts, bandages, alcohol wipes, and painkillers.
5. Stay Safe
The vaguest, but the most important safety tip is to stay safe. Be careful and attentive every step of your way, because one slight slip might mean you’re a goner. When with a group, let someone experienced assign a meeting place if any of you get lost.
Let somebody else know that you’ll be hiking and when you are expected to come back. Be accountable and register with your name and contact details at the start-off point of the trail.
When experiencing fatigue or loss of breath, take a pause. Remember, you’re a beginner. Start low and eventually, you will gradually move up.
Mountain climbing, by no means, is an easy thing to do. You need to be well aware of all the minor details because your life depends on it. “Mountain Weather (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics)” is an amazing guidebook that provides helpful information the first-timers need like pre-trip, how to read clouds and wind patterns for rainstorms, strategies for safety in worst conditions etc.