5 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Winter Hiking Dangers
Each outdoor season has its own unique safety risks and winter hiking dangers might top the list. That’s why hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts need to do their very best to protect themselves. Whether the risk is extreme temperature, steep slopes, high altitude, avalanches, or wildlife, you can never really be too careful. That being said, there are still some aspects of Mother Nature that are inevitable. So, if you can just do that little extra to stay safe, then you very well should.
As the winter hiking season rolls around, hikers need to be aware of the cold temperatures, ice, and one of the biggest potential winter hiking dangers of this time of year, avalanches.
1. Put the Camera Away
It’s sad that we need to have yet another reminder about the dangers of selfies and pictures. Too many people face preventable deaths because they chose to take a picture of themselves at the wrong time. While there may not be a direct link between snapping a selfie and an avalanche coming down, taking any photo certainly stops you from being as aware of your surroundings as you could be. A little word of advice: The memories you make with just your eyes are way better than a selfie, anyway.
2. Follow and Listen to the Signs
When you’re hiking, you should always follow the signs. Any time of the year, those signs and trail markers are there to keep you safe. Not to bore you or keep you from having a little extra fun. Back in January of this year, a teacher was accused of involuntary manslaughter, after bringing his students into an area of the slope that was blocked off. After jumping the fence, an avalanche poured down, killing two of his students.
3. Know the Avalanche Warning Signs
Even the most expert of climbers need to take extra lessons for climbing in the winter. Much of this is because falling rocks in the summertime is not quite the same as falling snow, or an avalanche. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to know the warning signs if you’re in a potential avalanche-zone site. Warning signs include a recent avalanche in the same spot, a rise in temperature, increased snowfall, snow cracking, and strong winds. If you notice even one of these signs, don’t take the risk.
4. Dress Appropriately for the Weather
For the love of all that is holy, don’t wear shorts if you plan on hiking or doing any outdoor activity during the winter. One of the biggest dangers to hikers this time of year is the harsh weather conditions, including freezing temperatures, ice, and ultimately, the risk of hypothermia or simply just freezing to death. You must wear approrpiate clothing. Jackets, socks, under layers, gloves, hats, shoes….don’t neglect something just because it’s uncomfortable. You know what’s uncomfortable? Being frozen at the top of a mountain, without anyone to help you.
5. Train Yourself
Hiking in the winter is NOT EASY. If you try to brace the outdoors without any prior experience, you’re going to be in for a very unpleasant surprise. Just because you can hike well in the extreme heat of summer, doesn’t give you a free pass for the winter. These conditions are way different and need to be handled with care. Don’t head out into the winter backcountry without first training yourself.
Avalanches and other winter hiking dangers certainly aren’t completely avoidable. But, you can follow some basic safety tips to protect yourself as much as you can this season.