What To Do In A Tricky Hiking Situation
More people than ever are discovering the joys of the great outdoors. While hiking is great for both mental and physical health, sometimes things don’t always go to plan. This can happen to even the most experienced of walkers, or it may be the result of too little preparation. Here are some steps you can take if you find yourself in a tricky spot.
No matter how serious the problem is, panicking will only make it worse. Try and keep your natural emotions in check, calm down anyone else in the group who is over agitated, and take a minute to centre yourself. This way, you are more likely to make a logical and useful decision, rather than rushing into an unhelpful course of action.
Administer first aid
If one of your party is injured or ill, let the most experienced first aider in the group tend to their needs. Remain calm and reassuring if they are upset, as getting too emotional will be obstructive and draining.
If you are in a group who is lost, or stalled by illness or injury, body temperatures can soon plumet. If the weather is bad, erect a temporary shelter if you have one to keep everyone dry. If you do not have a shelter, look for a naturally sheltered part of the landscape, such as a large boulder or recessed nook in the hillside to keep the worst of the wind and rain away.
Make sure that everyone keeps warm
Make sure everyone is wearing warm waterproof clothing, and pay special attention to the needs of anyone who is sick or injured. In adverse weather, hats, neck gaiters or scarves, and waterproof gloves are essential. Anyone who is injured or suffering from hypothermia should be transferred to a bivvy bag, if it is safe to move them.
Now is good time to make use of hot drinks, and energy giving foods such as dark chocolate or dried fruit. This will give you a boost and help you think more clearly about the best course of action.
Agree a plan of action
Once everyone is sufficiently sheltered and wearing the right clothing, discuss what your options are. Avoid getting into conflict, as this will only make matters worse. Remain diplomatic and flexible, but be firm if you are more experienced than any of the others in the group, or can see an obvious problem with a suggestion.
Get assistance if you need it
Don’t hold back if you think you need help to get off the mountain. You might feel reluctant to make demands on the emergency services, but keeping them informed about a developing situation is better than triggering a search and rescue, if someone at base reports a missing party.
Dialling 112 or 999 will get you through emergency services. If you don’t have a strong signal, you can send a SMS text to 112, as this is able to get through even with weak reception. It helps to register in advance, by texting ‘register’ to 999.
Before making an emergency call, make sure you have all the relevant info, including a grid reference if you know it. Most smartphones now have integrated GPS, so this can help you to pinpoint your exact location, which will be a great help to the search and rescue party.
Make your group visible
If you are awaiting a search and rescue party, you need to make your group as easy to spot as possible. A torch is a basic piece of kit that everyone should have with them. Use them to signal if you spot signs of approaching help. The standard international distress signal is six flashes of the torch, at one-minute intervals.
Do not flash your torch directly at a helicopter, so you don’t interfere with its vision. Instead, point it at the ground.
A whistle is another basic tool that everyone should have. The international distress signal is the same as for a torch: six blasts of the whistle at one-minute intervals. If someone picks up your signal, they will reply with three blasts of the whistle. Continue making distress signals until you are certain that help is arriving.
There are more advanced safety and rescue devices available, such as Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) which send a distress signal via satellite to alert the emergency services. These might be worth investing in if you make regular long hikes.
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