Mountain safety is a very delicate and controversial thing. Mountains are, by definition, a high-risk area at almost every point in time. Besides the technical knowledge and skills that professional guides and climbers have, there are several essential basics in the mountains. And one of them is the movement along the route. It is because of the departure from the way that most of the accidents occur. The loss of people, and not always tourists, especially inexperienced ones, can be found and saved. Do you know how to stay on track? In this article, you can understand about ten tips on how to stay on track.
In this article, we mean that the chosen route does not have a permanent marking or marking of any event, which is especially crucial for Russian realities. If there is a marking, then the main advice is banal: be careful and follow the signing, and if you get lost, return to the last point where it was found. Standard stationary markings have a step of no more than 100 meters between points (usually 30-50 meters); therefore, if the trademarks are not visible for more than 200-300 meters, it is worth returning.
Crossing several routes with different markings or when a hike is planned only partially coincides with the markings10 tips on how to stay on track. Always clearly mark the route on the map in advance and put marks where and when the route number will change and, accordingly, the markings will change, as well as the scores of the parts of the route, where no marking is intended. And you will need to include additional navigation. And the head, of course.
The most common reasons for leaving the route
- An abrupt change in the weather: Thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, a sharp drop in temperature very often provoke tourists to make quick decisions, which are not always correct in their further movement or search for shelter.
- Fog and lack of visibility: In the mountains, you can often get into the cloud zone while climbing or descending. The situation is especially dangerous when moving along rugged terrain outside the trails. The same goes for the onset of darkness. Orientation in the dark is not an easy thing and is complicated again by weather factors; the absence of stars, the moon, fog, precipitation.
- Lack of trail: As such, the lack of a clearly defined path leaves most tourists in a stupor. When there is no clear road, it can be completely unclear where to go. And the tourist is going where it is not clear.
- Lack of terrain orientation skills. Of course, you don’t need to be a professional orienteer or a certified guide to travel safely in the mountains. It is enough to know the necessary basics of the safety of movement on rough terrain.
- Household needs. The hikers’ technical stops are a classic when a person can get lost even in good weather. Going to the toilet so that no one sees, going for water, finding firewood, deadwood, and then not finding the way back is almost always accompanied by leaving the trail and the planned route.
- Attempts to shorten the route (“cut”) are frequent when an effort is made to find the shortest way in an unfamiliar area, but the opposite is exact. To “cut,” you need to know in advance where to cut. Seven times measure cut once.
- Fatigue and other causes of disorientation: A prolonged stay on the route, heatstroke, hypothermia, dehydration, altitude sickness, inhalation of fumaroles on a volcanic relief, exacerbation of the disease or its appearance, lack of sleep often leads to disorientation in space. In some cases, it becomes almost impossible to help yourself, and the most dangerous thing is that most of these factors are invisible or difficult to recognize. For example, can you tell the difference between the symptoms of altitude sickness or just hypoxia from inhalation of a colorless gas, the smell of which at an altitude of 5000 meters may not even be noticed?
Of course, information training affects safety in the mountains. The more you know about the upcoming route, the more force majeure, as well as household factors, such as water sources, you will be able to predict and work out an action plan in advance so as not to be in a fatal situation, even if you left the route. And now, all the maps have been studied; the way has been planned, the group is assembled, and ready to start the journey.
Check your gear
After parking at the end of the road, get out of the car and take a look at the mountains around. You and the group will be alone there—time to get yourself together and concentrate.
The first step is to make sure you pack essential equipment according to the list drawn up in advance. The accurate maps, headlamps, first aid kit, your trusty GPS watch or navigator, maybe a tracker for you to track, perhaps avalanche gear.
Make sure that all electronic devices are fully charged, and this charge will last not only for the expected time but also with a significant margin. An excellent solution to this issue is portable chargers, perhaps even with a solar panel.
How to stay on track: Brief the group
Before starting the route, gather a group and give a short briefing. This will help make sure you’re all on the same page and will help you avoid unnecessary questions and misunderstandings later.
Discuss your goals on this trek, such as having a great time. Getting back safe and sound and being patient with each other. Then make a brief overview of the upcoming trip: the purpose of your route, approximate distances for each day of the trip—interesting places along the way places to sleep—water sources. In the end, discuss the first day, the length of the route, the climb, the nature of the terrain, surfaces. The presence of obstacles such as rivers, fords, the time and place of rest, and lunch.
Stick to a schedule
Understanding what you may encounter on each day of your journey is great for keeping you on track.
Schedule check-points (per marked places that you need to get to by a specific time). Think over backup options and when to turn back or change plans, which is possible in case of fatigue, the onset of darkness, or a change in weather.
Calculate your pace and average travel time. Make small stops along the way to look at the map and determine what lies ahead.
The calculation of the pace and time of arrival by gadgets is often extremely unreliable! In the mountains. There is no direct relationship between kilometers and speed. A well-marked trail often shows the time to critical points on the routes. Usually, this time is calculated according to the rate of an average person with a light backpack on their back. Therefore, the time on the route should be calculated according to many factors: the composition, experience, and physical fitness of the group, its load behind its back. The complexity and coverage of the route. The terrain, the seasonality of the passage, the presence of snow. Precipitation, an increase in the water level in the rivers at the intersection. The time of day, possible deterioration of weather and visibility. Air temperature and its extreme values (in the heat, traffic performance drops, and the pace is slower).
It is good to have a general route plan for the day and understand in more detail what awaits you after each leg of the journey (in a few kilometers or in an hour). Always mark your next point along the way to make sure you are on your planned route.
When planning a route schedule. Ten tips on how to stay on track, keep in mind that almost always with the onset of darkness. The pace of movement decreases. You need to make an allowance for this.
If it gets dark, you have lost your way. Do not have a navigation device and do not know where to go. Stop, settle in, and wait for daylight!
Use linear landmarks
Linear landmarks are landmarks that can lead you to your destination, along with which you can move a large segment of the distance, for example. You can leave the trail in a specific direction to arrive at a stream or riverbed that you have marked on the map. Now you can use this stream to get out. For example, to the bridge, also pre-marked on the map. Suitable features might be ridges, hills, ditches, lakeshores, rivers. Other elongated landforms that will lead you to your desired destination. But make sure you are using these elements in the right direction!
Set your own landmarks
In addition to linear terrain features. You can also use the characteristic landmarks located near the route goal as orientation aids. Instead of trying to immediately determine the point of the final destination of the route. Find on the way any noticeable object of the terrain is located nearby. Get there first. Use more detailed navigation for the last leg of your journey. The direct route is not always the easiest.
How to stay on track: Train your memory.
First, make out the plan of the next section of the path well. Look at the map and determine the route guides, recognizable points along the way that you should come across in the direction of travel—having dealt with this. Remove the map and follow it to the next destination. How many times will you need to look at the map?
Visualization of the upcoming segment of the path. Memorizing the main milestones of the route, landmarks are a beneficial practice. It helps you recognize markers on the go and gives you the freedom to put your map and navigator devices aside and just enjoy the road and the scenery.
Suppose it seems that it is too simple. You can also remember the route from the previous landmark, so that in case of force majeure or leaving the route. You can return to the starting point from memory.
Get ready for stops
Remembering the previous landmarks and the last sections of the traversed path is especially important when leaving the route for everyday needs. Create a framework within which you can afford to perform everyday activities. For example, you can go to the toilet no further than 15 meters from the route and keep your bright backpack or tent in sight. Collect firewood within a radius of 50 meters from the camp and in the area of hearing and visibility. Look for a source of water no further than a hundred steps from the stopping place, if it is not visible initially, which happens in the forest.
Do your everyday activities consciously!
If you get the feeling that you have unknowingly left the route, you do not need to keep going. Stop and collect yourself. One of the main reasons why people get in trouble in the mountains is that after leaving the route. They stubbornly continue to go forward, instead of stopping. Checking everything and turning back if necessary.
If you are unsure, it is best to stop and double-check your location on the map. If you don’t know where you are, stay where you are until you figure out where you are.
How to stay on track: Use the GPS track.
There are, of course, fans from the world of orienteering. Who admits the use of only a map and a compass for orienteering. But let’s be honest: modern technology is wonderful and makes our life much easier.
Suppose the planned route is loaded on the GPS device in advance. It will be displayed on the screen if you deviate from the set course. You can also determine where the route is in relation to your current location. Many GPS devices are programmed to emit an alarm when you deviate from a given route.