Delays and changes in weather can cause emergencies even on a short day hike each and every member of a party should be prepared and this preperation starts with a competent leader.
Anwaaz Bent an experienced hiker and Chief Co-ordinator of The Hikers Network Discusses safety and highlights respect for the Mountains with individuals humbling themselves and knowing that they are not in control of the NATURAL ELEMENTS. They can only be fully prepared.
Hiking has fast become a popular activity in our community because it offers good, healthy exercise and the tranquility of the outdoors. Families , the young and old can partake in this activity. It is an activity that teaches respect, tolerance and care for fellow party members in other words Unity. I have over the years been fortunate to hike extensively in South Africa and in this way I have gained valuable experience and learnt from each and every person I have hiked with. It is with this in mind that I Encourage those that are experienced hikers or novices to join us in order to learn, grow and benefit from one another. I know that the community can only benefit.
South Africans are fortunate because we have some of the most spectacular mountains in the world. Offering hikers an extensive network of Hiking Trails. The hiking trails range from easy day hikes to overnight 2 to 7 day hikes. Leading to hidden Kloofs and valleys into forests and Fynbos covered slopes. Behind this beauty is an unpredictable element of danger Ė unpredictable climatic conditions, rough terrain, and the possibility of flash floods. Unprepared walkers fall prey to these elements of danger each and every year. This for many years has been of grave concern to me and I think the time has come to equip our community with the skills for the benefit of all. This element of danger is one that can be managed by adhering guidelines that will follow in this article and future supplements.
I have often encountered ill-equipped hikers in the mountains with their group leaders not even knowing the route they are hiking. I often use this saying ďa walk in the park can be a walk in the darkĒ. The easiest of route can unexpectedly turn to fatality so be fully prepared. Colleagues in the hiking fraternity, particularly Hikers Network leaders, share this sentiment. The Network has thus embarked on a programme to educate and inform any beginner or avid hikers. Encouraging groups to gain experience and share their knowledge and preserve the Environment.
The Hikers Network acts as a tool for those people yearning to get hiking. The leaders in the Network together have amassed years of experience and know most mountains intimately. Even with all our experience we must respect the mountain and at all times know our limitations, and this in my opinion is most important because if these factors are adhered to the individual will always follow all safety guidelines as follows.
Hiking safety starts with a hike leader. This is the individual that each and every party should have before attempting a hike. His involvement in the hiking activities also makes him a mirror to future hike leaders and he should at all times lead by example.
The leader should know the terrain and area to be hiked. He must be obeyed at all times and he will also keep his party informed and consult with them regularly. His soul objective is not the destination but safely of his group at all times .The groupís fitness level has to be on par with the grade of the hike. The leader has to know his groupís ability and choose a route accordingly. Hiking or any outdoor activity has no place for macho arrogance and decisions by the leader in times of danger are based on his experience and his assessment of his party.
The leader also needs to make sure the group has all the Necessary equipment. No hike should undertaken if individuals are ill-equipped.
The party should stick together at all times and move at the pace of the slowest, having either the leader in front and an experienced person taking the rear, or vice versa. The leader teaches his party tolerance and patience and adjust his style according to relevant group dynamics.
I have particularly highlighted leader responsibilities group and leader to highlight its importance and this forms the basis of any excursion.
The Hikers Network and its team of Leaders Constantly strive to maintain these ethics to ensure the safety of each and every individual.
It is in this way hiking can be developed for future generations. We have to lead by example and make sure that Conservation is kept in mind at all times.
Please not this article only deals with the basis of hiking skills other aspects will be dealt with in future.
Topographic map and compass.
Water . food and extra food.
Extra clothing, rain gear, wool socks, sweater, and hat.
Flashlight with spare bulb.
Waterproof matches and fire starter such as candle.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Aid kit including any special medication you might need.
Audible/ visual: whistle &metal mirror.
A folding pocket knife.
Survival bag or Emergency Blanket
Remove all litter.
Please not that the above is just a guide to the essentials. Please consult you hiking leaders to elaborate.