Alpine climbing is a fun and exciting adventure. But we all know that it is not an easy pursuit. And in most cases, hazards could arise without you knowing. Learn what these hazards are so that you can prepare and overcome them.
Many outdoor enthusiasts have long dreamed of traversing different alpines in the world. The most popular ones, such as the Gran Paradiso in Italy and Traverse of Weissmies in Switzerland, are commonly sought by the most avid climbers. But of course, even the amateur one's desire to conquer these peaks as a form of overcoming their final frontiers.
Still, the alpines are a challenge because they throw unpredictability in your way. For instance, the weather there can change in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, the terrains are usually technical and unbearable for inexperienced climbers. Of course, don't underestimate the temperature or snow. Someone can get buried by avalanches, and that's pretty lethal.
So when you think about these dangers, canceling your trip would really cross your mind. But that's not how you should approach these ordeals. After all, the highest summits can only be reached if you are prepared to overcome the treacherous paths.
Being aware of what possible dangers you could encounter is one way of being prepared for them. Moreover, it is also important that you don't focus too much on the negative aspects of your adventure; there are a lot of good things that you can encounter while ascending different peaks. Just be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
One should know that the mountains can expose people to different types of ordeals. Everything there could become the root cause of accidents and SHTF situations. Even slippery terrain could cause irreversible injuries. At the same time, not wearing the proper gear could also spell disaster. That's why the proper hiking pants, windbreakers, and hardshell jackets are important in these endeavors.
With these things in mind, being over prepared isn't a wrong thing. In this way, you can compensate for the unpredictable and inevitable risk factors that you could encounter.
For starters, these are the typical hazards that you can encounter while climbing alpines and mountain peaks.
Let's start with the most important one.
You see, ascending in high altitudes exposes your body to different elements and atmospheric conditions. The higher you go, the more you can notice the unusual (and often uncomfortable) changes to your setting.
Depending on how fast you climb, the intensity and suddenness of these changes could be really unpleasant. For example, ascending an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level could cause quick exhaustion and a series of bodily discomforts such as dizziness and headaches. This is because the oxygen level on the top is lower than when you are at sea level. And as humans, our bodies are used to oxygen-rich environments.
Technically speaking, summits and mountain peaks aren't the playgrounds designed for us. They can be reached, but necessary caution is required.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to acclimatize on high altitudes.
As mentioned and implied earlier, the alpines don't have friendly terrain. They aren't for the faint-hearted, or people don't have enough training. Tight, narrow paths and steep cliffs are among the things you could encounter along the way. In some cases, there's a need to traverse rocky walls by climbing them.
Of course, the fear of falling isn't unwarranted. After all, we often hear stories of climbers that fell to their death while climbing. But even if you don't fall, there are still risks of tripping or stumbling over, especially if the ridge is slippery. And simple slips could cause injuries.
Let's keep things clear: ice and snow are different. And this means that they pose different types of risks, which I'm going to discuss all here.
Specifically, alpine climbers and mountaineers are prone to being injured by falling ice. On the flip side, hikers don't usually encounter this danger.
When alpine climbing, you have to pass terrains where there are hanging glaciers. If the temperature remains low, the hanging ice will just stay intact. They also remain stable when there isn't too much movement around. Here's a rule that you might need to know: if the ice freezes fast, the risk of it breaking or falling is minimal.
Avalanches are a thing on mountain peaks. They occur more frequently than you expect them to be. So if you are going to ascend these summits, it is essential that you prepare for the possible instances of an avalanche.
It is not easy to identify when an avalanche is coming. And when it comes, it is more difficult to outrun it. So preparedness and situational awareness are quite crucial in ensuring that you won't be buried in deep snow.
In your ordinary hiking and backpacking trips, these rocks are almost unremarkable. They virtually don't pose any danger, except if there are snakes hiding under them or a huge boulder suddenly rolls in your direction. Otherwise, these rocks and stones are almost decorative in nature.
However, things are different when you are traversing mountain peaks and alpine terrains. Keep in mind that erosion and weathering are almost frequent in those areas. Whenever rock structures start to crumble, they could catapult small to large-size blocks that could seriously hurt you. They call these things either rock slides or rockfall.
When the rockfall becomes massive, it is already a landslide. Regardless, these natural occurrences are dangerous. Even the best hiking helmet could not deter them from injuring you.
Interestingly, many alpines all over the world have monitoring systems for these rockfalls and landslides. They are a reliable source of reports when it comes to predicting these land-based hazards. However, the presence of these monitoring systems should not make you too overconfident. Mother Nature could still get unpredictable.
Just because the alpines are cold doesn't mean that you don't have to worry about the heat of the sun. In fact, the higher you go, the more you need to be worried about the harmful UV rays.
You see, high altitudes are the regions where the UV rays don't get reflected that much because of the thin atmosphere. Hence, there's always a likelihood that it can directly penetrate your skin. And that itself is quite harmful.
Furthermore, heat can quickly exhaust you in high altitudes. Combine it with thin air, and you will feel drained quickly. Also, keep in mind that snow reflects sun rays. The reflection intensifies, causing harmful glares to the eyes. That's the reason why "snow blindness" is a thing for mountaineers and alpine climbers.
Climbers are required to have enough supply of food and water. Obviously, these things are essential for one's survival and nourishment. You can't just traverse the treacherous alpines by just sheer will alone. Instead, you need your body to be physically fit. It should have enough energy reserves to complete the trip.
At the same time, food and water can add to your body's thermoregulation. For instance, coffee can make you feel extra toasty while dwelling in frigid regions. More calories could also help heat up your body. So if you don't do any basic meal planning for your expedition, there's a good chance that starvation, dehydration, and hypothermia could wreck you.
Being prepared is important. And that means that you need to plan for the things that you need to bring. A successful mountaineering trip could depend on how thorough your preparation is. Go get a checklist and ask yourself what are the things you need to pack up. Are survival knives essential? Do you need a portable stove? How about a fire starter for making fires? Don’t forget a winter tent, too!
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