Hiking through the Heat
By: Ceri Temple
Hiking in the summer is such a wonderful experience- the days are long, the skies are clear, the alpine meadows in bloom and maybe you will spot some mountain wildlife too. However the hazards of the summer heat should not be taken lightly. That said with a few simple tricks you can definitely reap the benefits of heading high:
- The big golden sunny rule: shade = cooler temperatures = less need for water… So choose a route that will dodge the sun i.e. ascend on the northerly sides which stay the coolest and choose paths that take you through forest, keeping you in the shade- normally to around 1700m after which point the temps are cooler. If you are hiking with little ones, choose a shorter route than usual or with fewer ascents.
- Be an earlybird: Set out early to get the most of the cooler air. Additionally, afternoon thunderstorms are typical on hot days, so if you are on your way down or even better back in the valley at this point, so much the better.
- Cover up: Choose light weight, quick drying clothes – avoiding cotton that gets heavy and takes ages to dry. Loose long sleeved tops have the advantage that you don’t need to get in a hot, sticky mess with sun cream. Protecting your head and back of your neck is probably the most important thing that you can do to prevent sun stroke- so get your hat on! Bandanas, buffs and clothing can also be dipped in water and placed on the back of your neck or forehead for an instant cooling effect.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Make sure you are well hydrated before you started the tour. Take more water than you would normally and ensure you drink regularly – don’t wait until you are thirsty, by that point you are already dehydrated. With kids it is much harder to tell if they are thirsty- again, encourage them to drink a little and often. Their need to go pee is a good indicator as to their hydration levels. Hydration packs (camelback, platypus) etc. are a super way of supporting this and kids from the age of 4+ can carry a small pack themselves.
- Snack up: As we sweat we also lose a lot of vitamins, minerals and electrolytes which are important for our organs and especially for recovery from physical activity. A mix of nuts and raisins (Studentenfutter), salty pretzels or müsli bars like Cliff bars or Seitenbacher bars are good light-weight snacks. A small snack every hour will help replace those missing vitamins and keep you energised.
- Alms and Huts: We are so lucky in the Alps that we can plan tours that stop by lovely mountain huts- a perfect match of refreshment and supping up the traditional alpine culture. If you are relying on a hut for rehydration, do check in advance that it is open- many are closed (Ruhetag) one day in the week, mainly Mondays. And avoid alcohol…
- Cool spots: My favourite part of hiking at this time of the year, is making the most of the many magical mountain streams and lakes – almost all hikes I plan at this time of year incorporate this either along the way or at the end. Whether going for a paddle or a dip, there is nothing better to refresh and re-energize you than cool, fresh water 🙂
- Be aware: The effects of sunstroke can be at best very unpleasant, at worst life-threatening…. as soon as you suspect that you, your child or someone in your party could be suffering, deal with it before it gets any worse- sit them down in the shade, place some cool, wet clothing on the back of their necks and give them some water- if possible adding some electrolytes (I always carry a pack of rehydration salts in my first aid kit)
- Be prepared: When we get used to the heat in the city, it is sometimes unimaginable that going an hour south the temperatures are going to be different- remember, it does get cooler higher up and additionally the weather can change pretty quickly in the mountains – when you are higher up, this change can be even more significant. Always ensure that you pack an extra warm layer and light waterproofs just in case.
Written by Ceri Temple
With a passion for adventure, the great outdoors, travel and education, Ceri has built her career across all of these fields. Following several years in the mountain sports and travel industry, Ceri trained as a UK qualified teacher, teaching foreign languages and outdoor education. With a desire to share her love of outdoor sports and adventure in nature, Ceri started her own business www.4elements.eu in 2012. Ceri recently fulfilled a life-long goal of becoming a fully certified mountain hiking guide and offers various events also through www.girlsski2.com , the other branch of her business, to inspire a love of outdoor and alpine adventure amongst women: building confidence and friendship, fostering personal growth and well-being.