Countless adventurers have been called to the mountains since the beginning of time, and in the past few decades mountain walking and mountaineering has become increasingly accessible to the public. Here’s some sound advice from an Gavin Raubenheimer on how to stay safe in the mountains:
Watch out for the following hazardous conditions in the Drakensberg
1 Bad visibility caused by bad weather (mist, rain, snow) or by darkness is a major hazard in the mountains. This lack of visibility causes other problems to develop. For instance, any lack of visibility can cause walkers to get lost. This in turn causes people to take short cuts along unknown routes, accidentally walk off steep ground or cliffs or to have party members get dangerously tired or dehydrated.
2 Snow falls cause extremely cold and wet conditions. Remember that although snow is seen as “fun” it is not pleasant to walk in falling snow, neither to camp in it. Watch for hypothermia. When snow falls thickly it can become almost impossible to walk through and can trap a whole group for days at a time. Snow and ice can also make a simple path into a very dangerous place especially if there is a steep drop off nearby.
3 Rock falls happen from time to time especially during heavy rain or snow. Watch for loose overhanging rock in places where a hiking party must pass nearby.
4 Lightning is major problem in the summer months in most areas of southern Africa. If a storm is approaching, move away from ridges or the summits of peaks. Get into lower ground with plenty of high points set well away from the party. A good place is the safe zone near to a small cliff. To work out where to sit, estimate the height of the cliff and then sit the same distance away from it at the base. Then to make it safer, get members to sit down on their haunches with their feet on any insulating material such as a rucksack or ground sheet. Place any large metal items well away from the party (e.g. tent poles) Sitting on the haunches is the best way to sit out a storm, since if a strike happens close by and current runs through the ground, it will most likely run through only the persons legs and not the vital organs and head. Lying down on the ground will mean that any current will run right though the whole body. Also get the party to spread out (minimum of 10m apart). In the event of a person being struck it will have less chance of jumping across and hitting more members.
Gavin is our first ad-hoc trailblazer. You can check out his profile here.