Governments and health officials around the world have been reluctant to recommend people go hiking during the pandemic, amid concerns of crowded trails and mountain accidents causing a further burden on already strained healthcare systems.
However, as more countries open up again after months of lockdown, the open spaces on a mountain trail will be sought out by many who are fed up of the great indoors. But just because you’re out in the open air doesn’t mean you can relax your guard, and hiking associations and walking tour guides have been busy issuing trail guidelines.
1. Don’t be a chatterbox
The Spanish hiking group BarcelonaWalking is calling on anyone taking part in one of their group hikes to refrain from speaking when unnecessary.
“While participants are hiking, their conversation should be reduced as much as possible, ” organisers say, amid concerns of virus droplets being spread by chatty walking-tour participants.
2. Warn people before overtaking
On mountain trails, you’re advised to inform anyone before you overtake them, so they know to maintain a distance. The Washing-ton Trails Association suggests a polite, “Coming up on your right/ left!”
While unnecessary communication with strangers is still best kept to a minimum, the associations says you may need to speak to people walking in the opposite direction.
“Trail etiquette states the person going uphill has right of way, but not everyone knows this, ” the association says in guidelines for hikers during the pandemic.
3. Avoid the crowds
Hikers are best advised to use less crowded paths during the pandemic, the German Hiking Association advises.
“Look for hidden gems in the surrounding area and take less familiar paths, ” says spokesman Jens Kuhr. The car park will be a good indication of whether or not a trail will be crowded.
If you do find yourself on a busy trail, make sure to leave lots of space between groups, stepping to one side or off the track so you can stay out of each other’s way.
You might be out in the fresh air, but the Washington Trails Association still suggests using a face mask when you pass other people. “If you can’t maintain six feet or more from other hikers, pick another place to hike, ” their guidelines say.
4. Don’t pick somewhere too far away
After months of staying home, the temptation may be great to travel further away, if it’s allowed. And yet health experts say the risk of infection rises the further you travel.
“Most travel requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others, ” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Even if you’re driving, you may need to stop for food or petrol.
5. Check online before hiking
Many hiking groups have underlined the importance of checking local websites before going on a particular trail, as it may be blocked, crowded at certain times or subject to restrictions.
In Germany, for example, hiking on mountains is still legally permitted, but the German Alpine Club strongly advises against it.
Some areas in southern Germany have even blocked their hiking parking lots, while officials in North America have restricted access to certain trails.
6. Consider the burden on rescuers
More than just a potential point of infection, trails can, as ever, be a place where people get lost or injured. It’s thought that any mountain-top emergencies would only further burden rescue and health care workers at a time when resources are already tight.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy say you should always inform someone you know what your route is before you go, which will make it easier for a search and rescue team to find you, should you get lost. For trickier routes, a physical map (and not just a smartphone) is essential. – dpa
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