Visitors warned to heed the deadly risks of hiking the Alps

  • Europe
  • Wednesday, 21 Feb 2024

The countless signs on Austria’s Alps have not halted the numbers of serious accidents and deaths here. — BERNHARD KRIEGER/dpa

Mountaineers and winter sports enthusiasts travelling to Austria’s Alps are being warned of the deadly risks after an uptick in deaths and serious accidents in mountainous areas.

Of the 266 people who died in 2023 while hiking, skiing and climbing on mountains, most died due to cardio-vascular problems, says the Austrian Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety (ÖKAS) in an annual review published in late January.

In 66 cases, people died after falling. While the Austrian Alpine death toll has remained relatively constant in recent years, the number of injuries being documented has jumped.

Last year saw nearly 9,100 people injured on Austria’s mountains during sporting activities or excursions, far more than the 10-year average of 7,750, according to OKAS figures.

Stefan Hochstaffl, the head of the Austrian Mountain Rescue Service (OBRD), is calling on Alpine travellers to “always be aware of their responsibility towards themselves, nature and the rescue workers who go into action in an emergency”.

Some 13,000 mountain rescuers are trained to provide support on Austrian mountains in the event of an accident.

But people heading out into the mountains need to realistically assess their own capabilities and make careful preparations for their trip, says an OKAS spokeswoman.

Emergency rescue teams are being called out far more often than in the past, the report says.

“For the first time since electronic data recording began in 2005, the number of alpine incidents is approaching the 10,000 mark,” said Hans Ebner, head of the Alpine police, looking back at last year.

Danger lurks in both winter and summer, and Ebner said some hikers were lucky to still be alive after storms broke out suddenly last summer, leading to historic levels of flooding, landslides and devastation in some areas. – dpa

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