When you recall some of your first hiking experiences, you probably can make a long list of many mistakes you’ve made. As you begin to hike more frequently, you learn something new with each hike. You learn many hiking skills, you begin to choose your hiking gear more wisely, you start understanding your body and your needs.
But once in a while, you find yourself in a completely new environment, and the place you’ve chosen for your next hiking adventure seems like it’s having its own rules. Hiking a desert requires some different skills than hiking a mountain. Therefore, each new hike requires some briefing and pre-learning.
If you have never visited the Swiss Alps, read these tips to be prepared for your hike and to avoid unpleasant surprises.
1. Think of the Difference in Elevation Between the Start and the Finish Point
When you have an experience in hiking activities, you know that trail length sometimes doesn’t mean a thing. Then you probably know that the crucial thing in determining the trail difficulty is a height. Novice hikers usually judge the trail difficulty by its length, which is a big mistake.
The important thing in judging the difficulty of a hiking trail is the actual difference in elevation of the start and the finish point. A total trail’s length of 10 km may seem as an easy trail, but if you start at the elevation of 1000 m and end up at a summit of almost 3000 m, that’s certainly a demanding trail. You can pass just several kilometers to reach your destination, but if you’re constantly going uphill, the trail could be difficult and grueling.
Therefore you should always consider the height of your destination to avoid going on a hike that you can’t withstand physically.
2. You’re Not Going to Be Alone in the Alps
If you‘re fantasying about solitary walks and random wanderings in the complete wilderness, then go elsewhere. Millions of tourists visit the Swiss Alps every year, so let’s face it – you’re not the only person in the world that wants to hike the Alps.
So, when you’re hiking in the Swiss Alps, you’ll be encountering many hikers, trekkers, runners, bikers, and other adventurers on a trail, especially on weekends, and you’ll be able to see many signs of civilization, even at the very high elevations.
But, this mix of nature and civilization is maybe the greatest advantage of the Alps.
The Swiss Alps are unique in the world when comes to public transport, trail infrastructure, number of mountain huts, accessibility of high alpine terrains etc. For example, Jungfraujoch railway station is the highest railway station in Europe, situated at the elevation at 3,454 m above the sea level.
In the last decade, Switzerland has been focusing on sustainable tourism so the activities in the alpine region mainly don’t threaten the environment of the Swiss Alps. In order to preserve these beautiful, but vulnerable alpine landscapes, visitors must keep up with certain rules.
However, don’t be discouraged to see the glorious alpine peaks and mountain resorts only because the crowds are thicker than you’ve imagined. Think of so many like-minded people you can meet and how many new friendships you can make out there in the mountains.
3. Happy Feet, Happy Hiker
When hiking in mountains, especially in a rough terrain, footwear is the most critical piece of equipment. Oversized or too small, poor quality, improper material – footwear for hiking that doesn’t fit you perfectly can make your hike completely unsuccessful.
The perfect hiking footwear allows you to walk firmly, to carry your body weight and the weight of your backpack, but also to keep your feet dry. Wet feet are one of the worst things that can happen to you while hiking, especially on a cold day.
Therefore it’s very important to be mindful of appropriate footwear – not only boots but socks too. Your regular, cotton socks just won’t do a service in mountains when your feet are sweating more than usual. Choose good hiking socks made of wool or some synthetic material that will keep your feet dry.
4. Be Prepared for the Unpredictable Weather Changes
Anyone who has been caught completely unprepared by sudden temperature changes or extreme colds during a hike in mountains knows how unpleasant and unbearable it can be. Mountains are both magnificent and inhospitable at the same time, and the weather at high elevations can be quite unpredictable.
It’s no wonder that you hear about layered clothing all the time – this way of dressing will simply make your hiking trip easier, comfortable and pleasant.
Freezing and shivering on a hike in mountains can ruin your entire adventure. It can be so frustrating that can make you feel desperate or can even make you regret your decision to take a hike. But it can also be a life-threatening situation – the exposure to cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia.
On the other side, you should never underestimate the power of the sun, no matter the season. You can easily get sunburns even on a cold winter day because you’re hiking at a higher elevation.
So, always think of appropriate clothes and outdoor accessories to avoid risking your health. Enjoying the beauty of the Swiss Alps may be a unique opportunity, so don’t ruin it.