5 trekking tips to save you from life-threatening situations

Some people who wish to trek are often burdened with the concerns that surround the safety of their life. What if I fall off the cliff? What if a wild animal attacks me? What if I get lost? Yes, these thoughts can be unsettling. So I have put together this list with what little experience I have in trekking coupled with all the fears that run through my head! Here are 5 important pointers to keep in mind while trekking which will reduce your risk of being injured, lost, hurt or worse. (ok I am being a bit dramatic here!)

1. Watch out for loose rocks
Image 1: A slope we traversed that had a high risk of falling rocks (Kashmir, 2022)

Many trekking routes may have steep cliff sides and these can be places where rock fall is possible! Many times, your guide may specifically ask you to walk a certain section fast without stopping, as that route may be prone to rock falls. So pay heed to that advice.

Image 2: A risky place to walk as this patch was susceptible to rock falls
(Trekking in Ladakh, 2017)
2. Be careful when traversing on scree

Another difficult situation to navigate is when you are traversing mountains that are filled with scree. Scree is basically an accumulation of loose stones, mud, rock debris that is present on a slope of a mountain. If the slope is steep, then walking on scree can be risky, particularly if a steep fall is involved. Scree does not seem “risky” but when you walk on it, you suddenly realise its a trick business.

Image 2: A particularly tricky route at around 4500 m above sea level, enroute the Bhabha Pass, which was dominated with scree (Himachal Pradesh, 2016)(Photo by Ashwin)
Image 3: A never-ending meadow route during the Dodital-Darwa Pass trek (Uttarakhand, 2018) (Photo by Ashwin)

When you have mountains and mountains ahead of you, it is easy to get lost. After a certain point, they start looking the same. If you are on an unguided trek, you have to be extra careful about not losing your way in the mountains. Use a compass or GPS or keep milestone markers (rocks, trees, ponds etc.) for yourself. In India, many of the Himalayan treks are guided, so its fine. But sometimes, I found myself lost or disoriented even when we had a guide. The guide would often end up going ahead and then disappear. We would lose sight of him and suddenly he would reappear from one of the mountain tops and we then knew which way we had to continue. (Here is one of my older posts where our Ladakhi guide left us earthy trails to find our way in the vast expanse of the cold desert).

4. be alert on THE FOREST TRAILS
Image 4: A forest trail inside Great Himalayan National Park. This park was home to leopards, bears and other mammals.

Some trekking routes pass through dense forest patches and at such times, we need to be extra careful about chance encounters with wild animals. A simple tip is to always be slow and quiet around curves and bends on the forest path, so that you don’t scare an animal that may possibly be on the path. Encountering wild animals is not usually life threatening. But one does have to be extra careful in a forest that harbours bears and/or elephants, for there are chances of defensive attacks if these animals are taken by surprise.

5. be light-footed on ice chasms

When you are traversing snow clad mountains, you need to be careful about not stepping on ice/snow that is not deep enough. Being light footed helps! For example, see the following photo from our Icelandic trek.

Image 5: An ice chasm revealing a crevice below it (Iceland, 2014)

Holes and crevices in the mountains get filled with ice and snow during winters. And most trekking routes open in spring or summer. So here, we need to be careful that the ice we are walking on, is thick enough. In the above picture, you can see that the 2 slopes are connected by seemingly well covered patch of snow, but in reality, the snow is melting from underneath and getting thinner. So trekkers have to be vigilant on where they step because falling through a chasm /crevice can be quite dangerous!

There are other tips like how to keep your self warm during winter treks, scouting for a good campsite, rationing food and supplies etc, but I shall cover those in another post. Hope this was helpful and feel free to share your comments, experiences and thoughts on this!

Photo Logs Short Stories

Earthly Notes View All →

My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: