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Many people choose an active way of spending their free time in the mountains. Mountaineering is very popular, as it combines sports, relaxation and experiencing nature, but it also involves danger.

Every year, almost one million people visit the Slovenian mountains, and people take this fact as a sufficient guarantee of safety, but the feeling is deceptive and therefore the number of accidents is increasing. The most demanding and exhausting rescue operations for both parties, the rescuers as well as the injured, are those which involve alpinists or climbers.

The causes of accidents lie in inadequate physical and psychological fitness, insufficient and inadequate equipment, lack of experience and know-how related to the proper use of equipment and movement in the mountains, and ignorance and underestimation of weather conditions in the mountain regions, where summer and winter collide. According to the statistics, slips and falling rocks have been the major causes of accidents in the mountains. 

picture of a chain of mountain peaks

In order to avoid accidents, certain basic rules need to be considered and respected.

Preparation for a mountain hike or trekking:

  • Start your hike early enough to avoid afternoon storms and excessive heat in the summertime, and darkness which is followed by a too rapid and incautious descent in other seasons of the year.
  • Be informed about the weather forecast (the risk of summer storms, etc.) and about the classification of the mountain route - the planning of the ascent as well as the preparation involved will be much easier this way.
  • The scope of your trip includes not only the conquering of the peak but also a safe return home. When on top of the mountain, bear in mind that this is only half of your hike. If possible, choose a harder route for the ascent and an easier one for the descent, and, most importantly, do not hurry.
  • The ascent should be adjusted to your physical condition. Sultry weather and high temperatures can be fatal for some people. Mountain hikes are not recommended for people with any form of health problem. Consult your doctor before strenuous activity.
  • gojzerThe obligatory equipment always depends upon the demands of the hiking location. Your hiking equipment should include hiking boots, because soft footwear is dangerous. Besides a T-shirt, food and drink, personal documents, your backpack should include gloves, head gear, an extra set of clothes, an anorak, sunscreen, sunglasses, compass, maps with sufficient detail to be meaningful, a first aid kit including emergency blanket, whistle, and in case of bivouacking - a sleeping bag, matches, candle, torch and mobile phone. If the chosen route requires the use of additional special gear, you should also pack a rope, ice axe(s), crampons and a helmet.
  • Do not go hiking or mountaineering alone, because it is dangerous and even minor injuries can be fatal. Choose pleasant and competent company instead. It is recommended that you hire a mountain guide (at the Alpine Association of Slovenia or at the Slovenian Mountain Guide Association), or go with someone who is familiar with the route.
  • Your relatives should be informed about the planned destination and duration of the hike, as they are the first to take prompt action if you do not return home in due time because of an accident.
  • If you want to stay in a mountain hut overnight, make sure that it is open and make a reservation beforehand.
  • Hikers should use marked mountain trails exclusively, as accidents are more likely to happen on unmarked trails. The rescue search for injured hikers in an unmarked area is difficult, and what is more, off-trail hiking is dangerous - reckless hikers threaten themselves and other on-trail hikers as well by causing rock slides.

Take into consideration the instructions and combine them with your abilities - you will return from the mountains safely and filled with pleasant experiences.

picture of Lake Bohinj, with mountain peaks in the background

Mountain hiking:

  • Start slowly in order to warm up your muscles gradually. Find your pace and maintain it, even when in larger groups.
  • Hiking should be safe, comfortable and economical. Safe hiking requires time. You should stay alert at all times - rock slides are often announced by rumbling.
  • The basic pace, number of breaks and duration of the hike should be set by the weakest member of the group.
  • Take a few minutes as a break every hour.
  • If you go hiking with children, focus on them and adjust the hike to their needs and abilities.
    For safety reasons, every mountain hiker has to register his name and surname in the registry book, found in mountain huts and on mountain peaks.
  • Stay alert at all times. Mountains have no mercy on confused and erratic hikers. A well marked trail is no guarantee that you will reach your destination; every mountain hiker is required to be familiar with the basics of orienteering.
  • Monitor the weather conditions constantly and respond appropriately in case of emergency. If storm clouds should develop, leave mountain ridges and exposed terrain immediately due of the danger of being struck by lightning.
  • Take longer breaks at comfortable and safe spots. Regular snacks and constant hydration prevent exhaustion and dehydration.
  • Make sure that you leave no trace behind - only footprints.
  • When symptoms of fatigue or exhaustion appear, stop and take a longer break. Stop all activity immediately if you detect even minimum symptoms of sickness or chest pain. Dial the 112 emergency number - the service will provide prompt contact with a doctor/mountain guides. They will give you instructions and advice over the phone until rescueers arrive at your location.
  • If an accident is probable, save your energy and look for a safe place when there is still time.
  • Every mountain hiker's duty is to help as much as possible in case an accident happens, but with respect to one's own competence and experience.
  • Firstly, an injured must be protected from further injury and first aid must be provided. Dial 112 for the Mountain Rescue Service or 113 for the Police immediately.

Mountaineering is closely linked to danger, so the police are also on standby for possible help. The Slovenian police (together with the Mountain Rescue Association of Slovenia and the Slovenian Army) have been involved in the on-duty helicopter rescue team in the mountains for many years, organized at the national level.

In June and September, this duty is carried out on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and in July and August, when the number of accidents is the highest, every day of the week. In addition to members of the Mountain Police Unit, the Air Police Unit with a helicopter crew and a helicopter, which is on duty with colleagues from the Slovenian Army, is also on standby in the mountains.

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