I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Every hike you take is learning you something new each time.
Well it’s definitely the case for me – every time I’m coming back with a new, valuable experience. And those single experiences form a kind of hiker’s wisdom.
Today I will share with you an essential lesson that will help you become a better hiker and hopefully spare you some trouble.
Want to know how I learnt this lesson?
2016 hiking season started for me in April – quite late in comparison to last year. The weather was not so good and that weekend I took a first proper hike this year.
Destination Karkonosze ( Giant Mountains ), border between Poland and Czech Republic and the highest peak of these mountains Śnieżka ( 1,603 metres (5,259 ft) ).
Weather was not good – it was rainy, windy and in general miserable. Despite the terrible aura we still decided to hike – as they say there is no bad weather only bad clothing. Properly equipped we arrived to Špindlerův Mlýn where we tried to locate our trail head. There weren’t many trail signs and we couldn’t find our red trail marking. Discouraged we headed to touristic information and asked for directions there. Stating our desired destination point info-lady looked at us as we were out of our minds and said that Śnieżka is out of question and we shouldn’t go there. Agitated she explained it’s over 10 km one way, there’s a lot of snow up there and with these weather conditions we won’t make it. During the speech she scanned our equipment looking for signs of irresponsibility. In the end she recommended us an alternative route and approved our shoes (seriously).
Long story short after this very informative visit we decided to try anyway – trail head looked good and it stopped raining. We started our hike with steep ascent and followed mild trail for a while. Gradually it was becoming steeper and soon we were sweating our way up. The trail was very nice but quite demanding. Lots of slippery stones and roots demanded our full focus. It started raining again but overall the hike was going good.
Soon with increasing height rain turned into snow which was a nice change. We started seeing snow patches on and aside of the trail. We also entered a fog area and lost some visibility. Snow amounts were gradually increasing and the trail became much harder. We were climbing slowly watching our steps on rarely traveled trail. Snow and ice cover was pretty thick and full of holes which slowed us down considerably. Despite increasing difficulty we still were managing quite well and enjoying the views.
Around 1,200m the conditions started to become more challenging and difficult. Visibility was shrinking fast, the wind got stronger and the trail was completely covered with high snow. We were doing alright but it was becoming clear that this trip might end sooner than expected.
We reached our highest point that day ( 1,446m) and what we encountered there was a pandemonium – ice storm, driving wind, iced trail. The wind was so strong we could barely stand in place, ice crystals were cutting our faces and we could barely see anything. Screaming through the wind we agreed to turn around. There was no reason to go further and risk our safety.
Mission aborted, summit not reached defeated by weather we started to descent. With every meter weather was getting better but the fog was lower than before covering everything in silky milk.
With full honesty I must say that was one of the most extreme adventures I’ve had so far. Even walking through Carpathians wasn’t that exciting. We’ll be coming back in summer to conquer the mountain that rejected us at first.
Simple lesson how to become a better hiker
Whether you just scrolled down to read the final conclusion or were brave enough to read the whole post take the below lesson seriously.
So what’s the lesson?
Always listen to the locals especially when they work in touristic/mountain information.
It sounds so obvious you might think “well that’s nothing new”.
But don’t get fooled:
Way too often hikers and backpackers disregarded warnings and good advice from locals and ended up in trouble. You might think you can make it, it doesn’t look so bad but warnings are there for a reason especially in the mountain regions.
Keep this lesson in mind next time you’ll think the lady in the information has no clue – hiking is also about coming back safely.
Tell me what is your most important lesson you learnt the hard way? Let me know in the comments.