Mountains are beautiful, yet unexpected weather changes or a minor injury can turn into life-threatening risks if you get caught in the backcountry unprepared. Marek Frys, a mountain rescue team member from Spindleruv Mlyn in Czechia explains how to plan your trip wisely.
1. There are basic guidelines for a safe stay in the mountains, whether you walk, ski, or bike. Daily routes should be planned to match fitness levels and the length of the trip should be in accordance with the weakest member of the group. You should always ensure you have enough energy for a safe descent back to the valley. Neglecting technical issues can turn into major trouble in the backcountry, so always complete a full mechanical check before you set off. Remember that if something isn’t working right in the parking lot, it is only going to get worse during the trip. Repair any malfunction in advance. At least one person in the group should carry an air pump, extra tubes, and a basic toolset including a chain-riveting tool.
2. Never ride alone. Even a couple is not enough in case of an emergency if you’re cycling in the mountains. If someone gets injured, one should stay back with them, while the other goes for help. This means that three people is the minimum. Take into account that there might not be an operational telephone network in the backcountry, so it could take some time to summon help.
3. There’s a proverb claiming that the weather changes every five minutes in the mountains, and on some days that’s not far from the truth. The sun can be shining one minute, and moments later a chilly wind can blow through and reduce the temperature by 10 degrees. Anytime you want to climb a mountain ridge, be sure to check the weather forecast or a weather radar app. A torrential rain might make the return trip difficult, or even impossible. Despite lovely weather at the time of departure, never leave without extra clothes in your bag.
4. Make sure you have the telephone number of the local rescue team. Should you cross the state borders during your trip, save the emergency telephone number with your country code so you can get in touch with an emergency operator that understands your language.
5. There are even useful emergency apps to download to your smartphone that activate the emergency network with the click of a distress button. While arranging an automatic call for help, the app also sends your exact location to the rescue team operator. Check the App Store or Google Play for an app that works in your country.
6. Your mobile phone should be fully charged and stowed in a safe place. Make sure you carry it in a way that won’t injure you if you have an accident. A power-bank is also a good idea.
7. If you’re cycling in the mountains, someone from the group should carry a basic medical kit including a bandage, an elastic bandage, and a scarf. A tourniquet for stopping massive arterial bleeding, and a SAM splint for setting fractures are also highly recommended.
8. Ask the group whether anybody needs special medical treatment in case of emergency or takes a life-saving medication. People suffering from diabetes or allergies should explain where they carry their drugs and how they use them, so others are prepared to help.
9. Take enough water and food. This is especially true for people with diabetes, who can easily experience hypoglycemia that might result in a variety of symptoms including clumsiness, loss of consciousness, or even death if you’re cycling in the mountains.
10. Take part in a basic first aid course focused on practical skills, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Anybody wanting to ride in big mountain should be able to help their mates in an emergency. We’ll provide a dedicated first aid feature soon.
Marek Frys (48) entered a mountain rescue team as a volunteer after graduating from the mountain rescue elementary school back in 1995. He’s a full member and has been an employee since 2005. He has many dedicated courses and hundreds of rescue missions under his belt.