As my friend and I made our way down the 1,528 foot descent of Hemmed In Hallow Trail, we commented that it was going to be a tough hike out. Fortunately we were prepared when circumstances made it more difficult than we anticipated.
By mid afternoon the temperature was 10 degrees higher than forecasted. With little breeze in the valley the heat became an issue and the steep trail made the two-hour ascent even more difficult than expected.
Many of us have experienced a hike that took more effort than we originally planned. Are you prepared when your next hike takes an unexpected turn?
Plan Proper Hydration
The biggest danger when the hike gets tough is dehydration. It does not take long for fluids to become depleted under strenuous conditions. When you add in factors like temperature, physical condition and terrain, trouble can come quickly.
Dehydration is the enemy of muscles. As muscles dehydrate they lose their ability to function effectively. Eventually, the lack of hydration will result in cramps which are miserable at best.
The best way to avoid dehydration is to pack and drink more water than you think you will need. If a natural water source is available, be prepared to purify it.
Extra water may also be helpful in an emergency situation. Last year in preparing for a group hike in Arkansas, I tossed an extra Nalgene bottle in my pack.
I was thankful I did so when one of the men on the hike experienced heat exhaustion. The extra water went a long way toward cooling and hydrating him to make it up the remaining two miles of trail.
Make Frequent Stops
The next step is to make frequent “standing” stops. It is a common mistake to sit down on rest stops. While sitting seems like the natural thing do to, it is actually counter productive. Sitting usually involves slouching over which limits your ability to breath properly and hinders circulation to your legs.
When you stop, lean back against a tree or on your walking stick maintaining an upright stance.
Monitor your heart rate as well, especially if you are starting to dehydrate. When you are dehydrated your heart is pumping overtime to provide blood and oxygen to your body. Make your stops long enough for your heart rate to drop.
Frequent standing stops are more beneficial than an extended stop.
Listen To Your Body
Your body will let you know when you are pushing to hard. If you are red-faced and feeling like blood is spurting out your ears, it’s probably a good time to stop for a rest and some water!
On our last hike we saw several people making their way up a very steep trail saying, “We have to get to the top quick.” They were pushing way to hard and a couple of them looked very close to heat exhaustion.The goal is not to make it to the top fast, it's to make it in good condition (and enjoy the trip). Click To Tweet
The goal is not to make it to the top fast, it’s to make it in good condition (and enjoy the trip). Unless you are the despicable girl in spandex who was running up the trail…
One warning sign worth paying attention to, if you stop sweating you are probably in danger! Sweat is the body’s natural way of cooling itself. When you become dehydrated the body will stop producing sweat, heat stroke (worse than heat exhaustion) is usually not far behind.
What have your experiences been on a strenuous hike? Leave a comment and any tips you might want to share!