10 SAFETY TIPS TO GO HIKING IN AUTUMN
Going for a hike in Autumn is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable outdoor activity you can do. Fall is the perfect season for hiking and discovering the beauty and magic of our forests. At this time of the year the trees change into shades of ochre, orange, red and gold, myriad hues that give our mountains a unique appearance and charm. Stunning and pristine forests in which the copper-toned beeches often intermingle with oaks, chestnut trees and birches.
Maybe Autumn is the most beautiful time of the year to explore many mountains and forests of Madrid wilderness, but we must not lower our guard. As at any other time of the year, hiking and climbing up to the mountains means that we must do things right: Planning routes in advance, checking weather forecast, proper equipment, clothing and gear, awareness and good decision making will make our autumnal hikes a unique and unforgettable experience.
10 SAFETY TIPS FOR HIKING IN MADRID IN AUTUMN:
1. The day is shorter (and daylight hours are shrinking faster than we can imagine). Activity should start early in the morning and you shall select a hiking route with a margin of at least 3 hours till dusk. Given an unexpected emergency situation, the performance time for Rescue Groups reduces considerably. Note that the helicopters can not fly at night, with fog, heavy rain or strong winds. If you get lost, you feel exhausted or you suffer an accident, call immediately to 112 asking for rescue. Don´t loose time.
2. You must equip yourself properly with warm clothes, a windproof and waterproof jacket and never forget a warm hat and gloves. The weather and temperatures in Autumn are changeable. Although we can still find hot days, generally fall in the mountain is cold. Even on sunny days, the sun is not so intense and cold winds can appear at any time. For this reason, a layered clothing is highly recommended. This means carrying more items and more weight on your backpack being ready to face and react to any sudden change in the weather. Use a backpack rain cover and waterproof freezer bags for your clothes and personal belongings.
3. Rains are usually more abundant and persistent than in the summer, reactivating the water gorges and ravines, which fall with higher flow rates, increasing the risk of crossing mountain rivers and streams if there is not a bridge nearby. Walking sticks can be helpful, but we should not hesitate to turn around if we believe we can not cross the ravine safely.
4. First snow usually come with the Autumn (in the Pyrenees even before), and you have to pay special attention and care to this point. If it is a thin layer of snow in the ground, any surface becomes extremely slippery, with the consequent danger involved. Good boots, sticks and walking carefully will help us in our progress. But according to the commitment that requires the chosen hike, sometimes our first plan should be abandoned and opt for a plan B. If we expect snowfalls or our itinerary crosses snow covered terrain, you must bring snowshoes or for steeper sections crampons and ice axe.
5. Checking the weather forecast becomes more complicated than ever. If one word can define the typical autumn weather, that is ‘unsettled'. Take your time at home to study the weather forecast and during the walk keep always an eye on the clouds and be aware of any change in the prevailing wind.
6. Navigation through a forest in autumn conditions (fog, wet terrain, mud, ground covered by slippery leaves) could be tricky and strenuous. If you are fond of wild mushroom picking, or to photograph autumn colors, or if you simply want to wander in those beautiful autumn woods you will always be aware of your position, leave marks, and take bearings or natural references to prevent you from getting lost. To bring a GPS device with you is a good decision.
7. Fall is hunting season, try to inform before you go hiking in Madrid countryside or mountain area. Anyway we recommend you to wear bright colorful clothes, and if you hear gunshots close to you, raise your voice to alert the hunters.
8. Hiking in Madrid with kids needs continues attention and care. Bring on you backpack spare gloves, socks and a first layer shirt for them. During the hike make short breaks every hour to give them some a hot drink and fruit, biscuits or energy bars for a fast recovery. Check their body temperature and clothes. If they are wet, change it.
9. Hypothermia is a real hazard in autumnal hikes. Temperatures are not so extreme as in winter time but fog, humidity and chilly winds could be a lethal combination. When we finish our hike, humid and wet clothes must be removed quickly to maintain body temperature. Leave spare dry clothes and shoes on your car to change after the activity.
10. And, as always, do not hesitate to hire the services of a mountain guide if you're not sure you could undertake the activity on your own and with guarantees.
Enjoy the mountains in autumn safely!
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