First fo all, before you start hiking: put the following telephone numbers in your cellphone. Chances are you will never need them, but if you do – for what ever reason – you should have them close at hand (Remember that rescue operations are costly, difficult and could endanger the rescuers. Relatively few rescue teams serve large mountainous areas, diminishing your chance of a speedy rescue):
- Wilderness Search and Rescue: 021-9370300
- Mountain Rescue: 021-9489900
- Cell phone emergency number (Vodacom, MTN, Cell C): 112
- Weather forecasts: 082 162
The following hiking safety precautions are derived from the website of CapeNature (which, like Hiking Cape Town, will not be held liable and hereby indemnifies itself for any loss, theft, damage, illness, injury, or death to any person, or any other matter arising, in any other manner, and from any other cause whatsoever, caused by negligence, any act, or omission of CapeNature, its agents, mandatory’s and / or employees).
Planning your hike
When you decide to go on a hike in or around Cape Town, we suggest you plan your adventure thoroughly to prevent mishaps. Please pay attention to the following points:
- What are the permit requirements and gate times?
- What time do you want t start your hike, and what time do you extect to finish?
- What is you pace (2-3 km/h is average)
- What are the times of sunset and tides (especially important when hiking along the coast, such as Robberg Nature Reserves and De Hoop Nature Reserve)
- What is the size of group? (preferably hike in groups of three or more. Never EVER hike alone. If you slip or hurt yourself, you need someone to get help).
- Who is the hike’s leader? (needs to be capable and responsible)
- Is there water available?
- What are the fitness levels and medical conditions of group members? The slowest person determines the pace of the hike (never leave anyone behind – it is the group’s responsibility to bring the slowest hikers to a safe place)
- Do not forget to inform someone of your plans and expected time of return
- Leave a message with your name, size of group, route, expected time of return and a contact person clearly visible in your car.
Hiking and the weather
Weather conditions in The Cape can change very quickly, especially in the mountains – even if the weather is good at lower altitudes. Hiking trails will be closed in the event of dangerous weather. Please bare in mind the following:
- Do not attempt to hike if the trail is closed – it can endanger lives.
- If the weather turns bad and dangerous, make your way back to the start or to the nearest hut as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to complete the trail.
- Weather forecasts are available at tel: 082 162. If in doubt, phone the reserve before leaving home.
Hiking and Emergency Equipment
When hiking in and around Cape Town, and elsewhere in South Africa, always carry the following items:
- Headlamp /Torch (with new batteries)
- Pocket knife
- First aid kit
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Waterproof gear
- 1:50 000 contour map in Wilderness Areas
- Compass / GPS
- Cell phone
- Space blanket
- At least a 1, 5 l water bottle.
Hiking Clothing and Footwear
When hiking, please keep in mind that the weather can change from one minute to the next. So even when the sky is blue and the sun is out when you start your hike, always bring the following items of clothing:
- Wind- and waterproof anorak, warm jersey (yes, even in summer)
- Wear two pairs of socks. Change the inner pair every few hours to prevent blisters
- Boots or shoes should be sturdy with strong non-slip soles and must be well worn in. Tennis shoes and tackies are not suitable.
- Sun hats are essential, even on cool days. Use a sun block on all exposed parts, not only your face!
- In cold weather wear a warm cap/beanie to prevent heat loss.
Hiking and Food
While hiking, especially on one-day or multiple-day hikes, you will get hungry. To keep up your strength, it is advisable to pack food and snack. They could include:
- Packet soups, dehydrated vegetables, powdered milk and soya-bean “meats”, dried fruit, raisins, cheese and chocolates are lightweight, nutritious and provide energy.
- Carbohydrates like pasta, dehydrated potatoes and rice are convenient and energy-rich.
1) In the event of an emergency or accident while hiking:
- Keep the group together.
- Keep moving if possible.
- If unable to continue due to injury or collapse, or if weather conditions become too severe – seek shelter, dress warmly and stay in your sleeping bag when cold.
- Stay on or close to the path to be visible to a rescue party. Do not stray from a given route.
- In case of emergency notify the relevant reserve office or phone 10177 or Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) 021 937 0300. Put these numbers in your cell phone.
2) What to do when you are lost?
- Never descend via unknown kloofs or slopes. Waterfalls, loose stones and hidden cliffs can be deadly.
- Keep the group together.
- Light and weather permitting, retrace your steps until reaching a known route. Otherwise, camp where you are until rescued.
- Use bright items to reveal your position to search teams. Blow a whistle to attract attention.
3) What to do in case of serious Accidents?
- Stay calm
- Protect the casualty/ies against further injury
- Apply first-aid
- Ensure that the rest of the group is safe
- If possible, send two experienced group members to report the accident to the police. Don’t abandon the casualty.
- Give the police the following information: full names and age of the casualty; the type and severity of injury; the location of the accident (preferably on a 1:50 000 map with grid references); and the details of the rest of the group.
4) What to do in case of hypothermia (exposure)? Hypothermia can be caused by wet, wind and cold, and it can happen very quickly. Symptoms include exhaustion, stumbling, uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, loss of memory and drowsiness. Hypothermia can be fatal! The following points can help to avoid hypothermia:
- Stay dry : put on rain-gear before you get wet
- Strip off wet clothing and put on dry clothes
- Beware of wind – it whips heat away from skin, and cools wet clothes
- Wear a warm cap to avoid heat loss
- Have warm, sweet drinks
- Seek shelter while you still have energy, but try to stay near the path.
5) What to do in case of Hyperthermia (heat exhaustion)? Hyperthermia can be caused by hot weather, insufficient liquid and exhaustion. Symptoms can include exhaustion, stumbling, dizziness, headaches and impaired vision. The following points can help to avoid hyperthermia:
- Hike in the cool of morning and evening
- Rest in the shade during midday
- Wear a sun hat with a wide brim to protect the back of your neck
- Drink at least 150 ml (one cup) of water an hour
- Wear cool clothing
6) What to do in case of mountain fires?
- Stay calm and think in practical terms. Keep your group together, keep water bottles filled and, if possible, wet your equipment and clothes. Synthetic materials can melt.
- Never try to out-run a fire, especially uphill. Take note of changes in wind direction.
- Find water, rock slabs or cleared areas and stay there. Avoid thick bush, kloofs and rocky areas where you could be trapped.
- Try to keep to jeep tracks, paths or open slopes. If you are in a hut or building, stay there.
- Never try to start a back-burn; you can cause even more trouble.
- Remove gas canisters and all other fuel and inflammables from your rucksack. Store them in a safe place.
- Keep a lookout for helicopters. Wave bright items to attract attention.
- Inform the trail authorities when you reach the end of your hike.
7) What to do in case of flooded rivers? Try to avoid having to ford a flooded mountain stream. Rather wait until the water level has dropped before crossing at a safe place.
8 ) What to do in case of lightning?
- Immediately move away from high ground (summits, exposed necks /cols and ridges), prominent trees, power lines and similar lightning conductors.
- Seek shelter in low bush or inside a dry cave or overhang.
Last but not least, when hiking please make sure you take care of mother nature and leave nothing behind but your footprints. Some pointers:
- Do not interfere with plants or animals, or deface rocks.
- Take all litter home with you. Do not pollute rivers and streams with soap, shampoo or any chemical substances.
- Take a small spade and bury toilet matter.
- Outdoor fires are strictly prohibited.
- Never discard cigarette butts – they cause veld fires and are unsightly.
- Stick to paths and walk in single file to avoid soil erosion.
- Leave trail huts in good condition.
- Firearms and pets are not allowed.
For further info on safety protocols and hiking please see: http://www.capenature.co.za/docs/1181/Trail%20Hiker%20Safety.doc