Signpost in the Rofan Mountains, © Tirol Werbung/Laurin Moser
Signpost in the Rofan Mountains, © Tirol Werbung/Laurin Moser

Staying Safe While Hiking in the Mountains

In order to enjoy your time in the mountains, it is important to consider a few important rules on staying safe. These range from keeping a distance when passing grazing animals to planning your walk or hike in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Safety in the mountains is by no means a topic which only applies to high-alpine adventures. Even easy walks in the valley often pass through meadows where cows graze in the summer months. They are calm and friendly animals, but it is important to leave plenty of space when walking past them. The higher up the mountain you go, the more important the weather forecast becomes. Above the treeline in particular, walkers and hikers will be more exposed to precipitation and storms than further down. Routes which lead into the high mountains or even across glaciers require the necessary safety equipment and, in some cases, a professional guide. Tirol is home to 1,200 experienced hiking guides as well as over 700 mountain guides. They know the region inside out and are the perfect companion when out and about in the high mountains. This page provides an overview of all the things to bear in mind when walking and hiking in Tirol.

Alpine Safety

Be on the safe side with professional guidance and benefit from the experience of the certified mountain sport guides in Tirol. Roughly 1,200 mountain trail guides and more than 700 highly-trained mountain guides stand ready to assist you, offering you maximum alpine safety. The mountain sport guides know every inch of the Tirol mountains. They will accompany you on your tours through the alpine mountain terrain and ensure that you reach the summit safely.

Before you jump right into your alpine mountain fun, consult mountain sport guide Michael Rutter from the Alpine Information Centre (+43.512.587828-25, info@alpine-auskunft.at) for key information concerning your alpine safety. He will provide you with current weather reports, snow conditions and avalanche info, along with general alpine safety information. In addition to giving advice, he will also gladly refer you to a certified mountain sport guide, who will professionally guide you in your plans and ensure proper alpine safety during your trip through the Alps.

Guidelines for Safe Mountain Hiking in Tirol

The mountains of Tirol impress visitors with fabulous views, incredible rock formations and imposing canyons. While walking in the mountains, you will feel the effects of the weather more intensely than down in the valley.

Good tour planning and compliance with the rules of conduct on the mountain will considerably increase you safety. To ensure your hiking holiday is a safe and enjoyable experience, the Austrian Alpine Association has put together a list of 10 recommendations for safe hiking in the mountains.

1. Healthy in the Mountains: Mountain hiking is an endurance sport combined with a wonderful experience of nature and can have a positive effect on body and mind – provided one is in good physical shape and has a realistic idea of one’s own capabilities and limits. Hiking under time pressure and at an excessive pace is counter-productive!

2. Careful Planning: Good planning is half the battle! Hiking maps, literature, internet and expert advice provide invaluable assistance when planning tours and allow you to ascertain the length, difference in altitude, difficulty and prevailing conditions of your proposed tour. When planning group hikes, always plan the tour to suit the weakest member of the group! The weather in the mountains can change incredibly quickly and rain, wind and cold all increase the risk factor. For this reason, always check the weather forecast in advance.

3. Fully Equipped: Only visit the mountains when appropriately equipped! Provisions, rain, cold and sun protection should always be in your backpack, as well as a first-aid-kit and a mobile phone (Euro emergency number:112). Speedy assistance in the event of an alpine accident is made possible by the free Mountain Rescue Tirol emergency app – ideally downloaded to your SmartPhone before your mountain tour! Maps and/or GPS facilitate orientation. Nevertheless, lighter luggage makes hiking easier, so do not weigh your backpack down with unnecessary clutter. Your equipment should always be appropriate for your intended tour.

4. Suitable Footwear: Good hiking boots protect your feet and make for surer footing! Boots that are a good fit, with non-slip soles, water resistant and lightweight are a must for enhanced hiking pleasures.

5. Sure-Footedness is the Key: It is imperative that one remains alert while walking in the mountains! An excessive tempo or fatigue can adversely affect your sure-footedness and/or concentration. With this in mind, it is better to slow down and be safer! (75 percent of “stumbles” occur through carelessness on marked trails or paths– not on open terrain!)

6. Stay on Marked Trails: Tirol has over 15,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails – these are checked and maintained by the OeAV (Austrian Alpine Assoc.) and, for this reason, should not be deviated from. It is not a good idea at all to make short cuts or take alternative routes through unmarked terrain. On the contrary, this increases the risk of disorientation, accidents or rock fall. Steep slopes of packed old snow are also often underestimated and dangerous. When in doubt: turn around and go back!

7. Regular Breaks: If you rest you rust. This saying does not apply in the mountains! Timely and regular breaks serve not only for welcome relaxation, but also enable one to enjoy the countryside and socializing. Moreover, the body needs regular food and drink in order to maintain performance and concentration levels. Isotonic drinks are an ideal thirst quencher. Granola bars, dried fruit and biscuits are perfect snacks for a hiking tour.

8. Responsibility for Children: Hiking in the mountains can also be great fun and exciting for children – provided the route is chosen and planned accordingly. Diversity and playful exploring is much more important for children than altitude metres and distances covered. Dangerous sections require unconditional 1:1 assistance from an experienced adult. Extensive tours requiring long periods of concentration are not suitable for children! “Less is more” is the name of the game!

9. Small Groups: Small groups ensure flexibility and enable mutual assistance. Provided the group stays together and they orientate their goals to suit the weakest member of the party. It also advisable to inform people back home about your prospective tour, which route you are taking and when you plan to return. Those hiking alone beware: Even minor incidents can lead to unpleasant emergency situations. (Emergency-App!)

10. Respect for Nature: Without intact natural mountain landscapes, there would be no pleasure in mountain hiking. With this in mind: please do not leave rubbish behind, avoid making noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb the wildlife or grazing animals and respect protected areas. Many areas are accessible using public transport; car pooling is also a more environmentally friendly option.

Route marking and levels of difficulty

In addition to uniform signposting and route marking, trails and routes are basically divided into three levels of difficulty in Tirol: hiking trails, mountain trails, and Alpine routes. The classification of the stages is based on the Tirolean hiking and mountain trail concept of the Land Tirol.

HIKING TRAILS are easy walking routes: No mountain experience or special mountain equipment is required for hiking on these trails. The paths are wide with moderate ups and downs. The signposts of hiking trails are yellow and have a white circle indicating the difficulty level.

  • Target group: hiking beginners and persons who enjoy walks
  • Demands on the hikers: suitable sports shoes and clothing according to the weather conditions

RED MOUNTAIN TRAILS are trails with medium difficulty: Some narrow and steep but secured walking and climbing sections will await hikers. The signposts of red mountain trails are yellow with a red circle indicating the difficulty level.

  • Target group: hikers who have sure-footedness and Alpine experience
  • Demands on the hikers: reasonable physical condition, Alpine experience, mountain equipment

BLACK MOUNTAIN TRAILS are narrow, almost throughout very steep and often exposed trails: If you choose a black mountain trail, you must be able to pass longer secured climbing sections. The signposts of black mountain trails are yellow with a black circle indicating the difficulty level.

  • Target group: Alpine-experienced mountaineers who have absolute sure-footedness and a head for heights
  • Demands on the hikers: good stamina, sound Alpine experience, appropriate mountain equipment including Alpine securing devices, good weather conditions

ALPINE ROUTES are very difficult and not suitable for everyone: They are situated in high Alpine terrain, so they are partly unmarked and exposed tracks. Alpine routes also include unsecured walking and climbing sections. It is essential to point out that there is a danger of falling, as Alpine routes can be slippery in some places. The signposts include the lettering “Alpine Route” indicating the difficulty level.

  • Target group: Alpine-experienced mountaineers with absolute sure-footedness and a head for heights
  • Demands on the hikers: excellent stamina required, comprehensive and sound Alpine experience, Alpine climbing equipment, excellent sense of direction, Alpine securing and direction devices, good weather conditions.
Hiking in Tyrol:The difference between mountain trails and hiking trails

Rules of conduct for Austrian Alpine pastures and grazing areas

Grazing areas are not petting zoos. To avoid dangerous incidents when hikers encounter grazing cattle, these 10 simple rules must be followed:

Alpine Pastureland Safety Guide #1
Alpine Pastureland Safety Guide #2
Alpine Pastureland Safety Guide #3
Alpine Pastureland Safety Guide #4
Alpine Pastureland Safety Guide #5

More about hiking:

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