Whether you’re new to hiking or just exploring somewhere new, choosing a route can be difficult. Some mountains have hundreds of routes to the summit and depending on a variety of factors, some may be more suitable for you than others. Everything gets easier with experience but it’s always useful to have a plan, even if you’re a more experienced hiker.
One of the first things to consider is thinking realistically about how fit you are. There’s nothing worse than taking a route that’s out of your reach and find you struggle to even get near to the summit. If you’re used to walking 5 miles, it would not be sensible to set off on a route that’s over 15 as your body simply won’t cope.
It’s worth looking at what ‘type’ of fit you are. If you’re a heavy weight lifter you might actually be only just as ‘hiking’ fit as a casual runner because of the lack of cardiovascular endurance required for lifting. If you’re not used to hiking, you’ll need an adjustment period to get used to it, even if you think you’re fit enough.
If you’re choosing a route for your first hike, keep it simple but beautiful. When you become fitter and stronger you’ll be able to choose the longer, more technical and taxing routes.
It’s worth taking into account the amount of daylight you have as even for the most experienced hikers, walking in the dark can be extremely dangerous.
Regarding the weather, for the first few ascents it’s always best to choose a milder, dry time of year – late spring is a great time for this. Ensure you have completely checked the forecast and are prepared for the worst – it never hurts to carry a light waterproof jacket even on a warm day.
If you’re hiking in the winter, be sure to check out our latest blog post about keeping safe [insert link].
Another thing to consider is the location in which you will be hiking. If it is an area you’re not familiar with, it’s best to keep it to a grade you know you are capable of to reduce risk of getting into troublesome situations. Remember that trails can surprise you, you might suddenly have quite a technical climb or sudden vertical slope to get down. It’s best to do research about hiking in the area before setting off so that you know what you are letting yourself in for.
You may also be unfamiliar with the climate and weather of the region you may need to be a bit more prepared for the unexpected than usual. Try to choose a route that means you’re likely to pass others to make sure you’re as safe as possible just in case something goes wrong. For more experienced hikers, this is less of an issue with familiar areas, but in new locations this is always a good idea.
Once you’ve chosen a route, make sure you’re prepared for every scenario you might find yourself in up the mountains. Before you set off, ensure your phone is fully charged and pack a back-up charger. It’s important to know local and national emergency phone numbers too. Let people know where you are and how long you’ll be gone for in case you find yourself in trouble and do not return back on time.
Pack adequate food and water, along with a first aid kit. It’s always an idea to carry a foil blanket just in case.