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Hiking made safe


Sultan Kiani

Margalla Hills Trail 5 is a popular track for hiking and trekking in Islamabad. However, due to a recent tragic and fatal event, safety is key. Here’s some useful ways you can keep safe.

The Margalla Hills is generally considered safe for average hikers as the park rangers keep patrolling to safeguard people and wildlife. May 25th, 2024, was just like a normal weekend until that evening when the local police were informed about a missing hiker. Muhammad Talha, a 15-year-old teenage boy went hiking on Trail 5 with a group of friends but had not returned home. Islamabad Police and local park rangers launched a joint search & rescue operation shortly after receiving the report but couldn’t locate him at first. Paramilitary forces also joined the search operation later. Park rangers finally located him in a deep ravine after 35 hours, but it was too late. The victim had lost his life hours before help arrived! It was declared a tragic accident with no signs of criminal activity found. It’s pertinent to mention that a similar incident had happened in October 2021 when two young hikers got lost on Margalla hills track but fortunately rescued by Islamabad police.

Hiking is considered a healthy activity with numerous physical and mental health benefits. Nevertheless, the hikers must be well prepared to tackle some potential risks to stay safe. Ignoring safety could turn your adventurous tour into a deadly nightmare! Following these precautionary measures are needed to keep your hiking trips safe:

Know your Track: This is very important if you are about to start hiking on a new and unfamiliar track. Get a complete map of the track and ask the travel guide, park rangers or the native people about potential risks such as dangerous trenches, predator animals and landslide zones etc. You should also know the length of the track and terrain conditions, that is, how difficult it is to walk on. This would help you return home or to a safe camping site before sunset.

Look for Extreme Weather Conditions: Being outdoors is not a good choice during thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, extreme heat waves or snowfall. Always check the weather forecast hours before you leave for hiking. It is advisable to rely on multiple sources such as websites and local TV/Radio and look for the signs of bad weather because sometimes online weather forecasts can be wrong. We are currently experiencing extreme heat waves, so it is better not to take perilous journeys these days until the temperature drops to a tolerable level.

Are You Medically Fit for Adventure? Although hiking is recommended for staying fit and healthy, some weak individuals with preexisting medical conditions need to be cautious. The elderly and those with heart problems should consult a physician if they are allowed to participate in physically challenging activities like hiking and trekking. Even if you are a fit person but feeling sick, exhausted and tired, it is better to call off the trip until you are fully recovered.

Be Prepared before You Leave: Keep all essential and emergency items in your backpack. This includes enough clean drinking water and nonperishable food, a fully charged cell phone with extra battery pack, 2-way radios for communication (check if they are legal), a working flashlight, safety whistle and camping kit (if you are planning to stay overnight). Emergency medical supplies including first aid kit and packets of Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) should also be in your bag. Keeping a physical paper map with a compass is recommended as electronic devices can break without warning. While it is good to carry all essentials, keep them minimal as overloading your backpack can lead to exhaustion.

Wearing appropriate dress and shoes is also very important. Always wear clothes suited for local weather conditions. Day and night temperatures could be different in some areas during spring and fall seasons, so it is better to pack a light jacket just in case you need to spend the night over there. Carrying a raincoat is good while going on a hike during the rainy season. Always wear good quality slip-resistant shoes suitable for walking on rough terrain.

Hike in a Group: It is safer to hike with companions than doing it alone. Any minor injury or illness in the wild could turn deadly if you are all alone. You must stay with your group from the beginning till end to keep everyone safe. A well experienced and mature hiker may serve as a group leader; s/he should stay alert watching out for dangers and make sure that no group member is missing when the hiking trip ends. A missing hiker with lost communication must immediately be reported to authorities.

Take a solo hiking trip only if you are an experienced hiker, know the track and weather. You should still at least inform some close friend or a relative about your plans and when they may call for help if you lose communication.

Remember! There are numerous reported cases of unfortunate victims who died as they went on such trips alone and got lost or met with accidents. 

Know your Limits: Hiking is a physically challenging task. If you are new to mountainous terrain, begin by taking shorter and easier to climb tracks. Hot and humid climate conditions can also affect your stamina. Take frequent breaks and keep sipping water to stay hydrated. Avoid carbonated soda drinks as they may lead to dehydration. Stop hiking and return if you are feeling extremely tired or sick. It is recommended to accompany a healthy group member while returning to a safe point.

Watch out for Wildlife: Leopards have been spotted on hiking trails in Margalla National Park Islamabad. Although these predators usually do not attack unless they feel threatened, it is highly advisable to stay vigilant. Keep your eyes and ears open; the earlier you spot a wild animal, the better chances of survival you will get. Do not hike after sunset to avoid encounters with wildlife. However, if you suddenly encounter a dangerous animal, staying calm and making the right decision are very crucial steps to staying safe. Each animal acts differently so you need to learn how to get yourself out of danger unharmed from different wild animals. Snakes, scorpions and other venomous creatures also pose a threat. Look for camouflaged snakes and don’t sit near the places where these creepy creatures might be hiding. If someone is bitten by a venomous animal, bring the victim medical help as quickly as possible.

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