Preventing Injuries on Your Winter Trek

Any sort of injury can occur when you’re out in the wilderness, but when you combine low temperatures and hazardous terrain into the mix, the risk of injury naturally increases. One question we hear a lot is “how can I prevent injuries when ice climbing or when I’m on a winter hike?”. The answer certainly depends on the injury in question, and in general, usually includes multiple factors. Therefore, we would like to cover some simple tips and ideas that you can consider before heading out on your next trek, hopefully allowing you to return feeling tired, but healthy!

Understand the Conditions

The key word here is “understand”. Knowing what sort of terrain and weather conditions to expect sounds simple, but often times this will take a lot of experience in a certain environment to have a good handle on what to expect. If you’re heading out to a new a location, plan for any potential extremes and ALWAYS play it safe! It’s easy to become familiar with one particular local, only to realize the prevailing winds in another location create completely different weather systems! Being cautious and not pushing the limits are especially important considerations in cold weather, as you don’t want to be stuck in one place for too long! Thus, if you are traveling to a new location, study the area comprehensively, including mapping trails ahead of time, planning escape routes, looking at the typical and extreme weather conditions that may occur, and incorporating safety items like a satellite phone, GPS, and first aid kit.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Gear Up

While your knowledge, experience, and critical thinking are the most important factors for safety, having the appropriate gear can also go a long way in reducing the risk of injury. For example, many climbers and hikers have experienced injuries in one form or another in their history, whether it be from an accident or another sport. Guarding yourself against re-injury can be as simple as sliding on a protective mechanism ahead of time. The most effective of these devices are braces, which help lend additional support to the joints in your body. Particularly important for climbers and hikers are functional ankle braces. These allow you to move around like normal, but will provide extra support in the case of a slip, fall, or quick roll of the ankle. Even those without a history of ankle sprains often find them beneficial, as they don’t cost very much unless you get the most high end models. Check out Brace Access for more information about braces and injuries.

Assess Your Physical and Mental Condition

This may offend some people if you tell them this directly, but it’s always a good idea to check yourself before heading out on a big hike or climb. If you’re returning from injury, always make sure you’re more than good to go. If this is your first trek back, don’t make it a big, but instead, ease your way into it. It may sound frustrating and over-protective, but all it takes is one little tweak of your knee, back, or ankle, to keep you sidelined for another few months.

What’s with the “mental” part? This is a lot tougher to describe and will always depend on the individual. For myself, I know that climbing and hiking is the most effective way for me to reduce stress. Nothing better than an outdoor environment that provides me with a lot of exercise and keeps my mind off the perils of civilization! That said, I once had a close call that spooked me, and it was all because of a silly mistake from a mental lapse. I had been trying to get on this climb for ages, as I was cooped up in the office for an unusually long period of time. However, I was unaware of how over tired I was, so when the day finally came to get outdoors, I wasn’t as sharp as I should have been. A simple fix for this would be to give myself one day to catch up on sleep and proper eating, that’s all. Again, this is something that may seem weird, but as long as you consider this before heading out, you should be on the right track.

Conclusion

These aren’t the only tips to reduce the risk of injury on your winter trek, but for myself, they represent some of the most effective solutions. If you practice these tips, please don’t become over-confident, as accidents can occur at anytime in the great outdoors. Please exercise caution by thinking of emergency situations and ensuring you are properly prepared to get yourself out of a jam. Happy hiking!

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