Norwegians are out in force this year over Easter break, pounding and skiing the mountain trails, and so, as usual, the media are warning everyone to be careful on their hikes and trips and come home safely.
I don’t know the origin of these rules, but they are grilled into Norwegians at a young age, as well as into most immigrants’ brains. They are common knowledge, a part of Norwegian culture, and can be recited from memory by many, with ready recall.
Let’s call them, in English, the Norwegian Rules for Hiking in the Mountains, although they are equally useful for most nature hikes. Frankly, since perhaps 99% of Norway is pure Nature, they are pretty useful most anywhere.
Here’s an English version I’ve created - for your enjoyment and education, based on the DNT’s ‘real McCoy’:
1. Do not set out on a long hike without training.
This applies to both physical, psychological and intellectual readiness, as well as to equipment. By extension, it is also suggested that ‘practice makes perfect.’ If you have any opportunity to conduct a thorough analysis of your plan, you should do it – and exercise your planning skills by identifying solutions to situations that are both similar and dissimilar to those you have encountered in the past. It is also suggested that if you are going to be out for over a week, you take at least one day’s rest from travelling.
2. Tell somebody where you are going.
The extension here is that at least one other person who is not with you knows where you plan to be when and can and will track you, has your contact information and you carry theirs, and in a way that suggests you plan to be contactable at a specific time and place and way (ex: phone that works). When travelling to places where you can register, such as mountain cabins, then do so.
3. Show respect for the weather.
This means not just carrying your umbrella, but knowing what the entire pattern is that is expected, as well as the chances of changes in the weather, given the season, and conditions such as wind-strength, wind-chill, avalanche-chance, mudslide chance, etc.
4. Be prepared against bad weather and cold, even on short tours.
This has to do with preparing yourself by carrying the proper equipment and selecting that on a conservative basis. People suggest you should always take a backpack of some sort and proper mountain gear, even if you are on what you think will be a short trip, due to the fact that things can develop in ways you did not plan. Getting lost, twisting an ankle, falling unexpectedly – all of these suggest that you foresee the possibility and carry a bit more than you would otherwise think was needed.
5. Listen to experienced mountain experts.
Those who have gone where you are going before you should be a resource you use. This has to do with being instructable and instructed by those who have gone to where you are going – before you went there. Look it up! Find it out! Know the specific risks and the challenges.
6. Use a map and compass.
A map and a compass (and knowing how to use both) are of course essential. Always use the latest editions of maps. Be familiar with how to use the map with a compass. Trust the compass. Nowadays, tools are available to improve your chances of keeping track of your location, with GPS available in hand-carries with good trail maps to boot.
7. Do not go alone.
Besides the fact that it’s generally a happier result when two go instead of one, it’s also giving you an edge if either of you need assistance. It’s not that you don’t think well enough to go alone; it’s just that it is much easier for two people to think smartly about an unexpected situation they find themselves in than, yes, one person.
8. Turn back in time: there is no disgrace in turning around. (Ingen skam å snu!)
As the Norwegians say, “Forsøk ikke å trosse været.” This means, to be direct: Attempt NOT to DEFY the weather. We know – you’re bold, you’re brave, and maybe you’re even very masculine and, of course, you are able to go forward. But are you strong enough to turn around and go back? That’s the question that kills too many would-be mountain-conquerors.
9. Conserve your energy and dig yourself down into the snow if necessary.
This is the ‘igloo’ approach to saving your life – where you create an insulated place to hold up if you get caught out in a snowstorm – or look for that type of shelter where you can survive while things are going bad and before you are rescued. They key here is to do the right thing in time to be prepared for difficult conditions.
Well, I hope these fjellvetreglene, that is ‘mountain rules you should know,’ are enjoyed by many. Perhaps they will even save you, dear Reader. Save you? From who? From - yourself, of course! That is, when you are out in the wild mountains of beautiful nature, wherever you are in the world. Enjoy!