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Planning tips for day hikes

Seven classic mistakes in planning a day hike

Put on your hiking boots and off you go! Or maybe not? Well, you should invest some time in planning, even for one-day hiking tours. This is the best way that you don't fall for one of the seven classic hiking mistakes during your forays through scenic Ötztal.

Special tip:
You can find more tips for multi-day and long-distance hikes here >>

Gurgl hiking great view

"It will go off alright..."

This is not a reliable hiking strategy. You should therefore study the route accurately already in advance. Sturdy hiking books, the Ötztal website and other online touring portals (e.g. Outdooractive) can provide valuable help. The exact course of the route is important while the difficulty level and distance should match your ability. Please check not only the kilometers, but also the difference in altitude that has to be conquered! You should also find out everything about the current conditions along the hiking route (e.g. via tour portals or hut tenants). For example, snowfields on the mountain last a long time - even in summer, when everyone down in the valley has been splashing around in the outdoor pool already for a while. They are one of the main causes of severe hiking accidents in the mountains as they are frozen and slippery, especially in the mornings and evenings.


"It won't be that bad!"

Reinterpreting the weather report out of sheer hiking motivation is not a good idea either. The weather can change very quickly in the mountains. You should only start if the weather forecast really (!) suits the tour - and keep an eye on the sky throughout the day. If the weather is too bad, you should absolutely postpone your hike. Or at least you choose a less demanding tour in lower regions.


Standing in front of closed doors

If you want to stop off at one of the refuge huts or alpine inns on the way, you should check in advance (e.g. on the Ötztal website) whether they are open at all. Because many high alpine refuges only offer food and drink from around the beginning of July to mid/late September. Especially during off-peak season (early summer, autumn), some huts are only staffed on weekends. In any case, you should take enough cash with you, because card payment is not possible in many huts.

You can find more tips on refuge huts and alpine inns here >>


Paying for wrong/missing equipment

Equipment tips for hiking are available on the internet like stones on a mountain. So here are just the essentials: It is crucial to use appropriate, functional equipment.

  • Breathable, quick-drying, lightweight functional clothing in several layers (“onion principle”). Warm and windproof clothing should never be missing (incl. hood and gloves). At the top of the mountain it's colder than you might think, even in summer! You also need rain and sun protection – e.g. cap and sunscreen because of the high UV radiation in the mountains.
  • Telescopic hiking poles relieve leg muscles and joints. They also provide valuable help when crossing slippery snow fields and shaky boulders. However, you should be used to dealing with them. Always use two hiking poles!
  • For emergencies, you should also have a bivouac sack (at least for high alpine hikes) and a first-aid kit (including personal medication and blister plasters). What is crucial: you should also be able to handle the first aid materials.


Make your hiking boot a torturer

Hiking boots can be your best friend, but they can also be a merciless torturer. Especially if they don't really fit or are completely new. Then there is a risk of painful pressure points or blisters. Therefore, try your new boots already at home on short tours! The rougher and rockier the terrain, the more stable the shoe needs to be. On the other hand, stiff soles are not so good on easy trails near the valley floor (e.g. forest roads) because they roll over less smoothly. In such a case the hiking boot may be a little thinner or softer.


"But the satnav said…!"

Electronic aids have made planning and making hikes much easier. That's why there are the following must-dos before you start a tour:

  • Save usual emergency numbers to your cell phone (European emergency number: 112, mountain rescue: 140).
  • Save detailed route descriptions including maps and GPS tracks (= electronic route history) offline to your cell phone. Doing so, you can access it on the mountain even if you don't have an internet connection. And that will be quite often.

    On the other hand, you should not blindly rely on technology. Firstly, even a navigation device doesn't know everything. Secondly, the mobile phone battery is empty faster than you can imagine. Therefore, a printed hiking map should always be in your luggage.


"Surprised" by darkness

Hiking times are always subjective - whether in hiking books, on signposts or on Internet tour portals. Because maybe the one they came from was fitter than you. Therefore, you should always plan in time reserves. You better start early in the morning. Then you usually have enough time buffer. Probably you also avoid the frequent heat thunderstorms in the mountains, which mainly occur in the afternoon. By the way: tour descriptions or signposts usually give only the walking time without breaks.

Now get ready for Ötztal's hiking trails! Once you have done your "homework", you can go out into nature with a clear conscience. And if you don't yet dare to plan your own hike, you can simply join one of the guided hikes.

Gurgl hiking family
Gurgl hiking cotton-grass
Gurgl hiking
Uwe Grinzinger

Author: Uwe Grinzinger

The passionate mountain photographer, journalist and hiking guide instructor loves to be out and about in the quiet spots of the Alps. Therefore, he has enough to discover within Ötztal and surroundings. www.agentur-bergwerk.at