Hiking can be a relaxing, healthy pastime that takes you along some picturesque trails.
On the other hand, it can also be a pulse-pounding, fear-inducing, death-defying walk on the wild side.
Depending on your experience, sense of adventure, and ability to cope with extreme heights, some of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails may appeal to you. If you’ve been looking for a new challenge to inject a little more zest into your walking, consider visiting any of these five trails during your next vacation …
Mount Huashan (China)
Just looking at hikers’ snapshots of this trail is enough to induce an immense terror of heights in anyone.
Mount Huashan is based close to China’s Huayin, and offers plenty of spectacular views – provided you can cope with the challenge, of course. There are various trails leading to the mountain’s five summits, and the number of tourists choosing to walk them led to a much-needed reinforcement-operation.
The trails are more secure than they were, but dozens of fatal falls are still believed to occur each year.
This is unsurprising, when parts of a trail are simply wooden boards bolted to the side of the mountain.
There are also parts boasting such intimidating names as Black Dragon Ridge and Hundred-Foot Crevice.
Taghia Trail (Morocco)
Next time you head to Morocco, be sure to try hiking the Taghia trail, which runs around the spectacular mountain, Oujdad.
You need to tread carefully here, as there are only rocks and logs leading you along solid wall. While these are secure and many people walk this trail safely, the narrow walkways and sheer drops are enough to put even the most seasoned hikers off.
El Caminito del Rey (Spain)
‘Little King’s Path’ is a definite challenge, with a walkway just three feet wide to tread. This is based more than 300 feet up from a river running beneath,
For some time, this was known as one of the most dangerous trails on Earth, due to its state of deterioration. In 2014, the trail reopened after restoration work was completed, and it’s now safer than it was.
However, the narrowness of certain parts and the brutal drops mean this is still a no-no for people likely to be overwhelmed.
Huayna Picchu Trail (Peru)
Peru’s Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most iconic sites, but hiking all the way up there is a challenge for even the hardiest hiker.
Huyana Picchu, the trail running up to the Incan spot, runs up to around 1,000 feet. It’s also so narrow and steep that you access is prohibited during most of the country’s rainy season.
While the reward for reaching the top is unquestionably worthwhile, the danger the trail poses is sure to put many of us off.
Bright Angel Trail (Arizona)
The Bright Angel Trail is based in the beautiful Grand Canyon National Park, and runs for more than eight miles.
Over the years, hikers have been at risk of flash floods, rockfall, unbearable heat, and even drowning. It is incredibly popular, but hikers are at risk without the proper gear and care.
When embarking on one of these trails, or any hike, having the right equipment is vital. Being under-prepared poses numerous risks, not least dehydration and extreme hunger if you pack too-little supplies.
You should make sure you have waterproof backpacks to keep your essentials dry in wet conditions, though these will also offer protection should your bag fall into water.
Hiking is a terrific way to stay fit and see the world, but do your research before trying trails known to be dangerous.
Mountain climbing carries a certain degree of risk in even the warmest months, but this increases significantly in winter. It’s vital to plan ahead and exercise considerable caution on sites posing no obvious danger.
Heavy snowfall, plunging temperatures, and excessive winds can all make mountain climbing a challenge for the most experienced of us. Whether you’re planning on going out there as a pair or in a group, safety is paramount.
Never let yourself be complacent if there are several of you climbing together – everyone has to invest the same degree of preparation and vigilance.
Here are our tips for staying safe while mountain climbing in winter …
Research Avalanche Conditions Ahead of Time
Without doubt, avalanches are one of the most dangerous natural events in winter. Before you set out on your climb, check your local weather station for the latest updates. You should also visit avalanche.org, sponsored by The American Avalanche Association, which is filled with essential information.
You’ll also be able to find detailed information in forums and online communities, so get to know other like-minded climbers.
You may also want to call ahead to your destination’s ranger station, to ask for their advice on avalanche risks and expected conditions throughout the day.
Take the ‘Onion’ Approach
You need to wear several layers in winter. Rather than wearing a padded coat and a thick sweater, layers mean you can peel off should you start to overheat.
Sounds ridiculous? Consider the amount of physical exertion required to climb a mountain, and you’ll see how you can still overheat in chilly conditions. Being able to take a layer or two off will make you more comfortable, without you having to remove something more substantial.
Don’t forget to wear thermals, which wick moisture away from your skin. Carry spare socks and a change of thermals, in case you need to freshen up.
If you’re climbing snowy terrain in bright weather, sunglasses are essential to prevent glare affecting your sight. Snowblindness is a real danger, as is sunburn – pack sun-block in your backpack, even if you think you may not need it.
Choose the Smartest Route
Generally, climbing ridges is safer in winter than tackling faces. The reason? Ridges tend to be free of deep snow, and as they’re windswept the snow is typically safer to cross than powdery surfaces.
Just be careful, though, as cornices form on the side of ridges. If you tread on these without realizing, they may well break under your weight – sending you over the edge.
At a more basic level, choose routes that pose a simpler experience. Trails you may walk in summer without any problems whatsoever are likely to be totally different in winter, with heavy snowfall, rain, and ice. With information from the local weather station and other climbers, you’ll be able to identify the safest trails for your level of experience.
Again, this comes down to investing time into effective research. Simply heading out on a climb on the spur of the moment is easily done, and may seem exciting, but you can’t afford to ignore the dangers posed by winter mountains.
We stock a range of mountaineering gear to help you get the most out of your winter climbs, and have a range of waterproof backpacks to keep your supplies dry (vital in case you fall into snow often or get caught in the rain).
Prepare, pack all the right supplies, wear the best gear you can find, and don’t push yourself into challenges beyond your abilities.
Rock climbing is one of the most challenging sports, especially for beginners without the necessary strength and conditioning.
Training is, of course, integral to your climbing experience: building greater muscle tone and endurance ensures better performance. Being out of shape and unprepared puts you at risk of exhaustion, straining, and injury.
Of course, you don’t have to be Vin Diesel to start climbing rocks, but you do need to condition your body to cope with the sport’s demands. Let’s check out a selection of training tips to get you in rock-ready shape.
This is an obvious training exercise, given how important lifting and pulling is when climbing.
Pull ups work your arms, core, shoulders, and back brilliantly. While these can be difficult for novices, continued practice over time will reap real rewards – just don’t push yourself too hard or too fast when starting out.
Pull up bars are available at decent prices, and are fairly easy to set-up in your home. Alternatively, your gym will have bars in place, while you may be able to find alternatives if you prefer working-out outdoors.
Head down to your local park and try some reps on the climbing frame or monkey bars.
During climbing, you’ll need to plan your routes and pause to identify the safest hand-holds. There may be times when you’re left hanging for brief periods too, and endurance is vital to maximize your safety in these situations.
Try bar hangs to build your strength. You can do this using your pull up bar or any horizontal fixture able to support your weight (check this before trying, as you may injure yourself and cause structural damage!).
To start with, try hanging with your feet off the floor for 10 seconds. From then on, add a few seconds at a time.
A staple exercise for great all-round strength and conditioning. There’s a good reason push ups continue to be incorporated into military circuits year after year!
Push ups work the chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and core, depending on the variation you’re doing. Proper form is key, though: spread your hands too wide or let your back sag, and you may injure yourself.
If you’ve never done these at all before, start with your knees on the ground. Over time, as you build more and more strength, graduate to full-body push ups.
Part of the push up’s beauty is that you can do it anywhere, at any time. You can even drop and do twenty before you start a climb, to get your muscles working.
While many people prefer to squat with weights, beginners should start off nice and easy using their body’s weight only.
Squats build strength in the legs, which is a must to push yourself and maintain fixed positions for long periods (as you may need to do while hunting for your next hand-hold).
Keep your back straight, raise your arms out in front of you as you descend, and move slowly to start with. Maintaining proper form is crucial.
Follow these training tips to get yourself in great basic shape before climbing. Take climbing lessons with an expert until you feel ready for the real thing, and make sure you invest in the right gear to protect yourself and your supplies in varying weather.
Today, we’re overwhelmed with ways to stay entertained without ever having to step outside.
Streaming movies, playing video games, browsing limitless TV channels, and watching videos of cats provide endless amusement behind closed doors. However, staying inside day after day isn’t the healthiest way to live your life – there’s a whole world out there just demanding to be explored!
For anyone looking to see and do more, here are four eye-opening activities everyone should try at least once.
#1. Whitewater Rafting
Few pastimes provide adrenaline-pumping excitement while putting you at the mercy of nature’s awesome power.
Whitewater rafting is fast, frantic, invigorating, life-affirming fun. Needless to say, you should only go on your first rafting trips with experienced people to stay as safe as possible.
While there are many stunning whitewater rafting spots around the world, we have more than our fair share here in the USA. Check out the Green River, Salmon River, and Chattooga River for a taste of our finest waters.
Anyone who ever watched Point Break (the original, of course), Blue Crush, or even Surf’s Up will admit to feeling even a little tempted to try surfing, but how many of us actually do?
Well, quite a few actually – believe it or not, there are more than 2 million surfers across America. It’s easy to see why, too. We’re lucky to have a stunning variety of beaches to visit, offering some mind-blowing waves.
It’s natural to be intimidated by such a wild activity, yet surfing transforms lives – so much so fans tend to wonder how they coped before.
Don’t just grab a board and dive in – take lessons, prepare, and follow professional advice. When you’re ready, consider visiting Oahu’s Sunset Beach, California’s Trestles, and the famous Malibu Beach (of course).
#3. Mountain Climbing
As challenging, exhausting, and time-consuming as mountain climbing is, there’s nothing quite as rewarding as the view from the top.
Reaching a mountain’s peak, breathing the crisp air, and taking in the vista at your feet is an incredible experience everyone should enjoy at least once. Climbing a mountain is also a terrific way to build friendships and discover the joys of teamwork.
As a beginner, consider climbing Mt. Katahdin (in Maine’s Baxter State Park), Half Dome (in California’s Yosemite National Park), or Longs Peak (Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park). These may look tough at first glance, but they’re all prime challenges for novices.
Invest in top-quality mountaineering gear to maximize your own safety.
# 4. Skiing
Perhaps the least-extreme activity on this list, skiing is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors while having fun. Skiing’s also ideal for keeping fit, demanding a strong core, solid control of your own body, and fast reflexes.
You also get to enjoy some unforgettable views, breathe clean mountain air, and spend relaxing evenings in luxurious ski lodges.
Here in America, we’re lucky to have plenty of amazing ski resorts, most of which are accessible for beginners. Winter Park, Aspen, Vail, and Beaver Creek are all top choices for the novice.
Before you try any of these, be sure to invest in quality gear, including waterproof backpacks, safety equipment, and more.