Some tips for novice hikers

Some tips for novice hikers

Clothes and shoes in the photos are provided by sportswear store Monterosa sport

Photo: Alex Mostaslavsky

How can you start hiking if you have no experience? The answer is simple – you should just start hiking!

People often ask the same questions: “Is it dangerous in the mountains”? “Are hikers often attacked by wild animals?”

I asked Alain Place, a professional mountain guide, who has been organizing hikes in the Pyrenees for the last 15 years. He has never heard of a single case of someone being attacked by wild animals in the Pyrenees. Accidents have nothing to do with wild animals but only ever happen here with domestic ones! For example, people who get too close to the cows or bulls to take pictures with them or touch them.

Cows are not dangerous and will not run to attack you. They defend themselves if you disturb them. However, it is not recommended to approach calves as their mother will protect them. The weight of a cow is about 500 kg, and a blow of horns can throw you 5 meters or more.

Do not forget the sheepdogs. They protect the flock and are aggressive, it’s well known. But normally hikers do not know the following rule: never cross a flock of sheep in the middle. Dogs analyze it as dangerous and you as a predator. So they will attack you, that’s for sure! Leg bite injuries occur frequently. Instead, hikers should leave the path and avoid the flock if possible.

So, there is no particular risk.

The problems that generate the most need to be rescued are the people who get lost. The first tip is the one that every mountain guide can give you: you must be able to orient yourself and use real maps. Often people who do not have much experience just go to the tourist office and listen to a small explanation about some of the routes. But what is a tourist map? It’s just a drawing.

Once again – the first thing you need to learn is the ability to orient yourself. You have to know how to use a compass and a map.

But how?

There are two types of map orientation. The first is the orientation on the lines of the ground. It is necessary to go on the ground line and rotate the map so that the direction of the line on the map coincides with the direction of the line on the ground.

If you follow a river and you see that on the map it goes in a certain direction, it is certain that you will not lose yourself. You can go down and go along the riverbed – it’s always lower.

The lines of the terrain – these are forest tracks, a chairlift line if you are close to a ski resort, a ridge line (if you stay right on the ridge, you are not mistaken – it’s obvious).

So you have to find a line that matches your card. And you do not need a compass.

The second method is to orient the map on the compass. With the help of the compass, we can define the dimensions of the horizon. To do this, you must hold the compass horizontally and release the brake (if there is). The arrow will point towards the North Pole. Follow the arrow and turn to stand facing North. Behind, there will be the South, on the left the West, on the right East. The same sides of the light are indicated on the circular scale of the compass. Then, place the map so it lines up with the dimensions of the horizon.

The colors help too, but not much. The green color for example – it’s a forest. But you should know that the maps are all made with the same symbols. When you buy a card, in the quarter of the card there is some information that marks the date. But it must be remembered: a forest evolves and is exploited for wood etc. The entire area of the forest can be cut.

There are also phone applications with GPS – it’s super easy. But if there is no more battery you need a map and a compass!

What we must have:

  • A map (!) and a compass
  • A satellite GPS navigator or your mobile phone with a navigation app
  • A large, high capacity battery to charge the browser or notebook
  • Sunglasses
  • “The bottom of a bag”: some clothes to change, including a small waterproof jacket, something to eat, always something to drink, the first aid kit (just what is needed)
  • Telescopic hiking poles



Hiking in winter is another story. I will talk about it in one of the following blogs.

Read more: Sports and living in the Pyrenees ...