Natural Disasters can occur anywhere. Whether you are resting at home or working at your desk, you are never really safe from nature's forces. But right precautions and swift action has proven to be a life saving force for many. When you are out trekking in the Himalayas or in the western ghats near you, chances are your misfortune strikes and natural calamities occur. Times like these, being smart and quick is the only saviour. Be your own hero and for that, here are ways for you to save yourself from these natural disasters when you’re on a trek in the mountains or in the western ghats.
Mountains Snow Avalanches
Imagine trekking and enjoying the climb when the ground gives out and you get suppressed under so much snow that you’re literally buried under it. Scary right? But this is what an avalanche does and if you’re planning a trek or climb to high altitude mountains, you must be prepared to bravely face this kind of a calamity.
One major tip that you will hear experts give you is to make an air pocket in front of your face. When you’re buried under thick snow, the first thing you need to do is breathe so that you can further plan your escape. For this, wait till the snow has stilled completely and dig a pocket in front of your face with your hands. Take small inhales so that you do not exhaust your oxygen reserves. Also, when you hear people around you, an air pocket can ensure you call out for help. Swimming your way out of the snow is also a way to get to the surface. However, ensuring you carry snow shovels and other equipment will help you the best.
Rock Falling/ Landslides
Rock falling or landslides are the deadliest disaster to claim lives in the mountains. These can happen due to earthquakes, erosion or other reasons, but the point here is how to protect yourself?
Techniques like self-arrest will be taught to you if you’re training to be a mountaineer. These techniques will help you save yourself the best when rock falling occurs. However, when you see a landslide coming your way, run to your left or right instead of running downwards. It is often seen that a zigzag movement can help you escape the path of the landslide. Make sure you’re well-trained in knot making before you climb a mountain. For example, ropes are used to ascent and descent steep areas in the mountains. Knot making can come handy when you secure yourself to a fixed object during a landslide, something that will stay put even during a landslide. You won’t believe how handy a rope can come when it comes to saving your life in the mountains.
There is a reason trekking, mountaineering and other outdoor activities like these are termed as adventure activities. It’s the thrill that is the pull factor here. Many such thrill-seekers climb active volcanoes too. But safety is a must if you want to come back alive and narrate your daring stories to the world.
Firstly, if an eruption occurs, leave immediately. That’s the golden rule of survival that you do not get to avoid. However, do your homework before beginning the climb. Check for reports and telecasts to find out any recently anticipated volcanic activity. Carry all the necessary safety equipment like goggles, mask, flashlight, radio, etc. Breathing volcanic ash is way too toxic for your lungs, hence these equipments are a must!
The higher the altitude, the thinner the atmosphere. We all know how dangerous UV rays are for us. In high altitude regions, these harmful rays are more dominant and can cause serious skin damage, sometimes even cancer! Precautions need to be taken to avoid damaging your precious skin.
Sunscreens with high SPFs will come very handy, so don’t you dare forget them. However, no one can be a better advisor than a Dermatologist when it comes to the matters of the skin. Consult a trusted dermatologist before you begin the trek or climb. Proper headgear, sun-protect goggles, etc are a must too!
These are the deep open cracks that appear on the surface of glaciers or in high altitude regions. Falling into crevasses has seen many deaths and trekkers/mountaineers need to be careful while crossing them.
Ice screws and crampons can be used to secure yourself when you fall into a crevasse. While rescuing others, pulleys and carabiners can be used. Honestly, self-rescue techniques can only be reliable if you’re well-trained in mountaineering. Otherwise, secure yourself and do not try to climb up, wait till others rescue you. With roping up, the rescuers should ensure that the rope is strong enough to hold the person’s weight.
If you’re wondering how heavy rains can be life threatening on a western ghat trek, let me tell you how. Heavy rains can be a great distraction to our vision and we all know that while you’re trekking, visual distractions can have disastrous effects. Damp soil can also lead to problems if your legs get stuck in them. Getting wet in the rain can cause various other health related problems like hypothermia as well. Heavy rains fill up the streams up to their full capacity and hence, crossing them is also dangerous due to the fast flow and level of water.
Be prepared with raincoats and footwear with good grip. Invest in windbreakers that will not only keep you dry, but warm as well. Ensure you’re setting up your tents in the area that is not too damp. Heavy rains also instigate insects, reptiles and leeches to attack. Hence carry necessary repellents and equipments. If you’re a first time trekker, trek with an experienced group or guide.
The western ghats are abundant when it comes to flora and fauna. And even though they add to the beauty of these natural places, they also become quite dangerous. Animal attacks are a common occurrence when trekking in the western ghats are concerned.
Run or fight? Actually, the best answer here is to stand still. Animals usually attack when they feel threatened by outsiders like us. If we stand still, we are proving to them that we mean no harm and that could save your life. Having a trained guide with you, who knows how to deal with such situations is the best precaution you can take. Snakes are a common sightings in these regions. Again, do not move till they pass and you’re good! Be considerate, respect the animals and you’ll be safer than you’ve ever been. Some animals that can be threatening in the ghats are, elephants, leopards, black panthers, foxes, etc.
Forest Fires have become a common occurrence due to climate change lately. These are rapidly spreading calamities that can burn an entire area within hours. Hence being stuck in the forests of the ghats can become very life threatening.
Check local air quality reports and consult local guides before planning any treks in these regions. The best thing you can do when a forest fire strikes is to run the opposite way! Take note of the direction the fire is spreading and immediately spring into action. Call for help if matters get way out of hand. 101 is the fire emergency number in India. Remember!
Being prepared is the key here. If you know what exactly to do and when, you’re not only saving your own life, but others as well. When life throws lemons at you, make lemonade. What I mean is...be handy and you’ll live longer!