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Hiking and Admiring the Scenery – Enjoying an Enriching Experience and Returning Home Safely

2020-06-01
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As spring transitions into summer, the blooming flowers at the foot of the mountains are complemented by sprouting plants and red blossoms on the mountainside. Together with the changing colors and the sea of clouds, the picturesque landscape awaits the people who have been in lockdown due to the outbreak and those who long for the embrace of Mother Nature. According to the analyses, the Yushan National Park Headquarters (YSNPH) reminds the public that the increased mountain accidents in recent days are directly related to the drastic change in climate in the mountainous areas.
Rain and fog cause panic
Due to outbreak prevention considerations, people want to engage in outdoor activities in open spaces in the mountains, but they often forget the relatively low temperatures in high elevation areas; without adequate clothing and gear to keep them warm, their bodies are sometimes unable to cope with the changing temperatures, resulting in cardiovascular attacks and accidents. Furthermore, the relatively higher humidity in the mountain regions often leads to fogs and people sometimes report that they are lost because they are unable to see the trail or are overcome with fear. People are reminded to know their locations at all times and prepare relevant communication equipment.
Heavy rain, strong winds, lightning and thunder generate fear
Taiwan’s monsoon season falls in May and June, where the weather is always cloudy or rainy. Intermittent convectional rain often occurs in the afternoon, creating very unstable weather and frequently bringing heavy showers. This is followed by summer. Taiwan’s typhoon season falls between June and September; since typhoons are accompanied by powerful winds and heavy rains, they are capable of creating catastrophic damages such as landslides, debris flows in the mountain regions, as well as road and trail closures. These all have a direct impact on people’s hiking activities and itineraries.
Without monsoons, does it meant that we don’t have to worry when the typhoon hits? No, Taiwan’s summer season is characterized by high temperatures during the day and thundershowers in the afternoon due to thermal convection, particularly in the mountains, where rainfall and rain intensity are usually greater than that of the plains. The showers are often accompanied by thunder. Besides the threat of heavy rain, hikers must also look out for lightning strikes. This is a safety risk caused by extreme climate in recent years. Citizens engaging in outdoor activities are reminded to remain vigilant when there is lightning. Avoid touching or being exposed to conductive objects and environments to prevent being struck by lightning. Mild symptoms of a lightning strike include burnt skin and damaged nerves, while severe cases may lead to cardiac arrest and death.
Tips for preventing being struck by lightning
YSNPH offers the following tips for avoiding lighting strikes and first aid techniques in the event of being struck by lightning. Remember these tips to prevent irreversible regrets during an emergency.
【Ways to prevent lightning strikes】
1. Avoid using or touching conductive objects such as metal chain, camera, metallic cane or umbrella. Even if insulation materials are used, take note of whether or not water is attached to the surface, as water is also a conductor of electricity.
2. Stay away from facilities such as high voltage towers and base stations.
3. Since light travels faster than the speed of sound, we usually see lightning first before hearing the thunder. If hikers encounter lightning, stay away from open fields, metal objects or trees immediately. It is advised to take shelter in a cave or low-lying area with cover, lower your body as much as possible.
4. When trying to avoid lightning strikes, it is advised to place a dry sleeping mat underneath your feet for insulation and wait for 30 minutes after the lighting stops before going outside.
【Giving first aid to lightning strike victims】
Someone struck by lightning is most likely to sustain injuries to the nervous system, which has the least resistance. This is followed by blood vessels, muscles, skin, fat and bones. Mild lightning strike injuries include small feather-like patterns on the skin surface, although there may not be any visible external injuries, the internal nervous system may have already been damaged, so it is advisable to go to a hospital for further examinations. More serious injuries are manifested in skin burns or even cardiac and respiratory arrest. However, the patient may have stopped breathing because of the temporary inhibition of the respiratory center function in the brain due to a lightning strike. Besides seeking immediate assistance, other team members must administer artificial respiration and CPR, for there is a chance of restoring the patient’s consciousness within 5 minutes.
Don’t tempt weather – Triple check ensures safety
  Taiwan’s terrain and dramatic weather changes mean that the high mountain areas are prone to rain and low temperatures. If hikers neglect to bring rain and cold protection gear, they are susceptible to risks such as lowered physical fitness, circulatory problems and hypothermia. Due to the successive monsoon and typhoon season, in order to prevent the heavy rain from increasing hiking-related risks, the people are reminded to adopt the Weather Triple Check measure. Firstly, the hiking team should obtain a comprehensive understanding of the weather and pay attention to transportation, weather-related websites for mountain region updates; secondly, upon arriving at the hiking gate, the team leader and members should examine their gear together and discuss contingency plans when encountering bad weather; thirdly, always set a returning point and never take a risk to continue hiking when encountering adverse weather. For instance, it is imperative to return when you find yourselves in a collapsed area or when you need to cross a river to prevent being stranded by collapsing slopes, falling rocks or flash floods. Safety must always be the highest guiding principle for any outdoor hiking activity. Hikers planning their itineraries should pay attention to and take into account weather changes, as well as formulate a retreat plan. When encountering unfavorable weather conditions, consider postponing or shortening the hiking trip because safety is of paramount importance!
According to the YSNPH, hiking is conducive for health but numerous details cannot be ignored. In particular, one should always be mindful of the weather developments in the season of monsoons and typhoons. If the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) has already forecast impending monsoons or typhoons, please postpone your hiking activities, as the strong winds and rains in the mountains will not only dampen your enjoyment of the great outdoors but can also be extremely dangerous! The weather is a crucial element to consider when going on a hike, please obtain the latest weather forecasts when planning your hiking trip. The mountains will always be there waiting for you, so there is no rush to climb a mountain if bad weather is forecasted.