International training in Low Tatras

SAFEHIKE training by OTI Slovakia

Honrá Lehota, Slovakia 30-31 October 2023

SAFEHIKE training in Slovakia unfolded in three distinct but interconnected sessions, each designed to equip participants with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for safe and enjoyable hiking, regardless of the season. The journey began with an emphasis on team-building and concluded with a practical understanding of navigating the unpredictable nature of mountain hiking.

Laying the Foundations with Team-Building

The day kicked off with a warm official welcome, setting the stage for what was to be an enlightening experience. Participants were introduced to the agenda, marking the beginning of their training journey. Engaging games and activities allowed everyone to break the ice, fostering a sense of camaraderie and mutual understanding. Discovering common hobbies and interests, the group quickly formed bonds that would prove invaluable on the trails ahead. To prepare for the upcoming hike to Chata M. R. Štefánika, various team-building exercises were conducted, ensuring the group dynamics were positive and cohesive. The session wrapped up with a detailed presentation of the day’s hike, allowing participants to gear up, both mentally and physically, for the challenge ahead.

The Hike to Chata M. R. Štefánika

With spirits high and the group ready, the hike commenced from the venue, targeting Chata M. R. Štefánika at an elevation of 1,740 meters. The chosen route, marked by its safety and moderate difficulty level, proved to be a wise decision as the weather quickly turned unpredictable. Regular breaks along the way not only allowed for equipment checks and adaptation to weather changes but also provided moments of rest and reflection.

Upon reaching Chata M. R. Štefánika, the guides made the prudent decision not to proceed further due to adverse weather conditions, prioritizing safety over ambition. This decision underscored the importance of adaptability and risk assessment in hiking. The descent was organized and mindful, with experienced hikers leading and guides ensuring no one was left behind. This hike, despite challenging weather conditions, offered participants a practical demonstration of hiking in autumn, enriching their experience across different seasons.

Understanding Emergency Procedures and Risk Prevention

After the physical exertions of the hike, a well-deserved rest preceded the final session of the day, which focused on general emergency procedures and risk prevention. Participants engaged in brainstorming potential risks and dangerous situations that could arise while hiking, such as getting lost or encountering wild animals. The session, facilitated by a local mountain guide, was not only informative but also empowering, providing practical solutions to potential emergencies in the mountains.

Mastering the Wilderness: A Recap of Our Final Day at SAFEHIKE Training

As the curtains drew to a close on our enriching SAFEHIKE training, the last day was nothing short of intense learning and practical application. Nestled within the comfort of our hotel, we embarked on a series of workshops designed to arm us with essential survival skills, navigation techniques, and the ability to plan successful hikes.

First Aid in the Wild

Our first workshop of the day threw us into the deep end with hands-on first-aid exercises. Divided into small groups, we simulated various injuries, channeling our inner actors and medical responders to provide immediate care using only what was available in our hiking backpacks. The realism of these scenarios was heightened with a session on CPR, offering us a taste of the endurance and calm required in real-life emergencies. Learning to transport injured individuals safely and manage injuries until professional help arrives was both an empowering and sobering experience.

Finding Our Way

Post-coffee break, the focus shifted to navigation and orientation in the wilderness. Armed with maps and compasses, we delved into the art of not getting lost, understanding the significance of azimuths, and employing both modern and traditional navigation techniques. This session was not just about finding our way physically but also symbolically, as it underscored the importance of preparation and awareness in the great outdoors.

Hike Planning 101

With our newfound knowledge of the terrain, we were tasked with planning hypothetical hikes. Considering factors like weather conditions, the profile of hikers, and seasonal challenges, each group presented their hiking plans, discussing the pros and cons and receiving constructive feedback. This exercise was a testament to the complexity and joy of hike planning, emphasizing that a successful adventure is as much about the journey as the destination.

Reflections and Milestones

Our final session was a moment of reflection and evaluation. Sharing our thoughts and experiences openly, we discussed the highlights and areas for improvement, enriching the collective learning experience. The culmination of this session was the certification ceremony, where we received certificates acknowledging our participation and newfound expertise in hiking safety and preparedness.

SAFEHIKE training was more than just a hike, it was a comprehensive learning experience that covered essential aspects of hiking safety across different seasons. The use of various navigation tools, both digital and traditional, highlighted the importance of being well-prepared and adaptable. As participants left the training, they took with them not just memories of the beautiful landscapes but also valuable knowledge and skills that would serve them well on all future adventures.