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Five points for staying safe on randonnée hikes

Randonnée, the big new ski trend in Norway, is a lot of fun. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure your hike to the top of the mountain is a good one.

Published 9 March 2017

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A new form of skiing has arrived in the Norwegian mountains, and its name is randonnée. Skiing enthusiasts feeling the pull of summits are leaving their mountain skis behind and buying randonnée skis and boots for a whole new approach to their upward climbs.

Randonnée equipment allows for easier ascents and swift downhill rides – a fun way to experience the mountains. However, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind before heading out.

1. Avoid avalanches

One of the most important precautions for a randonnée trip is to know how to spot potential avalanches, especially as there are often steep mountains involved. When Visit Norway recently interviewed avalanche expert Espen Nordahl on how to stay safe in the mountains, this was one of his main concerns:

“Terrain is the most important factor in an avalanche. Stay away from terrain steeper than thirty degrees and potential avalanche sites, and you will avoid avalanches. Entering steeper terrain means making your own assessments of snow and how stable the conditions are.”

At the web site Varsom.no you will find up-to-date avalanche forecasts put together by Nordahl and his colleagues. You can also find an avalanche map based on steep areas of Norway over at NGI.

2. Know what to do if an avalanche occurs

In the event of an avalanche, it’s wise to come prepared with the right equipment and training. A good tip is to learn about safety from a randonnée instructor. For instance, instructor Ørjan Venaas in Gjendesheim also offers courses in saving hiking buddies that have been caught under the snow.

“Buddy rescue is what saves lives in the event of an accident in the mountains”, he says to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

“When that happens, you have about fifteen to eighteen minutes to save the person buried in the avalanche.”

At the ski resort in Hemsedal, you will also find safety classes coupled with their randonnée courses.

Here, you learn to spot the avalanche warning signs, and also o use avalanche beacons that signal your position in the event of an avalanche. Other essential equipment includes a snow shovel and an avalanche probe.

3. The right equipment

Christin Oldebråten of the Norwegian hiking blog Turjenter has written extensively on randonnée. Amongst her reminders is the importance of randonnée boot size.

“I have seen grown-ups weeping from boot pains on hikes, and at Finn.no [the Norwegian answer to eBay, ed.] there are plenty of bad purchases being resold. Tight boots may be important to active alpine skiers only wearing them for a few minutes at a time, but if you’re on a multi-hour hike and trying to keep your feet warm, blood flow is important. Make sure there is space for a good sole and a thick sock if need be. You need to be able to move all of your toes inside the boots!”

Other essentials according to Oldebråten is a helmet (“useful for when you fall and hit your head on a rock”), slalom glasses and specialized straps to keep your skis from escaping if you drop them on a steep climb.

4. Use your equipment right

Deilig med ei litta formiddagstur ☀️#randonee

Et innlegg delt av Gina S. Sand (@ginassand)

Get a professional instructor to help you to best ensure that you get the most out of your randonnée gear.

Take bindings. You should seek assistance in making sure that their DIN value is set correctly, thus ensuring that the force required for the tension release is not set too low or high. Especially in the last instance, some ugly accidents can occur, according to the ski blog Wild Snow.

“Beware of using binding release setting numbers as a macho meter. Sheet time is not macho, while most nurses are middle aged and quite possibly male (especially the one who catheterizes you after they put your leg back together).”

5. Always remember the mountain code

#sunmørsalpene #randonee #ski #utno #snø #kolåstinden #yr #dnt #topptur

Et innlegg delt av Øyvind Hessen (@benoni2911)

Randonée usually happens off-piste and off the beaten path, and so demands more of individual skiers. With that in mind, the Norwegian mountain code (in this instance, especially bullet point number two) is essential.

  1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected.
  2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions.
  3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings.
  4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.
  5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others.
  6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.
  7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are.
  8. Don’t be ashamed to turn around.
  9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary.

Safe journeys to the top!

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