Growing older doesn’t need to be the end of your wanderlust. If you still are strong on your legs and taking long strolls around the blocks, you can go hiking; even in the Alps. However, you may need a bit more preparation now than you needed in your youth. More so, if this is your first hike in recent years. 

Depending on your physical condition and mental preparedness, there are numerous hikes you may find enticing to trail off to. However, there are certain elements that need to be discussed on how to choose one that fits your condition and health. 

Understand the Terrains

As a hiker, you shouldn’t actively avoid intimidating trails that include miles of elevation and descent. But you’ll be much safer in this way as an elder. 

You can find the topo maps for most hiking trails on the internet. Although it may take some time to understand the highs and lows from the colors and lines, they are one of the best ways to understand any terrain. 

Walking in the Alps can be chock-full of surprises. You can be traveling over wide, open plains one day and then encounter the toughest routes of your life the next. As an elder, if you can endure the terrain, you shouldn't be alarmed by it. However, being aware of what to expect beforehand can help you be more prepared for the difficulties.

The Walkers Haute Route trail starts running from Les Houches to Les Contamines . Then there is a little barrier between Argentiere and Chamonix. Depending on their level of expertise, some people also find the trek from Les Contamines to Refuge Mottets to be quite difficult.

You need to understand 3 fundamental points to reach a topographical map. 

  • The first one is the North Arrow. In most cases, the maps are aligned to point towards the north and thus the arrowhead should be pointing in the top direction of the map. The arrow will be the primary frame of reference for you if you’re lost in the wilderness. 
  • Next is Scales. As the map can’t be as huge as the trail itself, you will surely find a line representing the miles or kilometers in small prints. If you’re using an online map, chances are that the map itself will have tools to help you measure the distance between two points. 
  • Contour lines represent the degree of slope of the terrain. Each line describes the points that share the same elevation. The more distant the lines are, the less steep the trail would be. As an elder, consider trails with less intimidating contour lines. 

See if There Are Enough People

Elder or not, going to secluded uncharted trails may be more thrilling, but you should refrain from doing so. Moreover, if you’re an elder, choose hiking trails that get enough footfalls throughout the year to avoid unfortunate life-threatening events.  

You can disregard hiking trails that are isolated by scrutinizing the social media groups and pages dedicated to hiking or particularly those. If enough engagement can be seen on those pages and groups, you can be assured that those trails are safe for lone hiking. 

If the mention of those trails is limited in the groups, try to keep away from them for your own safety and security.  

It's not necessary to be alone on a solo hike. Even if you might like traveling alone, it's best to choose less isolated paths while embarking on a walk. The majority of emergencies—food shortages, water shortages, broken legs, and cliff falls—cannot be avoided without help. 

Even if you prefer to go it alone, don't be afraid to ask for assistance, especially if you are an older adult.

Gather Daylight Information

The days on both hemispheres grow or shorten with solar solstices. Although the timing between the northern and southern hemispheres is pretty contrasting, the variability in the daytime is incessant. 

For instance, If you’re planning to visit the Alps in the months between November and March, the average daylight revolved around 11-12 hours. This is enough for warmer climate hikes, but as the Alps get covered in snow during winters, your pace may also decrease.

On average, most hikers can walk 3.2 km in an hour in absence of extreme elevations. As an elder, you may clock even lower. If you can reach a 2.5 km/hour speed, you’ll need at least 7 hours to cover 15 km, including the water and meal breaks. If you’re planning something like the Walkers Haute Route, you need at least 10 days to cover the whole track with elevation and descents.  

Before planning your hikes and packing your bags, gather the daylight information of the time that you’re planning to visit. The total average daylight time will help you decide the time of your visit. 

Get Weather Information

As an older hiker, you should consider the weather condition of the trails long before committing to them. Although the weather may depend on the time of your visit, some trails are meant to be risky. If possible, try to avoid them. 

Heavy rain and snow are the most dangerous weather that you can experience. With heavy rain, the risk of landslides and cloud bursts grows, which can threaten your life as a hiker.

The weather can be a bit forgiving if it’s been snowing for a long time. However, if you get stranded by the early season snow, even the vehicles can’t carry you back. Early season snow is more susceptible to melting and breaking. 

In that case, you have to seek shelter.

Go Light

As a hiker, most of your adventures will revolve around walking. Even if you keep yourself rested by halting the nights in the hotels and homestays, you need to carry your own baggage through the day. 

Therefore, for elders, it’s recommended that you don’t carry unnecessary things around while hiking. Some unnecessary things that are very common among hikers to bring are: 

Excessive Gadgets

If you’re an adventure seeker, you may not even find network reception or power sources to operate or recharge your electronic gadgets. Taking a sophisticated GPS tracker or a satellite phone may not even work if you are seeking adventure in the deep woods or high peaks. 

Bring only what’s necessary. Like a handy mirrorless camera and a power bank to keep your mobile charged. 

Extensive First-Aid Kits

First -aid is an essential element of hiking. You or any other hiker may find yourselves stranded in situations that need medical assistance. A first-aid kit can be helpful to facilitate the initial treatments.

However, bringing non-essentials in your fast-aid pouch is unproductive. Bring bandages, wipes, epi-pens, and electrolytes. Leave behind the blood pressure machine, glucometer, or anything that doesn’t require an emergency application. 

Extreme Survival Tools

Hikers bring all sorts of heavy tools to ease their journey or succumb to fear. In most cases, tools like axes, shovels, and crowbars are never used. Even if they do, the issues are identified to be manageable with something lighter. 

As an elder, you must refrain from bringing full-sized shovels and crowbars while hiking. Although some trails demand keeping surviving tools handy, you don’t need heavier ones to achieve your purpose. Bring a knife, match sticks, and a flashlight. 

Exorbitant Clothing

Trekking calls for breathable clothing. When conducting lengthy walks, wicking fabrics that keep moisture off your skin must be taken into consideration. Additionally, cotton materials should not be used since they readily absorb moisture and take more time to dry.

Consider consulting the weather forecasts while learning about the trails. Bring appropriate attire based on that. Bring hiking boots or raincoats if it's supposed to rain.

Even if you're an elder female traveling alone in the Alps and your pants are made of softer fabrics, you shouldn't wear them while walking. Jeans are often constructed to endure and frequently impose undue strain on your legs. For comfort when walking, think about hiking pants.

Gather Information on Hazards

Not having enough information on weather, wildlife, and health hazards can be the formula for a horrifying hiking tour. Whether you plan to go solo or with friends, don’t be ignorant of the dangers of the territory. 

If a weather hazard like a blizzard, landslide, or cyclone is to occur, your group won’t be able to guarantee your safety or vice versa. When you’re hiking the high roads, you’re usually on your own. And since you’re a human, you mostly are incapable of saving yourself from weather hazards or a bear attack. 

Respecting nature and learning to handle worst-case scenarios in desperate situations are common safety rules for elder hikers.  

Discuss Time Estimates

You should never rush to complete a 10-day long hike in 8-days. If you can’t afford to spend more than 8 days, customize your hike to fit your requirements. It’s a better alternative than exhausting your physical and psychological self. 

As an elder, when planning for the next hike, consider contacting the local businesses or the agents. Inquire about the time it may require to complete the trek. Ask if there’s any way that you can safely increase or decrease the time frame according to your needs. In most cases, the guides can customize the trips without making you feel rushed or unappreciated. 

Check Availability of Food and Water

More often than not, the food and water that you’d carry during the hike won’t be enough to sustain the whole day. Having food and water sources throughout the trails can be of significant help if you’re keeping your backpack light. 

In general, if the trails get enough footfalls, businesses automatically thrive. Choose trails that are popular and have enough shops to source food and water. 

Apart from water, try to bring electrolytes with you while hiking. They will replenish your energy and save you from dehydration. several symptoms of which, are: 

  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Cramping and many more.

Seek Emergency Plans

It’s recommended to travel with renowned guided tour operators if you’re visiting the Alps for trekking. Although you mostly are responsible for your safety, they provide local guides to help you out with any emergencies. Before considering any hiking trails, consider talking to the tour planners to ensure that they have an emergency plan in place. In case of worst-case scenarios, you may need to be extracted. 

The Bottom Line

An ideal hike for elders isn’t determined by long vast valleys with minimal elevation and descents. It all depends on your physical and mental conditioning. 

If you still are active enough to challenge most trails in the world, start planning by understanding the terrain. The risks of getting into physical challenges increase with age. Only hike the trails that are well-populated and have access to basic necessities like food and water. Moreover, gather information on weather and daylight before considering any hike.