If you’re hiking over relatively flat, ordinary terrain you’ll need to be able to keep a steady pace with regular (short) rest breaks. Different types of terrain, such as steep or slippery slopes, creeks or even higher altitude trails make that very difficult and your techniques need to adjust to match the situation.
Slopes and Higher Altitude Terrain
The biggest change when hiking uphill or at higher elevations is the amount of strain it takes to cover the same distance. Going uphill means you’re fighting gravity and it will take more energy to do so.
At higher elevations, there is less oxygen in the air and your heart will have to work harder to get the necessary oxygen to your body. These things need to be kept in mind when tackling these types of hikes.
Monitor your heart rate to be sure you’re not being overworked. At rest, it should be about 70 beat per minute (BPM) and a hard workout can result in 120-130 BPM for shorter periods of time. Ideally, you want to stay in the low- to mid-range for the majority of your hike.
If you allow your heartrate to get too high for too long, you could end up with High Altitude Syndrome, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness.
Rivers, Lakes & Other Water
Hiking in wet conditions can also require more energy but it also means that you are more likely to get wet, which can lead to other problems including discomfort, blisters and loss of body heat.
Wearing the proper hiking gear is important in these environments. Make sure your boots are waterproof and high enough that they won’t get completely submerged. It’s also important to wear waterproof clothing and have a backpack that is waterproof to keep the gear, food and other items you’re carrying dry.
When you come to a river, if there is an alternative to fording it, it’s best to take that alternative. It might mean hiking a little out of your way to get to a bridge or a narrower spot, but it’s better than stepping out into the unknown.
Cold temperatures, undercurrents and slippery bottoms are just a few of the possible hazards when crossing a river.