As the days get longer and the sun gets warmer, you are likely to see more and more Norwegians leaving the safety of their homes and venturing up in the mountains on the weekend. Norwegians love their mountainous nature so much they spend whatever time they can in it – for recreation, fitness, hunting or just family time.
Travelling up in the mountains, however, isn’t completely risk-free. Every year, especially around Easter when there is a mass exodus from the cities to the outback, there are always those who need rescue after being surprised by a snowstorm, an avalanche, broken equipment or simply insufficient clothing. Sadly, there are also casualties every year.
After a particularly accident-prone Easter holiday in 1967, where 18 people died, the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) and the Norwegian Red Cross started a campaign to get people to put safety first when trekking in the mountains. They worked out a set of nine rules that became known as the “Mountain Code” (Fjellvettreglene). The rules were meant to encourage people to still use nature for what it’s worth, but also to use common sense (“vett”). The rules help you avoid nasty surprises, as well as giving you tips on how to survive until rescued – should things turn bad.
Ever since, the rules have been repeated on TV and radio every Easter, as well as printed in newspapers and taught in schools. Every Norwegian knows the rules, if not by heart then at least well enough to remember what to do and what not to do.
The Mountain Code:
- Be prepared. Be sufficiently fit and experienced for your intended trek.
- Leave word of your route. This can mean life or death in case a search is necessary.
- Be weatherwise. Check the weather forecasts, but don’t always trust reports of good weather. Good weather can turn bad in an instant.
- Be equipped for bad weather and frost, even on short walks. Always carry a backpack and proper mountain gear.
- Learn from the locals. Experienced local trekkers can inform you of safe routes, weather conditions and things to look out for.
- Use a map and compass. GPSes are handy too, but don’t rely on them. A flat battery and poor reception can cause problems.
- Don’t go solo. Being all alone in the mountains can be a magnificent experience, but in case of an accident it’s good to have someone who can give first aid or get help.
- Turn back in time; sensible retreat is no disgrace. If you are not sure if you can reach your destination because of weather or conditions, turn around! Others might have to risk their lives trying to rescue you. Also try to notify anyone that may have been expecting you.
- Conserve energy and build a snow shelter if necessary. Eat and drink frequently, and try not to work up a sweat. If you need to build a shelter, do so before you are exhausted.