Safety on the Trail - Take Care out There
Posted on July 29 2020
Photo Credit: SCMP
Sadly the last couple of weeks have seen yet another accident out on the trails where ultimately somebody paid the ultimate price. Very sad to hear and our hearts go out to the families involved.
We love the trails and truly encourage every one to get out and enjoy the experience. Many of us have had wonderful experiences and almost to some extent the challenge, and of course a slight degree of risk makes the challenge just that bit more exhilarating. However this risk must be as far as possible calculated and we should be aware of the possible issues we might face. If you are new to Hong Kong or new to trail running then we offer you a few tips to hopefully keep us all safe.
I would call myself an experienced trail runner but despite that, I have found myself in difficult situations a couple of times so it has reminded me never to be complacent. The following observations are hopefully worth sharing and maybe it helps us all to better assess the issues we might face.
CONDITIONS SPECIFIC TO HONG KONG
There are things about Hong Kong that create specific dangers and its worth spelling them out.
HEAT AND HUMIDITY
Hong Kong summers are brutal. Not only the heat but the combination with the humidity rapidly ramp up the heat index. Its not a linear scale as you can see below. At 27 degrees an increase in humidity rarely gets you out of the "Caution" zone but at a typical HK summers day of around 32 degrees, you are in the danger zone at anything over 70% humidity . The humidity is rarely that low as we know. Remember also the publicised temperature is the air temperature in the shade. If you are in full sun, the radiant heat will increase the temperature considerably
So what can you do?. We have shared a range of tips and advice in another blog. Our GR/JD Team mate Ryan Whelen has come up with a range of things you can do to prepare. read it here - https://gone.run/blogs/news/running-in-the-heat-the-dos-and-donts-ryan-has-the-tips
We live in a beautiful city surrounded by some wonderful trails all within a 10 minute run or a short MTR or taxi ride. We love our hills, but that is what they are, they are not mountains (general definition is over 1000 mtrs).
Generally speaking, this means exposure to risk on the trails is somewhat lower than say the Alps. We are rarely too far from an exit to a bus or a taxi or a centre of population. We are also not going to get altitude sickness
However this can bring complacency. Not EVERY trail has an easy out. I remember one hot summer day on the Plover Cove trail around the reservoir running out of water after underestimating the time to complete and the technical difficulty of the trail. No easy escape. How quickly things turned nasty. The hills may not be mountains but some trails are technically difficult, especially if you are new to trail running.
Post publication comment made by Mike Cartwright which is worth adding..... generally a good idea to stick to the trails. Many accidents have been people venturing off and suddenly finding themselves in a load of trouble AND, its so much harder to find you if you are not on a trail.
Tripping and Falling ----You don't have to fall very far to die. Nasa has actually examined human tolerance for falling. It takes 6 seconds for a human in free fall to reach terminal velocity of 53m/sec. Up to about 12m/sec you will likely survive. So you can fall for maybe 2 seconds and have a good hope of surviving. Maybe 20-25 feet or 6-8 meters. A 3 second fall is probably fatal if landing on a hard surface. The middle would probably be a normal distribution between survival and death between 7 meters and, say, 25-30 mtrs where you would virtually always die. So you don't need massive mountains to fall and kill yourself.
So what can you do? - Get some skills and get the right equipment. Running on trails in Hong Kong is immense fun but there are some skills you can learn that can make it safer and much more fun and its worth getting some advise on kit that works well in Hong Kong. We are always available to advise on your kit set up and as for skills read our blog on down hill running here: https://gone.run/blogs/news/tips-for-downhill-racing
Again, generally speaking, we have a pretty placid environment for wildlife.
We don't have anything which is going to kill you and eat you but there are some things that can make your life very unpleasant.
- SNAKES - Generally they will want to keep as far away from you as possible but you will run into them from time to time. Most will just slink away, don't hit them or threaten them and allow you to just carry on. I have heard that the King Cobra can put up a bit of a territorial show (and there are some here) and if it bites you, it is possibly fatal if you don't get to hospital quickly, but again they would prefer to just disappear, so let them
- WILD PIGS - There seems to be an awful lot of them at the moment, especially on HK Island and they are doing quite some damage to the trails. They are generally placid but are big and heavy and if startled or threatened or you come between a mother and her piglets then you should expect trouble. The can move very quickly and you wont provide much resistance. Just leave them alone and don't threaten them or feed them
- DOGS - There are many reports of less than friendly village dogs that are conveniently placed on paths through villages to deter through traffic and they can be a pain. Best to plan a route around them if you can or you might get a nasty nip. Our trail running community is a great source of information on the latest nasty dog situation.
- WASPS - Possible all over the trails, especially if you are bushwacking you might just disturb a nest. Pretty bloody unpleasant but unless you are allergic to stings probably just a painful encounter.
EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS
Well Hong Kong does have some pretty amazing weather from time to time and its good to know what to do if you are caught in it.
Generally the HK Observatory does provide good levels of warnings but of course we all like to get out and see the spectacular beauty of Hong Kong even in some of the most extreme of weather. But again, it should be a calculated approach to risk.
- RAIN. Can be regular in June and July and often biblical in proportions. The thing to remember is that most of us live at the bottom of a series of pyramids, be it on HK Island or in the New Territories and all the rain that falls will pretty quickly run off these pyramids in a couple of hours. That can be a huge quantity of water. Dried up streams and empty catchwaters can very quickly turn into raging torrents in a matter of minutes. They will also dislodge debris that has built up since the last deluge and fling that down the hill at the same time. Amber Rain, generally ok to be out, Red Rain also but a higher level of diligence needed. Black Rain is definitely a time to be extremely wary if you are caught in it. It can be immense fun but avoid crossing any wild water as it will likely end in tears.
- THUNDER AND LIGHTNING Certainly one of the scariest times to be caught on the trails. Read this article for tips what to do if you are caught outside https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/7-lightning-safety-tips-if-youre-caught-outside-during-a-thunderstorm-2/434483
- TYPHOONS Generally, they are often a bit of a damp squid and rarely live up to their expectations but when they do, like it did in 2018, they can be scary. Biggest issue is getting hit by something picked up of somebody's balcony and have it wallop you on the head or if you were out in wooded areas in a storm like the big one in 2018, having a tree squish you was pretty likely.Sadly there is no way of predicting if a predicted typhoon will be a good or a bad one. Best avoid them, stay inside and drink beer.
- SURPRISES Climate change is creating weather patterns that from time to time that absolutely do not following what we have seen in the past. I am sure many people remember the year when the HK100 was hit by a polar vortex and consequently people were getting hypothermia on the top of Tai Mo Shan. Expect the unexpected.
We do wish you all the very best out on the trails and continue to enjoy the wonderful outdoor paradise in which we live. Stay Safe Everybody!