As the winter weather comes, the UAE’s wilderness beckons — enticing residents to go on that outdoor adventure they have been daydreaming of. Plus, with some hiking companies offering expeditions starting at Dh300, it could just be the perfect day for a hike.
Experts, however, reiterate that safety is paramount.
Inexperienced trekkers — who travel to mountainous areas without any communication equipment and without enough preparation — could end up getting lost in the rough terrains of the UAE, they warned. Among the potential risks are injuries, dehydration, or heat exhaustion — as there are some day-trekkers who go to these sites without enough water.
Earlier this month, an Emirati family who was on a trek in Ras Al Khaimah had been rescued after they got stranded on a mountain. Rescuers had to comb through Al Gheil area before they found the family of five, who were safe but all exhausted from their hike.
Similar incidents were reported in May this year. There was one where two European residents were rescued after going missing in Ras Al Khaimah’s Jebel Jais.
While there have been no fatalities this year, some tragedies have been reported in the past. In December 2015, a 22-year-old British citizen died on Jebel Jais, and earlier in the same year, a resident died from heat and dehydration after getting lost while hiking on Wadi Al Sameenah Mountain.
‘Try indoor climbing first’
Group Commander Saeed Al Yamahi, head of the air wing section in Ras Al Khaimah, urged all trekkers to learn the basics of rock climbing before they go on a hike. It is best to do some practise sessions in an indoor wall climbing facility first, he said.
“Climbers should also inform the authorities about their activities, whereabouts and the number of people they are with. They must consult official websites to get up-to-date information on local climbing sites,” he added.
All mountain-climbers and tourists and workers are highly urged to be more cautious in exploring these areas. They must also bring a mobile or satellite phone so they could easily contact the authorities in case of emergencies. “A whistle could be useful to attract attention. Then, they should ensure that they have enough food for their hike,” Al Yamahi explained.
Tips for trekkers during hiking season
Mohammed Shafi, an outdoor enthusiast who writes for the Dubai Hiking blog, shared some tips for those planning to go on a hike in the UAE.
• Choose the cooler days for hiking
Being exposed on a mountain plateau or a plain with additional heat reflected by the overheated rocks can be threatening.
Dehydration is fast and brutal. With little or no water on the road and extremely high temperatures in the summer, the hiking season is limited to the winter.
• Know the terrain to avoid getting lost
There are trails all over the mountains but hardly any are marked. For example, Hajar Hiking is a rather recent phenomenon. Be aware of the character of the mountain.
The terrain is harsh: lots of boulders, steep escarpments and sharp rocks contribute to the uniqueness of the scene, but can be potentially dangerous.
• Be wary of potential flash floods
Don’t underestimate the force of water in narrow wadis and or gorges. Flash floods occur mostly during the cooler months when the chance of rain is most likely, but be aware they can happen all year round.
How would you like to go mountain-hiking — with your dog?
Inspired by her love for dogs and hiking, Dubai resident Lumia Khan launched DogventureHQ, a company that organises UAE treks for people of all fitness levels and dogs of all breeds.
She established the company in partnership with Islam Samir, a professional dog trainer, at the peak of the Covid-19 triggered restrictions.
The group organises treks to Jebel Jais, Wadi Showka in RAK, Hatta Dam and Lake, Wadi Abadila in Fujairah, UAQ beaches, and Fossil Rock in Mleiha.
Lumia told Khaleej Times: “I have been hiking forever in the UAE. When I adopted my dogs, I struggled to find a group to go hiking with dogs. So, I started my own with a small, like-minded group of dog parents embracing outdoor lifestyle and weather in the UAE.”
Then, she decided to turn the group into an official standalone company
Since its launch in June this year, Dogventure has organised nearly 100 outdoor trips and events and has over 1,000 active members.
“Our peak ongoing activities are hiking — mountains, valleys, desert, fossil rock, camping — mountains and desert, water sports – snorkelling, kayaking, and paddleboarding, fungilitylearn to play, NamaSitStay — parents do yoga, dogs sit and stay, Jog with Dog and volleyball,” she said.
Safe hiking for puppers
Samir and Lumia said that inexperienced trekkers often lose their dog in the mountains.
“We rescue dogs almost every weekend. A lot of people go towards off-location sites without a licensed company or mountain guide with dogs,” said Lumia.
The duo advise dog parents to carry plenty of water and avoid treks during peak daylight to keep dogs safe rfom heat strokes. Proper hiking gear and having knowledge of first aid are also a must.
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