Planning a Hiking Tour in the Alps Safely: How to confidently go Mountain Hiking

Planning a mountain hike is an easy task for experienced hikers. In order for you, as a beginner, to be able to plan a tour quickly, easily, and yet safely and confidently, we have divided the planning process into 6 simple steps.

A detailed examination of the upcoming tour is the first and most important step. Take enough time to study the route and identify possible risks, including weather conditions and, if necessary, the current conditions on the trail. Familiarize yourself with the topography of the region and make sure you have the right equipment.

What does good tour planning involve? A detailed understanding of the upcoming tour is the first and most important step.

Take enough time to study the route and identify possible risks, including weather conditions and the current conditions on the trail. Familiarize yourself with the topography of the region and ensure that you have the right equipment. Here are the 5 key elements of successful tour planning:

Prepare the Route

When planning a mountain tour, the first step is to prepare the route.

Get a good topographic map and a hiking guide for the region you intend to visit. Pay special attention to key points such as mountain passes, steep gullies, or sections with the risk of falling.

Topographic maps are the standard in planning all types of mountain tours. Here, you can see all the important information directly, but you need to learn how to read the maps correctly. Here are the world’s best maps from the Swiss Confederation. They are zoomable and freely accessible for Switzerland.

It is also important to assess your fitness level and mountain experience in advance. One thing to watch out for is trails that run on north-facing slopes. These are often still covered with snow in early summer and pose a significant risk of falling. So be especially cautious in such areas.

Maps for Switzerland: 

The topographic maps provided by the Swiss are considered the best in the world. The online tool is completely free, and we also use it for every tour. There are also official maps freely available for other regions, but their user-friendliness is often outdated.

Therefore, we recommend free topographic maps for the entire Alps:,

Both site have the same content (basically, both have paid options for more features). Another good source: (same basic map, but different content). Note: Most hikes here are user generated content and not professionally researched. Prepare for user errors.

A particularly good free website for the entire Alps:

Calculate the Duration

To understand how long a hike will take you, you need to know the vertical distance (elevation gain in meters) and the length of the tour (in km). Then its simple math from there on. Plan 1 hour for 300m vertical uphill. If you are more experienced and fitter than an average hiker, you can adjust the maths easily.

For a normal hiking tour, the key factors are primarily the elevation gain and the length of the tour.

The calculation model used by alpine clubs and most tourist regions in the Alps assumes that a mountain hiker can cover an average of 300 meters of elevation gain in an hour of ascent, 500 meters of elevation loss in an hour of descent, and 4 kilometers on flat terrain.

Based on this, the hiking time is determined as follows:

  • Calculate the time for horizontal distance and vertical distance separately.
  • Halve the smaller of the two values.
  • Add the halved value to the larger value.

For example, according to the map, there are 800 meters of elevation gain and 4 kilometers of distance from the parking lot to the summit.

Using our formula, we get: 800m / 300m vertical distance = 2.7 hours 4km / 4km horizontal distance = 1 hour

So we calculate: 2.7 hours + 50% of 1 hour = 3 hours 15 minutes of pure hiking time. We add half an hour for breaks. Our tour is approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes in total. For the descent, we subtract about one-third of the required ascent time.

So our full tour will take about 6 hours plus time for a summit break. If you enjoy taking pictures, you can add an extra half an hour.

In general, it is advisable to plan your hike with enough buffer time. If you’re running late, it’s good to have a headlamp or enough battery life on your smartphone as a backup.

Read the Weather Forecast

In the mountains, you should always keep an eye on the weather. Rain and fog can not only be unpleasant but also dangerous. Wet trails and grassy slopes significantly increase the risk of falling.

It becomes particularly critical when a cold front suddenly moves in. Temperatures can drop rapidly, putting you in a life-threatening situation without appropriate winter equipment.

Understanding Weather Forecasts: Especially in mountainous areas, automated weather models are often not very reliable. The Austrian ZAMG and the Swiss Meteoswiss are trustworthy sources – real experts are stationed here who analyze and interpret the automated data, incorporating their experience.

Strong summer thunderstorms are also not uncommon in the Alps. Therefore, if the weather is uncertain, always plan a tour where you can turn back if necessary and allow for enough time reserves.

Also, do not underestimate the intensity of sunlight, especially at higher altitudes. The sun is stronger there and can quickly lead to sunburn and heatstroke. So remember to protect yourself adequately!

Weather forecast for Austria: 

Weather forecast for Switzerland:

Pack the Right Equipment

Depending on the sport and tour, you need different equipment in the Alps. The basics for hiking include well-worn shoes, a backpack, provisions, sufficient warm clothing, and an emergency kit.

The most important thing is proper footwear. A good sole provides the necessary grip and ensures that you won’t be let down, even on soft terrain.

Mountain Moments Tip: Your footwear should be well broken in. Hiking with brand new shoes is highly likely to result in blisters or even force you to abandon the tour.

Plan for Alternatives

During a mountain tour, things often don’t go as planned. An icy section of the trail, a sudden thunderstorm, or a fellow hiker losing strength – there are many scenarios that may require a modification of the original plan. If you have already considered possible turning points and alternative routes at home, you can be more flexible and salvage the tour.

In case of an emergency, it can also be very helpful to have a list of the important phone numbers of the huts along the route and the appropriate emergency numbers for the region.

Emergency Phone: General emergency number 112 works even when you phone is locked and with a weak signal. Regional there are special numbers for the mountain rescue. Plan ahead.

A casual tour discussion the night before brings everyone on the team up to date and ensures that the plan is solidified. At this point, don’t hesitate to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each team member as well as the hazardous areas. This way, you will be well-prepared and able to enjoy the tour safely.

Changeable weather, weather changes, wind, snowfall, and many other factors can disrupt any plan, no matter how well prepared. Most accidents in the mountains happen when multiple factors deviate from the plan and subsequent errors are made. It is therefore important to consider alternative plans beforehand and discuss them with the group during the hike, continuously updating the plan. On this hike, a sudden bad weather front occurred. Although we were well-prepared with clothing and equipment, after a short waiting period and discussion, we decided to turn around.

On-Site during the Mountain Hike

Continuously update “your plan”! Your attention and a sober perception are necessary at all times! Most alpine accidents occur as a result of a combination of obvious unfavorable factors.

It is always recommended to stay observant and sensitive to changes. It’s worth comparing the forecast and the actual conditions throughout the day.

Are there signs of fatigue? How are the trail conditions? And so on. A casual tour discussion the night before brings everyone on the team up to date and solidifies the “plan.” At this stage, don’t hesitate to address the individual strengths and weaknesses of each team member, as well as the hazardous areas!

The weather is what it is… Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to check the current weather forecast again. The above mentioned weather forecast are the top addresses for this. Keep an eye on the weather throughout the day.

Mountain Moments Tip: For routes that are challenging for you, talk to the locals, mountain guides, and hut owners – they can often provide valuable information about current trail and weather conditions!

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