We've gathered some basic hiking tips for the autumn/winter season to help you prepare for winter hiking. The Börzsöny may not be the Alps or the Carpathians, but based on our experience, many people underestimate it so much that they embark on a Börzsöny hike without even the most basic preparation. We hope you've already read the general hiking tips, and you're fully aware that you should consider BOOTS, APPROPRIATE CLOTHING, WATER, FOOD, SUGAR, HEADLAMP, MAP (if on the phone, make sure it's offline!) as essential equipment. In winter, make sure to have INSULATION FOIL, SNOWSHOES, and possibly a whistle with you.
However, the most important thing is planning the hike. Prepare for a trip by researching its difficulty, length, and try to calculate how long it will take at your pace. Always add some extra time, as fatigue or taking a photo of a beautiful flower or tree can unnoticedly extend the time, and you may only realize it when it gets dark. Now, let's look at the challenges typical for winter – actually from autumn to spring:
Winter brings early darkness!
If you don't want to wander in the dark, be aware that it gets dark very early in winter, especially in valleys. Consider carefully where you're going and how much time you'll need. Start early, and unless night hiking is explicitly planned, don't even think about heading to Nagy-Hideg mountain to see snow after lunch. If you're not experienced in night hiking, psychological effects like fear and panic will worsen your situation.
You move slower in winter!
Whether it's due to snow, ice, or mud, you'll definitely move slower. When planning your hike, account for longer travel times than usual. Even if there's no snow, significant flooding of the paths is common, which might force you to take detours.
Paths disappear in the snow!
Even for experienced hikers familiar with Börzsöny, a snow-covered landscape can be challenging. Snow covers beaten paths, and frost or snowdrifts can erase trail markings on trees! Use a map, use GPS, but always with downloaded offline maps! Try to stay on the assumed tourist path and avoid cutting through unless you know the terrain 100%: where you step might have only 10-30 centimeters of snow, but you could step into a deeper snowdrift or trench. Your ankles will regret it!
It's cold in winter!
Wearing sneakers, urban boots, cotton pants, or similar clothing on a winter hike significantly increases the chances of meeting mountain rescuers! Of course, we're happy to meet every hiker, but you might prefer chatting over tea on Nagy-hideg mountain rather than being dragged on a stretcher for a long time, especially if there's a lot of snow hindering access even with off-road vehicles. Waterproof boots, waterproof pants, winter hiking(!) jacket, base layer: this is the minimum you should start with in Börzsöny! The "just a quick walk with the kid to sled on Nagy-Hideg mountain" is not an excuse to start in sweats and sneakers! Have spare socks with you; trust me, they might come in handy!
You still get dehydrated in winter!
Drink a lot! Of course, water, and we do not recommend consuming alcohol while hiking in winter as it increases the risk of hypothermia! However, modern clothing uses your body heat to keep you warm, but for this, your body needs to evaporate, and it will evaporate much less if you don't drink enough fluids! In winter, you need to drink as much as in summer, so pay special attention to this while hiking. Never, ever drink alcohol or make someone drink alcohol who is hypothermic, meaning pathological cooling has begun! Alcohol dilates the blood vessels (hence the tingling warm feeling), but this also means that the blood flowing through the dilated peripheral vessels will cool more, accelerating the cooling of vital organs. Your body reduces the amount of blood reaching the limbs and face for a reason; it knows it needs to protect your vital organs, so don't make its job harder!
Trees can fall
when strong winds blow in the forest, and thick branches can break off and cause serious injuries. Between autumn and early summer, do not hike in Börzsöny on days when the weather forecast predicts strong winds. Most areas of Börzsöny have a thin layer of soil, and trees easily fall. Frozen or rotten thick branches can also easily break, perhaps right above you.
Prepare for anything else according to your experience and needs; a few esbit cubes and a canteen are always good for making tea anywhere, but we've covered the basics. Of course, there are those who cross Börzsöny in technical clothing even in winter; this article is not intended for them.
As there is already little snow in the low-lying areas of Hungary, many people come to Börzsöny in winter to see snow, not necessarily for hiking. We would like to warn those less familiar with Börzsöny that Nagy-Hideg mountain and Csóványos are not places where you can just casually walk in the winter; proper preparation for hiking is needed as described above!
Another request is to keep the roads clear, be mindful of where you park! Do not block the roads, forestry road intersections, or barriers with cars! If you are queuing in vehicles towards a parking lot, pull over as much as possible to the edge of the road so that emergency vehicles can pass! On snowy weekends, it's better to use the Börzsöny narrow-gauge railways because parking lots and roads become overloaded!
If you see emergency vehicles moving at high speed on forestry roads, don't worry; they will slow down when they reach you and pass carefully. Be assured that they are not speeding for pleasure but have set out to save someone!
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