"Mountains are stairways to heaven. Climbing, I go to a new life…". December 11 is the International Mountain Day. And the Crimean mountains are a special magnet and special energy. Sometimes they make you work hard, but in the end they give you incomparable pleasure from the thought that "I could, I did it". A luxury bonus is the amazing views from above.
The cabbage-style clothing and the Maps.me mobile application
The guide and photographer Valeria Vdovina strongly recommends before hiking in the Crimean mountains in winter two things to do first of all: to find out what the weather will be in the area where you plan to go and keep the contacts of the rescue teams on duty in the region of hiking. But the best thing is to register your trip with the Ministry of Emergency Situations in advance so that in case of emergency the rescuers know where to look for you.
"It should be borne in mind that if, for example, in Yalta it is +10°C (50°F), on Ai-Petri it will most likely be +2°C (35°F). With each 100-150 m up, the temperature drops by 1 degree. With a wind of 2 m/s, the temperature also drops by 1 degree, – Valeria explains, – therefore, in order not to freeze, ideally it is better to wear clothes with the Omni-Heat system, which is sure to help in harsh cold conditions. Additional clothe items are necessary – of fleece or synthetics."
To the guide’s opinion, a must-have for any guide and tourist is the free Maps.me mobile application based on the free OpenStreetMap. The program works well in Crimea. Copies of the ID documents, passport or driver's license, may also be required. And the most important thing, Valeria is sure, do not litter.
Continuing the theme of proper mountain-winter outfit, amateur hiker Svetlana Milaykina advises to dress in a cabbage manner, that is, put on several layers of clothes. Such layering helps you not to freeze. And when it is warm, just take off the excess clothes.
"A fleece is an irreplaceable thing. It is also good to put on thermal underwear. Cotton T-shirts are not suitable: they absorb sweat and it takes a long time to get dry, so it is easy to get sick. Be sure to take a warm hat and gloves. In addition, you can take a buff or balaclava headwear with you: if there is a strong wind, they will be very useful. It's also good to bring an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet. Ideally, of course, thermal socks and waterproof shoes," Svetlana added.
She also added that a raincoat should be also put in the backpack (after all, it is not known what the weather may be in the mountains), a powerbank (even if you are sure that the hike will be short and there will be enough phone charging) and a flashlight (do not forget that it gets dark early in winter). As a snack – sandwiches, chocolates (the so-called fast carbohydrates) and hot tea in a thermos flask will do.
Tourist shoe covers, thermal blanket and "Finnish candle"
"Every mountain hiker should have in his arsenal suitable footwear for winter, for example, trekking shoes," says Konstantin Anoshin, a photographer and a great fan of climbing the Crimean peaks. Another good option is heated insoles (in this case the socks should not be too warm). Special tourist shoe covers will not be superfluous, which will help out if there is a lot of snow in the mountains: they simply will not let snow into the boots and get the feet wet.
"Moreover, these can be not only tourist shoe covers, but also simply universal gaiters − for fishing and hunting, for example. It is better to look for them in specialized stores, − Konstantin explained. As for clothing, I always take additional underwear − mainly thermal underwear, it is light and will never be superfluous. I also take a thermal blanket, which returns heat when you wrap in it. They may be disposable − cheaper, and reusable − more expensive. You should always have water with you. What else? Matches and dry alcohol, if you need to make a fire."
Dmitry Chegodaev, an auto and motorcycle traveler, prefers a gas burner and a compact can of gas to light fires. As an alternative, he advises the "Finnish candle" − in fact, this is an ordinary log with length cuts, inside which you can make a fire. It burns for a long time. It is sold at gas stations.
"You can get pocket hand warmers, sold in pharmacies and tourist shops. In the mountains, in clear weather, sunglasses are very useful. It is better if your jacket is windproof − with a windstopper lining. In addition to the standard snack, I recommend lollipops with mint or eucalyptus − it is tasty, and pleasant for the throat, and they help when the nose is stuffy, − Dmitry shares his life hacks, − and another extremely important point: beware of wild animals − wild boars and wolves. And, of course, you shouldn't go hiking alone."
Three Fears of a Mountain Hiker
When you are going to the mountains in winter with an overnight stay in a tent, it is imperative to have options for "retreat" in case of unforeseen circumstances: how to withdraw to some nearby camp site and spend the night there, or how to call somebody to come and pick you up by car. The guide and blogger Yevgeny Bondarenko insists on this actions.
At the same time, according to him, it is necessary to closely monitor the weather warnings of the Ministry of Emergencies so as not to get stuck for several days, for example, on Ai-Petri amid the night snowfall or snowstorm.
"You also need to know your route clearly and have a reliable connection. In addition − this is especially concerns auto-tourists coming to Crimea − do not ignore the sign "No thoroughfare" on the way, say, to the already mentioned Ai-Petri. Many people think that if they have SUVs, they can drive anywhere. There is a high probability of getting stuck on a slope, from where you cannot get out without help. This means that this is a work for rescuers (sometimes it takes the whole night), who will drive special equipment to you, then pull you out… and all this can be under the snow and icy wind. In Crimea, such warnings need to be taken quite seriously. If the road is closed, it means it is closed," Yevgeny assures.
In the Crimean mountains in winter, tourists may also face other dangers: the insidious Monkey Fog, karst caverns where you can accidentally fall, and even snow avalanches. However, everything is not as bad as it seems, the guide Andrei Zaichikov is hastily calming us down. And here is why.
*The Monkey Fog
This is tourist jargon, which developed in the last century. According to one version, this fog, like a monkey, tenaciously clings to its "prey" − a mountain peak. It occurs often and all year round at contrasting temperatures, but in winter it is felt especially clearly: it immediately becomes cold, the walking slows down and it is not clear where to go.
"The best to do is to go back the same way you came. And ideally, record your route − fortunately, now there are many mobile applications and trackers. The fog will not hang for several days, it will disperse in 30 minutes or in 5 hours − no one knows. And to wait 5 hours, especially in winter, when daylight hours are few, is not the best solution… By the way, this fog is local. It means that it does not occupy a vast area, and if it sat down on this particular mountain, after a kilometer or a half it will most likely be left behind… And yet it does not rise up. If you have the opportunity to observe it from the side, then you can see that its vertical thickness is 100-150 m," Andrey Zaichikov said.
* Karst caverns
The probability that you walk and accidentally fall into the cavern is extremely small, the guide notes. There are, in principle, not many such open-type caverns, where you can fall down, like into a well. It happens only when the cavern is vertical, but it is not invisible.
"That is, you are walking along the flat terrain along Chatyr-Dag plateau and see that there is such a depression and trees stick out from the snow, a path has been trodden there, and somewhere in the depths there is a black hole visible. If you deliberately go there and at some point do not feel where the slope becomes vertical, then yes, you can fall. And even if there is thick snow: if the depression is large, then, as a rule, snow falls into it, thus, there will be a black gaping hole, clearly noticeable on the white," the guide reassured.
He added that something else happens more often, when you suddenly fall down a meter into the snow. This is due to the small caverns in the depressions, which are heavily covered with snow during winter, and as a result, the terrain itself is smoothed out. It seems to you that the land is absolutely flat, but in fact, under the dazzling white cover the thickness of snow may be different.
This is a rare phenomenon in Crimea and is typical mainly for Babugan Yayla plateau, the territory of the Crimean National Park: it is officially forbidden to walk there; you can only drive by car. And there is one more place where an avalanche can really catch people − when climbing Chatyr-Dag slope along the so-called Cold Couloir.
This is the only place in Crimea where snow and ice training can be done on the natural terrain, because the snow holds well there. Besides, this couloir is very steep: more than 45 degrees.
"But since the steepness of the slope is high, the avalanche hazard is also high, and most often – because of the people’s activities. For example, the group went up and because climbing they cut this slope with ice axes, in some places a piece of snow falls, it starts rolling down and gains volume. And there may another group happen on the slope below. Therefore, you have to be careful," Andrei warned.
Checklist for winter: what to take with you on a mountain hike
Synthetics is best of all (it does not retain moisture) and fleece. And plus a windproof jacket (with a windstopper lining) or with an Omni-Heat system, thermal underwear, a hat, gloves, buff or balaclava (in case of strong wind), thermal socks, waterproof or trekking shoes, tourist shoe covers.
You need to put on several layers of clothes: for example, thermal underwear or a synthetic T-shirt, then a fleece or cashmere sweater, and finally a jacket. Well, and a couple of light jumpers for a change will not be in excess. Be sure to bring 2-3 pairs of socks in case your feet get wet.
Sweets, biscuits, raisins, pieces of sun-dried banana, tangerines, nuts, chocolate bars − everything that can replenish energy reserves and not take up much space in a backpack. Tea in a thermos (herbal tea with honey is especially good). Mint and eucalyptus lollipops – to soften your throat or help a stuffy nose.
* First aid kit
Antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, pain relievers, cough medicines, nasal drops, activated charcoal, ointments or balms for injuries and sprains, antiseptics, adhesive plaster, bandage and tourniquet.
* Multi-purpose skin ointments
Protective hand cream containing rich saturated oils, beeswax and honey, as well as a natural wax-based lip balm with vitamins.
* Other items
Powerbank, flashlight, raincoat, pocket hand warmers, sunglasses, a camping blanket. For lighting a fire: matches and dry alcohol / gas burner and a compact can of gas / "Finnish candle".