Hikers and hikers are urged to take extra precautions in the final days of school holidays after a recent spike in incidents, requiring emergency services.
Lerdderderg State Park, Werribee Gorge and Grampians National Park are among several sites that have kept Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) volunteers busy over the past six weeks, causing 15 separate search or rescue operations.
In the Grampians, volunteers are frequently sent to Cool Chambers, the bottom of the Pinnacle Track, Bridal Veil Falls and Mackenzie Falls. Mount Cole and Mount Langi Ghiran are also well-known hotspots, with several would-be hikers injured on their descent.
Each search requires approximately eight Victoria State Emergency Service volunteers in three vehicles, for an average of four hours, or 32 volunteer hours for each rescue.
This does not include work undertaken by search and rescue personnel from Parks Victoria, Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police.
Parks Victoria urges people to prepare well and choose the right hike based on their abilities and conditions.
It is important to consider the impact that the recent wet and windy weather may have had on your planned walking track.
When planning your walk, use reliable sources of information like the Parks Victoria website.
Visitor guides on the park-specific pages contain maps and information on walking difficulty and estimated time, based on the Australian walking trail grading system.
There are also important and timely updates on park or trail closures. Hiking or bushwalking apps can be useful as a guide, but use crowd-sourced information from hikers of varying experience levels.
An announcement for a 1 or 2 hour round trip from an experienced hiker may take you significantly longer depending on the conditions and your fitness level.
Key tips for staying safe on the trail include: choosing the right hike, making sure you allow enough time to complete your hike in daylight, planning ahead, checking the weather forecast, letting someone know where you are going and when you plan to return, and avoid walking alone.
Dress and pack appropriately – wear clothes suitable for the conditions (e.g. sturdy shoes, waterproof jacket), pack plenty of food, water and a change of clothes, have a fully charged smartphone, a torch, a local map and a first aid kit.