On Sunday, a woman died while hiking on Gran Canaria in temperatures of 40ºC (100º+F) and two other women were airlifted to hospital suffering from heat exhaustion. Incredibly, the group of elderly holidaymakers were on a guided walk with a Hertfordshire based UK tour company.
For the past seven days the Canary Islands have been experiencing a heatwave. It’s not as if we didn’t see it coming. Last week the Canarian Government issued a heat warning, advising caution and banning the use of fireworks and controlled agricultural burning. Local press published the warning and it was emblazoned across the Spanish Met Office website.
If anyone should have known better than to take a group of elderly visitors up into the mountains on the day that we were warned was going to be the most severe, it’s an experienced hiker. Of course an investigation is now underway but it’s too late to save a life that should never have been put at risk in the first place.
At what point do you say – “it’s too hot to go hiking”?
Always check the Met Office before you plan a walk. If there are yellow alerts for either high winds or high temperatures, consider carefully whether it’s sensible to go at all. If there are orange alerts, don’t go, it’s as simple as that. And watch out for calima, the hot wind which comes in off Africa filled with sand from the Sahara which is really not what you want in your lungs. Stay put, re-arrange.
Even without those extremes of weather, there are several factors you need to take into account when deciding to go walking on Tenerife, or any of the Canary Islands in summer temperatures.
Firstly, where are you planning on going? If you were headed for the hills, forget it. The higher you climb in summer, the hotter it gets. If it feels uncomfortably hot, stick to coastal routes where you can pick up any semblance of a sea breeze that might be out there.
Secondly, think about your route. If there are long stretches of exposed areas, plan a different hike. The more shade you can get, the better.
Next think about your timing. The sun is at its most fierce between the hours of 11am and 4pm so it’s best to avoid lengthy exposure to the sun during that period. If you want to walk, set off very early in the morning or wait until the worst heat has subsided and make it a late afternoon, early evening walk. The woman who died on Gran Canaria was 40 minutes into the hike and collapsed at midday, so the guide had set off at 11.20am.
For most of the year the Canary Islands are incredible places to go walking as long as you heed the weather warnings. Sometimes it’s just too damn hot to go hiking.