The joy and dangers of hiking Hong Kong’s trails

The growth in the popularity of hiking in Hong Kong has seen a spike in the number of rescues, often due to walkers failing to take adequate precautions, ­experts say.

The number of mountain search and rescue cases has more than doubled, rising from 138 in 2005 to 340 last year, according to the Fire Services Department, which conducts search and rescue missions on hiking trails.

Meanwhile, large-scale mountain searches and rescues that require helicopters, police, firefighters and volunteers are also on the rise, based on figures from the Civil Aid Service (CAS), an official emergency force that often helps with rescues when more manpower is needed.

Hikers often overestimate their ability. “That’s one of the reasons they aren’t prepared enough,” CAS said.

“They just guess they can complete what they are going to do. Sometimes they just find their maps on Google and think it’s good enough. Sometimes, they see a route in magazines but have no planning and don’t estimate the time needed.”

Beside inadequate preparation and solo hikers going missing, both mountain rescuers and leaders of the city’s hiking communities feel the surge of hiking emergencies over the past decade has a lot to do with growing interest in outdoor activities, particularly among locals, after the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, a viral disease that swept through the city in 2003.

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