Mountain rescue incidents increased 181 per cent in Hong Kong between 2019 and 2020, the Hong Kong Fire Services Department said. They were called out to 605 incidents, compared with 215 the year before. In 2019, there were 121 injuries, with the number jumping to 322 in 2020. However, the number of deaths dropped from 13 to 11. Injuries and deaths were labelled “provisional figures”, so may yet change. The context of the increase is that Hongkongers are flocking to the country parks in unprecedented numbers. With Covid-19 restrictions shutting entertainment venues and preventing travel, there are few other places to turn for leisure time. The trails are packed and once tranquil spots like Lantau Peak are now as busy as a shopping centre. Hong Kong hiking app TrailWatch told CNN there was a 150 per cent increase in downloads of their app in the first half of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. There was also a 31 per cent increase in vegetation fires, from 860 to 1,128, according to the Fire Services Department. But there were no related deaths or injuries in either year. Hong Kong ultra running star and firefighter Wong Ho-chung said there are important steps to mitigate risks when hiking: Create an itinerary and share it with your family and friends. Reference to the weather forecast, prepare enough food and water. Go hiking with at least one friend. Stay on the trail and your planned route, do not go on unofficial routes. Protect yourself with safety gear such as a whistle, space blanket, mobile, first aid kit. Go for a small hike before taking on a long or hard hike. He added if you do find yourself in harm’s way, “stay calm, stay in a safe place. If you are familiar with the route and the situation is optimal, be ready to turn back on your original route”. On the Fire Services Department’s website, it advises to pick a suitable route: “Take into account the fitness condition, gear and physical ability of the participants and evaluate the length, gradient and surface condition of the route to assess whether the route is appropriate.” How to recognise heatstroke and what to do The website adds you should wear appropriate clothing, charge your phone before leaving, carry a GPS device (a phone will do): “Wear casual clothes, light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and long trousers, and hiking shoes with ankle protection and corrugated rubber soles.” If you do get in trouble, call 999 or the international number 112. There is also Hiking Tracking Service, downloadable by the Safeguard HK app. The GPS system will record your location at a service centre and help in the case of a required rescue. The data is erased after seven days if there has been no reported incident.