Staring at the majestic Himalayas, right on the face! Nothing beats the experience of strolling via the colossal mountains, intimidating ice cliffs and enormous glaciers. Though trekking in Nepal is always assisted by friendliness (of experienced Sherpas and gracious locals), it does not come easy, as walking in the Himalayas has its ups and downs. Hence, planning is always important, otherwise the trek can lead you to tragedy. In order to help you with trekking essentials, I have listed 10 tidbits to contemplate while trekking in Nepal.
The generalization of trekking season does not work for all trekkers. Most of the trekkers prefer Autumn, as it is considered to be the best season. The sky is crystal clear, mountain views are superb and the weather is comfortably warm. Few others consider Winter, ideal for trekking but a bit challenging, with freezing nights and occasional snowfall at higher altitudes! Similarly, people trek during spring and early summer as well, when the high passes are snow free and mountain views are clear. I do not recommend monsoon in general as the trails are slippery and leech- infested. But on the other hand, it is a good season for trekking in rain safe areas like Mustang, Dolpo and Jomsom. So, plan your trekking as per your favorite season.
Trust me no matter how much you hate packing; it is always the first and foremost thing to consider before or during the trek. The trek might start with a warm climate but it generally ends on a cold mountain top where temperature dropping to extreme level is common. Starting from the top, you need several pairs of socks, quite a few inner and outerwear layers to stay warm in a camp, windproof and waterproof outer layers, light weight walking trousers and shorts. But, make sure that your backpack is light (10 kg max.) so that you find it easier to carry while you walk. Carrying a personal sleeping bag along with other goodies is a wise option. Though the tea houses and lodges provide blankets but during peak season, they can become scarce. Other gears such as walking sticks, shoes and so on need to be of a good quality. Rent them if you find them expensive to buy. Good gears are safer and more durable than cheap ones. So, they need to be considered.
Guides and Porters
Though employing a guide and porter may seem like a lazy rather expensive option in the beginning, but eventually, things turn different when you stay equipped for several days. So, I suggest you to hire both porters and guides. The porters will carry your entire heavy load allowing you to walk freely. Similarly, you will never regret the decision of hiring a local guide as s/he would enlighten you about the cultural significance of the places, provide authentic perspective of Nepal, handle the communication barriers and make sure that you reach your destination safe. Hiring a guide and porters is an absolute bargain considering the larger investment of the trip and is a win- win situation for everyone- trekker, porter and guide.
The acclimatization makes or breaks your trekking experience. If you move slowly from lower to higher altitude, you are less likely to suffer from high altitude sickness. Take a day off to rest and relax, it will buy some time for your body to get used to atmospheric pressure and lack of oxygen. The altitude varies drastically during the trek! If you travel rapidly without proper acclimatization, you can suffer from thumping headache and acute mountain sickness (AMS). This would affect you and your journey immensely. You don’t want to take a flight out, do you? So remember, stay slow and stay safe.
As trekking in mountains involve days of continuous walking on unfamiliar terrains, you should prepare yourself by walking/ running. But, it does not necessarily mean you have to join a gym though. You will ache on the first few days of the trek if you have spent the last few years sitting on a chair and commuting from your car to the lift in your office. Either ways, if you are reasonably fit and active at least in terms of walking, you will find your groove in a few days and then things will be fine. But if you’re not, prepare yourselves with long walks in order to avoid hamstrings and joint problems.
When you are in high altitude, lose of appetite and diminishing crave for food is common. And in these situations, nothing’s worse than an unpleasant meal. So, eat whatever you feel like but make sure that they don’t make you feel heavy and lazy. Eat things that are high in protein, vitamin and fats. Granola bars, bacon, nuts, cookies, beans, fruits that you can peel like oranges and bananas, soya, eggs and so on give you enough energy and nutrients, and at the same time keep you active. If you’re going through a travel agency, it’s usually them who take care of your meals so you could have a meeting with them pre hand regarding what they serve and, your likes and dislikes. In addition, carry some chocolate bars for quick energy burst and to keep your appetite up and going.
When you don’t drink enough water during a day- long walk, you increase your chances of suffering from dehydration. So, I suggest you to have few sips of water every half an hour, at least 3 liters of water throughout a 4- 5 hour trek, to keep your body hydrated. But always drink boiled/ filtered/ treated/ bottled water unless you’ve got a really tough immune system.
Trekking is not just walking through the trails; it is also a social experience. As Nepal is blessed with few of the richest cultures in the world, you will find the places to be different, with its own rituals and customs, and dissimilar traditions to learn and be aware of. People from divergent background find certain aspects such as dress codes and taboos astonishing. But we should try to respect the differences! Finding out about the local customs, languages is a good way to have a unique and memorable experience as well as authentic cross- cultural exchange.
Arrange your Delays
If you are a part of an organized trekking, delays and cancellations won’t worry you as there will be contingency days for travel in between. But if you are arranging your trip on your own, do not plan the days densely and be sure to schedule in 2 to 3 spare days. Sometimes, unexpected circumstances like cancellation or postponement of internal flights can occur, ultimately, extending the period of your expedition. So, allocate some extra days for unpredictable hindrances. Take your time, stroll slowly and soak in the environment.
Do not hesitate to Ask for Help
Walking in the higher altitude involves some steep ascends and descends, moving through high passes and crossing glaciers, so it may be challenging even for an experienced trekker. If you find some trail slippery and hard to pass through, do not hesitate to ask your guide for help after all, they are there to assist you. While travelling alone, take the help of local people who have lots of experience in handling the terrain, and certainly, know the best ways to manage them. They will be more than happy to help you in every aspect of trekking.
Trekking in wilderness with the crisp air of the mountains is always a pleasant experience and if you take care of these essential things, it definitely, would make your trek more enjoyable. So, get set and have a great trekking experience in the foothills of the Himalayas.