I recently did my first trek to Sandakphu in the India/Nepal border. It was one of the most memorable trips in my life.
If a person gets a chance to trek in the Himalayas, they should definitely do it. The feeling of joy, achievement, and satisfaction when you stand on top of the mountains is unexplainable and should be experienced. The mountains have so much to offer, even though they demand so much from you, physically.
For 6 days we trekked it out through hail, snow, rain, and sun. Many experienced trekkers told me that we guys had one of the best treks ever. I want to share some of my experiences, mistakes, and some tips for other trekkers.
Preparing for the Trek
Himalayan treks can be quite challenging on the body because of the terrain, long distances, and altitude. They require quite a bit of fitness and preparation. If not, you will find yourself struggling and missing out on the beauty of it all. A few things you can do to prepare are:
- Start running, this increases your lung capacity and can help you build that leg strength to hike many Kilometers in a day.
- If you are going for a high-altitude trek, use an N95 mask and run, this helps create the environment where your lungs need to work harder than usual to mimic a high-altitude trek.
- Do some trail runs and some weekend small treks to prepare for the big one.
- Do your research and choose a good group to go along with. There are plenty of groups you can choose from. I did my trek with Indiahikes and I found them quite good.
Packing for the Trek
This’s where I did my biggest mistake. Try to pack as light as possible. There is a lack of running water in the Himalayas and it is too cold in many places to take a shower. I did not take this into account and packed too many toiletries, clothes, and other things. Try to keep the backpack lesser than 9 kg and carry a day pack. It gives you the option to off-load the luggage if required. The list of the essential things are:
- Shoes, Socks, Trekking pants, 2-3 warm layers depending on the temperature of the trek, a good jacket, a sun cap, and a woolen cap.
- Bottles to carry at least 2 liters of water.
- Thermals which you will use in the night to sleep.
- Personal medication, which includes TP, a first aid kit, and muscle relaxants.
- Wearable Illumination and batteries, it is always a good idea to keep your hands free.
- Trekking poles: Use a trekking pole or 2, they can greatly reduce the effort in a trek. Walking with 2 poles can be fun too.
- Energy bars: Put away a couple of energy bars for dire situations. Keep them only for emergencies or eat them back after you reach the case camp. For example, there was this one time we reached the camping spot and our Off-loading packs did not reach for hours. The group was famished and these came in very handy.
- The right shoes: This is the single most important thing if you ask me. Choose trekking shoe which are comfortable and a size bigger than your normal size. My feet swelled up a little because of the cold and continuous walking after which I had a lot of pain in my toes during the downhill parts. This was a misery to deal with.
- Ponchos: Even though they can be uncomfortable to trek in. They offer great protection against the rain and snow.
- Sunscreen and a cap: Because the cold sun will burn your skin in a jiffy. A lot of people suffered sun burn at the back of the neck. Be sure not to ignore the unseen places.
You can buy most/ all of these things from Decathlon. They should be good enough for the Trek. If you prefer better brands, check out The Northface, Salomon, Hyperlite etc
Other Common Problems
- Lack of sleep was a common problem I faced, but then somehow 3-4 hours of sleep charged me enough to survive the day.
- Remind yourself to drink water, this helps to keep away AMS and keeps you healthy.
- Pooping in the cold outdoors can be a real problem. Once you get good sleep and take a good shit, 80% of your worries are taken care off.
- Try to stay away from alcohol and smokes, they do not help in recovery well.
- Do not push yourself to catch up with the others in the group, maintain a steady pace and listen to the Trek leader/guide at all times.
Leave the Trail Cleaner than you Found it
The trails that we so love will remain that way only if we care for them. When we went for the trek, the guys from Indiahikes gave us bags to pick up trash from the trail. You can do that too and please do not throw more garbage on the trail. It is left to us Trekkers and outdoor enthusiasts to keep our mountains clean and clutter-free.
Once you are there, Enjoy the Experience
The mountains offer breathtaking views and are home to some of the nicest people on the planet. Take time out to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and build up the memories of a lifetime. The trail can be treacherous at times but it’s totally worth the effort to conquer them.