Tips for Trekkers
Nepal is the ideal destination for novice trekkers and families who want to combine adventure with some level of comfort and even luxury – a guided hike in the Himalaya with a glass of wine, delicious local specialities and a comfortable bed at the end of the day. In these vastly contrasting landscape and ecosystems, a carefully planned combination of the trek, river trip, jungle safari and the world heritage highlights in Kathmandu Valley will ensure a memorable holiday that appeals to all ages.
Trip length, type of terrain, remoteness and elevation changes are things to consider when choosing your route – it is meant to be enjoyable and not a struggle. You may be asking when to go, what equipment and clothing to take. Your friends at Mountain Lodges of Nepal can cover all. But don’t forget a good day-pack.
A typical day will start early to catch the cloudless weather and usually you walk for around six hours. Go at your own speed and be sure to stay hydrated. The pace should be leisurely with plenty of opportunity to visit a village, temple, monastery or school, hang out with the locals, share a cup of sweet milky tea and admire the view perched on a stone resting platform that you find interspersed a long the trail, often shaded by a nice tree.
These ancient chautaras have been used for centuries by farmers, merchants, travellers and holy men who, with their livestock and pack animals, have plied the network of trails that web Nepal’s mid hills. Walking in the Himalayas is seldom a wilderness experience. Well-travelled paths connect villages, temples, monasteries, sacred lakes and pilgrimage sites, access farmland and grazing pastures, and link longer trans-Himalayan trade routes and high passes between India and Tibet.
Distances are measured in days or hours, never miles or kilometres. Inevitably there are hills in the Himalaya, “little bit up, little bit down!” as the Sherpas say when asked what the trekking day will bring. Altitude on the higher routes makes the effort harder. So the fitter you are when you start, the more you will enjoy your trek, and the better you can relax into its daily rhythm and get into your groove. The idea is to enjoy the spectacular scenery, appreciate the mountain people you encounter, and soak up the spiritual peace of proceeding at the speed of your own two feet.
Your route will depend on your interests, how long you have, and the time of year. The spring and fall seasons pre and post monsoon are generally considered optimum – flowers, orchids and migrant birds during February to April and clear views, colourful festivals and settled weather in the most popular period October and November. Winter months of December and January for lower altitude treks such as Annapurna can be cold and exhilarating, though snow may block the high passes. The dramatic skies and lack of other tourists during the wet monsoon months May to September compensate visitors to high country such as Everest and Mustang.
Equipment and clothing also depend on altitude and time of year, but pack layers so you can add and discard as the temperature fluctuates, and don’t bring too much even though someone else will be carrying it for you. Good walking boots, a comfortable day-pack, sunglasses and a hat are a must, and trekking poles are handy. Start off self-sufficient in medicine and toiletries (sunblock, insect repellent, chap stick), although it’s surprising what you might find to buy along the way. You will be able to recharge phones and cameras so be sure to have cables and multiplugs, but expect only intermittent Wi-Fi or phone reception.
All the better to unplug, breathe the fresh air, wallow in the scenery and absorb what you find along the way – enjoy the journey!