This article was originally published on B-Change
A book, a movie or simply for the sweet sake of wandering, whatever may have inspired you to plan your first trek – go for it! It’s never too late to start anything that has been on your mind for long. However, to do something you’ve never done before and because trekking in the mountains is way different from a leisure stroll, you need a fair amount of groundwork. Inadequate preparations and half-baked knowledge can turn a great experience into an unpleasant one.
Image by Michael Foley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Get ready for that first memorable trek of yours. Here I mention the things I did and learned, hope it helps you have a fantastic first trek. Here I talk about from my experience of trekking in the Indian Himalayas (only) but it holds true for most of the high altitude treks.
Once you have made up your mind for trekking, start training your body as well. Get a medical checkup done to rule out any major health issues. Hit the gym or add breathing exercises, brisk walk or a jog to your routine. Gradually set slightly higher goals and work towards achieving them. Giving up on unhealthy lifestyle choices will work great too.
Choosing the trek
Though no trek can possibly be called ‘easy’, it is very important for a beginner to choose the first trek appropriately. Many who do not consider this point often return disappointed, sometimes even without completing the trek. Walking in the mountains is not same as walking in the plains. Not everyone’s body reacts the same way to factors like difficulty level of the trail and the altitude. Therefore choose an easy trek first so that you do not risk yourself or others in any way.
The key to enjoy that ‘first’ trek is to pack as light as possible. You do not want to be forever exhausted by carrying a heavy load and missing out on all the fun you came for. By the rule of thumb, pack only the things that are absolutely necessary and ditch those that you won’t even need/use in the mountains.
The weather in the Himalayas is quite unpredictable. Check the weather forecast before you pack. The winters are especially bitter, so invest in good quality winter wears; freezing up will be no fun. To keep it light, pack a good waterproof rain jacket that will come handy on windy days and also save you from the odd rain showers. Layering is the trick for really cold days and nights. Throw in a down jacket; the nights even on a summer trek are cold. Pack the fleece/waterproof hand gloves, woollen cap, balaclava, etc., depending on the trek.
Most of the trekking gear can be rented. Depending on your trek buy/rent trekking poles, crampons, gaiters, sleeping bags, etc. for these are going to make the trekking easy and comfortable. Get a sturdy backpack with a good shoulder and back support. Get a good pair of dark sunglasses with UV protection and sunblock/sunscreen with higher SPF.
Since you’ll be walking most of the time and the terrain may be rugged, it is crucial that you wear the right kind of shoes. Wearing uncomfortable shoes will ruin the trek, not to mention causing pain, blisters or injuries. You don’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your pocket for the right shoes. Buy the best shoes you can afford based on comfort. Also remember to break-in the shoes well before the actual trek. Pack enough liner socks and warm wool socks ensuring fresh, dry pairs of socks are always available.
Fuelling the body
Though you may choose an easy trek to begin with, your body is still going to use up a lot of energy while trekking. Pack some chocolates, energy bars or dried fruits (remember to keep light) that you can munch on to refuel the body. Keep a water bottle handy. Take regular sips to stay hydrated and to keep the fatigue at bay.
Everyone has a different pace of walking and it is perfectly fine. You may be the slowest of the lot and that’s okay. Remember the hare and the tortoise? You are trekking for a reason and not to race with someone. So maintain the pace you are comfortable with and build your rhythm. Do not push yourself. You may want your guide to know about it though, just so that he/she is aware and won’t get edgy.
Walking in snow/ice
The best tip for this is to – follow the guide! No one knows the place better than the locals. Walking on snow/ice is fun but it’s also challenging at the same time. You’ll develop the skill to tap the pole and gauge by the sound eventually, but until then, follow the guide and observe well. If you are not sure, do not step. Do not go to the edge of snow ever – you could be stepping a cornice. Most importantly, do not walk alone.
Photo: By sush_makj [via Flickr]
You’re about to step out of your comfort zone and follow your heart. So remember to have fun and enjoy the trek. Explore the wilderness and the mountains to your heart’s content. Feel the wind in your hair; get some tan, watch the sun rise and set over the mountains. Be in the moment and leave all the worries behind. Create your memories for a lifetime.
Have a great first trek! 🙂