Some Useful Tips For First Time Trekkers in Nepal
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then you must have planned about hiking adventures. And I am pretty sure beauty of Nepal will seduce you to choose Nepal as your destination. However if you are first time planning for trekking trips then you might be wondering about what are the things you need to consider for preparing for this adventure. Here are some guidelines that will help you prepare for the trek and make your trek in Nepal enjoyable.
Find a trekking route that suits you: Nepal has hundreds of trekking trails through its vast Himalayan foothills from easy treks, moderately difficult, strenuous and highly adventurous. Select the one as per your fitness level, experience and interest. You can always take advice from the local agency writing telling them about your fitness, experience and interest, they will suggest you the best trek for you. Your budget and holiday season and length might be other factors to determine a trek for you.
Communicate and book your trek with Local agency: Locals are more updated to the current situation, affairs, trekking routes, etc., and they are far more reasonable than international agencies. They are flexible with your requirements like dates, rates, customization, etc. Write few local agencies and you can book your trek in Nepal with one who seem more professional and reliable. You can discover best one for your trek after few e-mail exchanges and phone calls with few local agencies.
Trekking Season: March until June and mid September to December is often considered peak trekking season in Nepal, but it depends upon which trek you are doing. If you are going for a very high altitude trek with high passes involved, December might not be suitable. If you are looking to trek below 3000m, then you can between harsh winters too like in January. The local agencies can suggest you best season for your selected trek or best trek for you for your available holiday. The weather pattern of Himalayan region of Nepal change quickly and sometimes the predictions fail. July to mid September get monsoon rains so avoid if possible. But, if you only get holiday during July, August, Nepal has solution for you! Nepal has some rain shadow areas where you can trek during the monsoon too, but the flights are often affected by the monsoon weather.
Train for your Trek: You might have selected a best trek for you as per your fitness and interest but to enjoy your trek the fullest, you must train your body to cope with the effort the trek takes. Due to the uphill and downhill walk and altitude involved trekking is a challenging task. You should start training several months before. Even if you walk regularly and have a good level of fitness, you will still need to train for this type of long-distance treks. If you do not walk often and have only a basic level of fitness you should allow more than two months to get all set for your trek in Nepal.
Get some basic understanding on altitude: Most of the Nepal treks involve high altitudes unless you strictly choose to do low altitude trek. Every trekker should understand how to recognize, avoid, and treat high-altitude illnesses. Going with a professional and experienced trekking guide is to keep yourself safe from possible altitude hazards. Altitude.org is a great website to help you with your altitude education. If your trek is on some of the popular trekking route, don’t miss attending one of the Himalayan Rescue Association’s free daily altitude clinics located on Nepal’s most popular trekking routes.
Borrow gears or buy in Kathmandu: If you have friends and relatives who are passionate trekkers, you may borrow some trekking equipment but if you are a regular hiker, better to buy them. Don’t be scrimpy to invest in some good gear if you can afford it – shoes, gloves, fleece, backpack, walking pole etc. These could mean the difference between having an OK experience to having an amazing one! Kathmandu has got cheap trekking equipment shops at Thamel. Be careful, most of them are duplicate gear shops, but they are okay to use for one time trek. Branded trekking equipment shops are also there in Kathmandu and they are cheaper by few dollars than in the west (western countries), so travel light and buy your gear in Kathmandu. Your trekking agent will give you idea where to buy the branded and where to go for use-and-throw type. They will also give you idea how much budget you will need as per your plan. Local trekking agents will help you sort out most of your things; just don’t hesitate to ask them.
Right Footwear: Do not miscalculate importance of your footwear for trekking. It need not be a boot, but proper walking shoes with medium padded tops for sturdy ankle support, rubber sole with medium deep lugs for better traction, medium weight, and waterproof. GoreTex waterproof trekking shoes are popular these days, but any type of comfortable walking shoes are okay but need to be non-slippery and waterproof. You would probably trek through dusty, loose earth to snowy/icy environment in the mountains of Nepal. And next important thing regarding footwear is that you must break them in before using them for your trek in Nepal to avoid any blisters in your blissful holiday retreat. Your shoes need a little time to get to know your feet. The first step is to wear the them indoors for a while, so you can still take them back to the shop if you discover any serious issues. Once you’re sure these are perfect for you, wear them on your practice hikes and train your boots as you train yourself. The same principles apply, the harder you work them during preparation, the easier it will be once you get out on Nepal trekking trail.
Walk on your own pace: Trekking is not a marathon running. You don’t need to compete. Maintain your own pace, slow but steady. In high altitude treks, walking slowly is a must for gradual acclimatization. Take some breaks rather than walking faster and having to stop more often. Stop when you want to, relax, catch a breath, drench in the panorama, hear sounds of nature, and take plenty of photographs. You do not need to be the first one to finish the trek. There is no award for reaching the lodge/camp first. By being slow and steady, you keep your heartbeat fairly constant rather than subjecting it to dramatic flux; you will use less energy and cover more distance. Be a tortoise rather than hare.
Be Courteous and respect Local culture: Learning few Nepali words will show locals that you’re interested in their culture and who they are. Even if you just pick up the words like namaste (hello), dhanyabad (thank you), its sign of respect and you will get your host’s attention. Just memorizing a few words isn’t difficult. Don’t forget to keep smile at your face when you speak with your guide, porters and locals. They will feel more comfortable with you; and never forget a smile can go a long way. Respect local culture and customs, don’t be imposing; be polite. Take permission to take pictures. Get your shoes off before entering temples. Walk keeping temples, prayer flags, etc on your right side as much as possible.
Wake up Early in the Morning: You should not miss the sunrise views over the Himalayas. No alpenglow is better than Himalayan alpenglow. Getting up early morning after long treks during the day may sound obnoxious but, its worth doing. The spectacular sunrise views in the morning are surely overwhelming and motivate you for the rest of your trekking.
About Food and Sleep: The food on Nepal’s trekking trails is simple and nutritious. You can find variety of food in lodges of popular classic trekking trails but in non touristy trails either you will find basic lodges which may only offer Nepali food that are whole food, simple but very nutritious full of carbs. You need much more carbs while on trek. Pack yourself with energy eating plenty of food. Sleeping at high altitudes is difficult, but try and make the best of the circumstances and catch enough winks through the night. Keep yourself as warm as possible to help sleep and save energy.
Drinking Water: You should drink plenty of water and fluids to keep hydrated. Being well hydrated is one of the mantra to coping with the altitude. You can buy bottled water along the trekking trails but rather than buying bottled water and littering with the bottles, drinking treated water is highly recommended. Buy water purification tablets like iodine tincture in Kathmandu but also take with you water flavors like Gatorade, Tang to cover up the distastefulness of the purified water. You may take water purifier such as Steripen to purify water instead of chemicals like iodine tablets.
Listen to your guide: Trek routes in Nepal are backyard of your trekking guide. They are the locals, you are the greenhorn. Its worth listening to them. Tell your problems with your guide, don’t hide them. You will for sure experience some mountain sickness symptoms; tell them to your guide honestly. Your trekking guide should be aware of these risks and will always be looking out for your safety and wellbeing. He is experienced guy and has faced such stories hundreds of times; he will take action according to the situation. Follow your guide’s advice.
Equipment: In addition to this checklist consider taking some basic medicines from your home country. Your guide might also take some basic medicines but those medicines are bought in Nepal and are made for Nepalese people. The dose the physician prescribes may not be adequate for you. So, better you take some basic medicines with you with instructions how to use them. Take some spare batteries for your camera because due to cold condition your batteries might not work well. Battery charging is expensive in some trekking routes of Nepal. Keep the batteries warm by keeping them close to your body. Trekking map will be provided by your trekking agency. Consider taking some chocolate and snack bars; you will really enjoy them at the time when you need extra energy.