5 tips for choosing your first Himalayan trek

Dayara Bugyal, Uttarakhand

The Himalayas are a sought after destination for all types of travelers, including those looking to trek in this large mountain range. Fortunately, there is something on offer for everyone, from those who want to see snow, to those who want to experience the Himalayas in all its monsoon glory. Moreover, there are plenty of treks and trails for the amateur to the hardened mountaineer. I have tried putting together 5 simple tips that will help you choose the right trek if you are new to high altitude trekking!

Tip #1 Think of what you want out of the trek

This is the most important thing to figure out before choosing a trek. Do you want to go on a trek with long, forest trails? Or do you want to experience snowfall? Maybe you want to see some rare Himlayan flora and fauna, or you want to get away from crowded trails. Narrowing down treks becomes simpler if you can figure out what you want to experience.

For example, I chose to do the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, as I wanted to explore the beautiful green landscapes and crystal clear blue waters of the glacial lakes. On the trail, we walked past millions of colourful flowers, and ate small but very sweet wild strawberries. Another time, I wanted to experience a white landscape, with snow covered meadows, and snow capped peaks all around me. So I went to Dayara Bugyal in winter.

Tip #2 Figure out how many days you have

Given that most of us have limited days off, it is important to understand how many days you are willing to spend on a trek. Plan to account for not only the days of the actual trek, but also the time required to reach the base camp and go back home. I also try to keep one day as a buffer, in case of any unavoidable circumstances like bad weather, or transport issues.

Another thing to keep in mind is, while shorter treks end up requiring fewer leaves, longer treks are better return on the money and time you spend travelling! Lately, I have started combining 2-3 treks which are close by in a single stretch, as that way I get the most out of spending long hours travelling to the base camps.

Tip #3 Assess your level of fitness

This is a very important factor to choose a trek. Some simple research online will tell you the difficulty levels of popular Himlayan treks. Trekking organizations like Indiahikes and Trek the Himlayas mention this information on all the treks they operate. Often, people think that if they have not trekked before, they have to start with an "Easy" grade trek.

But that is not necessarily true. What is more important is to understand how fit you are. A good rule of thumb to follow is to assess if you can run 5 kms in 30 minutes. If you are able to do this without feeling strained, then you can choose an "easy" or "moderate" trek. Another important thing is to be prepared to carry a backpack, that can weight 8-10 kgs. Assess your comfort, and avail facilities to offload your backpack if you are not sure of your strength.

I would not recommend choosing a "difficult" grade trek as your first trek, even if you are reasonably fit, as trekking also requires acclimatizing to the high altitudes (above 8,000 feet).

The experience you have on your first trek also decides how much you enjoy trekking, and if in doubt, choose an easier trek, and work your way to more challenging ones as you gain confidence.

Enroute Bhrigu Lake, Himachal Pradesh

Tip #4 Plan your budget

Trekking can be as expensive or as cheap as you plan it. Think of how much you are willing to spend on a Himlayan trek. A lot of it depends on the location and duration of the trek, and also what type pf provider you choose. Providers that take larger groups of trekkers, popular trek routes, and shorter treks tend to be cheaper. On the other hand, going with a smaller group, or on less-explored or longer trails tends to be expensive.

A large part of the cost of a trek tends to be the to and fro travel cost. You can save a lot of money by booking in advance, going by train instead of flight, choosing local buses rather than private vehicles.

Chopta, Uttarakhand

Tip #5 Choose your location

The Himalayas stretch across a large part of India, Nepal, China, Pakistan and Bhutan. Within India, the Himlayas are spread across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Each region has its own charm, and its own challenges! Nepal is home to a lot of the highest peaks of the world, and also quite commercialized. On the other hand, trekking in Arunachal is quite underdeveloped but very beautiful. There are also challenges related to travel and facilities. Himachal and Nepal tend to have better connectivity and facilities than other parts of the Himlayas.

To sum it all up, whatever you end up choosing, do not forget to be well-prepared for the trek, and to enjoy the experience to the hilt!


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