Planning for a trek soon? Congratulations on making a move. For sure, trekking in the Himalayas is now on every traveller’s bucket list as there is nothing quite rewarding as the breath-taking mountain views from the top of the world. From the hike at low altitude to the high altitude, preparation is vital. The higher you ascend, the thinner is the air and lesser is the oxygen content which can make it difficult to breathe gradually. So, before you cross this one off the list, here are some tips and pointers you need to know before trekking to enjoy and get the most from your Himalayan trekking experience.
Now let’s be real, trekking at a high altitude is not a piece of cake. A basic level of fitness is pretty much required before you commence any trek. Altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness like nausea, headache, nosebleed, etc. might make your trek an unsatisfactory experience on the whole. So, start preparing yourself as they say, “THE EARLIER THE BETTER”. Focus on your cardiovascular health and strength training. Lots of aerobic activities like swimming and cycling help lung capacity and ability to observe oxygen, which is important to fight against altitude sickness. Walk, jog, squat, and sprints upstairs 3-5 times per week to add muscle power and strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. It’s even better if you have access to a mountain range; hike and slowly build your body up to higher elevation carrying a backpack that weighs more than 20 pounds (9 Kgs).
Now being physically ready is only half the battle won. You got to be mentally prepared as well. Your trek is going to be harder than you think, and as you gain more altitude you will realize that the game is more mental than physical – From sleeping in the tents with limited space to the toilet facilities en route, from walking in the heavy pouring rain to camping in the cold conditions. Therefore, try to be prepared for various scenarios, always stay positive, and start with the “I can do it” attitude.
At the higher altitude, you may find yourself breathless as the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles is greatly reduced at higher elevations. So, when you notice the shortness of breath, stay alert. Breathe in and breathe out, get your breaths even. The best way of getting breaths under control is to practice yoga and breathing exercises 2 months before your trek begins. The longer you practice, the better the control, and you may feel less panicked on the trek if it happens.
Before starting the trek, you must be well-hydrated because it is the biggest obstacle on a trek and usually holds back trekkers from completing the trek. Low temperatures and high altitudes are bound to make you thirsty. As you go higher up, you breathe faster since your lungs try to pump in as much oxygen as they can, which results in dry mouth and consequent dehydration! So, more water intake is absolutely needed. Keep at least 1litre of water in your backpack, and refill it every time it gets over. Drinking at least 3 litres of water every day at high altitude is highly recommended to stay hydrated.
- Packing for your trek:
When planning for your trek, you will likely be carrying all of the supplies you need for your entire trip in a backpack which means it could be pretty heavy. As the weight of the backpack seems to be double when trekking at the high altitude, make sure you pack light and the essential things only. Avoid unnecessary items from the packing list because the extra weight is going to drain you. So, to help you out with packing, here’s what you should bring at an elevation:
- Clothing –
- Insulated jacket
- Windproof jacket
- Hiking shirts
- Hiking trousers or pants
- Thermal inner wears
- Hiking shoes
- Headscarf or Bandana to cover your head
- Gear –
- Backpack of at least 20Liters of capacity to hold all the gear safe.
- It can rain any moment in the mountains, always carry poncho, raincoats, or waterproof jackets. An umbrella could be useful too.
- Headlamp or torch
- Trekking pole
- Toiletries like toilet paper, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, shower gel (there aren’t many opportunities to take shower when you’re trekking but if you get the chance then be thankful).
- Sunscreen- The sun rays are much stronger at the high altitude, so make sure to apply plenty of sunscreens that have an SPF of at least 30.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes- Just like our skin needs protection from sun rays, our eyes need it too. The sunburn of eyes is called Snow blindness. Too much UV exposure can damage the eye’s cornea which can cause temporary blindness. To avoid this, people can simply use a good pair of UV protection sunglasses.
- Pack snacks- At the higher altitudes, our bodies burn more energy quickly, so pack some snacks such as dried fruits and nuts, chocolates, snacks that are high in carbohydrates to regain the lost energy since they offer good and lightweight snack solutions.
- Insect repellent- There may be lots and lots of mosquitoes and other bugs that may bite you. You must be prepared and carry insect repellent to apply on exposed skin.
- Medicine- Pack a first aid kit since you never know what will happen out on the trail. Also be prepared with some of the basic pills for headaches, cold, blisters, diarrhea, etc.
- The last tip is to give yourself enough time to prepare for a trek (at least 2 months before the trek), the fitter you get, the easier and fun your trek will be.
Now be ready to lace up your boots, pack your gear, and hit the trail. Just remember to enjoy the trek!