The key to a successful and enjoyable Himalayan trek is preparation, says World Expeditions’ Gordon Steer. Here is his advice for getting it right
Make sure you travel with the right company – one that has experience on the ground, is trustworthy, employs local people (and is good to them), provides nutritious food and looks after your health while on the trek.
Most importantly, make sure your trip has sensible acclimatisation. Nothing is more upsetting and demoralising than being within reach of base camp and not being able to continue due to altitude sickness.
For many people, a trek in Nepal is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, so it is important to get it right. You’ll be presented with a multitude of options and choices. It is important to make sure you choose the right trip for you. Do you like to spend more time in the camps and explore local villages in the afternoons? Or do you like to keep the pace up and cover as much distance as you can? Are you interested in culture? Do you like the busier trails or quieter tracks?
Make sure you think clearly about what you would like to get out of your trek and what you expect from it, then choose the trip that ticks all of those boxes.
Training is vital – but don't just stick to the gym. Get out, find those hills and mountains, train your calf muscles! Use long weekends to walk for as many days in a row as you can. If you’re doing a multi-day trek, you need endurance training. Get into the rhythm of waking up each morning to a new day of walking.
“The fitter you are, the better,” says Soren Kruse Ledet, an Australian mountaineer and World Expeditions Leader. “Mix it up to make it fun. Three days on, one day off. Bike riding, jogging, stairs in the local park, rowing machine and swimming; anything that will improve your endurance.”
Keeping the weight of your bag under 15kg will make a huge difference to the enjoyment of your trip. It’s easier to carry, simpler to find things, and within the strict weight limits of most internal flights in Nepal. Make a list, lay it all out, cull it back, then cull it back again.
Some other tricks include buying lightweight clothing, using a number of light layers rather than a few thick ones, and packing Wilderness Wash – a biodegradable all-purpose soap that is ideal for washing your body and clothes.
One weight ‘luxury’ we would recommend is a pair of trekking poles. They reduce fatigue, increase speed, provide excellent stability, increase the distance that can be comfortably travelled each day, and reduce accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees and back. Well worth the extra grams!
Any journey is enhanced by a knowledge of local culture and history – even more so in a country as rich in tradition as Nepal.
Learn a few words of the local language before you take off. Phrases like ‘namaste’ (hello) , ‘danyabad’ (thank you), ‘hajur’ (ok) or ‘mitho cha’ (yum). Your guides and sherpas will really appreciate it, as will the local people you meet.
While you are at it, practice the ever-useful swing of the head that has a meaning somewhere in the middle of ‘yes’ and a ‘no’. This will come in very handy at the most unexpected times!
Gordon Steer is the UK manager of World Expeditions, a trekking and adventure company who have been running small-group trekking holidays in Nepal since 1975. His favourite destination in the world is Nepal – especially the high passes of Everest and around the magnificent Gokyo Lakes.