Trekking in Nepal: General advice for beginners
When it comes to trekking in Nepal, many believe it to be the task for the adventurous souls and wanderers. With over 30 trekking routes and increasing, excluding the side strips, Nepal has plenty to offer.
Trekking in Nepal can be both easy and difficult, depending on the route, the age and fitness level. If you’re a pro, you know it better. But if you’re a beginner and are coming to Nepal for the first time, with an intention to trek, that’s where you need guidance.
Here are a few general advice for beginners which will definitely help you get some idea as to how to begin your adventure in this tiny Himalayan nation:
Is trekking in Nepal for me?
From veteran trekkers to the first timers, you can see and meet all kinds of trekkers, from different countries and social background, while trekking in Nepal. As for the question, whether you are fit for trekking in Nepal or not, the answer is obvious – YES, you are.
There are many people who come to Nepal to give a little dash of adventure to their lives. They belong to different age groups and are of various shapes and sizes. Don’t let your age or fitness level stop you from trekking in Nepal or anywhere else in the world.
There are plenty of trekking routes available in Nepal. You can choose to trek on the route that best suits you. You could also customize the itinerary according to your fitness level, experience and desire. If you are just a beginner, it is better to start with a short trek. Since it’s the first time, you should try to get the feel of it and to have your body easily adjusted to the need of everyday trekking routine.
Tea-house trek or Camping trek?
Most of the popular treks in Nepal, for instance, Everest Base Camp trek and Annapurna Base Camp trek can be done completely as a tea house trek, with a reliable and knowledgeable guide/porter. Taking a tea house trek means depending on family operated small lodges for accommodation, good food and security.
For the trekkers trekking for the first time in Nepal, it is best if you choose a reputed and experienced trekking agency to assist you with the trek. This will reduce all your worries of taking care of logistics and other small but important details of the trek.
As for the tea house or camping trek, it is good to start with tea house trek, as camping trek could be a bit difficult for beginners. In the latter, you need to do everything on your own. But if you still prefer camping style trekking, you can ask your trekking agency to organize it for you, with other fellow trekkers opting to accompany you. The support team will take care of most of the logistics and tasks, from carrying equipment to cooking your meals on trek. You can simply enjoy the stunning views of the Himalayas, and rest after having hardy and delicious meals, everyday on the trek. You also have the option of mixing tea house trek with camping and get the best of both worlds.
Getting Ready – Fitness
For a beginner trekking in Nepal, you need to look at fitness first. There are people, who trek with some kind of ailment but again, these ailments do not tend to be of serious kind and they go for lighter treks. On that note, you don’t want to find out about having a heart condition while in the middle of a trek, now do you? So, go for a full body check up and get a clean bill of health. That’s the best thing to do to avoid any serious injuries while hiking in the Himalayas of Nepal.
As for how fit you have to be, a normal day in trek involves 4 to 5 hours of walking up and down on hills, which sometimes involves steep ascents and descents. So, before you go for trekking, start with long walks around your neighborhood, carrying a backpack, to get the feel of walking with a load on.
For best results, you should go on short treks or hiking trips, which involves a lot of climbing up and down hills, near your area similar to the ones found in Nepal. This will help to build your endurance level, and also let you find out if there is some problem with your clothing and/or gear that you have chosen for the trek. The other thing you can do is- start exercising 3 to 6 months prior to your trek in Nepal. This is actually good for you, so continue doing so even after a trek.
Clothing, Trekking Boots, Gears and Equipment
You need to choose proper clothing and equipment, by considering time or season of your trek; whether you’re willing to trek in spring, from March to May and early June, or in winter, from early September –early December. You need to carry your backpack and daypack all by yourself, so just remember: Pack Light & Pack Wise!
If you don’t have good trekking shoes, buy a pair of strong trekking boots that fits you perfectly and has ankle support. Then, go for hikes wearing them, so that you won’t get any blisters while trekking in Nepal.
As for gears and equipment, if you are going for an organized trek, which is the best thing to do for beginners, your trekking agency will provide you most of the equipment needed on a trek- like tents and camping essentials. But if you are not, it is best that you rent them from shops in Thamel, like most experienced trekkers in Nepal always do.
Learning a bit about Nepal
Before you head straight to Nepal, do a little homework. Learning a bit about Nepal, the culture and customs, its geography and a bit of history, will not only help you appreciate the things you come across here, but also assist you in overcoming the CULTURE SHOCK!
Buy a guide book of not only the trek you will be going for, but travelling in Nepal. Also learn a few words in the local language. Being able to say Hello and Thank you in Nepali with a friendly smile can take you a long way. It will break the cultural barrier with the locals, opening new doors and experiences for you.
Learn as much as you can about the country but don’t overdo it. Let few things surprise you, which I am sure they will.
Trekking in Nepal means walking at an altitude of some 2500 m and above, which means there are chances that you might suffer from altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is different for everybody and even the most physically fit person can suffer from it. If altitude sickness is not detected on time, it can cause serious damage to a person’s body and in some severe cases, it can even lead to deaths. So, altitude sickness is not to be taken lightly.
There are three categories of altitude sickness –
- Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
- High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
- High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
The safest way to trek in Nepal is not to rush to get to the top of the mountain, try to avoid ascending too fast in higher elevations. To avoid high altitude sickness, you have to follow – Trek High, Sleep Low method, in which, you can hike up to the highest elevation during the day, but have to come down to lower elevation to spend the night. Keep a day or two for rest, before you attempt to climb even higher. This will help you get acclimatized to high altitude and avoid getting hit with altitude sickness. You have to learn how you can prevent it and what its symptoms are.
Symptoms of Altitude Sickness:
- Nausea and dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Lack of body coordination
The most effective way to cure altitude sickness is to stay alert for its symptoms, and if you or any member of your trekking group suffers from it descend to lower elevations as quickly as possible. If it gets worse, take Diamox. It will help you up to an extent but you still need to get down to lower altitude and seek medical attention. Note: Never leave a person with altitude sickness alone.
General Tips for hiking in the Himalayas
Take it slow
While trekking in Nepal, there are chances of you suffering from altitude sickness, if you are not careful enough. You have to ascend slowly in higher altitudes. All treks in Nepal are designed with your safety in mind, meaning, each trek starts from lower elevation and gradually builds up the elevation along the climb. There is also a couple of rest days included in the itinerary, for you to get acclimatized to high altitude, before you go any further up. So, do not rush, the Himalayas are there and aren’t going anywhere.
Organized tea house trek
For a beginner trekking in Nepal, start with organized tea house trek which is the best way to get familiar with treks here. That way, you don’t have to worry much about the logistics, as everything will be taken care of by the trekking agency, from your lodging to food, documents, domestic flights, local transportation and other trekking necessities. This will give you a chance to fully enjoy walking in the mountainous region of the country and experience unique cultures in the region. Plus, the marvelous views of the ever glorious Himalayas are always there!
Like in most developing nations in Asia, especially for western travelers and trekkers alike, it is recommended that you purify water before drinking it. On treks, you will be provided with purified drinking water by the agencies. You can ask the staffs in the lodges to boil the water before having it. The other thing you have to do is keep water purifying tablets with you, and when you refill water from a stream or drinking water tap, use it!
Drink plenty of fluids
While trekking in high altitude, you get dehydrated quickly with all the perspiration, and also tend to pee a lot. You must drink plenty of fluids and water during your treks in Nepal to keep you hydrated. The best thing to do is- drink water even before you get thirsty.
Dehydration can cause headaches and aid in making you more susceptible to altitude sickness. So, drink up!
Note: When I say fluids, it doesn’t mean beer or any other alcoholic beverages, as you still need to go further up in higher altitudes!
Keep that energy level up
Trekking means a lot of physical exertion, so it is a must for you to fuel up every day to get through the day with ease. Your diet should give you high level of energy. Nepalese prefer Dal Bhat, consisting of rice, lentils and different vegetables, and consider it to be the best source of energy while trekking. You should also carry some snacks in your daypack such as chocolates, sweet items, biscuits, butter, cheese, noodles and so on, to get that extra boost of energy when you need it.
Injuries big or small can be a lot of pain while walking in the mountainous terrain of Nepal. Keep an easy pace and watch where you are going at all times. The trails here can get tricky, to say the least, for ones that hang on to the sides of cliff. Also, keep a small first-aid kit with you in your daypack which will come handy if you have a sprain or small cuts and bruises.
- Take it snow
- Organized tea house trek
- Purify water
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Keep that energy level up
- Avoid injuries
Hope this information on trekking advice and tips help you come a step closer to achieving your dream of trekking in Nepal, and witnessing the magnificence of the Himalayas!
If you have done any of the trekking in Nepal, do share with us your valuable tidbits that helped you in your journey. No matter how small, we would love to hear from you.