The Himalayas, over the centuries, have attracted trekkers, mountaineers, pilgrims and ascetics. Since time immemorial its rugged heights crowned with snow and draped in vast glaciers has lured man to pit his courage and ingenuity against its dangerous challenge.
Below the snowline at 18,000 feet, nature appears to relent and from the austere magnificence of the heights brings down to a different world of cascading water falls, lush green forests, flower-bedecked meadows and a variety of flora and and fauna. Here the rivers flow clear blue and icy.
Here nestle small villages and hamlets with their diverse local customs, dances, folklore and architecture. The people are as vibrant as their surroundings and in many cases innocent of the sometimes dubious benefits of modern civilization.
Since ancient times, ascetics have climbed into these inhospitable heights in search of peace. In doing so, they have established places of pilgrimage that have become more than household names since their fame has spread to all parts of the world. Names like Kailash Mansarovar, in Tibet, Thyang Boche in Nepal, and of course Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri of Uttarakhand. Then there is Amarnath in Kashmir and Hemis in Ladakh.
Those first mountaineers – whether ascetics, pilgrims, traders, hunters or shepherds – had no special training or climbing techniques, but acquired a high degree of skill from necessity and constant practice. Having to cross the mountain passes at heights ranging from 1500 m to 5,800 m, they designed ingenious equipment, food and clothing from indigenous material to help them combat the intense cold and negotiate the treacherous snow and ice.
For a vast number of people, the Himalayas appear to be the Shangri-la, to others, the abode of God.
Trekking in the Himalayas is now quite enjoyable and has become comparatively easy with the development of lightweight equipment and clothing with booming tourist infrastructure. There are difficult treks as well as easy treks, long and short treks. Vehicles, helicopters and aircrafts are also available to explore the Himalayas according to one’s resources, taste and leisure time. But you still find people in remote mountain villages that maintain the age old traditions and have not changed for generations. There is much that is new and interesting in the Himalayan villages.
Stan Armington has rightly said that “Trekking is neither a wilderness experience nor is it a climbing trip”. Even at a height of 12,000 to 14,000 feet in secluded valleys, there are small village settlements tending their flocks of sheep and goats or herds of Yaks of nomadic shepherds and Gujjars. As a result, there are people on the trail to guide and help you – the trekkers. Articles of daily necessity are also available in these small hamlets. Even in the remote areas one can easily mix with the people and ‘live off the land”. Most westerners find it difficult to comprehend this aspect and visualize their trekking trips to be the same as those organized in their national parks or in wilderness area of their respective countries.
Almost all the Himalayan valleys are full of rural settlements and the population gradually thins out with the rise in altitude. One always finds people on the trekking trails and there is no dearth of information as to trekking routes and directions. Hill people are traditionally very hospitable and this adds pleasure to trekking in the Himalayas more than anywhere else. Some people believe that trekking in the Himalayas is a climbing trip where they have to negotiate rocky cliffs, thick jungles and uncharted routes. But this is not so. In almost all Himalayan regions, the local people have well developed trails. There are routes from one village to the other, between adjoining mountain pastures and across well defined high altitude passes, where people travel from one valley to other for trade, cultural exchanges, and religious activities and inter – marriages.
These mountain trails and high passes normally do not require any mountaineering skills or artificial climbing aids. Of course, at places, they are covered with snow and may have crevasses. However, these obstacles can usually be crossed without the aid of mountaineering equipment like ropes and pitons. There are only a few difficult treks which need mountaineering techniques or equipment. An example is the trek to the Nanda Devi Sanctuary in India or a trek across several high passes which require special equipment to negotiate the glaciers.
Trekking is more enjoyable than climbing the peaks and offers spectacular scenic beauty. The Himalayan region, till now, has been comparatively less affected by the modern urban civilization with its industrial pollution. It provides an opportunity to be in natural surroundings and to get away from the milling crowds of the cities. The trekker usually returns home rejuvenated, and with new enthusiasm to take up the challenges of city life.
Travel Tips in the Himalayas
Advance Planning and Preparation
If you are planning to walking or trekking in Himalaya so demands a degree of physical fitness in which muscles are conditioned to take the rigors of ascent and descent in long marches. A trek is enjoyed more if you are not particularly tired on reaching the camp after a day’s march. Even if you are only moderately conditioned at the outset, it will not take more than 2 to 3 days to become almost fully conditioned after a week you will either be perfectly tuned or completely fed up, depending upon your mental and physical responses.
Mental preparation is more complex than physical condoning. The Indian experience is likely to be a cultural shock which you must learn to absorb. You need to adjust your mental attitude, at least temporarily, to the ways and responses of the people and sights encountered wherever you happen to travel. Only those read few books about the Indian Himalaya will not acquaint you with India from authentic sources. Most Europeans who have never visited India before have wrong ideas and notions about the country.
Information on trekking
Today’s Styles of Trekking – Make sure you like hiking in the first place! Then consider some short hikes nearer home to develop basic fitness. Consider carrying a backpack, camping for days together, walking on rough trails, the different foods, the language barrier, and the time you can allot to trekking. This will help you to select the trek best suited to you.
Walking alone or with a few friends can be wonderful, though it is easier for the young as you need to put more than walking into your day. If you plan to camp out and cook, develop stamina. If you plan to stay in local homes or teahouses, than you must know the language a little. Be prepared for smoky rooms, lice and fleas, and crying babies. Also to be considered are difficult to find trails.
Carrying all your gear can be the most tiring way to walk in the mountains, so you could make arrangements with a local porter or a guide who will help you find your way and procure food and shelter. Making your own arrangements can be approach a local tour operator for the tasks and the trekking tips according to the news of climate to be very honestly. Most operators also provide equipment, making it unnecessary to carry or buy large tents and sleeping bags.
Preparation for the Trip
There are various factors to consider, both mental and physical, in preparation for the trip. : –
- Physical conditioning of the cardiovascular system with aerobic exercise.
- Background reading, maps etc.
Camping and Cooking Equipment
This depends on the style of trekking, but if you are totally equipping yourself then you could consider the following:
- Sleeping bag with liner and foam mattress.
- Sturdy rain-proof tent.
- Backpack, day pack and probably a duffel bag to keep in storage in hotels while on trek.
- A kerosene stove that can be cleaned easily, a leak-proof fuel container. Lightweight pots, pans and cutlery. Favorite food items.
Food and Fitness
First rule for anyone interested in trekking in the Himalayan region is that one must be good in physical and mental condition. Good food is essential part of the trekking and here good food does not refer to costly delicacies but wholesome and nutritious diet. Choice of food is limited once you leave the town and head for wilderness. In many villages there is no dhaba and the trekkers have to be on their own for food.
However freshly cooked food has no substitute as tinned food losses its taste after some time. Ready to eat packets are not available in most of the villages. Roadside dhaba or small hotels in town and villages offer simple but wholesome meal. Rice chapatti pulses and seasonal vegetables are the best choice.
Basic dry ration like rice sugar flour pulses powder milk tea leaves and vet oil are available in most of the village shops.
Trekkers should carry dry fruits chocolates sweets soup packets coffee powder biscuits butter cheese noodles etc. form the town market.
Trekking in Himalayas is means one must be free form any type illnesses. Mentally and physically, in case of felling of uneasiness or minor illness it is better to delay the trip as medical facilities may not be available in the interior areas. Though there is a vast network of primary health centers and community health centers in the state .many times doctors don’t join their services in far flung places and these centers remain without a doctor. Elementary medicines may be available in far off places but one should be self sufficient as far the medicines are concerned.
No other mountains deserve the kind of respect the Himalaya do in terms of altitude. As the Himalayan Rescue Association likes to point out, ‘The Himalaya starts where other mountains leave off.’ Remember it is the sleeping altitude that is critical. Acclimatization susceptibility to altitude sickness, men and women are equally susceptible and children more so.
The way to prevent altitude sickness is to give the body enough time to get used to the rarefied air. A slow and steady ascent is vital. Adequate hydration is also helpful. The body is constantly losing fluid from the lungs and the skin in the high, dry environment. Drink enough to maintain a clear and abundant urine output. Other measures include eating a high carbohydrate diet, climbing high during the day and coming lower down to sleep, and to mild to moderate activity during the rather than just lie around.
The drug of choice for altitude is Acetazolamide (Diamox), a sulpha drug. It hastens acclimatization, increases breathing, and reduces alkalinity and diuretic fluids. The usual regimen is 125 to 250 mg twice a day, starting 24 hours before ascent, and continuing through the first 24 hours at altitude. Almost all altitude problems can be avoided if symptoms are recognized and acted upon. The warning signs are headache, lack of appetite, nausea, feeling of tiredness, and sometimes vomiting. This stage of mild mountain sickness can be treated with aspirin or Diamox for headache and something mild for the nasea and vomiting.
The Trekkers Medical Kit
The Trekker Medical Kit – The suggested list includes prescription items, so consultation with a physician is necessary.
- If crossing malarial areas: Malarial prophylactics and mosquito repellent.
- Wound disinfectant: Moleskin, second skin or cloth adhesive tape.
- Adhesive strips: Band-aids in different sizes.
- Gauze pads and rolls: elastic bandage.
- Analgesics: Aspirin or Tylenol, Tylenol with codines.
- Anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen
- Ciprofloxacin, Bactrim DS or Septra DS, Erythromycin, Gentamycin eyedrops, any skin antibiotic.
- Anti-diarrholes: Lomotil, Pepto-Bismol, Imodium.
- Anti-nausea drug: Pheregan, Compazine
- Anthistamine: Benadryl
- Decongestant: Sudafed
- For High altitude: Dioma