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Tips,Dos and Donts for first time Trekkers
First time Trekking Tips
1. I Recently undertook my maiden trek to the Pindari Glacier which is situated on the India - Nepal Border . I had always wanted to be close to nature and be in wilderness. Being on the heavier side and of reasonable fitness level , I was a bit skeptical on completing my trek . .Browsing the net , I narrowed down to the Pindari glacier mainly due to two reasons. Firstly the base camp at Bageswar was the closest at 19 hours journey from my place of stay Agra . Secondly,internet mentioned that it was a relatively easy to moderate trek and ideal for a first timer.
2. I am sure many of us would like to enjoy nature but have not ventured out on a trek. As I searched the net for tips for first timers, I did not find any useful article and hence decided that I need to share the information which I gathered as a part of my first trek. This article is to educate first timers on how they can successfully complete a moderate trek .Though the internet is full of articles on trekking , I still decided to share my experience since the internet does not mention many important facts required for a first time trekker .
3. Should I take a Package or not --- This is one question which every first time trekker poses to him/herself. After lot of thinking, I narrowed down to a package from well renowned agency. And I was wrong.
(a) Packages squeeze up the itinerary to keep costs down. While booking the trek we see the cost and not the itinerary. Companies attract customers by keeping days minimum and making you trek more every day. In my case two days of trek was combined in one day ensuring that we were trekking from 630 am to 630 pm with a small lunch break. To enjoy a trek , it needs to be leisurely . You need to stop at places and appreciate the beauty . You need to have time in hand for emergencies. The ideal trek would be to start early morning and end the day after lunch. This gives adequate rest to mind and body. Keep a watch on how much you trek each day. Trek schedule after lunch and more than 10-14 km each day needs to be avoided. Ideal would be to form a group through the internet and make your own itenary. Take a package only if you are not able to find a group . First time trekker should avoid going solo.
4. Weather . Do not rely on any weather report or opinions from other trekkers on the web about how the place would be at that time of the year . Remember - Himalayas be it on the Indian , Tibetian or the Nepalese side is very unpredictable . The weather may change totally in a matter of minutes leaving you high and wet!. Just to quote an example we were trekking up from a place called Dwali to Phurkiya after lunch. The weather was perfectly fine . Midway it started with hail stones became heavier in minutes and subsequently ended in heavy snow fall . We did not have any alternative than walking during the snowfall on narrow slippery paths since we had to reach Phurkia while there was light .Most of us were without proper gear for a snow fall (as it was not expected). Trekking in snowfall with high winds on a slippery up path is not something first time trekker would want or imagine. It is hence important not to trek after lunch as weather gets unpredictable in afternoon in Himalayas and in case there is a problem like bad weather or injury you would end up getting stuck in the dark in the unfamiliar mountains
5. Distance. Never underestimate the distance in the hills . We need to understand that walking the mountains is entirely different than walking in plains. Steep climbs take more time and drain out more energy. Prior to the trek physical preparation by means of brisk walking for a couple of hours or jogging would be helpful. Trekking in the mountains include frequent ups and down some of them steep and on rough pathway .Also a place from say 1000m to 2000m may not be a gradual ascent , it may go down and then rise up steeply
6. How to trek . The pattern of trekking needs to be in such a manner that we conserve energy and eliminate all other activities which is likely to drain out energy quickly. I was given the following four tips by a senior citizen who has done umpteen number of treks from his young age. I followed them and found them to be very useful :-
(i) Walking – One step at a time. In plains we can walk fast but in hills if we walk fast we are likely to be exhausted very fast. One step at a time and short steps is very important. While walking on stones make it a point to ascend by taking more steps than taking long steps to cover the area quickly.
(ii) Breathing. Do not breath through the mouth. Breathing through mouth during you trek exhausts you. Breathe through nose only. If you find that the breathing becomes difficult and you have to breathe through your mouth , it means that you are walking fast. Reduce the trekking speed and take short steps. Your breathing rhythm will stabilize.
(iii)Talking – talking while trekking also exhausts you. Avoid it
(iv) Resting. In between the treks do not sit for taking rest. Your body starts cooling down and would take time to adapt after resumption of the trek. It may also result in cramps .Try to take less sitting breaks. Also while taking a break bend your body and touch the ground and do other light exercises.
(v) Food. Keep some nourishing food. Remember your taste buds may crave after a couple of days due to the limited variety of food and lack of availability. Keep some stored food like pickles, sausages etc which will revive your taste buds and make the trek more enjoyable. This is especially important if you are a foodie or a non vegetarian as in some trek especially in Himachal and Uttarkhand you may not get any non vegetarian stuff(We were however lucky to have mountain goats !)
(vi) Backpack. Learn how to pack your things. Do not stuff unwanted things. Every kg is a pain in the hills. Lesser the luggage the better it is (this is assuming that you are carrying your luggage yourself).The bag should be strapped in such a manner that it is a part of your body without any loose gaps else the bag will stop oscillating and you may lose your balance at some stage of the climb.
(vii) Medicines. Keep basic medicines. You may surely need them. Body ache tablets, cold are must along with pain killers and band aid.
7. Most importantly remember trekking is more of a mind game. If you tell yourself that you can do it - you definitely will. If you are mentally weak you are likely not to make it despite your good physical fitness. Go with a positive frame of mind and you will be able to complete the trek successfully.And after your first trek you are only eager to do more !