The plains look monotonous as they stretch to the horizon. The mountains, on the other hand, break the monotony and rise above as if to reach the heavens. Around 24% of the earth’s area is covered withmountains.
The rugged slope, the magnificent views, the calm environment, and the ever-teasing folds attract humans to mountains. The mountains often have an ecosystem with diverse flora and fauna. Every nature lover has desire to trek in these mountains.
However, trekking isn’t easy. There are things to consider while trekking in the mountains. In this article, you will learn some important things that every mountain trekkers need to do before heading to the challenging heights.
1. Physical Fitness and Training
Since you will find most mountains within a range, when you are trekking in the mountains, you will remain in the mountainous region for a few days. Hence, for serious trekking in the mountains, you must prepare yourself.
Good physical fitness enhances stamina, agility, and flexibility, making it easy to handle demanding treks. Physical fitness improves your body’s ability to endure long hikes, steep ascents, and extreme weather conditions.
Being physically fit also reduces the risk of fatigue, muscle strains, and injuries, enabling you to perform at your best and enjoy the experience to the fullest. Remember that the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy your trek. So, we advise you to participate in cardiovascular and strength endurance training.
The oxygen level at high altitudes is lower. Hence the body has to adapt to the low oxygen. Cardiovascular exercises such as running, cycling, or swimming help improve your heart and lung functions, which makes it easy to transport oxygen to the whole body. These exercises also increase endurance while helping you to acclimatize.
Strength and Endurance Training:
In addition to muscular strength, you will need endurance for high-altitude treks. To cultivate strength and endurance, you can practice hiking long distances or stair climbing for an extended period. These exercises develop the necessary power and strength to carry heavy backpacks, navigate uneven terrain, and handle equipment easily, aiding your body’s stability and balance.
Before participating in long treks, you need to prepare well. The exact things you need will depend on the trek and the trekking season. Here are a few things that you must consider.
Clothing: You are going to sweat a lot while trekking. Hence, you need a moisture-wicking base layer. Based on the season and the trek region, you need to wear a shirt with an appropriate thickness. Most probably, you might need a fleeced and/or down jacket. It might rain in the trek regions, so do not forget to pack a raincoat. Please note that the weather in high elevations changes quickly and can be unpredictable.
Footwear: You cannot trek comfortably without proper footwear. We advise you to buy a pair of sturdy and waterproof hiking boots with a good grip. Make sure the hiking boots fit you well. To check the fitness of your boot, place your finger between your foot heel and the shoe heel. If the finger fits well, your footwear is perfect for you. In addition to a well-fitting pair of shoes, you will also need a few pairs of moisture-wicking socks.
We advise you to buy sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good grip that provide ankle support. Ensure your boots fit well and break in the boots before the trek to prevent blisters and discomfort.
Backpack and gear essentials:
While packing your backpack, you must decide whether to take a porter. If you decide to hire a porter, which is a good idea for long, challenging treks, you need two backpacks, one for the porter and another for yourself. It is better to carry valuable things, such as jewelry, electronics, and essential documents yourself.
You might also consider carrying things you need often, such as a water bottle with yourself. Allow your porter to carry other items. Make sure your backpacks are comfortable to carry and waterproof, if possible. If you expect to trek on snow, pack crampons. In addition, you need to pack a first aid kit, headlamp, compass, trek map, and sunscreen.
If you are participating in a remote area trek, you might also need to carry a sleeping bag and a tent. Choose a lightweight sleeping bag to match the temperature you will be staying in.
Altitude sickness, also called acute mountain sickness, can strike anyone, especially those who try to ascend to high altitudes (above 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) too quickly. Here are the symptoms of altitude sickness.
- Headache is the most common symptom and usually shows first
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty while sleepingNausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
Altitude sickness can attack anyone, but the risk of catching altitude sickness increases in case of:
- Rapid ascent without proper acclimatization at the right altitudes
- Climbing to high elevations very quickly
- No exposure to high altitudes previously
- Personal susceptibility to altitude sickness
Here are the effective ways how to acclimatize during your high-altitude trek.
- Gradual Ascent: The first rule to avoid altitude sickness is to ascend slowly so that your body gets enough time to adjust to lower oxygen levels.
- Walk at your own pace. This is the rule, you should not break, and is crucial to avoiding altitude sickness. You can take ten to fifteen minutes of breaks but don’t rest too much, otherwise, your body temperature can lower significantly.
- Hydration: You need to remain hydrated throughout the trek. At high altitudes, as you hike, your body will lose water very fast. Hence, it is vital to compensate for the water loss. Hydration can help you avoid headaches.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration, so avoid caffeine and alcohol during hiking. Alcohol can cloud your judgment, alter your balance, and can lead to injuries.
- Climb high, sleep low: This is also called the golden rule of trekking, which you should follow as much as possible. Try trekking high during the day and spend the night in lower elevations.
- Pay attention to your body: During the high-altitude trek, you must pay attention to your body to catch the earliest signs of altitude sickness. As soon as you become aware of signs of altitude sickness, you must rest, hydrate and pay closer attention to your body. If the signs and symptoms persist, you should descend to a lower altitude immediately.
Medications and remedies to use during altitude sickness
- Diamox (Acetazolamide): Diamox helps your body adapt to high altitude fast. However, you must consult a healthcare professional before taking them.
- Ibuprofen: If you have a headache, you can consider taking Ibuprofen.
- Descend immediately: If altitude sickness symptoms do not come under control or worsen, you should immediately descend and seek medical attention as altitude sickness can result in serious conditions such as high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which are considered medical emergencies.
Remember, preventing altitude sickness is the key, and proper acclimatization is the best way to avoid altitude sickness. Listen to your body, take it slow, and prioritize your health and safety while trekking in high-altitude environments.
If you are trekking in the deep mountains, mostly in remote parts, you must ensure you have the essential supplies. Here are some things you need to take care of:
Water and hydration: The water you can find in trek regions might not be potable and lead to digestive problems. Hence, make sure you carry your water. If available, you can also buy water from settlements in trek regions. However, a better option would be to bring a water bottle and buy boiled/filtered water from tea houses or lodges. It ensures that you will not leave plastic bottles in trek regions.
Nutrition and food: Trekking in high altitudes requires a lot of energy. Hence, you must get enough nutrient-rich, hygienic food throughout the trek. In addition to food, you might consider bringing energy bars to supplement your diet. We suggest you research and ask previous trekkers on the same route about lodges that provide hygienic food.
First Aid Kit: High-altitude treks are not casual walks in the parks. You may have to traverse high passes and walk by the side of dizzying slopes, and slippery paths. Hence, you must prepare yourself with at least a first aid kit. Remember, one stitch in time saves nine.
5. Navigation and Route Planning
Most probably, you will be trekking in trek regions unfamiliar to you. So, you must gain as much knowledge about the trek region as possible.
Fortunately, researching the trails is easy, thanks to the internet. Pay attention to trails, landmarks, elevation, and potential hazards, and plan your daily mileage. While planning your mileage, you must consider available water sources, campsites, and possible rest points.
If you are going in an unfamiliar trek region, carry a map and a compass so that you will not get lost. You can use modern GPS devices for real-time navigation. While trekking, pay attention to landmarks and waypoints that ensure your location and progress.
High-altitude mountain treks come with some risks. Hence, you must take safety precautions into consideration, paying attention to the weather and trek season. Trek regions may be susceptible to avalanches, landslides, or flash floods during certain seasons.
In remote trek regions, there might be no adequate health facilities. In such cases, you must purchase adequate travel insurance, including helicopter rescue. You might also consider trekking in a group and with a trekking guide.
You must have a backup trek plan, as treks may not go well as you planned due to uncontrolled factors such as weather changes, trail closures, or personal conditions.
6. Environmental Considerations
As humans, we must be responsible for the upkeep of the environment so that we can hand over the earth to our offspring in a pristine condition. To do so, you must follow: leave no trace principles. You must familiarize yourself with camping regulations and waste disposal options.
You must not take anything from the trek region, nor should you discard waste in trek regions, especially non-decomposable materials. Hence, we advise you not to bring plastic bottles and even if you do, dispose of them properly.
If you use campsites, leave them in better condition than when you arrived. If you need a campfire, keep the fire small and use only dead and downed wood. Extinguish the fire completely. If you are trekking to trek regions with wildlife, observe wildlife from a far and safe distance. Do not feed wild animals. It might disturb the ecosystem.
For sustainable treks follow the following rules
- Pack light, and use reusable packaging for carrying food and water.
- Use water conservatively and refrain from contaminating water resources
- Carry biodegradable soap and environmentally friendly toiletries
- Make sure to respect local culture and traditions to avoid conflict
- Support local economies by hiring local guides and patronizing local businesses
- Choose transportation means that minimize carbon footprints
7. Safety Precautions
Safety is of the utmost importance, and you should plan your mountainous trek paying attention to safety. The first thing to consider while deciding your trek is weather conditions and how weather influences the trek trails. For example, during the rainy season, the routes can be wet and slippery, and landslides might occur in mountain trek regions.
You will also need proper equipment and clothing based on trek season. If you are trekking in snowy regions, you will need crampons.
We also advise you to pack communication and emergency devices. If the trek regions have mobile coverage, you should consider buying a local sim. Nowadays most trek regions have internet access, so you should consider bringing your smartphone. You can remain in contact with your friends and families from the hotels and lodges.
In addition, you can also buy GPS devices that connect with satellite systems allowing you to navigate the challenging trek trails. We advise you to carry a whistle as well. It can come in handy in emergencies.
Before going on the trek, let your near ones know where you are going and when you will return. Buy adequate insurance to avoid substantial financial burdens if you become sick or face an emergency on the trekking trails.
8. Journey and Nature
As human civilization progressed, human advancements resulted in an alienation from the natural world, often increasing stress. So, a visit to the mountains will reconnect you with nature.
Your mountainous trek can awaken a sense of wonder and remind you of the beauty and resilience of our natural world. As you keep away from the modern-day noises in the cities and towns, you can immerse yourself in the natural world. The scent of wildflowers, the chirping of the birds, the sound of the wind, and the rhythmic sound of your footsteps will keep you attentive to the environment.
If love photography, mountainous treks can provide you with unique opportunities, and the pictures you click will remind you of your trek throughout your life. We advise you to pay attention to the stunning landscapes, attractive flora and fauna, rock formations, and interplay of shadow and light.
Mountainous treks often allow you to interact with the locals throughout your way. This is also a time to learn about the different cultures and traditions of the indigenous people. You might as well try their food, learn their language, and take part in their functions. This broadens your knowledge and makes you much more tolerant, promoting harmony among diversity in this diverse world.
All humans are collections of their experiences and memory. So, as you accumulate more experience, you will grow much more wise, tolerant, and kind. These are the traits the world desperately needs. Hence, to realize yourself, reconnect with nature, and experience something new, we urge you to consider trekking in the mountains.
Nepal, a Himalayan nation, has eight of the ten highest mountains in the world and provides some of the most iconic treks, including the Everest Base Camp Trek. Hence, we urge you to consider traveling to Nepal to explore some of the most stunning mountains in the world.