Trekking decoded

Why trek?

Now this is a philosophical question and there are some big fundas about finding yourself and getting in touch with the person inside you type of answers to this. But to keep it simple, and believable, you should trek because it’s the best way to enjoy the Himalaya. Driving through Himalaya has its own charm, yes, but walking through it does give a unique perspective to the act. I am of course biased towards trekking, but would very strongly urge you to try it once and find the best answer for this question.

Who can trek?

If you can walk, you can trek. This is what I tell everyone. Since human body was designed for activity and walking is the most basic one, so is trekking. So age, gender, fitness levels, medical conditions, no bar. Its for everyone to enjoy and experience. Very few of our treks have a pre-requisite of prior trekking experience (preferably with us), but most of the treks we organize are open for all. A simple indicator is the trek grade that we give each of our treks. If its marked easy or medium, you can bindaas join. If its medium-hard, the decision rests with us.

Trek grades

There are no official or universally recognized grades for treks (its just not possible), but there are some basic guidelines based on which we grade our treks.

  1. Distance walked daily – The average walking distance (better measured in time taken rather than actual kms) is of course the basic indicator of a trek grade.
  2. Terrain OR Altitude change – More than the altitude at which you are walking, it’s the ascent and descent in a day (in other words – the sum of height gain and height lost over a day) that is a better indicator of how tough the trek is.
  3. Duration – The total number of days spent trekking becomes a crucial factor. Easy trekking days spread over many days can push the perceived degree of difficulty higher.
Based on these factors, this is how we grade our treks:
CWH Trek grade Daily distance Daily Altitude change Duration
Easy < 4 hours < 500 Metres 2-3 days
Medium < 6 hours < 800 Metres 3-5 days
Medium- hard 6- 10 hours 800 – 1500 Metres More than 5 days

Note 1: These figures are all averages and are based on data from all treks conducted by CWH and are a representative of beginner as well as intermediate trekkers.

Note 2: A medium-hard trek could have some days that are easy or of medium level but the overall rating is based on all 3 factors mentioned.

Trek preparation:

Can safely divide this into mental and physical conditioning.

Mental preparation: The more groups I take out trekking, the more I realize how the most important characteristic required is a sound temperament. Will any day rate it higher than physical fitness. By its very nature, trekking is an unpredictable activity. You are at the mercy of nature and have to be prepared for all things – known and unknown, mostly related to weather (can be very sunny, then windy, then rainfall and sunny again, all in less than 30 mins) and pre-conceived notions (valid especially for first time trekkers as they can sometime become prisoners of what they perceived trekking to be and are not willing to adapt to what it really is). The thing to know (and understand) is that no matter how easy the trek grade, you are always going to be out of your comfort zone. Once you make peace with this, trust me you would fall head over heels (figuratively) for trekking.

Physical preparation: If its an easy or medium grade trek, basic fitness levels, that is, an ability to walk (and enjoy it) is all that you need. Of course if you are working out, running, doing Yoga or any form of exercise, it will surely make trekking effortless and more enjoyable. For medium-hard treks, we ask our clients to follow a more rigorous exercise routine to prepare for the trek. They also have an option of getting CWH exercise plans for treks designed by Rujuta Diwekar that can be followed wherever you are based. This will usually be a mix of strength training, cardio-respiratory fitness and core strength and balancing.

While on a trek, we always follow a daily routine of stretching before starting and after finishing. Also, essential vitamin and mineral supplements as prescribed by Rujuta are included as part of the daily diet.

A typical trekking day

The day starts very early, sometimes as early as 5 a.m, but usually by 6 a.m. The reason being, settled weather conditions in the first half of the day. You brush your teeth, answer the nature's call (amidst the nature, or in a dry pit toilet covered by a toilet tent) and get ready for the heavy breakfast of Aloo parantha, toast with peanut butter and jam, eggs, cereal, milk, chai, coffee, etc. Start walking. Porters and mules will carry the bags and a guide will accompany you describing the terrain through which we are passing. Everyone walks at their own pace and there is no hurry to finish the day’s walk in any specific time period. After couple of hours stop and have a portion of the packed lunch, mostly a boiled potato, juice, egg and parantha or puri bhaji. You will also be carrying your own small snacks – peanuts, dry fruit, chocolates, etc. The idea is to eat small meals through out the walk. Finish the days walk by afternoon and have tea while the porters pitch the tents. The cook will then prepare a hot lunch or evening snacks of pakoras, etc depending on what time we finish. Chill for the rest of the day. Play cards or sleep or read as you please. The day is wrapped up by a heavy hot dinner by 7 p.m. After dinner, a round of gossip, games or songs and off to sleep by 9 p.m. latest.