If you’ve enjoyed following this blog and think that someday you may be interested in a similar adventure, I would strongly encourage you to put aside any inhibitions you may have and go for it. Although this particular trek was at times physically demanding and the living conditions somewhat austere, the opportunity to see the Himalayas “up close and personal,” while immersing ourselves in the Sherpa culture was one I will never forget.
Here are a dozen things to consider if you are interested:
- Don’t think that you can only do this if you are an avid outdoorsman with a lot of experience. We saw all kinds of people on the trail, from entire families with young kids, to men and women in their 70’s, and everything in between. We even met a gentleman with terminal cancer.
- Take the time to properly prepare. Although our group committed to this trek just 4 months before it started, we took the time to research trekking companies, learn about what we would experience, and prepare ourselves physically.
- Physical preparation is key. Taking the advice from our trekking company (Ian Taylor Trekking), we hiked at least every other week. These hikes ranged from 7-12 miles while carrying a 20lb backpack. Additionally, gym prep is critical for aerobic fitness and to build strength. I would strongly recommend the stair climber machine to build the leg strength for a trek like this one. Gauge your own fitness level to determine how much pre-trek prep you will need.
- Expect and accept the austere living arrangements. We were lodged and fed in local tea houses. These ranged from reasonably comfortable with in-room bathrooms and showers, to a basic room with nothing more than a small bed to sleep on and a shared toilet at the end of the hallway. All of these rooms lack heat, have plywood construction with no insulation, and rarely have electricity.
- Follow the advice of your guides to acclimatize properly. The elevations on our trek ranged from 8,900’ to 18,500’. In order to mitigate the affects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), we spent 3 of our 12 trek days acclimatizing to the higher elevations. Additionally, we took a 125mg dose of Diamox each morning and night to increase the oxygen carrying capacity in our blood.
- Keep a slow but steady pace. You should be able to hike without getting out of breath. If you have to constantly stop to catch your breath, you are going too fast. While trekking in the Himalayas, it is usually the “tortoise” that beats the “hare.”
- Get the right gear and test it during your training hikes. Boots, backpacks, and all the various clothing layers are critically important.
- Despite the austere conditions, maintain the best hygiene possible. Bring soft soap and hand sanitizer to keep you hands clean at all times. Most of the bathroom facilities do not have running water, so it is absolutely critical to wash/sanitize thoroughly.
- I highly recommend sleeping with ear plugs. Most tea houses feature thin walls and floors, so you can hear everything. If you want a sound sleep, ear plugs can block most extraneous noise.
- Be willing to try new foods. Generally speaking, as you get to the more remote villages, the food becomes pretty basic… rice, noodles, eggs, vegetables, etc. Also, bring along some of your favorite snacks, and flavor packets/drops for water since you will be drinking up to 5 liters per day.
- Communications are spotty at best. In most villages you can purchase WiFi access, but bandwidth is limited, which may affect what you are able to do.
- Bring along small gifts for some of the children you will encounter along the trail. There is a weight limit for your gear, so lightweight items are best. 10-15 items will allow you to periodically give a gift, without carrying too much extra weight.
Samples of various lodging at Tea Houses along the route: