The best way to experience Nepal’s unbeatable combination of natural beauty and cultural riches is to walk through them. The immense contrasts in altitudes and climates found here support an equally spectacular mix of lifestyles, vegetation types and wildlife.
Trekking in the mountains of Nepal is more a cultural experience than a wilderness expedition. You will be passing through picturesque villages inhabited by diverse ethnic groups. You will see Chhetri farmers working in their fields and Tamang herders grazing their animals on the steep slopes. You will meet Gurkha soldiers home on leave and come across Sherpa yak drivers transporting goods over the high mountain passes. And always in the background, the icy pinnacles of the Himalaya loom over the scenery.
Trekking in Nepal is an all season activity. It is possible at any time of the year depending on where one wishes to go. However, the most popular season are spring (February – May ) and autumn (September-November). Even during the monsoon season (June- August), you can trek in the rain- shadow areas north of the Himalaya like Mustang, Upper Manang and Dolpo.
You don’t need to be a mountaineer with rippling muscles to enjoy trekking. If you are reasonably fit, have a spirit of adventure and are not afraid of walking, you qualify. There are excellent trekking agencies who offer Full-Service (Camping) Treks and will take care of all the details like government permits, air/bus tickets, guides, cooks, porters, food, tents, and equipment. All you have to do on the trail is concentrate on putting one foot before the other. On many popular trekking trails, you can also go on what is known as Tea-House Treks – eating and staying in the many lodges on the way.
A day on the trail usually consists of four to five hours of walking broken by a lunch stop. You trek to enjoy the scenery on the trail, not to get to a destination in a hurry. The main precaution to be taken while trekking is not to go up too high too fast. The body should be given plenty of time to acclimatize. See Altitude Mountain Sickness below for more information.
Altitude Sickness, often known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is a particularly important medical consideration while trekking in Nepal. Altitude Sickness means the effect of altitude on those who ascend too rapidly to elevations above 3,000 meters. Anyone may be effected by AMS reguardless of strength or physical fitness. The initial symptoms of AMS are as following:
• Loss of appetite
• Persistent headache
• Dizziness, light heaviness, confusion, disorientation, drunken gait
• Weakness, fatigue, lassitude, heavy legs
• Slight swelling of hands and face
• Breathlessness and breathing irregularity
• Reduced urine output
These symptoms are to be taken very seriously. In case of appearance of any of the above symptoms any further ascent should be reconsidered. More serious problems can occur which can even cause death sometimes within a few hours. The main cure for the Altitude Sickness is to descend to a lower elevations immediately. Acclimatization by ascending to no more than 300 to 500 meters per day above 3,000 meters and the proper amount of rest are the best methods for prevention of AMS.
Literature and pamphlet published by Himalayan Rescue Association (see Rescue Service below) consists of detailed information on AMS. The Central Immigration Office and all trekking agencies in Kathmandu distribute this pamphlet free of cost. Since these documents also give information on the list of suggested medical supplies for trekkers, it is a compulsory item for every trekkers’ medical kit.
Mountaineering adventure for non-climbers:
For the more adventurous traveler, there are many minor peaks open for Alpine climbing under the Nepal Mountaineering Association. The climbing of these peaks is controlled under the rules and regulations formulated by this Association.
Most of these peaks require snow and ice climbing experience. Trekking Agents provide qualified and trained climbing guides to take non-climbers for convenience, safety and expected successes. By Himalayan standards, these are considered minor peaks, but in fact some of them provide relatively challenging snow and ice climbing of high standard, and more so in Winter.
Photo by ilkerender