Why Trekking In Nepal?
The Himalaya, the “abode of snows”, extends from Assam in eastern India west to Afghanistan. It is a chain of the highest and youngest mountains on earth and it encompasses a region of deep religious and cultural traditions and an amazing diversity of people. A trek in Nepal is a special and rewarding mountain holiday.
Just as New York is not representative of the USA, so Kathmandu is not representative of Nepal. If you have the time and energy to trek, don’t miss the opportunity to leave Kathmandu and see the spectacular beauty and the unique culture of Nepal. Fortunately for the visitor, there are still only a few roads extending deeply into the hills, so the only way to truly visit the remote regions of the kingdom is in the slowest and most intimate manner – walking. It requires more time and effort, but the rewards are also greater. Instead of zipping down a freeway, racing to the next “point of interest,” each step provides new and intriguing viewpoints. You will perceive your day as an entity rather than a few highlights strung together by a ribbon of concrete. For the romanticist, each step follows the footsteps of Hillary, Tenzing, Herzog and other Himalayan explorers. If you have neither the patience nor the physical stamina to visit the hills of Nepal on foot, a helicopter flight provides an expensive and unsatisfactory substitute.
Trekking in Nepal will take you through a country that has captured the imagination of mountaineers and explorers for more than 100 years. You will meet people in remote mountain villages whose lifestyle has not changed in generations. Most people trust foreigners. Nepal is one of only a handful of countries that has never been ruled by a foreign power.
Many of the values associated with a hiking trip at home do not have the same importance during a trek in Nepal. Isolation is traditionally a crucial element of any wilderness experience but in Nepal it is impossible to get completely away from people, except for short times or at extremely high elevations. Environmental concerns must include the effects of conservation measures on rural people and the economic effects of tourism on indigenous populations. Even traditional national park management must be adapted because there are significant population centres within Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) and Langtang national parks.
Trekking does not mean mountain climbing. While the ascent of a Himalayan peak may be an attraction for some, you need not have such a goal to enjoy a trek. As far as most people are concerned, trekking always refers to walking on trails.
While trekking you will see the great diversity of Nepal. Villages embrace many ethnic groups and cultures. The terrain changes from tropical jungle to high glaciated peaks in only 150 km. From the start, the towering peaks of the Himalaya provide one of the highlights of a trek. As your plane approaches Kathmandu these peaks appear to be small clouds on the horizon. The mountains become more definable and seem to reach impossible heights as you get closer and finally land at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport.
During a trek, the Himalaya disappears behind Nepal’s continual hills, but dominates the northern skyline at each pass. Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Gauri Shankar and Everest will become familiar names. Finally, after weeks of walking, you will arrive at the foot of the mountains themselves – astonishing heights from which gigantic avalanches tumble earthwards in apparent slow motion, dwarfed by their surroundings. Your conception of the Himalaya alters as you turn from peaks famed only for their height to gaze on far more picturesque summits that you may never have heard of – Kantega, Ama Dablam, Machhapuchhare and Kumbhakarna.
What Is a Trek?
A Trek is Not a Climbing Trip. Whether you begin your trek at a roadhead or fly into a remote mountain airstrip, a large part of it will be in the Middle Hills region at elevations between 500 and 3000 metres. In this region, there are always well-developed trails through villages and across mountain passes. Even at high altitudes there are intermittent settlements used during summer by shepherds, so the trails, though often indistinct, are always there. You can easily travel on any trail without the aid of ropes or mountaineering skills. There are rare occasions when there is snow on the trail, and on some high passes it might be necessary to place a safety line for your companions or porters if there is deep snow. Still, alpine techniques are almost never used on a traditional trek. Anyone who has walked extensively in the mountains has all the skills necessary for an extended trek in Nepal.
Though some treks venture near glaciers, and even cross the foot of them, most treks do not allow the fulfilment of any Himalayan mountaineering ambitions. Nepal’s mountaineering regulations allow trekkers to climb 18 specified peaks with a minimum of formality, but you must still make a few advance arrangements for such climbs. Many agents offer so-called climbing treks which include the ascent of one of these peaks as a feature of the trek. There are a few peaks that, under ideal conditions, are within the resources of individual trekkers. A climb can be arranged in Kathmandu if conditions are right, but a climb of one of the more difficult peaks should be planned well in advance.
A Trek Requires Physical Effort. A trek is physically demanding because of its length and the almost unbelievable changes in elevation. During the 300-km trek from Jiri to Everest base camp and return, for example, the trail gains and loses more than 9000 metres of elevation during many steep ascents and descents. On most treks, the daily gain is less than 800 metres in about 15 km, though ascents of as much as 1200 metres are possible on some days. You can always take plenty of time during the day to cover this distance, so the physical exertion, though quite strenuous at times, is not sustained. You also can stop frequently and take plenty of time for rest.
Probably the only physical problem that may make a trek impossible is a history of knee problems on descents. In Nepal the descents are long, steep and unrelenting. There is hardly a level stretch of trail in the entire country. If you are an experienced walker and often hike 15 km a day with a pack, a trek should prove no difficulty. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy the hiking can be if you only carry a light backpack and do not have to worry about meal preparation.
Previous experience in hiking and living outdoors is, however, helpful as you make plans for your trek. The first night of a month-long trip is too late to discover that you do not like to sleep in a sleeping bag. Mountaineering experience is not necessary, but you must enjoy walking.
When is the best time to go to Nepal?
The weather is probably the best guide for deciding when to plan your trip to Nepal. October and November are considered the best times of the year. The monsoon will have just ended, and clear skies with optimal temperature will prevail. The main festivals of Dashain and Tihar (Hindu equivalent of Christmas in terms of festivity) fall during these months. However, this is also the busiest tourist season, and the main tourist centers and trekking trails tend to be crowded with travelers like you. The tourist flow ebbs a little, but not significantly, between the winter months of December and mid-February. It catches up once again between mid-February and mid-April. From mid-June to early October, it’s the monsoon, during which time it rains almost everyday and most of the Himalayas are hidden behind the clouds. Check the weather section of this FAQ for more details on weather. In short, plan to visit Nepal between October and May, keeping in mind that October-November and February-March are the best times (but crowded with other travelers).
What is the weather in Nepal like?
The width of Nepal is only about 200 km on average, but within this short distance the altitude of the land rises from lowly 60m to all the way up to above 8000m.Hence the weather depends upon the altitude of the place in Nepal. However, in general Nepal has four climatic seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Spring starts from March to May. The temperature of this season fluctuates between 20* C to 30* C(68* F to 86* F). Summer starts from June to August. These are also the pre-monsoon months with occasional evening-thunderstorms and hot temperature. Autumn starts from September and ends by November. During this period, the climate is dry and mild with temperature fluctuating between 20* C to 30* C (68* F to 86* F). Winter starts from December to February. The morning and evening are very cold while the afternoon is pretty sunny. The temperature during these months rises from 15* C to 20* C (59* F to 68* F).
What sort of clothing should I bring with me?
Clothing depends on place and time. Medium-weight and easy to wash cottons can be a good choice year-round in the Kathmandu valley. It is recommended that between October to February, woolen sweaters, jackets or similar other warm outfits are necessary. From March through May, light clothing such as short and long-sleeved shorts will do perfectly fine at Kathmandu, Pokhara and most other towns. For mornings and evenings, a jacket or heavy woolen sweater (you can find beautiful ones in reasonable price in Kathmandu) will be essential. For months from June to August, it is recommended that you bring an umbrella or raincoat and a pair of sandals with you as these months are the rainy months of Nepal. Expect lot of walking even if you don’t plan to trek. So it’s recommended that you bring comfortable footwear: sneakers and sandals are the best
If you intend to go for trekking, a pair of hiking boots will be great. Bring plenty of woolen socks too. Specialized trekking gear is easily available and can be rented in fairly inexpensive charge in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Do I need a trekking permit?
Except the trekking areas such as the Everest, the Annapurna and the Langtang, one requires trekking permit to visit other trekking areas. Your visa is not good enough. Trekking permits are issued very easily by the Department of Immigration Office in Kathmandu and Pokhara.You need your visa, trekking fee and two colored passport-sized pictures to get your trekking permit. Remember that you require different trekking permits to different trekking areas. Note, however, that a trekking permit does not allow you to go anywhere in the country either. If mountain-peak climbing is your desire, it falls under a whole different category, and will require a different permit.
How Should I dress during a trek?
Nepal is conservative with clothes, and your reception by locals can vary greatly on the way you dress. Men should always wear a shirt (don’t go around bare chested) and long pants. In view of local customs, men should try not to wear shorts, and women should avoid them altogether. For women, a skirt of mid-calf length is preferable to slacks or pants. Slacks with sarong or skirt over them, and a (at least half-sleeved) blouse or shirt are probably most appropriate.
Besides the issue of culturally sensitive dressing, it is also important for you to make sure you have appropriate clothing to meet your needs during a trek. Good shoes are of great importance. You will be walking for up to eight hours a day. They must be sturdy and comfortable. Bring along sneakers –or if you have one, a well-broken-in pair of hiking boots– they are sufficient for most treks. For higher altitude treks where you may have to tread snow for long hours, good boots are available for rent in Kathmandu.
Also bring along a couple of pairs of warm wool, corduroy or jeans pants (for men), a warm sweater (you can also buy beautiful ones in Nepal for a bargain) and a padded jacket, a couple of T-shirts and/or shirts. Thermal underwear can be great especially between November and February. Bring plenty of woolen and cotton socks.
What do I do in case of emergency?
Though in general, you are not likely to face any emergency, you can never tell. what to do in case of emergency. In cases of non-urgent situation, you may have to be carried to the nearest health-post or airfield. If the situation is more serious, send word to the nearest village with radio service for a helicopter evacuation. for a helicopter evacuation, and generally a guarantee for payment is required before the helicopter actually takes off. Registering with your embassy can greatly speed the process.
Do you think it is safe to eat freely in Nepal?
In general, yes. But, it’s always good to take sensible precautions in order to avoid any health problems.No matter how tempting –and it can get very tempting after a long trek– avoid drinking any other water than bottled water. If you have to drink non-bottled water, purify it with iodine or chlorine tablets (available readily in most drug stores in Kathmandu). Asking for bottled water in restaurants is always a best idea.
Do not eat roadside food that is exposed in the open air. Avoid buying and eating raw and unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Other than that, it is fine to have boiled, fried or properly packaged food items. Read the FAQ on Health and Insurance for details on what to do in case of health problems.
Do you think I should bring some medicines with me when I come to Nepal?
As said, prevention is better than cure, it’s highly recommended that you bring medicines for common illness like nausea, vomiting,cold and flu when you come to Nepal. Though there are many pharamacy shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara, it’s worth carrying some basic medicinal stuffs like insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm, eye drops, bandages and so on.
Altitude Sickness is the effect of altitude on those who ascent too rapidly to elevations above 3,000 meters. The basic early symptoms of altitude sickness is headache, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. One shouldn’t ignore these early symptoms as these symptoms may lead to more serious warnings and cause death sometimes within few hours. Medicine is no substitute for descent. If a doctor is available, he may give medicine and oxygen. However, the patient must go down to lower altitude even if treatment is given.
If I need to see a doctor, where can I do so?
Almost all good doctors and all well equipped hospitals and clinics are in Kathmandu. Visiting a doctor in a clinic is probably better than going directly to a public hospital. Hospitals in Kathmandu can be very crowded with the whole country coming there for medical treatment. Private “nursing homes” and clinics are plentiful in Kathmandu. Elsewhere in the country, there is not much of a choice: you can at best get a service that may pull you through until you reach Kathmandu.
Do I need travel insurance?
Oh yes, some sort of travel insurance is highly recommended. Most travel insurance covers emergency flights, medical expenses, and theft or loss of possessions. The insurance premium in general is between $50 to $75 for a two week period, and progressively less for longer periods. It’s a price worth paying. If you plan to go rafting or trekking, make sure your insurance covers these “dangerous activities.” Remember to keep your receipts to make claims. In order to make claims on lost or stolen items, you will need a police report issued in Nepal by the Interpol Section of the Nepal Police