Are you planning to trek for the first time in the Indian Himalayas? Are you curious about trekking? As a beginner, do you have a set of questions on trekking in Indian Himalayas? Great!!, whatever may be the case, Trekking in India for Beginners, gives you the most vital information about treks which will definitely help you plan better. The trekking tips for beginners at the end will help you clarify your doubts on trekking in Indian Himalayas. This is a comprehensive guide for trekking in India for beginners.
Table of Contents
- A clear understanding of the term trekking
- Technical and Nontechnical treks
- Different levels of nontechnical treks
- Characteristics of the different levels of nontechnical treks
- Physical fitness or mental readiness?
- Basic fitness guidelines
- Trekking tips for beginners
Mountain Treks for Beginners- Tourist to a Hiker
Over a period, I changed myself from a tourist to a traveller and then into a trekker. In this blog, I have summarized the preparation before my first Himalayan trek. All descriptions here are based on my perspective of trekking in India for Beginners.
Trekking is enthusiastically hiking long distances, involving multiple days towards a destination. These destinations are the places where vehicles cannot reach. In some cases, even if a vehicle may reach, the trekking trail is completely different from the path of the vehicle movement. Normally trekking in India is popular in the mountains or in the jungles. But, now a days, beach trekking is gaining popularity in India. Since the hike involves multiple days, one needs to carry essential items like food, sleeping bags, tent, and other essential gears along with them.
Categories of Treks
Trekking in India for Beginners are categorised into two major parameters-
- Nontechnical Treks.
- Technical Treks
In nontechnical treks, we do not require any specialized equipment’s like ropes, axe, ladder etc. Technical treks are a combination of trekking and mountaineering and always require these specialized equipment’s. Trekkers require special training before attempting these treks.
The nontechnical treks can be further classified as:
- Easy himalayan treks for beginners
- Easy to moderate himalayan treks
- Moderate to difficult himalayan treks and
- Difficult himalayan treks
The above classification is based on the ease of trekking considering several factors like the altitude, terrain, hiking time, and environment or condition of the trekking trails. Most of the Himalayan treks have a specific window period in a year to climb, particularly the treks above 10,000 feet in altitude. Technical treks always fall in the category of the most difficult treks.
Easy Himalayan Treks for Beginners
- Altitude vary between 6000 feet to 9000 feet
- The trail is somewhat even without any rough terrain
- The trail is mainly through beautiful villages and forests.
- Trek duration ranges between 2 days to 3 days (Base to Base)
- Average trekking distance is normally approx. 10 Km (Base to Peak)
- Easy treks can be performed any time during the year. Better to avoid the rainy season.
- Acclimatization halts enroute not required
- Rare chances for altitude sickness
Trekking in the Indian Himalayas- Easy to Moderate Treks
- Altitude vary between 9,000 feet to 12500 feet approx.
- Tricky trails in some places
- The trail passes through villages, forests, and moves above the tree line in some cases.
- Trek duration ranges between 3 to 4 days (Base to Base)
- Average trekking distance ranges between 13 Km to 15 Km (Base to Peak)
- Can be trekked any time of the year except for the rainy season and peak winter. In winter, you might not be able to reach the peak due to excessive snow accumulation on the trail and camping sites.
- Acclimatization halts enroute not required
- Less chances for altitude sickness
Hiking in the Indian Himalayas- Moderate to Difficult Treks
- Altitude vary between 13000 feet to 16000 feet approx.
- Tricky and difficult trails in many places specially above 14000 feet.
- Need to be careful with altitude sickness (AMS).
- The trail passes through villages, forests, alpine meadows and then through a dry rocky & snow filled zone.
- Trek duration ranges between 5 days to 7 days. (Base to Base)
- Average trekking distance ranges between 25 Km to 30 Km (Base to Peak)
- These treks have a small window period for trekking, ideally 2 times in a year, during May-June and then again during September- October.
- Near by 13000 feet, one day acclimatization halt is recommended. But, that is not mandatory. It all depends on the fitness of the trekker.
Caution: At 14000 feet the air is thinner and density of oxygen in air is 40% less than that at sea level.
Trekking in the Indian Himalayas- Difficult Treks
- Altitude vary between 15000 to 20000 feet approx.
- Difficult trails in many places.
- Challenge in coping up with the altitude sickness (AMS). The higher you climb, the air becomes thinner and oxygen level decreases.
- Above 14000 feet, the trek is extremely challenging. One need to fight with the climate, self-fitness, and the stiffness of the slope.
- Trek duration ranges between 10 days to 14 days. (Base to Base)
- Average trekking distance ranges anywhere between 30 Km to 60 Km (Base to Peak)
- Like moderate to difficult treks, these too have a small window period ideally 2 times in a year, during May-June and then again during September- October.
- Acclimatization halts mandatory. One should not avoid acclimatization to cope up with altitude sickness.
Caution: Above 14000 feet the air becomes thinner and density of oxygen is 40% less than that at sea level. The higher you climb, the thinner the air becomes.
Splendid!! I believe you are now having a fair understanding on the different levels of treks. Now, let us look into the physical fitness required for the treks. I was not a fitness freak and hence, it took me a long time, around 3 months, to become 100% ready for my first Himalayan trek to 16000+ feet.
Physical Fitness or Mental Readiness for Trekking in India for Beginners?
One particularly important factor in any adventure is the mental readiness of the person. Prior to physical fitness, one should be mentally fit for the trek considering the number of days of the trek, adverse climate in the mountains or the trekking region, simplest food, and adjustment to zero comfort level. Normally, people who passionately love nature, are 100% mentally ready by default.
Bearing in mind the physical fitness, one needs to give emphasis on the cardiac exercises. I will state the bare minimum exercises I had worked with and still working for treks of any level of difficulty. Those who are already into swimming, cycling, football, or athletics are doing great with the cardio exercises and are ready for the treks.
Basic fitness tips
- Jogging: The standard is to jog 4 Km in 25 minutes without any break. This is sufficient for any nontechnical trek of any difficulty level. But, before and after jogging, do some stretching exercises to avoid muscle cramps.
- Free hand exercises: Do you remember the different free hand exercises you used to perform before playing football / cricket/ badminton/TT in your school/college days? Those are the exercises you need to practice for another 15 min after the jog.
- Squats: This is particularly important as the exercise will strengthen your calf muscles. In long hikes, your legs and the calf muscles go through maximum torture to balance the body and keep you going. Squats will also make your knees stronger. 30 squats in sets of 15 each at an interval of few minutes is just the right amount for your treks.
Jogging helps the body to adjust with the low level of oxygen in the high altitudes and hence fight AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
Optimise your training schedule
The above is all you need to do on a regular basis, minimum 3 days, and maximum 4 days in a week. A break of 2-3 days in a week is required for your body to get adjusted to your new workout routine. The overall workout time each day should be approx. 60 Minutes to 75 Minutes including some rest in between.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I was not a fitness freak and jogging at the beginning was difficult for me. I started with brisk walking first for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes and by the time I habituated with constant 15 minutes brisk walk, I was already into the jogging mode. It took me exactly 3 weeks before I could jog 4 Km in 25 minutes. By the end of the 2nd month, I was able to jog 6 Km without any breaks.
To keep myself safe from any injury before the trek, I normally stop jogging 15 days prior to the journey date. But I continue with the free hand exercises. In these 15 days, I do a through body checkup consisting of Hemoglobin, Blood sugar, Blood pressure and other important tests advised by the doctor.
The preparation for a trek will also require the purchasing or renting of the required trekking gears and backpacking them efficiently. In my blog “Beginners guide to trekking gears for Indian Himalayas” , I discussed about the trekking gears, their importance, and use.
Welcome to the family of trekkers and get prepared for your first trek.
Tips for trekking in India for beginners
Being a first time trekker, shall I attempt an easy trek?
I would say NO. Attempt a Moderate to Difficult or a Difficult trek if you are quite enthusiastic about treks and both physically & mentally prepared, . You will cherish your achievement lifetime.
Can treks in India be attempted solo?
Yes, most of the nontechnical treks can be attempted solo if you are especially experienced in Himalayan treks. Hence, a first timer should never attempt solo treks of any difficulty level.
How do I join a trek in India?
There are several professional trekking organizations in India namely, Trek the Himalayas, India Hikes, Thrillophilia etc. I trek with the first two organizations. They are reliable, secured, and good. After visiting their website, select the trek, check the dates and book. Rest, the organization will guide you.
What is the age limit for joining a trek in India?
Well, there is no specific age limit to join a trek. It all depends on your fitness and the difficulty level of the trek. Normally trekkers between the age 10 years to 16 years should be accompanied by some expert family members/family friends. The upper age limit for trekking depends on the mental and physical fitness of the person. I have seen trekkers aged 50 and above in the high altitudes of the Indian Himalayas.
I am a solo woman. Is trekking safe in India?
Yes, I can assure you “Trek the Himalayas” and “India Hikes” are very safe for solo women trekkers. Solo women from Bangalore, Delhi and other places of the country join treks of 8 days or more duration.
How do I arrange my meal on a trek?
All meals are arranged by the trekking organization with whom you are trekking. The food served is simple but delicious.
What food can I expect on the slope?
The food is normally quite simple with lots of carbs like rice, roti, dal and sabzi with some dessert. In non-vegetarian meals you may get eggs somedays. On the slope, you should eat more of carbohydrate and less of protein as proteins are difficult to digest in high altitudes. Hot tea and warm drinking water are provided in all camp sites.
Do we need to prepare our own food and set up the camps on the slope?
Not exactly. I discussed about camping in my next blog “Beginners guide to trekking gears”.
For any other questions on trekking in Indian Himalayas, please feel free to contact me through the contact page.
Hope you enjoyed reading my article. Stay safe and keep yourself fit. It is advisable to plan for the himalayn treks post March 2022.