Sunday, February 17, 2013

My rules about trekking in the Himalayas

Now, these points or rules are not accurate from a scientific perspective. Some of these have worked for me, that's all. And I do plan to develop this specific post over the next few years.

Do not smoke during the trek. This rule applies if you're a nonsmoker otherwise. ;) That said, try not to smoke in the mornings before you start trekking.

Don't push yourself beyond your tipping point
. This mainly applies to moderate treks +. Temet Nosce. There's gonna be no pleasure getting to your destination, if it would maim you or make you plain invalid for a few days. If you really think you're gonna burn yourself out, forget those words of encouragement from your better partners. Walk back. There's no shame in that. I backed off a few kilometers from Satopanth Lake because the snow was bad and I felt terrible. I feel terrible now that I did not go through with it then, but, I'm still alive and I have all of my fingers to type and my toes to walk on. Rule of thumb (adapted and modified from a Marylin Manson song)- you should be able to smell it if you're knee deep in shit.

Trek, don't run! There is this unwritten happiness in reaching the destination first. And while the fit ones try to do that and show it off, the not-so-fit ones feel even more desperate. C'mon guys, the whole point is not to tick off a destination from your to-do treks. The point is to enjoy, chat up, take pictures, and be there. Let's not replicate the rat race of the corporate or the student world in the mountains. And smartass, let's assume you reached that place first and are you're gloating about it.  Why don't you think about the meaninglessness of your achievement - there have been 100s or 1000s of trekkers who reached that point before you.

Do not carry alcohol during the trek
. This is a strict NO. If need be, get a porter to carry it, but never carry it yourself - it's a lot of weight over a long trek. Jokes aside, alcohol could create emotional problems. Period.

Take care of those around. This does not just apply to your team. If you sense some trouble among other trekkers in the area, offer help - whether it's supplies, food, advice, a helping hand, or just a conversation. Chances are it that your karma will be returned in this life itself if you're an outdoors person. We don't go out into the mountains to replicate our otherwise clannish behavior, do we?

Diamox ain't a drug.

Get a good shoe
. I learnt the perils of this thrice. First in Satopanth, when I picked up shoes from a shop run by a Tibetan in Badrinath. The second time was in snow-bound Tungnath with a duplicate Goretex/Hi Tec. The third time was at Madmaheswar when I packed the same duplicate shoes by mistake at 3 AM in the night while packing stuff. I have ankle-high Lytos now, and I'm happy. Zamberlan, Hi Tec etc. seems to be a good option. And if anyone thinks Woodlands is a trekking shoe, not even God can help you if you get into trouble. Research and invest in a good shoe. Oh, and go for Vibram soles - like they say, it's tested where it matters. And look for genuine Gore Tex fabric which is waterproof as well as breathable. (your feet needs a lot more air than you think!) And please, don't wait till the last day to buy a shoe. Shoe bites (we are making a song along the lines of "Love Bites" by Def Lepard. Will share when done, promise!)

Get good thermal protection. Don't buy lousy jackets that just look thick and chic. Psst psst, once you've identified the technical features, go for bright colors. They look cool on FB updates. I have a bright second-hand jacket that's been serving me well for the the last 4 years. And, have two pairs of gloves (one synthetic). And decent thermals (though they are tough to wear).

Have some good accessories: Sunglasses, sunscreen, lightweight ponchos, balaclavas. Your Himalayan guides will walk in rubber slippers and make it, chances are you won't. No need to be in awe, they just happen to have different skill-sets suited to their environment. Do you think your guide will drop his jaw if he saw your PPT or spreadsheet skills?  No way!

Get a good bag: Get a good bag with lumbar support, one that you can carry, fully filled. Lumbar support acts like a second spine. I have a Millet, and it works just fine.

Ask There are people willing to help. Askem.

Go with friends: You're not friends, if you haven't trekked together.

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