Have you ever climbed at high altitude? It might just seem like a normal climb, but it takes a lot more training, preparation and awareness of the risk involved.
So this post is about sharing with you how I got about preparing for one of the high altitude hikes I experienced in Nepal called the Mohare Danda hike, and making sure you have all the risks covered with the right insurance as well.
Back to the Mountains
In this modern working world, most people lead a fast-paced lifestyle filled with deadlines and very little time to relax. It is little wonder that stress has become the leading contributor to chronic illness. But we are beginning to see a fight back for a more balanced lifestyle.
As more and more researches are discovering a direct relation between health and spending time in nature, trekking as an outdoor activity is also seeing a soar in popularity in recent years. Before we know it, almost everyone has Everest base camp or ‘EBC’ on their bucket list!
While on this topic, did you see that picture below that had gone viral in the last couple of months? I am talking about the human traffic jam at the summit of the highest mountain in the world.
With more and more people wanting to set goals like conquering mountains, here’s me sharing why is the Himalayas in Nepal the place to go.
Why Experience Himalaya Trekking
While Himalaya trekking seems like a really great activity to attempt, having been there and came back (in almost one piece), I must say nature has its way to humble even the fittest athlete!
This is not the kind of activity you would want to try on a random morning after dreaming about it. Here is a guide to help you get ready in the most complete way possible so that your trek is all about making good memories and not so much of the hassles.
What is High Altitude Trekking?
Any place above 8,000 feet or 2,438 metres above sea level is considered high altitude. Trekking at high altitude means the air is thinner, there is less oxygen and therefore can be challenging to breathe for some people.
Trekking at Mohare Danda – The new Poonhill
There are multiple treks in the Himalayas ranging from day trips to multi-days. Mohare Danda, which is an Eco-community lodge trek, is relatively new and hence still wonderfully enjoyable and pristine. Other than our group, we did not see anyone else on the trek. Also, you wouldn’t have to queue to reach the summit!
How I prepare for high altitude trek
How you prepare for high altitude trekking is the next most important consideration. When it was time to prepare for the mountains, the team was split into pairs to share a duffel bag. We were told to reorganize our luggage and bring only the essentials. Our main luggage was left at the hotel.
Most trekking companies have porters to carry your bags, but it is good to have a day pack for items you need on the walk. When 3kilos can feel like 30kilos, what and how you pack into the respective bags became an art. This would also be the time when you let your inner Marie Kondo take over.
Himalayas Trekking Packing List
Its always necessary to come prepared before your hike. Whether you are a first-timer or frequent mountain climber, other than buying a good travel insurance that covers you at that altitude, there are multiple essentials to be equipped with. Here are some recommendations.
For those who get the assistance of porters to carry your bag, be more considerate how you pack, but some essentials for the trip will include:
- Sleeping bag
- Fleece jacket
- Face wipes
- Body wipes (if you can find powdered body wipes, even better!)
- Feminine wipes (optional)
- Insect repellent
- Salt (optional, but highly recommended during monsoon season for leeches)
- Slippers/ sandals
- 1 pair of additional tracking pants
- 1 pair of shorts- buy ones with zipper pockets!
- 1 set of PJs
- 3-5 dry-fit tank tops/ tee shirts
- 5 set of dry fit underwears
- 1 trekking towel (medium size)
- Extra Granola bars/ candies/ biscuits
Packing List Day Pack
For Day pack to carry while you hike, the right backpack size is fundamental. A good backpack size would be 20-30 litres.
Here’s suggesting a list of things to hand carry in your day pack.
- First aid kit
- Small sweat towel
- Snack for the day
- Money and ID- store in ziplock
- Camera and(or) video equipment
- Water bladder, not necessary but highly recommended
- Hand sanitizer
- Walking stick (optional)
This list is meant to minimise weight. While I would not go into the full detail of the trek in this article (you can read about it here). One of the things I found surprisingly useful on this trip were wipes. I can tell you right off the bat now, that you would not be showering in these 5 days, maybe once on Day 2 if you are lucky! The wipes kept us minimally clean for comfort. But again, it depends on how adaptable you are!
Essential Packing List for Multi-Day Hikes
When making preparations before a long multi-day hike, it’s important to get all the necessary things in advance to ensure you are equipped to face the multiple elements.
Hygiene and Welfare Essentials
- Wet Wipes that can kill bacteria
- Gentle non-fragrance wipes for delicate private areas
- Replacement for it can be hand sanitizer
- Biodegradable Disposable Undies
- Packing cubes for easy organizing
- Dry Shampoo
Health, Safety and Prevention Needs
- First Aid Kit and Medication ( Allergies/ Altitude sickness/ flu/ stomach upset, headaches, sore throat lozenges, muscle or joint pain tablets like Nurogen)
- Muscle rub
- Knee guard or ankle guard for weak joints
- Vitamin C tablets/ evanescence
- Anti blister tape
Weather Countering Needs
- Ziplock bags
- Aloe Vera cream for sunburns
- Hand cream for dryness
- Insect repellent
- Anti oulder powder/ spray
- Polarized shades
- Long sleeve UV protected breathable clothing
- Neck warmer/ beanie
- Warmers in individual packs
Food Rations and Fuel
- Energy bars or granola bars
- Chocolate Bars to counter Altitude sickness
- Biscuits/ rations
- Salt/ Sugar loss replacement powder
- Hot drinks sachets ( coffee/ tea/ hot chocolate etc)
Basic Essentials Clothing and More
- Lightweight waterproof bag with back and hip support
- Waterproof hiking boots
- A windproof and waterproof jacket that has compartments and pockets for storage
- Stretchable and breathable pants
- Water-resistant pants as we go to a higher altitude
- Headlamp and extra batteries
- Heat retaining water canister
- Base layer top and bottom for cold
- Warm socks for hiking and sleeping ( you need a lot of them!)
- Plastic bags to sort your trash/ organize your clean and dirty things
- Small quick-dry towel
- Hiking Poles
BONUS: Trekking Training for high altitude treks
Trekking in the Himalayas involves a lot of steps in general, particularly so for Mohare Danda. If you think an hour of StairMaster in the gym is sufficient, you need to triple those to make it relevant!
The first day of the ascent was 3 hours of continuous climbing and on the second day, we clocked in 7 hours. My legs were shaking out of control and the inside of my knees was sore even just lifting it at night. On that note, make sure your first aid kit has a Tiger balm, it makes a whole world of difference.
To minimise muscle aches, it is best to have a trekking training plan in place, at least a month in advance. This is the recommended 4-days weekly training plan from a professional strength and conditioning coach. It aims to strengthen your glutes, thighs and core whilst increasing your VO2 max or your lungs’ ability to use oxygen effectively during aerobic activities.
Trekking Training Plan
- Walking lunges
- Leg extension
- Hamstring curls
- HIIT bike- 15min
- Seated row
- Lats pull down
- Single DB row
- 60deg Seated shoulder press
- DB side raises
- HIIT row- 10min
- Hip thrust
- Leg curl
- Romanian deadlift
- Weight steps up
- HIIT sprints- 10min
- Cardio- 30-60min on StairMaster or inclined treadmill
- Planks x 3 sets of 60 seconds
Choosing a Good Trekking Company
Other than a decent level of fitness to complete the journey, having a good support system is mandatory while trekking in Nepal. In a place where language is a barrier and information are not readily available, my group and I found ourselves relying heavily on our Nepal hiking guides to learn about the terrain, routes, culture and country.
Fortunately for us, we had the team from Royal Mountain Travel to aid us. Gopal, our head guide who started working in the field as a porter, has years of experience working in the mountains. He was also helpful, organised and took time to answer all our questions.
While most of the porters did not speak English, many of them tried to communicate with us even when it was a complicated question. The approachable attitude of the team definitely has made our trip a pleasant one!
All in all, if you intend to add a high altitude hike in your bucket list, do note the preparations you need to make before it, what training regime to start on and also read up as much as you can about what travel insurance to get and what are the risks of high altitude hiking.
Do you think you are ready to scale the Himalayan mountains?