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Why Trek 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.

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What Is a Trek?
A Trek is Not a Climbing Trip

Whether you begin your trek at a road head 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 meters. 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 fulfillment 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 meters of elevation during many steep ascents and descents. On most treks, the daily gain is less than 800 meters in about 15 km, though ascents of as much as 1200 meters 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.


Self-Arranged Treks

A third style of trekking is to gather sherpas, porters, food and equipment and take off on a trek with all the comforts and facilities of an organised trek. On such a trek you camp in tents, porters carry your gear, sherpas set up camp and cook and serve meals. You carry a backpack with only a water bottle, camera and jacket.
Trekkers who opt for this approach, particularly with a small group of friends, often have a rewarding, enriching and enjoyable trip. You can use a trekking company in Nepal to make some or all of the arrangements, though you may have to shop for an agency that suits you. Some Nepalese trekking companies offer equipment for hire, some will arrange a single sherpa or porter and some will undertake only the entire arrangements for a trek.

If you want to have everything organised in advance, you can contact a Nepalese trekking company by mail or fax and ask them to make arrangements for your trek. There are more than 300 trekking companies in Kathmandu that will organise treks for a fee and provide all sherpas, porters and, if necessary, equipment. Unless you have a good idea of what you want, it will require a huge volume of correspondence to provide you with the information you require, to determine your specific needs, to define your precise route and itinerary and to negotiate a price that both parties understand. Mail takes up to three weeks each way to and from Australia, the Americas or Europe, so it's better to use fax or e-mail. Be specific in your communications and be sure that the trekking company understands exactly who will provide what equipment. It is most embarrassing to discover on the first night that someone forgot the sleeping bags.

One solution is to go to Nepal and simply sort out the details in an hour or two of face to face negotiations with a trekking company. You should be prepared to spend a week or so (less, if you are lucky) in Kathmandu settling these details. An alternative to endless correspondence with Nepal is to use a trek operator in your own country.

Trekking with a Trekking Company

Companies specializing in trekking can organize both individual and group treks. One major advantage to dealing with someone close to home is that it's easy to communicate by phone and the agent can assist you with travel to and from Nepal.
On an arranged trek the group must stay generally on its prearranged route and, within limits, must meet a specific schedule. This means that you may have to forego an appealing side trip or festival and, if you are sick, you will probably have to keep moving with the rest of the group. You also may not agree with a leader's decisions if the schedule must be adjusted because of weather, health, political or logistical considerations.

You will be trekking with people you have not met before. Although some strong friendships may develop, there may also be some in the party you would much rather not have met. For some people, this prospect alone rules out their participation in a group trek. The major drawback, however, will probably be the cost. Organised treks usually start at US$35-80 per person per day of the trek. One of the major expenses is the services of a Western leader who acts as guide, cultural interpreter and social director. On the positive side, by fixing the destination and schedule in advance, all members of the group will have prepared themselves for the trip and should have proper equipment and a clear understanding of the schedule and terrain. Read the brochures and other material prepared by the agent to see if it is likely to attract the type of people you'd get along with.

Most prearranged treks cater to people to whom time is more important (within limits) than money. For many, the most difficult part of planning a trek is having the time to do so. These people are willing to pay more to avoid wasting a week of their limited vacation sitting around in Kathmandu making arrangements or waiting along the way for a spare seat on a plane. A trekking agent usually tries to cram as many days in the hills as is possible into a given time span. Trekking agents make reservations for hotels and domestic flights well in advance. Thus theoretically, these hassles are also eliminated.

Because the group carries its own food for the entire trek, a variety of meals is possible. This may include canned goods from Kathmandu and imported food bought from expeditions or other exotic sources. A skilled cook can prepare an abundant variety of tasty Western-style food. The meals a good sherpa cook can prepare in an hour over a kerosene stove would put many Western cafes to shame.

A group trek carries tents for the trekkers. This convenience gives you a place to spread out your gear without fear that someone will pick it up, and probably means that you will have a quiet night. In addition, a tent also gives you the freedom to go to bed when you choose. You can retire immediately after dinner to read or sleep, or sit up and watch the moon rise as you discuss the day's outing.

Money and staff hassles rarely surface on an arranged trek. The sirdar is responsible for making minor purchases along the way and ensures a full complement of porters every day. Unless you are particularly interested, or quite watchful, you may never be aware that these negotiations are taking place.

A group trek follows a tradition and routine that trekkers and mountaineers have developed and refined for more than 50 years. You can travel in much the same manner as the approach marches described in The Ascent of Everest, Annapurna and Americans on Everest, a feature not possible with other styles. If your interest in the Himalaya was kindled through such books, you still have the opportunity to experience this delightful way to travel. There are many reasons why these expeditions went to all the trouble and expense to travel as they did.

It is an altogether refreshing experience to have all the camp and logistics problems removed from your responsibility so you are free to enjoy fully the land and the people which have attracted mountaineers for a century.

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A Note of Caution
If you trek on your own, remember that you will be far from civilization as you know it (including medical care, communication facilities and transport), no matter how many local hotels or other facilities may exist. It is only prudent to take the same precautions during a trek in Nepal as you would take on a major hiking or climbing trip at home, and carry a basic medical kit. There will often be nobody but the Sherpa crew and your own companions to help you if you are sick or injured.



For trip cost, itinerary and other relevant information please
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E-mail: info@adventureplusnepal.com.np

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