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Everything that can go wrong on a Himalayan trek!

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Everything that can go wrong on a Himalayan trek!

Trekking is a prominent sport in the Himalayas in India. Once trekkers deem themselves fit, their next step is to summit Himalayan treks. These are significantly tougher, demanding, extended, require good physical health and proper preparation. Even when you are 100% prepared, it is not guaranteed that all will be great on the trail. Here are some factors to consider that can go wrong in a Himalayan trek:

Death of Mules

You leave luxury behind once you sign up for a trek. You get basic amenities in the wilderness  – air, water and land. All other things, including equipment, clothes, sleeping bags, camp, etc., must be carried on the back inside a backpack/rucksack. Some locals do this for the group when you travel with an organisation. The mules carry the eatables, gas, tents, camps, etc. They are well-trained to walk with weights on all kinds of terrains. If something goes wrong with one or two mules, it can be managed. But more mule deaths invite hardships.

For example, this happened with one batch on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek last year, in 2021, when many mules died due to a sudden violent storm. The trekkers were carried down to a safe point, and the trek was not continued further. All trekkers were retrieved to the base point.



Injury/Sickness of a Trekker

Many things start to change as you set your foot on the trek. The worst is for first-time trekkers who face wrong things at the wrong time. For the first few nights, they might not sleep, everyday changing altitude might not give them the right time to acclimatise, or they might have a health condition that might hit them abnormally. 

Avoid this by adequately working on physical and mental endurance. Working on your weaknesses can alleviate any significant problem on the trail. This has substantial benefits: You know what to do in which scenario; you will be aware of yourself and the track; you would be able to help fellow trekkers. 

Trek leader down with Injury/sickness

Trek leaders are the ankle of a trek. They give first-aid, manage the group dynamics, arrange all essential things and keep a link between trekkers and locals. If a trek leader falls sick, it becomes complicated to keep up the pace. In such scenarios, we see what all options are available at our discretion.

Weather Conditions

This one scares all trekkers, leaders and locals, for if this gets rough, we cannot proceed further. Also, the weather in the mountains changes in a whiff, so no forecast can be wholly relied on. 

AMS

AMS or Altitude Mountain Sickness is when your body doesn’t get enough time to adjust to a high altitude. Symptoms occur within hours after arrival at a high altitude, including nausea, headache, dizziness, inability to properly walk and shortness of breath. 

Most of the patients have mild symptoms that fade out as soon as they are brought to a lower altitude, but in some other cases, it can be life-threatening. Doctor’s help, proper care and medication must be taken as soon as possible. 

Avoid this by gradually ascending and giving the body ample time to adjust. Don’t directly jump to a high-altitude trek (treks more than 8000 feet). You can start with easy treks and then continue your streak for more strenuous treks. 

Read:
Guide To Acclimatization In The Himalayas

What Does Trek Difficulty Level Mean?

Running out of water on the trail.

When you trek, you dehydrate quickly in the form of sweat or breath. This can result in dehydration that can cause hikers to become confused and disoriented. We always advise all trekkers to carry at least 2 litres of water every time they step out. 

Avoid this by: A good way to check if you are dehydrated or not is to monitor your lips and skin. If they appear dry, drink water sip by sip at regular intervals, and this would go away. 

Skin Burn, Frost Bites

At high altitudes, two types of UV radiation exist UVA and UVB. Out of these, UVB radiation is harmful to the skin. While skin tanning is usual, skin burn is not good. Skin burn is followed by a burning sensation, rashes and uneasiness.

Similarly, frostbite is the condition when the skin and tissues just below the skin freeze. When skin gets very cold, it numbs and turns white and black in severe cases.

Read:
How to Choose High Altitude UV Protected Sunglasses?


How to wear sunglasses with spectacles?


Trekking with eyesight: Contact Lenses or Glasses on treks?

Knee and Foot Pain

Your leg will make you win the game. As you tread on that trail, it becomes imperative to take good care of your legs. This includes stretching, walking correctly, massaging, and putting them in warm water if you anticipate pain. 

Avoid this by practising knee and feet exercises and consulting a physiotherapist way before the trek to treat it. 

Read:
Fitness Requirements For A Trek In The Himalayas

How To Choose the Best Trekking Shoes?

Lack of Proper Equipment

Carry good jackets, rain covers, clothes, warmer, gloves, shoes that suit the weather conditions. A good tent and sleeping bag are a must if travelling alone. During snow, it is mandatory to carry sunglasses to avoid snow blindness. 

Then, you must learn essential life skills like lighting fire, packing and wearing the backpack correctly, retracing the trail in case you are lost, swimming, etc. 

Read:
What To Pack For A Trek In The Himalayas?

Common Mistakes That Trekkers Make

  • Wrong training, improper posture.
    Read: How to Pack for a Himalayan Trek – the Ultimate Guide
  • You don’t use ample sunscreen. 
  • You don’t eat sufficient food and trek on an empty stomach.
  • You don’t hydrate your body.
  • You aren’t aware of what to eat and how much. 
  • Too large, too small, too tight, wrong size footwear.
  • Forgetting essential documents for identification and not keeping all emergency phone numbers handy. 
  • Trying to beat ego – You will invite trouble if you fight against nature despite knowing that conditions are not right.
  • You don’t carry a trail map.
  • Incorrect pace – Slowing down, running, or moving too fast.
  • Back to back treks – Trekkers exuberantly do not rest from fatigue after every trek. A 4-day trek requires at least a week’s rest, after which you can start your cardio and other training.
  • Travelling off-trail or going too ahead/behind the trek leaders.
  • You start panicking in uncertain situations.
  • You make fun of locals and follow wrong behaviour.
  • You damage architecture, prayer flags, etc.
  • You throw plastics on the way and pollute nature.
  • You do things you aren’t supposed to do. (Alcohol, smoking, bonfire, in some regions it is not allowed to eat meat. Example – area around mt. Nanda Devi.)
  • You decide the trek without proper research. 

Note: Harsh Patel, our trek leader and Internal Coordinator, provided valuable inputs for this article. 

Think we missed something from everything that can go wrong on a Western Ghats trek? Please do comment and let us know.


About the author

Supriya is currently based in Bangalore. She loves the art of observing things and wants to fill all her days with poetry and travel. Her works have been published in 2 books namely - The Fragrance of life and Ikigai. Her articles have also reached the audience through the Women's Web, Asailor and Tripoto platforms. Know her better: https://linktr.ee/emo_travellin.
2 Responses
  1. Hey Joey,

    I agree with all your points. Thanks for giving insights about the trek. Would really help readers.

    But I am not happy when you said you would like to only do one day treks in future. Wilderness has its benefits; you feel raw and get more connected with your roots when the trek is extended for number of days. You can rest for a while, but always keep the option of attempting another Himalayan trek open. Moreover, now that you know about the difficulties, you would enjoy more.

  2. Joey

    I recently did the KGL Himalayan Trek.

    Things nobody will tell you.

    There is a lot of walking. I mean, a lot of walking. You start at 7 in the morning and reach the next camp site by 3 PM or 6 PM depending on the day.
    If it rains, the lot of walking becomes extremely risky and stressful. There is danger of slipping and falling. This guy slipped and fell. He almost dislocated his shoulder.
    If it rains, your clothes and shoes get wet during the trek. They don’t dry even after putting them out. You walk in those wet shoes the next day as well.
    You are not allowed to carry more than 10 kgs in your big backpack. In an attempt to sympathise with the mules, you may consider minimal clothes. Always carry a spare set of clothes.
    You have to climb over boulders on all fours. This is quite dangerous and risky. This is not for the uninitiated.
    If you choose to take a mule to help you finish the trek, be careful. Do not climb on a mule that is already loaded. This girl requested a mule. The mule already was carrying a alot of luggage. The mule gave up after a point and the girl fell from the mule. She ended up breaking her neck and ribs. Her legs stopped responding. It took them 4 hours before they could get her to the nearest army hospital.
    If you choose to take a mule to to help you finish the trek, do not fall asleep.
    This guy fell asleep whilst on the mule. The local guide fell into the cliff in the process of saving the trekker from falling.
    There is no water for sanitation; no water after taking a dump. Using water to wash your ass after the business is discouraged so as not to generate foul smells. Despite the precaution, the dry toilets smell pretty bad.
    There is no water for bathing unless you want to take a shower using bitterly cold water. You pretty much do not shower for the entire 6 days. Get antifungal dusting powder and protect your privates and armpits from getting a fungal infection.
    Since water is a scarcity, the plates for eating food are always oily and dirty.
    Since water is a scarcity, wet wipes are very popular. You can try to get bamboo based wipes. They are biodegradable.
    Cleanliness is the last thing you can expect at these altitudes.
    Drinking water at camp sites always has suspended particles.
    Tents are not the cleanest. The foam sheet is almost always stained.
    The sleeping bags are not dedicated ones. They are used by others and always shuffled.
    The food is cooked using water from the river. The river water has suspended particles as everyone washes their utensils at the same place.
    As per government rules, only 90 trekkers are allowed to set up tent and camp each day. However, you will see a lot of camps close to 300 or 400 any given day.
    The sun is extremely harsh at these altitudes. Use sunscreen. Use a sun cap.
    The climb down can get tricky. There is loose soil in some parts. Get trekking poles. They will prevent you from falling.
    The climb down and up can get tricky. There is loose soil in some parts. Get trekking shoes. They will prevent you from falling.
    After a long day of walking, you want your feet to breathe a bit. Get a pair of flip flops.
    As you climb up, altitude mountain sickness can kick in. Get medicines to prevent you from falling sick. If you get a vomiting sensation, that means mountain sickness has caught up with you. To avoid falling prey to it, keep sipping water every 20 minutes.
    You will be asked to collect water from the glacier streams. They are pristines water sources. With the increasing number of tourists, you may not want to fully rely on it. Get a water purifying bottle like Lifestraw.
    When you reach a lake, your guide may not find time to let you sit and take in the calmness and the view. Insist that you want a moment.
    When you reach a lake, you may be tempted to take a dip. Do not give in to the urge. These parts of the country are beautiful because they are untouched. Do not let your unwashed body disrupt the lake’s delicate ecosystem.
    Speaking of the ecosystem, try your best to carry and use biodegradable products. Avoid plastic disposables. You may want to carry along with you reusable products, containers, bags which you will want to take back with you once exhausted.

    Once you embark oupon this trip, there is no way you can pull out of it. You have to complete it no matter what.
    Going back is not an option unless it is a medical emergency.

    If you are new to Himalayan treks, it is highly recommended that you start with a day trek and gradually progress to 2 days treks and so on.

    THIS IS NOT A BEGINNER’S TREK. IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT.

    As for me, there will be no multi day treks. I would prefer day treks. I would want to come back to a clean toilet, clean bed, hot shower, safe food.

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