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:
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.