The best way to experience Nepals unbeatable combination of natural beauty and cultural riches is to walk through them. The immense contrasts in altitudes and climates found here support an equally spectacular mix of lifestyles, vegetation types and wildlife. More than 110,000 visitors go trekking every year.
You don’t need to be a mountaineer with rippling muscles to enjoy trekking. If you are reasonably fit, have a spirit of adventure and are not afraid of walking, you qualify. There are excellent trekking agencies that will take care of all the details.
Your trekking agency will provide equipment like sleeping bags, foam mattresses and tents. All you need to bring are your personal wear like walking boots and sandshoes, a water- and wind-proof jacket, woolen shirts, T-shirts, a thick pullover, shorts/skirts and trousers/track suit. Thermal underwear is necessary for high altitudes and cottons are best for lower and warmer altitudes. Also don’t forget a water bottle, Swiss army knife, sewing kit, torch light with spare batteries, extra boot laces, sun glasses, sun cream and personal medical supplies.
Trekking is possible at any time of the year depending on where you are going. The most popular seasons are spring (February-May) and autumn (September-November). Winter is very cold above 4,000 m, and high mountain passes may be snowbound, but it is good for trekking at lower altitudes. During the monsoon season (June-August), you can trek in the rain-shadow areas “behind” the Himalaya like Mustang, Upper Manang and Dolpo. These places are out of reach of the clouds because of the mountains and are unaffected by the monsoon.
You trek to enjoy the scenery on the trail, not to get to any place in a hurry. The main precaution to be taken while trekking is not to go up too high too fast. The body should be given plenty of time to acclimatize. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) refers to the effects of the thin air at high altitudes which can be very dangerous and may even result in death. If you get initial symptoms like nausea, dizziness, swelling in the face and breathlessness, descend to a lower elevation immediately and seek medical help. Comprehensive travel insurance is advised to cover emergencies like helicopter rescue and medical treatment in case of accidents on the trail.
WHERE TO TREK
The entire length and breadth of the Kingdom is a paradise for trekkers. There are easy walks lasting a few days and there are strenuous expeditions that take several weeks.
Annapurna. The most popular trekking route in Nepal, you will be walking through rhododendron forests over the foothills of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. The Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest in the world, and Lake Tilicho (4,919 m), the highest lake, are located here. Treks to the Annapurna region start from the lakeside resort town of Pokhara. (Maximum elevation covered on the trek is 5,416 m.)
Everest. The highest mountain in the world continues to lure adventurers as ever. A scenic flight lands you at the airstrip of Lukla (2,850 m) from where you begin walking to the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar and on to Tengboche monastery. Then it’s over the glaciers to the foot of Everest for the view of a lifetime (maximum elevation 5,546 m).
Langtang. The third most popular trekking region lies to the north of Kathmandu. The Gosaikund lake situated here is a much-revered Hindu pilgrimage site. Langtang offers baffling extremes in topography and climate conditions (maximum elevation 4,480 m).
Remote areas. For those who want to get off the beaten track, there is the trail to Mustang (maximum elevation 5,400 m) north of the Annapurna range which offers mind-boggling landscapes and mystical cultures. Dolpo in northwest Nepal (elevation 4,500 m) captivates visitors with its Phoksundo Lake and unparalleled scenery. Manaslu in west-central Nepal (elevation 5,213 m) offers a diverse range of pristine eco-systems.
Makalu in the eastern part of the country (elevation 5,350 m) takes you through isolated valleys and high mountain passes. Kanchenjunga in the extreme east offers a close look at the world’s third highest peak.
All visitors require a trekking permit to visit Nepals interior regions not connected by major roads except the Annapurna, Everest and Langtang regions. Trekking permits are available from the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu (Tel: 222453, 223590) or Pokhara (Tel: 21167). Two photographs are required with the application.
Trekking Permit Fees. The fee for a Trekking Permit is as follows:
Kanchenjunga and Lower Dolpo – US$ 10 per week for the first four weeks and US$ 20 per week thereafter; Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo – US$ 700 for the first 10 days and US$ 70 per day thereafter; Manaslu – US$ 90 per week for trekking during September-November and US$ 75 per week during December-August; Humla (Simikot-Yari) – US$ 90 for the first seven days and US$ 15 per day thereafter.
National Park Fees. You need to pay a park fee of Rs. 500 per person per day to visit a National Park or Wildlife Reserve. The fee is payable at the park entrance. Trekkers going to the Annapurna Region must pay a fee of Rs. 2,000 (Rs. 200 for SAARC nationals) which is payable in Kathmandu at its office in the Sanchayakosh Building, Thamel, Room No. 140 or in Pokhara. Trekkers who pay at the park entrance are charged double. For more information, contact Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), Tel: 526571, 526573. The toll is utilized for environment conservation and maintenance of the area.
Himalayan Rescue Association
The Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), a non-profit organization, seeks to prevent casualties from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). HRA operates an Information Center in Thamel. Visitors can attend talks on mountain sickness and learn about trekking, safety, AMS and related matters. The HRA also runs two trekkers aid posts, one in Pheriche (enroute to Everest Base Camp) and one in Manang (in the Annapurnas); qualified volunteer doctors from overseas provide medical assistance to trekkers during the trekking season.
The HRA information center is located in the Thamel Mall Building Complex on Jyatha, Thamel, and is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily except Saturdays and major holidays. Tel: 262746; E-mail: email@example.com