Trekking has remained men's passion from the day he took his first step on the earth. He always ventured out of home and his natural surroundings to explore something new, a world that was not known to him. It is astonishing to learn that the human race migrated from one continent to another when there were no means of communication, no helping hands, and most of them who left their home to a world unknown could never return back.
In some ways, the Indians were one of the most avid trekking tribes in the Copper Age when they explored new regions coming from Central Asia to northern Indian plains, and from there to the Indian Peninsula. Some of the legendry trekkers of Indian mythology like Indra (or Purundara as he is called in Rig Veda), Maharishi Agastya (the first Aryan to cross the Vindhyas), and the wandering God Narada will always be remembered. Shankaracharya was another great trekker of ancient times. He established four centers of Hinduism in the all the four corners of India. One of them was Badrinath in Garhwal Himalayas, and until today, it remains one of the most famous trekking routes in India.
More than anything else, trekking gained popularity in India due to religion. The loftiness and beauty of the Himalayas made our forefathers believe that if there is any place where gods can reside, it is the Himalayas. This led to the establishment of many religious centers in the hills, the result of which is that even today thousands of devotees cross various hurdles to reach these places.
Professional trekking began in India with the coming of English people who found the climate of the hills quite similar to those in their own country and decided to establish hill stations in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges in India. These hill stations acted as the base points from where new trek routes were explored and documented for the future generation trekkers. From those formative years, many changes have taken place. Greater number of people from all hues, ages, and income groups are participating in this sport. Many good institutes are providing professional help to persons not very much familiar with the conditions of these places and methods to cross the hurdles.
Trekking is a mountain sport.
Trekking routes can be graded based on levels of exertion and difficulty.
1 Low-altitude excursion with or without trekking
2 Trekking below the altitude of 5,000 m with five to six hours a day. Needs some experience in trekking, but not essential.
3 Trekking routes above 5,000 m requires greater physical activity and sustained periods above tree line. It is preferable if you posses some previous trekking experience.
4 Good physical health and some basic mountaineering skills are needed on this level of trekking
5 Level 5 require a very good physical health, advanced level of experience in mountaineering
A Elementary Trekking
B Medium Trekking
C Strenuous Trekking
Sometimes both these methods are unified to create exclusive grades like, say, 3C, which denotes a trek above 5,000 m and quite strenuous in nature.
Not much physical requirement is necessary for low-altitude trekking and nature walks. However, for high-altitude trekking, the physical requirements are almost the same as for mountaineering and climbing. People with high/low blood pressure or who are overweight are advised not to participate in high-altitude games and sports. People below 16 years and above 60 years are also discouraged from participating in this sport.
There is not much to trekking except your belief in your abilities to fulfill your dreams. You may require a rucksack that can accommodate a sleeping pad, a sleeping bag, one or two utensil, some clothes (not more than the bare minimum), some essential medicines, and ration. If you are in a group and plan to undertake high-altitude trekking, then you may also need to carry ropes, crampon, gaiter, headlamp, snow goggles, chock nut, butane gas, twin sling, shoes, carabiners, harness seat, ice axe, ascender, descender, hammer, tent, jummar, pulley, and helmet.
All these technical equipments can be had from mountaineering institutes, trekking and adventure clubs, private dealers, or adventure tour operators.
February/March are the best months for low-altitude trekking in the Himalayas. For high-altitude trekking, the best months are April/May. The months of July and August receive heavy rainfall and, therefore, these months are not recommended for the amateur trekkers. The best months for trekking in the Western Ghats are from December to April when the weather is clear and lush greenery surrounds the region.
Trekking destinations in India can broadly be divided into two major areas: the Western Himalayas covering the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh; and the Eastern Himalayas covering Darjeeling region of West Bengal, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
The major trekking areas of the Western Himalayas are Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttar Pradesh. The areas around Gangotri and Yamunotri have quite a good number of popular treks. Nanda Devi is another famous trekking option and most of the area comes under Kumaon region.
1. Gangotri (3,046 m) to Gangotri Glacier (6,500-7,000 m)
2. Tapovan (4,463 m) to Shivling (6,543 m)
3. Gangotri to Kedartal (5,000 m)
4. Gangotri to Yamunotri via Dodital
5. Har-ki-Dun Trek
6. Pindari Glacier Trek (Bharari 1,524 m to Zero Point 4,000 m)
7. Roopkund (4,800 m) Trek from Gwaldam (1,950 m)
8. Curzon Trail from Gwaldam to Tapovan
9. Nanda Devi and Milam Glacier Trek
10. Darma Valley Trek
1. Jalori Pass (3,350 m) Trek from Narkanda
2. Pir Panjal Trek (5,000 m)
3. Bahrmaur (1,981 m) to Manimahesh Lake (3,950) Trek
4. Lahaul Treks
a) Darcha to Padum (Zanskar)
b) Manali to Chandratal (4,270 m)
c) Udeypur to Bhagga Valley
5. Sangla (2680 m) to Chitkul (3,450 m)
6. Manali to Manikaran to Pulga along Parvati River
7. Bara Boulder to Sangam
8. Mudh to Spiti
9. Kaza to Comic (Spiti)
10. Manali to Lahaul and Spiti
11. Solang Valley to Beas Kund
12. Dhauladhar Treks beginning at Dharamshala, Baijnath, and Palampur
1. Pensi La to Padum
2. Karsha to Lamayaru
3. Padum to Leh
4. Spituk to Hemis
5. Lamayaru to Alchi
6. Nubra and Shyok Valley Trek
1. Monastic Trek: Pemayangtse-Sangacholing-Khecheopalri-Dubdi-Sinon-Tashiding-Ralang
2. Rhododendron Trek: Naya Bazar-Hilley/Soreng-Varsey-Dentam-Pemayangtse
3. Kanchan-Dzonga: Yuksum-Bakhim-Tsokha-Dzongri-Thanghing/Bikbari-Zemathang/Chaurigang-Goecha La/Rathong Glacier-Yuksum
4. Coronation Trek: Rumtek-Sang-Yangang-Rabongla-Tashiding-Yuksum
1. Darjeeling to Phalut via Sandakphu
2. Singalila Trek, starting from Manebhajang
3. Ramman-Bijanbari Trek
Before commencing the trek, the first thing that you should do is to identify the trek route and its difficulty level. Does the difficulty level of the trek match with the physical and technical abilities that you possess? If the answer is yes, then you have nothing to worry; but in case it is not, no need to worry either. Trekking is not just about scaling greater heights or to fight with nature; it is to experience the nature in its entirety. Choose a trek matching your capabilities. If you are going for the trek where inner-line permits are required, go get them first. If you are an Indian, you may not need them most of the time, but if you are a foreigner, you may need to apply for them quite well in advance.
Your next important assignment is to collect all your equipments and other items of daily use that you may need in the mountains. Put all the items in a rucksack and be ready for the blast. But before that, do not forget to get yourself medically examined. Remember that it is extremely important, and if you are a chronic patient or have any medical problems, try not to be too adventurous.
Once in the hills, respect the local cultures and try not to degrade the quality of the environment. When you reach the higher altitudes, follow the golden rule of "trek high sleep low". If you are in a group, it is extremely important for you to follow your rope and the guidelines of your team leader. At the higher altitudes, high-altitude sickness or madness is a common phenomenon and try your level best to avoid. If you are a first timer, you may find some basic mountaineering courses quite useful. Give enough time for acclimatization, because most of the city dwellers do not have physical functions accustomed to higher altitudes. At altitudes above 2,500 m, give two days' time to acclimatize your body for every 600 m of ascend. Finally, do not hurry your program; take your own time to explore the nature, and have fun
No particular event is associated with trekking in India in general, but you may certainly love to make a combination of your trekking expedition with the cultural events in the region. The Hemis Festival in May/June and Ladakh Festival in the months of June/July in the Ladakh Region are the best events to watch if you are in this beautiful land.
Dussehra in Kullu valley is special. It begins when Dussehra festivities in other parts of the country are over. The main event of this festival is taking out of Lord Raghunath's (local version of Lord Ram) idol through the streets on a palanquin carried by pilgrims. The procession also has villagers dancing in traditional attire.
Pemayangtse is famous for its Buddhist festivals. The festival of Losar marking the Tibetan New Year is celebrated in the month of February/March every year with great fanfare in the Pemayangtse monastery. The traditional religious Kagyat Dance festival, involving mask dancing, is held every month in the monastery. The gaiety and the rhythm of the mask dance will haunt and enchant the traveler once he has seen it.
1. Khaltse Subdivision (Drokahpa Area) Khaltse-Dunkhar-Skroduchan-Hanudo-Biana-Dha
2. Nubra Subdivision
a) Leh-Khardung La-Khalsar-Tirit up to Panasik
b) Leh-Khardung La-Khalsar up to Hunder
c) Leh-Sabo-Digar La-Digar-Labab-Khungru Gompa-Tangar (only for trekking conducted by approved tour operators and accompanied by state police personnel)
3. Nyona Subdivision
a) Leh-Upshi-Chumathang-Mahe-Puga-Tso-Moari Lake/Korzok
b) Leh-Upshi-Debring-Puga-Tso-Moari Lake/Korzok
c) Leh-Karu-Chang La-Durbuk-Tangtse-Lukung-Spankmik
d) Pangong Lake up to Spankmik
The Ministry of Home Affairs and the District Magistrates of the respective areas grant permits.
Individual tourists are not permitted to visit the above-mentioned areas. One is not allowed to stay for more than seven days even after getting permits to the restricted circuits. Tourist groups are to travel on identified tour circuits only.
1. Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Niti Ghati and Kalindi
Khal in Chamoli, Uttarkashi districts
Individual tourists are not permitted to visit the above-mentioned areas.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and District Magistrates of the respective districts can grant such permits. For further information one can contact State Resident Commissioner in Delhi at 401 Amba Deep Building, 14 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi (Ph. 011-3313338).
4. Pemayangtse Khecheperi
Individual tourists are permitted in these circuits. A maximum of 15 days is allowed. The state government, if necessary, can grant an extension of 15 days on request in the written form.
6. Dzongri in West Sikkim
Individual tourists are not permitted to visit this place. Maximum time period allowed is 16 days.
7. Tsangu (Changu Lake in East Sikkim)
Individual tourists are not permitted. Permit is valid for the day visit only. Tourist groups are expected to travel on identified tour circuits only.
8. Mangan, Tong, Singhik, Chungthang, Lachung and Yumthang
Individual tourists are not permitted on these circuits. Maximum stay period allowed is five days.
For more information on getting permits inside Sikkim, tourists may contact Commissioner and Resident Deputy Director (Tourism) Sikkim House, 12 Panchsheel Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi (Ph. 011-3010747, 3013026).
In Gangtok, one can contact the offices of Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, and Secretary (Tourism) of the Government of Sikkim.
1. Poo-Khab-Sumdho-Dhankar-Tabo Gompa-Kaza circuit
2. Morang-Dabling circuit
The district magistrate and director general of police of the state are entitled to grant these permits. The Special Commissioner (Tourism) and Resident Commissioner, Government of Himachal Pradesh, Himachal Bhawan, New Delhi also grant such permits. Inner-line permits for the districts of Lahaul and Spiti can be taken from Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Block II, CGO Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110 003. Special permits are required for trekking only. Individual tourists are not permitted to visit these areas.
1. It is advisable not to go for unrealistic programs. When chalking out your program, give sufficient time for altitude acclimatization. During the program never try to be too hurried. It can be dangerous.
2. Decide what you want to participate in: is it high-altitude trekking or nature walking only? Look for the level of difficulty involved in the program and whether your physical fitness is up to the level of competence required.
3. Important addresses, phone numbers, and email IDs should be distributed among the organizers, coordinators, and all the group members.
4. All the medicines that one may require and other basic surgical equipments should accompany group.
5. Divide all the responsibilities among the group members. Each member of the group should have proper training and experience of handling mountaineering equipments.
6. Sufficient ration should be there to take care of any eventuality.
7. High-altitude sickness or high-altitude madness is a common phenomenon among the trekkers and mountaineers. If you are participating in these programs for the first time, make yourself aware of the symptoms and methods to deal with this problem. It is necessary for the members of the expedition to know how to deal with snow blindness, frostbiting, and sunburning.
8. Proper mountaineering guidelines, high-altitude survival techniques, and first-aid techniques should be known to the members.
9. Sensitivity to environment and respect of the local culture are some of the social issues for which all the members of an expedition group should be counseled properly. Go away from the campsite for the morning chores. Do not attend to nature's call within a range of 300 feet from the water source. Dig a hole of 6¢¢ and cover it up after the job is done. If you are using toilet papers, remember to bury them in the ground. Do not leave anything back in the hills.