The word trek is derived from the Boer language (spoken by the Dutch settlers in South Africa), meaning a long, hard journey. The root of the word is Dutch ‘ trekken’ which means to pull or haul.
In 1949 Nepal opened its frontiers to the outside world and within eight years ten of the fourteen 8000m peaks had been climbed, Annapurna (8091m) was the first to be climbed in 1950, this was followed in 1953 by Everest (8848m) and Nanga Parbat (8125m). From then on the number of expeditions coming from many different countries of the world multiplied and by 1964 all these Himalayan giants had been climbed, one being Shisapangma (8046m) scaled by the Chinese in 1964. Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary reached the top of the world, Mt. Everest in 1953.
The history of trekking in Nepal started after climbing expeditions of many majestic peaks. Nepal began its career as a trekker’s paradise in 1949 when a British adventurer, Bill Tilman, managed to get permission from the King to make several treks into the Kali Gandaki, Helambu, and Everest regions. Another early visitor was Maurice Herzog, who led a French expedition to Annapurna in 1950.Trekking in Nepal really took off with the first expeditions to the base of Mount Everest; an American led expedition in 1950 and a British one in 1951.
Colonel Jimmy Roberts was the first person to realize that trekking would appeal to tourists. As a former Gurkha Officer and Military Attaché at the British Embassy in Kathmandu he had spent years of his life walking the hills of Nepal. He had accompanied Tilman on his first trek and in 1964 he founded Mountain Travel, the first of Nepal’s trekking companies and the inspiration for the adventure travel industry. His idea, revolutionary for the time, was to provide tents together with Sherpas, to guide and cook. This made Nepal and the Himalaya available to a wide community and was an immediate success.
Jimmy Roberts’ “Mountain Travel Trekking Agency” was the first trekking agency registered in Nepal in 1964, and it remained the only one for the next four years. His first clients came to do the Everest Trek in the early spring of 1965. They were three American ladies who , according to Jimmy Roberts , “were a sporting trio of enthusiasts”. He was later on joined by Dawa Norbu Sherpa and Mike Cheney to handle the work at “Mountain Travel”. His early foreign partners were Leo LeBon, Allen Steck and Barry Bishop from USA, and Australian Warwick Deacock of “Ausventure”. They regularly began to send clients from their country to trek in Nepal. And so “Mountain Travel” prospered and became an inspiration for other Nepalese tourism entrepreneurs to start their own trekking and adventure company.
Today one will find more trekkers then climbers in Nepal, because trekking is less physically taxing and one gets other experiences also apart from adventure.
Sir Edmund Hillary stated “Nepal is the only country in the world which is also one of the world’s great trekking paradises and one of the nicest countries in the world for trekking.”