The mind is everything. What you think you become. — Buddha! One of the greatest truths Buddha has spoken clearly attests the importance of our mind in our deeds. Our mind’s under working does impact hugely in whatever we do or what we make of ourselves. The prominence of mind is even more pertinent if we are undertaking an adventure in Nepal like Everest Base Camp Trekking, which can be both apprehensive and overwhelming at the same time. Normally people focus on physical fitness only when they think of such adventure, but it’s equally important, or even more, to be mentally prepared to go out of your comfort zone and push your limits.
It is generally considered that mental fortitude is something one is born with. But mental fitness is just like physical fitness that can be developed and maintained. You can adopt some strategies to rely on when you are not in your element, especially when the trek gets difficult and you start feeling your inner self shaking. Below are a few ideas that will help you before and during Everest Base Camp Trekking:
Be clear about your adventure thoroughly. You also need to understand why you are doing this and what it means to you. Though the adventure is same, people have their own purpose of doing it. Knowing about your trip and your objective prepares you for what to expect. You will be in alignment with your convictions. This way, whatever comes next won’t be shockingly surprising to you. Do a bit of soul-searching interview with yourself. Remember you will be counting on yourself, and no one else!
Just now, we have agreed to think but it doesn’t mean you need to think it over and over. Stop over thinking! It’s ok to be excited about your trip but being anxious or obsessive will just rob you off your peace of mind and you will be tired and drained even before you start your trip. Even during the trip at the time of challenging moments like longer trails, high passes or sheer descent, stay focused and seize the moment but don’t carry the burden of challenges in your mind all the time. If you feel the strain is too much, let your mind relax and wander and think about pleasant things you have done – there is no harm in being a little escapist!
Everest Base Camp trek is a long and challenging adventure, about 10 days’ trekking in the wilderness of the Himalayas. So it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed due to the enormity of the adventure. Breaking it into smaller phases will make things achievable. You can divide the trip into sections like pre-trekking, during trekking and post trekking, and even smaller sections while doing trekking. Just concentrate on the section you are doing that day. Like a Zen monk be “here and now”. This way, you won’t be succumbed to the pressure of the adventure.
Though slow and steady has been outdated now, it’s still the way of mountains. So, don’t attempt any quick fix as the trail is long and not easy. Don’t haste, learn the art of patience. As mountain life has its own pace, there is no sense in being carried away by your impulses and emotions. Adventure is not a race – Relax, Enjoy and Take Your Time!
Trekking is of course a kind of “me-time” but the plain fact is it’s not an indulgence or luxury. It could be a bit easier in other parts of the world, but in the Himalayas – adventure does come with price. Terrain is rugged, temperature is extreme, region is remote and life is difficult. So, naturally facilities are basic. Accommodation is in basic teahouses with basic food and amenities. And most of the time choices are limited. For a western traveller, you really need to stretch your comfort zone. So, be prepared to have a different kind of experience.
In the land of mountains, we go by their rules. Respect the mountains and people. Be open minded and shed your judgements. Cultivate child-like curiosity. This way you can let go much of the mental strains that can be caused by new environment. The thumb rule is “Wander and Wonder” – the rest will be fine!
Everest Base Camp Trek is love at first sight! Whoever hears about it falls for it. But this beautiful package of adventure comes with some sort of challenges. That’s why whoever thinks of doing this trek asks one mandatory question “How fit do I need to be?”
Though the question connotes some sort of apprehension, the answer is simple “People of moderate fitness level can do it!” Ah such a relief! It is actually true that you don’t need to be super fit or in best shape with athlete physique. The trekking is not technical and you don’t need previous experience in altitudes. But the “moderate level of fitness” does demand some efforts from your side. After all you are covering 120 km (round trip) gaining approximately 300 m each day in one of the most extreme terrains in the world.
So, keeping fit does help a lot. But you don’t need to freak out! Trekking in the Himalayas requires some sort of playful seriousness. You should be concerned but without overshadowing the fun part. In short, with right preparation, right pace and right attitude, the mountains will welcome you wholeheartedly!
Here are some training tips we recommend you for Everest Base Camp Trek.
Tip 1: Walk Walk Walk
All you will be doing in the trek is hiking. You will be walking for 9-10 days with an average of 5-8 hours (approx. 15 km) per day. Though the distance you cover doesn’t sound very challenging but you will be basically walking uphill on rocky terrain with your each step gaining altitude. So, importance of hiking practice is not an overstatement.
Practising hiking helps you to get used to with the pace. Begin 7-8 weeks prior to the trek with about 2 hours each day and slowly increase the duration up to 5/6 hours. The best thing to do is simulation hiking in wilderness carrying some weight. This way you will know the spot in your body you need to strengthen. Don’t forget to wear the hiking boots you will be using in the trek as new shoes can give blisters. The thought of it alone can give you a nightmare! Try the boots in some steep terrain and try to find trouble spots. Lightweight boots with good ankle support, plenty of toe room for long descents, a stiff sole to lessen twisting torsion are the best.
Tip 2: Cardio Workouts
Any kind of cardio workout is good for Everest Base Camp Trek. It can be simple jogging, swimming, cycling or even treadmill walking. Or you can take help from YouTube where you can get many great ideas. Just make sure that you experience deeper breathing and light sweating during the workouts. You can do it about 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. It helps your body to work hard and adjust your pace with less oxygen. Though fitness level doesn’t determine how easily you acclimatize, cardio workouts will optimize your endurance chances. It will allow you to enjoy the views and bask in the beauty of the region rather than you bending over and struggling to catch your breath.
Tip 3: Strength Training
Trekking is simply walking, a basic natural activity humans have been doing all the time. However we do it in low oxygen conditions, which makes our breathing a bit harder and we get tired much faster. So, it’s highly beneficial if you increase your endurance and work on the leg muscles. Though the above mentioned tips (hiking and cardio) will help you a lot, the strength workouts will definitely improve your trekking performance. So, you can include squats, pull ups, push ups, weighted step- ups and lunges in your regular strength routine, about 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. You can schedule cardio and strength alternatively. Don’t overdo it, take your time and schedule it comfortably.
Finally, the most important tip is you should always consult your doctor before taking trekking challenges. It’s really important to know your body. Though it’s your soul that takes the pleasure of the experience, your body is going to bear the whole thrust. However, let me repeat once again, physical fitness doesn’t guarantee acclimatization but your fitness level does make the difference on how you experience your adventure. So, be fit, the rest will be fine!
All the best for your adventure in the Himalayas!!!!
Annapurna Base Camp has been a mecca for trekkers all the time. Either you are a beginner in the world of trekking or an aficionado for whom mountains are the second home, Annapurna region never ceases to lure the hungry feet of all sorts. And everyone knows the reason why – Annapurna Base Camp Trek is one of most rewarding treks in the Himalayas yet one of the easiest one! However, one should not be duped by the word “Easy”. There are certain things you need to know about Annapurna Base Camp Trek to make this adventure “a lifetime experience”.
There are three ways of doing trekking in Annapurna region– GAP, TH and Fully organized camping trek (FOT). The most popular are GAP and TH. GAP comes with Guide, Accommodation and Porter; whereas TH (teahouse) includes Guide, Accommodation, Porter and all meals. As the Annapurna region has adequate accommodation facility, FOT is not recommended. There is also a choice of travelling independently, but it’s not recommended considering the remoteness of the region.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek is rated as “Moderate to fairly challenging”. The trek goes through villages, rolling hills, forested area and then right into high mountain landscape leading to Annapurna South Base Camp (4130m), the highest point of the trek. It involves approx 6-8 hours trekking along rocky ridges. No previous experience is required, you should be moderately fit, used to some regular exercise and enjoy walking in the high altitude conditions.
Best Time to Travel
The best seasons to trek to Annapurna region is Autumn (from mid-September till November end), and Spring (from the beginning of March until mid-May). Temperatures will drop considerably as you trek higher every day. Travelling during winter (from December to February) is also possible but the temperature will be harsh and higher places will have heavy snow. Those who don’t like crowded trails and can bear extreme weather conditions can trek during this time. During monsoon (from mid May to mid-September), the weather is cloudy resulting in very poor visibility.
*March, April, October and November are the most popular and favored months for traveling.
The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto Burmese stock. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, Lamjung,Chuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies. The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Brahmins. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of the Kali Gandaki. Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. Baragaun Bhotiya, Lopa, Manages also inhabit in the region towards the northest of Annapurna region.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate – less than 300mm per year. The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna.The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees. The area is also rich in wildlife. There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal’s brilliantly plumaged pheasants.
The trail on Annapurna Base Camp does not go too high i.e. not above 4130m, so chances of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are very low. Though Altitude Sickness has the potential to affect all travelers from 2500m and higher, itinerary should be planned in such a way that you make very gradual ascent, spending some days at a low elevation to build necessary acclimatization before walking up to Annapurna South Base Camp at 4130m (the highest point on this trek). If you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint, consult your doctor about your suitability for trekking in high altitude areas before planning the trip.
Consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to your trip. Let your doctor know about the area you are travelling to. It is especially important if you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint. If you are travelling with a travel agency, normally your team carries a medical kit with standard prescribed medicines along with a users’ manual which you can use upon your own risk. It’s better to carry your own personal first aid kit.
As vaccination requirements change frequently, we suggest you to consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to the beginning of your trip. We recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and polio.
Your travel insurance must cover cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation if you are trekking in Nepal.
In case of a serious sickness or a casualty (which we hope won’t happen), helicopter rescue and evacuation is available. Since you are entirely liable for all the expenses incurred in evacuation please make sure that it is covered by your insurance before assigning for it or be prepared to pay on your own after getting back to Kathmandu.
During trek your main luggage will be carried by porters or pack animals (usually yaks or cross breeds). You simply carry a day pack with water bottle, camera, sun-screen, spare jacket, etc. – a small load that allows full enjoyment of the trek. A trek bag is ideal for your main luggage, plus a small lockable bag for anything that you do not need during your trek which you can leave at hotel’s locker room/safe deposit box in Kathmandu.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on this. Just be rational on your choice. You need walking boots, sleeping bag (4 seasons/ -20C rated), waterproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, sun-screen, day pack etc.
As geographical variation is very wide, you should go with layering style. While trekking in Annapurna region during the day at lower altitudes, lightweight trekking trousers and T-shirts are recommended. It’s always a good idea to carry a waterproof jacket and some warmer clothing with you as mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. For the cold nights, thermal underwear, a warm fleece jacket and even a down jacket will help to keep you warm. Good shoes are of great importance.
*If you book with a travel company, they will provide you a complete list of gears and clothing.
In Nepal’s domestic airlines the weight allowance is 15 Kgs. Excess weight is chargeable about USD 1.5 or more per Kilo depending on sectors.
You will find plenty of modest tea houses along the trekking trail. You can stay in single rooms where possible, but often you may have to share. Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow and blankets. So a sense of adventure is required. In Kathmandu and Pokhara, you can find a wide range of star rated hotels.
Food and Water
You can find a considerable variety of Nepali and Western food as well as drinks (coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, and beer) along the Annapurna Base Camp trail. You can also buy bottled water in local lodges and shops. However, it’s a sensible thing to bring water purification pills. Also, make sure that your day pack is well stocked with snacks, chocolates and bars.
You can either take a 30 minutes’ scenic flight or drive (6/7 hours) to Pokhara. From Pokhara, you have to drive to Nayapool (approx. 2 hours), the starting point of the trek.
You can expect to spend around 2500-3000 Rupees a day for your basic food and snacks (excluding accommodation and transportation as they vary widely depending on the level of service). Tips are appreciated by your support team after the trip. The amount depends on your budget and appreciation of their work. You can allocate 5- 10 % of the total tour cost as tips.
There are a plenty of telephone facilities in the Annapurna region. Cell phones work throughout the trail.. However, keep in mind that it can’t be as smooth as in lowlands. If it is important for you to keep in contact with your family or others, you can get a rental satellite phone.
Money exchange is not a problem in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You can find many local certified moneychangers. But same can’t be expected during trek. So, make sure that you have enough local money during your trek. Card payment (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express) is also widely accepted in tourist- class hotels, restaurants and shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Travelling is not just about what you get, it is also about what you leave. Try to leave positive impact behind. Respect the mountains, its fragile environment and the local culture. Choose the responsible service providers only. Go through “Dos and Donts in Nepal” thoroughly before travelling to Nepal.
All the best for your adventure in Annapurna!!
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.