The ABCs of trekking

The ABCs of trekking

A trekking trail near Bhrigu Lake, Himachal Pradesh

Trekking, in other words, is just walking in distances of varied measures and across terrains. Here, Swathi Chatrapathy, a travel writer at Indiahikes and a seasoned trekker herself, talks to anyone who wishes to take up trekking...

What is trekking?

Trekking is one of the most simple sports. You require two strong legs, some food and water and a trail. It’s as simple as that. Often, people confuse it with mountaineering, which does require technical skills. I see my relatives’ eyes go wide when I say I go trekking in the Himalayas. They immediately picture me on the Everest, anchoring ropes, clinging onto my life with an ice axe off a snow wall.

But trekking is none of that. A trek can be as simple as a stroll around a lake in Ooty. It can be a hike from Kumta Beach to Gokarna. It can be a walk through the forests of the Singalila National Park. It can be an expedition across the glacial lakes of Kashmir. It can also be a harrowing climb to a summit at 16,000 ft in the Himalayas of Uttarakhand! You can trek anywhere. However, for the sake of safety and comfort, you need a well-marked trail, some directions, maps, and preferably, a destination.

In India, we are lucky to have many destinations. The geographical diversity in our country is a rarely utilised boon. Just in the form of mountain ranges, we have the Sahyadris, Aravallis, Vindhyas, Satpuras, the Nilgiris, and of course, a large chunk of the Himalayas. We also have generous doses of tropical, deciduous, coniferous forests. And of course, we have beaches, riverside and waterfall trails. The options are endless!

Who can trek?

Anyone can trek. In my own trekking teams in the Himalayas, I’ve had a six-year-old and a 74-year-old, I’ve trekked with a partially blind person, and I’ve trekked with those who have never been exposed to the outdoors. Each of them loved trekking immensely because of the positive effect it had on them. And this effect lasts a long time.

How do you get started?

Do you need elaborate equipment? No. Is it going to burn a hole in your pocket? No. Do you need physical training? A little bit.

Where to begin?

I’d suggest starting small. Start with a single day’s trek. Open Google Maps. Look for the closest hill. Karnataka is blessed with so many durgas (forts) and bettas (hills) just 50 km outside any city, that you’re likely to bump into one of them. Get on a bus. Get off at the closest road head and start your trek. Or if you enjoy riding, ride to the base, park your vehicle and start your trek.

Once you’re comfortable with day treks, your next step is to go camping. This usually means trekking uphill the first day, camping for the night and returning the next morning. It would mean carrying a tent, a sleeping bag and cooking gear/packed food. You could rent out all the equipment.

If this sounds like too much work for you, you could sign up for a trek with a local trek operator and head to the popular hills such as Kudremukh, Kumaraparvatha, Chennagiri, Tadiandamol, Chennarayanadurga, Kodachadri.

I remember my first experience camping; it was beside River Kabini at Kuruva Island in Wayanad. This was after we climbed to Chembra Peak and returned. My cousins and I lit a small fire, cooked some local produce and made a (barely edible) meal. We went to sleep with the sound of the flowing river in the four-person tent we had rented, cursing the fourth cousin for snoring too loud. Such memories always last forever.

What would I need?

If you’re looking to up your game and go trekking in the Himalayas, then that’s not too hard either. Just choose a time of the year, see which are the best treks during that time, choose a difficulty level that suits your fitness level and pack your bags. However, remember that trekking in the Himalayas comes with its own set of challenges. You need a few days off from work, you need good trekking gear - good shoes, warm layers, a good backpack, camping gear and cooking gear, a good level of physical fitness. For your first Himalayan trek, I’d recommend going with an organisation that can take care of you. 

Once you start trekking, your outlook will change for the better. You’ll begin to love the world around you and also, you’ll begin to love yourself.