How to Choose your next Himalayan Trek ?
Trekking has become one of the most popular weekend gateways in cities like Mumbai, thanks to plenty of nearby Forts and Treks. Once people do few treks in Maharashtra they always look forward to Trek in the Himalayas.
A weekend trek may give you a short break but a Himalayan Trek will take you in a different world altogether. There are no mobile networks usually, all your focus is on the trek and surroundings that to for almost 4-10 days. People leave behind the urban version of themselves and truly connect with nature. Also you bond really well on Himalayan Treks with fellow trek mates and at times these treks turn out to be life changing.
Our trek leaders are often asked by our participants about how different is a Himalayan Trek from Sahyadri Treks and which trek they should choose in Himalaya to begin with. So in this article we are trying to help you spot the difference and also a short guide about different seasons which might help you choose your next Himalayan Trek.
What are the Major Differences in Treks in Sahyadri and Treks in Himalaya ?
1. Number of Days
Sahyadri Treks are usually weekend treks including the Travel.
Himalayan Treks can range from 2 to 8 days plus the travelling from your city.
2. Weather Conditions
Himalaya is spread from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh and and not all Himalayan Treks get snow in all season, some are in fact not accessible in snow season. Weather is more unpredictable in Himalaya than in Sahyadri. On one of my Himalayan trek, our guide would say "Mumbai ka fashion aur Pahado ka Mausam kabhi bhi badal sakta hai" which explains this better than anything else. Even on treks with low probability of rain you should carry a poncho or raincoat.
Highest Peak in Maharashtra is 5400 feet, whereas most Himalayan Treks start from 7000-9000 feet. One might think higher the altitude, difficult the trek, which is not true entirely. Altitude does add some challenge but there are other factors like distance covered in a day, type of trail or terrain, weather conditions etc. So while deciding on which treks to choose, don't focus entirely on the Highest Altitude of that trek but all the factors which work for you.
In Sahyadri Trek you don't need to acclimatize because the altitude is not that high, but once you cross 10000-11000 feet the oxygen level dips to a level that might affect you. For reference at sea level oxygen level is 20.9%, at 10000 feet oxygen level is 14.3% and at 15000 feet 11.8%. So effectively you are getting 30 to 40 percent less oxygen at that altitude than you get at sea levels. Our body usually takes it's own time to get used to such low levels of oxygen and that's called acclimatization. That is why it is advised not to gain more than 3300 feet (1000m) in a day, so that your body gets enough time to acclimatize.
In Sahyadri, you can go on a Trek with zero preparation and still do fine. However in Himalaya, this can spoil your trek. As i said before, we get less oxygen at higher altitudes, that can make you tired faster, if you prepare your body by running and doing other exercises that will increase your lung capacity or at least prepare it for the trek. If you go without preparation, you will feel tired all the time and will not be able to enjoy the trek. Finishing the trek is not important but enjoying the trek is. Also mentally you should be prepared to trek in different conditions, sleeping in tents, washing your utensils after eating in freezing cold water, limited toilet facilities etc.
6. Things to Carry
In Sahyadri, you can take a water bottle, some snacks and you are good to go at times. But Himalayan Treks are different, you will have to carry a lot more, your backpack may weigh as much as 7-10 kgs on a 4-6 days trek. Ideally you should be able to carry this, if not there are options to off-load backpacks however one should avoid that and carry their own backpacks. Regarding things to carry list, it may depend on trek, season etc.
Which are the Seasons for Himalayan Treks ?
Like Sahyadri, Himalayan Treks also has season, some seasons have more number of treks, some less. Also it comes down to your preference which season is ideal and which is not.
Winter (December End to February) :
So many people trek in this season because it is almost guaranteed that you will get to see snow fall, you might get to see snow in many other seasons as well but snow fall is not a guaranteed on all treks. Christmas week is the most crowded one and ideal too, because the trails are not blocked by heavy snow which might happen later as winter sets in. There are many options like Kedarkantha, Brahmatal, Dayara Bugyal, Sandakphu, Chadar and Deoriata-Chandrasheela Trek in this season. Almost all these treks are ideal for beginners.
Spring and Summer (March to June) :
Spring season i.e. March and April has limited treks however many treks open up May mid onward. This is an ideal season if you want to enjoy the snow near summit or at higher camps only, unlike winter treks where all campsites are snow covered. Also the views are clear as there is limited snow or rainfall in these months. There are many options like Har Ki Dun, Pangarchulla, Goecha La, Ali/Bedni Bugyal, Gaumukh Tapovan, Rupin Pass, Bhrigu Lake, Triund, Kheerganga and many more. Many treks from these categories are moderate level or higher, please check the difficulty level before going.
Monsoon (July to September) :
Some of the most beautiful treks open up in this season. In this season, weather may not be as cold as Winters but you will experience some rain. However in this season treks open up from region where there is limited rainfall. Treks like Kashmir Great Lakes, Tarsar Marsar and Pin Bhaba open up. These treks do get some rainfall but not heavy rains all day long. So you will get to see lush green landscapes and colorful flowers.
Autumn (October-November) :
This is probably least visited season and it's not that it is a bad season but the options are limited. The two most important things which attract trekkers are lush green landscapes and snow both are kind of absent in this season. But you will see some of the most clear views in this season. Golden landscapes, clear sky, amazing sunset and sunrises and the best of all Star Gazing. You can do Sandakphu, Har ki Dun Treks in this season.
Note : Season differ from region to region as well like weather in Kashmir is quite different from Uttarakhand. The above is in general view, so please do check the ideal season for the trek you select and if that trek can be done in more than one season, prefer one which you might want to experience.
Personal View :
Personally if you ask me, how I choose my next trek, then i would say I prefer variety in trails and landscapes than my previous treks. Like i started with a small yet one of the most beautiful trek, Amarnath (most of you won't even consider that as a trek but still), I wanted to trek on some snow yet wanted to see the beautiful Sheshnaag lake so i went for Amarnath. Then i did Roopkund which has the most beautiful meadows in our country (Ali and Bedni Bugyal). Then i did Sandakphu for the high mountains view, sunsets and sunrise, you get to see Everest and Kanchunjunga Mountain Range from this trek. Then i did Kashmir Great Lakes, it is considered the most beautiful trek in India, lakes, passes and meadows it has it all. Then i did Goecha La, which is in Sikkim and has a different landscape than other states also it is not that easy and hence less crowded, apart from this I did a short trek near Kasol and Kedarkantha. This way I ended up doing Himalayan Treks in 5 different states Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Sikkim. So once you finish your checklist from variety of treks then you can move on to do any random trek and it will never fail to surprise you, every trek is unique and beautiful in it's own way.
Happy Trekking !
Written by : Kartik Mehta