What is the difference between trekking and backpacking?
Several factors distinguish trekking from backpacking. First, backpackers carry a heavy backpack, cook their own meals, set up and break down their own camp each day. On a Himalayan trek, loads are carried by porters or pack animals, three hot meals are provided each day by a kitchen crew, and camps are set up and broken down each day by the Sherpa staff.
Secondly, backpacking takes you through remote wilderness areas. Conversely, in most areas of the Himalaya, we venture into inhabited mountain regions peopled with a kaleidoscope of indigenous cultures. People live in villages and farms that dot the countryside. Along the way, we explore these villages, homes, monasteries and other aspects of day-to-day life in front of a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Finally, other wilderness trails have usually been engineered by Federal, state and local governments for recreation. In the Himalaya, trails are ancient highways of commerce and culture that are still used today by both the indigenous residents and foreign trekkers.
What is a typical day like?
A normal day starts with your guide knocking at your door at around 6:00 am in the morning. The breakfast served in the restaurant is usually at 7:00 am allowing you enough time to wash up and pack up. The trek normally begins at 8:00 am. You will be accompanied by your guide and a porter. In average, 3-4 hours of walking is covered before lunch. Lunch will be at a teahouse usually in a village en-route. After lunch, normally 3 more hours are covered before reaching the destination of the day. Dinner in the teahouse/lodge restaurant is around 7:00 pm before retiring for the night.
Acclimatization days are built in along the way where we stay at the same place for an extra night. During this day, you are welcome to explore side hikes.
Being in good cardiovascular shape is the key. We encourage you to walk steps and stairs each day as the best conditioning before you depart. If you work out at a gym, focus on the StairMaster although walking actual stairways is probably more effective for your overall training.
For those of you who are already in great shape – trail runners, marathoners and triathletes – you should know that while you’re in great shape physically, you won’t have much advantage to those in your group who aren’t when it comes to acclimatization. You won’t be able to ascend any faster than the group. Whatever your level of fitness, you should adopt the mantra: Trekking is about the journey not the destination… and remember that we take it slowly to properly acclimatize.
Lukla is the mountain airport serving the Khumbu Region. It is located at an elevation of 9,300 feet and is accessible from Kathmandu via commercial flights. Most airlines serving Lukla use Canadian-made DeHavilland Twin Otter aircraft. These planes, which seat 21 passengers with two-engines and fixed landing gear, are the work-horses of remote destinations worldwide. Upon arrival in Lukla, you will be met by your trekking staff and get underway descending to the first night’s camp. The first night will be spent in Phakding which is at 8,300 feet. The weight limit on these flights is 15 kg (about 35 lbs.)
In most cases, the trails are well developed and well worn from use. Himalayan trekking should not be confused with mountaineering. There are no areas where you will be required to scramble on “all fours.” Most bridges have been replace by either German or Austrian engineered structures which are strong enough for a long yak train to cross loaded with salt and other heavy commodities. Any remaining primitive bridges will be crossed carefully and with the guidance of your Sherpa staff.
We have taken trekkers ranging in age from 18 to 78 as high as Kala Pattar (18,200′) and Everest Base Camp (17,500′). Our trekking groups are limited to a maximum of 12 members to guarantee quality and personalized service. Small group travel fosters intimacy with the local cultures and the land and ensures quality for each trip member. Our guests come from a remarkable cross-section, ranging from full-time students to physicians, business executives, computer programmers, stay-at-home moms (and dads), writers, etc. In addition, your trekking entourage includes a staff which will number approximately 2:1 or 24 staff members. Along the way, your trekking staff will introduce you to their family and friends putting you on a first name basis with tea shop owners, traders, porters, farmers, schoolteachers, and curious children.
There are 5-8 suspension bridges that must be crossed. The are made of steel ropes, so they are fairly stable, but a couple of them will swing slightly.
The incidence of personal violent crime is certainly far less than in North America despite sensational headlines and occasional saber rattling. The Himalayan countries are known for centuries of peaceful coexistence.
As for current political unrest in Nepal: We have been dealing with the Maoist issue in Nepal for six years now. In spite of the Maoist efforts, we have continued to operate trips in the Nepalese kingdom each year and we are confident that Nepal remains one of the most beautiful, compelling and welcoming places on earth. As of November 1, 2003, we have had no reports about security or danger from any of our guests who traveled to Nepal this year or from our Nepal-based crew.
The major concentrations of Maoists are in the districts 180 miles to the west and southwest of Kathmandu and 100 miles to the west/southwest of Pokhara. Their major concentrations are in areas which have had little or no tourism (investment, hard currency, etc) which is one of the reasons that their message has played well in these very poor districts. By comparison, the Everest Region is a very wealthy and worldly part of Nepal. The Khumbu is a beacon for trekkers worldwide and the Maoist message has not been well received there. Once you leave the Kathmandu Valley for the major trekking regions, like the Khumbu, there is virtually no Maoist activity.
That said, whenever you travel in Nepal (or anywhere in the world for that matter), you should definitely use personal caution. We avoid any known dangerous situations. While strikes can complicate transportation through the city and could temporarily disrupt your schedule, we have managed to deal with Maoists-called strikes for the past few years without any major interruptions.
We monitor political situations posted by the US State Department, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and ground reports from our staff and network of contacts. As when traveling in any country, make sure to keep an eye on your possessions and take certain common-sense measures to prevent theft or dangerous situations.
Most people have concerns about altitude –– either from bad experiences while skiing in the Rockies or out of fear of the unknown.
- We exercise carefully measured increments in altitude gain on the trail and we practice the maxim “climb high, sleep low.” While many trekkers feel that our pace is often slow, this approach is both responsible and has proven effective.
- Our guides have experience at high altitude and they are mindful of the symptoms of Mountain Sickness so that they carefully monitor our guests and keep them from overexertion.
- Hydration, hydration, hydration…. we make sure you’re drinking plenty of liquids. In addition, we urge our guests to discuss the diuretic Diamox with their physician and bring it if appropriate.
- As a precaution, we take along a Portable Hyperbaric Chamber (PHC) or Gamow Bag for trips ascending above 11,500 feet. This device can be a life saver in extreme situations.
Most people report that they have some mild symptoms of Mountain Sickness ranging from headache to sleep apnea to loss of appetite above 12-14,000 feet. While these symptoms are not of great concern, they are monitored closely by the Expedition Manager and staff. If symptoms become more serious, there are two options:
- Descend to a lower elevation – possibly resuming the trek once symptoms subside.
- Go into the Gamow bag.
What will the average temperature be on the trek?
Usually the temperature is moderate with excellent weather and clear mountain views. The average temperature during the day is 12 degrees Celsius – 16 degrees Celsius. The average temperature during the night is -5 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius.
Do I really need a parka?
We suggest trekkers to wear a thick thermal top or a light down jacket. Clothing should be simple and consist of layers, which can be added or removed as the temperature varies during the day. The items should be lightweight, dependable and adaptable to a variety of extreme weather conditions.
Does AWR need passport photos in advance of the trip?
For the Nepal visa, you will need one passport size photo with a light background. For the trek permit (TIMS), you will need 2 passport size photos. However, it is always recommended to carry few extras just to be on the safe side.
Water — If I bring 2 x 1 Liter Nalgenes, will that be enough?
Two 1 liter Nalgenes is good for the trek, or 1 Camelbak and 1 Nalgene.
Bottled water is available in the Everest Region. However, we do not encourage the use of bottled water for environmental issues; minimize trash in the Everest region. We can use boiled water or water purifiers & filters when refilling the bottles.
Food — What snacks you’d recommend bringing?
For snacks, we recommend chocolate, chocolate bars, dried fruit bars and dried fruit which are readily available in Kathmandu, but Cliff bars, Power bars and the like are not usually available.
Phone/Camera — How does recharging work at the tea houses?
The cost for recharging phones /cameras depends on hourly basis which is about Nrs. 150 – 250 per hour. We also recommend that you bring extra batteries.
When you are staying in hotels, your room will have an electrical outlet (just remember your international adapter!).
Gear — Do you recommend bringing my own sleeping bag and trekking poles?
Sleeping bags can be hired at US$ 3.50 per day basis. However, in terms of hygiene, we recommend the guests to bring their own sleeping bags. Trekking poles can be hired in Kathmandu, but the cost will be the same as that of buying a new one.
Gift for Guides — Would you recommend any kind of gifts for guides?
Usually gifts for the guides is not necessary. However, it all depends on the guests. May be a good tip at the end of the tour is worthwhile.
Gear — What’s the “sleeping pad” requirement? Would you rent one or bring one?
Sleeping pads are not required, since all the local lodges will have beds. You will need a sleeping bag.
What do you recommend for med evacuation?
Trekkers need to have traveling insurance which covers the comprehensive expenses that might incur due to medical issues or accidents. This includes air ambulance, helicopter rescue, and medical treatment costs. In worst cases, we can evacuate / rescue you via helicopter, but this can be very expensive without travel insurance.
All treks will have a Gamow bag (pressure bag), an oxygen bottle, medical kits etc. Our trek guides are well trained about altitude sickness and first aid.
USD vs. Rupees — What things should I pay in USD vs. Rupees?
During the trek, you can pay in rupees, although the lodges do accept dollars as well. In Namche, they have money exchange centers. However, it will be closed during any public holidays. Nepal Visa has to be paid in dollars. Tips to guides and porters etc. can be paid either in dollars or rupees. Dollars and rupees are both generally acceptable all over Nepal, so whichever is convenient for you.
What is the recommended age and denomination of USD bills?
There is no specific age of USD bills, however, we recommend the guests to carry new crisp bills when traveling. All denominations are acceptable, however, it is easier if you have smaller denominations of 5’s, 10’s and 20’s.
In Gorakshep, they have shared facilities while in Tengboche and Dengboche, we can get rooms with attached bathroom (however, it is subject to availability at the time of booking). Luxury lodges have private bathrooms.