Beginners’ Guide To Mountain Trekking
You don’t need super-powers to scale the terrain up to Mt. Everest Basecamp or turn up at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. But, neither are just eyes filled with dreams enough! Without at least a little pre-trek preparation in the way of some basic level of fitness training, trekking could be a hard nut to crack, if it isn’t hard already!!
The fruits of bagging a great trek, besides the sense of accomplishment and a spectacular view, are a whole lot of bruises, sweat (lots of it!), sore calves, aching quads and tired lungs.
If mountain trekking is something you feel passionately about, whether you maintain a trail or lurch along a rocky niche by a harness and rope, you need to train yourself and your body to rough it all the way up.
Here’s a pre-trek preparation guide to help you with what you could look forward to and be prepared for as you take your first trek. These tips would help ensure that your trek is safe and as comfortable as it can get! So here’s all that you need to know to get started:
Determine your starting level
The first step to get started is to take a pick of your hiking location and decide how long you have to hike. As a beginner, one should choose trails that can be done in less than a day, without the need to carry your tent or extra essentials. If you don’t have a place already on top of your mind, do some research as there are plenty of trails that are waiting to get explored!
Always pick a hike based on how much time you have at hand. As a novice trekker, it is important that you start slow and with familiar places so that you can stop the trek whenever you feel necessary and without the worry of how you would return home!
Every trek demands a certain extent of preparation. As part of your preparations concentrate on:
- Being in shape
Nothing works like a well-maintained body when hiking a mountain! You indeed need a killer work-out to prepare your body for the varied terrain of varying and steep elevations, especially since you would be carrying an extra baggage with water and the trekking gears.
To prepare your body, for a start, gradually increase the intensity of your cardiovascular workouts. Work on your legs. Ideally weighted squats, lunges and cycling are good for leg-based cardiovascular workouts. Staircase climbing is also good to bring your calves and quads to shape. Alternatively, the best way to prepare for the long trek is through long walks. Preferably start small, keeping at least a day between two consecutive walks, and gradually build up to back-to-back sessions each day to increase your stamina.
- Correcting your stride
An incorrect stride compromises on the shock absorption of the joints and can wreak havoc on your knees and joints when on a 150-km long trek along a rugged trail. So, the first thing you need to work on is your walk. Start with making your strides as small as possible.
Make sure that you land on the balls of your feet, rolling onto your toe, and with your knees bent. This will eliminate the chances of tendon pulls and shin splints as you go down a steep slope. Keep your head high, gait straight and shoulders level, without any slouches.
- Training along a mixed terrain
Since you would not be hiking along a level track, it makes more sense to try and mimic the actual conditions of the trek as much as possible. Aim for a high ground and practice along a steep, rocky terrain or muddy paths so that your body, especially the knees, ankles and feet are prepared for the kind of stress they’ll experience on the trip.
- Carrying a backpack
Every trekker needs to carry a small pack that includes essentials and gear that could come handy during the trek. It would make sense that during your training you bring your backpack along and let it make up some solid weight as you would on the day of the trek. This will better prepare you for the eventual trek.
- Eating correctly
A well-fed and hydrated body are crucial for a trek and even during the preparatory phase. Dried fruits, nuts, energy bars and chocolate are not only excellent but quick sources of instance energy and the much required protein for the strenuous trek. Make it a point to acclimatize your body to digest food during strenuous exercises by eating “on-the-go” even while you are training.
- Selecting the right footwear
Your feet are going to be your best friends during the long trek so better take good care of them. Invest in a pair of good-quality hiking boots. Make sure that they are well-ventilated, offer good support and are water-resistant. Buy them in advance and wear them while you train to wear them a little so as to avoid shoe-bites. Socks are the next item on the agenda. Buy some nylon or wool-blend hiking socks as they help in keeping moisture out and preferably wear two pairs to further eliminate the risk of blisters.
Now that you have your training phase covered, it is time to prepare for the actual hike. Here are the essential tips that you must make a note of. Prepare a checklist and make sure that you have everything adequately covered.
The Gears Checklist
A good and comfortable gear is an essential for a trek. Again, layering is very important to ensure that you are as comfortable at the base as high up on the mountain with the wind hitting you.
- Base Layer: This layer absorbs moisture from the skin and helps in keeping the body temperature steady. Best fabric for the base layer, including for your underwear, is either a synthetic one like polyester or lightweight wool, as cotton takes long to dry out.
- Insulation: This layer is important to trap the body warmth. Jackets and hiking pants are best for this layer as these ward off chills.
- Shell: This layer essentially comprises rain jackets and rain pants and blocks rain and wind as well as keeps bugs off your body.
Complement these gear with some waterproof gloves, a good pair hiking footwear and wool or synthetic socks. Of course, not to forget the head cover! Use brimmed or fleece hats, bandanas and caps to shield your head from the sun.
The Backpack Checklist
Here’s a list of all the recommended essentials that you must add to your backpack (which you should ideally keep as small as you can!):
- Your mobile phone (well-charged) which can double up as a camera, compass, mapper, and a distance tracker, while coming in handy in case of an emergency.
- Sunscreen (preferably 30+SPF waterproof sunscreen) to keep your body from getting scorched under the relentless sun.
- A first-aid box with the essential first-aid stuff
- Bug spray to avoid bug bites as you hike
- Pocket knife
- A pair of sunglasses (polarized ones, if you have one)
- Trekking poles
The Eating Essentials
Be adequately prepared for your adventurous trek, with some food and of course water! Almonds and walnuts make great snacking options. Throw in a couple of apples and some dried fruits and keep enough water to last you on your trek as keeping your body hydrated is essential. You can even carry bread and some almond butter or some protein bars to keep yourself fueled as you take the hike
Let the music play!
If it’s a solo hike, be sure to load some of your favorite tracks. It not only makes you feel comfortable, but also seems to shorten the trek as you listen to familiar soundtracks on your way! Of course, nature has its own melody and you might be more interested in that!!
Injuries (and, even fatal ones!) are not rare possibilities while on a trek, so be cautious and alert always. No summit is worth risking your life and it is always best to know and take action on when to turn around.
Though climbing a mountain is tough and tiring, it is definitely worth the effort for the moment you hit the summit is one that entrenches itself into your deepest memories. Get your backpacks on, go hiking and explore the wonders of nature!!