Fitness and Travel

When contemplating or preparing for a Himalayan trek one of the main concerns most people have is whether they are fit enough for the demands of the trail and how to improve their conditioning. In my experience almost everyone who arrives in Nepal has adequate fitness to complete their chosen trek (aside from possible altitude-related problems), but many do not have adequate fitness to fully enjoy the trek. Many trekkers make it to their destination but are so exhausted by the effort that the only reward is being able to boast about their accomplishment. It should also be noted that there are some people who are so concerned about not have adequate fitness that they over train and injure themselves before getting to Nepal. A well-planned physical fitness program, ideally started at least six months before starting the trek, is really essential to having a successful, enjoyable trek.

In an earlier post I outlined a recommended training program to prepare for a trek. The emphasis of course was on aerobic conditioning and building leg strength, both with gym exercises and hiking. Another aspect that is too often overlooked is having overall fitness and strength in all parts of the body to reduce the risk of injury of in any area.  This is especially important since you will need to move a lot of gear around in a variety of situations (airport baggage claim, hotel rooms, mountain lodges, etc) which can put an abnormal strain on the back and neck. It is all too easy to pull a back or neck muscle trying to lift a heavy bag from an awkward position, and the resulting pain can literally ruin a trekking vacation. It is also important to exercise caution while you’re travelling to lift and carry your bags carefully, always lifting with your legs as much as possible with a straight back.

So be sure to include core and upper body exercises into your fitness program for optimum trek preparation.. You’ll look good, feel good, and have a wonderful, unspoiled trekking vacation.

Trekking Outlook 2015/2016

The April earthquake in central Nepal had a devastating impact on two of the most popular trekking regions in Nepal. The Langtang Valley trek was the victim of a massive landslide that has closed that trekking route, at least for tea house trekking. A new trail has been cut through the landslide area which will make it possible to do camping treks there until the lodges are rebuilt sometime next year.

ITrekNepal trekkers near Mt. Everest  - October 2015

ITrekNepal trekkers near Mt. Everest - October 2015

The Manaslu region was also severely affected although not as badly as Langtang. The Manaslu Circuit and Tsum valley treks are closed for now for regular trekking but should reopen for organized tea house treks in the spring. The Everest region had some quake damage but reconstruction of the trails and lodges was very quick and the region is back to normal. We have already had a several groups enjoy successful treks to Everest Base Camp and crossing some of the high passes. The Annapurna region was minimally affected by the earthquakes and all the major routes including the Circuit and Base Camp treks are in good shape. We have already had several groups complete treks to Annapurna Base Camp this season. All other parts of Nepal are open for trekking, including the Kathmandu Valley, Makalu, and Rara Lake.

ITrekNepal guest from Denmark on Annapurna Circuit Trek - October 2015
ITrekNepal guest from Denmark on Annapurna Circuit Trek – October 2015

With the help of the New Hope Society and donations from many of our friends around the world, the ITrekNepal has helped the families of our guides and porters to build shelters in their villages where they will reside while their homes are being rebuilt. The ITrekNepal guides and porters are now safe and secure, and are looking forward to the opportunity to start trekking again.

Trekking in Nepal – 2016

The monsoon in Nepal has ended, the days are mostly sunny, and mountain trekking is as good as ever in those areas spared from earthquake damage, especially in the Everest and Annapurna regions. In the Kathmandu valley things look quite normal though a second look will reveal some demolished buildings. Bhaktapur was harder hit than most parts of the valley and whole neighborhoods are still digging out of the rubble. Although half of the residents have left the city, most return each day to rebuild and work in the shops.

Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur
Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur

Though dozens of major World Heritage sites have fallen, most are still intact. It’s not the same here as before the quake but it is still a vibrant, fascinating place. While is now possible to enjoy trekking again in most regions of Nepal, there is a fuel shortage that has made transportation difficult, especially around the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara. Ironically this problem was brought on by one of the greatest triumphs in modern Nepali history. After eight years of failed efforts to deliver a new constitution, the earthquake spurred a spirit of cooperation and the Nepal parliament approved one of the world’s most progressive democratic constitutions. Unfortunately a large constituency along the Indian border has disputed some of the constitution’s provisions and has blocked the Indian border in protest. The restriction of fuels and other critical supplies has been a major problem for most Nepalese and an annoyance for many tourists. It should also be noted that while there has been some violent protests along the border this area is very far from Kathmandu which remains very safe.

ITrekNepal guests at Everest Base Camp -  October 2015
ITrekNepal guests at Everest Base Camp – October 2015

Fortunately the Bhaktapur Paradise Hotel where most ITrekNepal guests are staying has an ample supply of cooking gas and our drivers have a good stock of fuel so it is still a pleasant environment here. With the inauguration of the new government intent on remedying these political problems, the shortages are expected to ease in the next couple weeks and life should back to normal for everyone fairly soon.
In the meantime the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara are exceptionally peaceful. Similarly, the relative lack of tourists has made the popular treks even more enjoyable since there are no crowds to contend with.