A Trek is Not a Climbing Trip
Whether you begin your trek at a roadhead or fly into a remote mountain airstrip, a large part of it will be in the Middle Hills region at elevations between 500 and 3000 metres. In this region, there are always well-developed trails through villages and across mountain passes. Even at high altitudes there are intermittent settlements used during summer by shepherds, so the trails, though often indistinct, are always there. You can easily travel on any trail without the aid of ropes or mountaineering skills. There are rare occasions when there is snow on the trail, and on some high passes it might be necessary to place a safety line for your companions or porters if there is deep snow. Still, alpine techniques are almost never used on a traditional trek. Anyone who has walked extensively in the mountains has all the skills necessary for an extended trek in Nepal.
Though some treks venture near glaciers, and even cross the foot of them, most treks do not allow the fulfilment of any Himalayan mountaineering ambitions. Nepal’s mountaineering regulations allow trekkers to climb 18 specified peaks with a minimum of formality, but you must still make a few advance arrangements for such climbs. Many agents offer so-called climbing treks which include the ascent of one of these peaks as a feature of the trek. There are a few peaks that, under ideal conditions, are within the resources of individual trekkers. A climb can be arranged in Kathmandu if conditions are right, but a climb of one of the more difficult peaks should be planned well in advance.
A Trek Requires Physical Effort
A trek is physically demanding because of its length and the almost unbelievable changes in elevation. During the 300-km trek from Jiri to Everest base camp and return, for example, the trail gains and loses more than 9000 metres of elevation during many steep ascents and descents. On most treks, the daily gain is less than 800 metres in about 15 km, though ascents of as much as 1200 metres are possible on some days. You can always take plenty of time during the day to cover this distance, so the physical exertion, though quite strenuous at times, is not sustained. You also can stop frequently and take plenty of time for rest.
Probably the only physical problem that may make a trek impossible is a history of knee problems on descents. In Nepal the descents are long, steep and unrelenting. There is hardly a level stretch of trail in the entire country. If you are an experienced walker and often hike 15 km a day with a pack, a trek should prove no difficulty. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy the hiking can be if you only carry a light backpack and do not have to worry about meal preparation.
Previous experience in hiking and living outdoors is, however, helpful as you make plans for your trek. The first night of a month-long trip is too late to discover that you do not like to sleep in a sleeping bag. Mountaineering experience is not necessary, but you must enjoy walking. Nepal treks allow you to experience the Himalayan countryside and to meet the people of the hills with a minimum of formality and preparation. If you follow the suggestions here, you will have all the equipment and permits you need to enjoy your trek. Read this information carefully so that you will know what to expect when you arrive in Nepal.
If you are not joining a group trek, you will not have a professional trek leader. If there are more than 3 or 4 people in your party, one of you should assume an informal leadership position to act as spokesman for the group both in Kathmandu and on the trail.
There are many preparations that you can make before you depart for Nepal. Most important are your clothing and trekking equipment, medical supplies, your passport and a visa for Nepal. While some of these projects can be postponed until the last minute (by getting a visa at the airport in Kathmandu or renting your trekking equipment in Nepal, for example), it is recommended that you make most preparations in advance so that you do not waste time during your holiday satisfying bureaucratic formalities or searching for some item of equipment that is temporarily unavailable for rent in Kathmandu.