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9 Tips for Staying Safe While Trekking in Nepal



In October, a powerful, out-of-season, blizzard hit the Annapurna Region of Nepal, claiming the lives of more than 40 trekkers in the process. In the wake of that tragedy, the Ministry of Tourism for the Himalayan country has promised to review its regulations governing trekking in the region, and vowed to issue new edicts designed to improve the safety of travelers before the spring trekking season gets underway next April. Just what these new regulations will entail remains to be seen, but here are 9 tips that can help you to stay safer when trekking in Nepal right now. 

Hire a Local Guide
Part of the appeal of trekking in Nepal is that you can actually wander the various trails there completely independently if you choose. The sense of freedom that comes with hiking in the Himalaya is glorious, and it is a big part of the draw for many adventurous travelers. But there are a number of reasons why hiring a local guide might be a good idea, and improved safety is just one of them. Not only are these guides completely familiar with the trails you’ll be walking, they’re also familiar with the region as a whole. They recognize when the weather is taking a turn for the worse, and they generally know when its time to get off the trail, and huddle up in one of the traditional teahouses found along the routes. They also tend to have relationships with various teahouse proprietors, making it easier to find a place to stay when you’re forced to get off the trail quickly. As with just about any region of the world, a well trained, certified, and knowledgeable guide can be a valuable resource to have at your disposal. Additionally, there have been instances where solo trekkers have gone missing in the Himalaya in recent years. Having a guide, should help alleviate those fears as well.

Carry a GPS Tracker
One of the contributing factors that led to the death of so many trekkers in the recent blizzard was that search and rescue teams had no idea where to even begin looking for them. While they knew that the missing travelers were on specific trekking routes, their exact locations remained a mystery. Carrying a GPS tracker, such as a SPOT Satellite Messenger or the DeLorme inReach, can alleviate this problem. Not only do these devices give you the ability to stay in touch with friends and family back home, they also allow you to call for assistance should an emergency arise. With the press of a single button, either device can alert rescue teams to your exactly location, making it far easier to conduct an evacuation.

Carry a Mobile Phone
Many international travelers turn off their cell phone when they travel abroad, especially when visiting a place as remote as the Himalaya. But, it turns out that there is solid cell service along many trekking routes, and phone calls can even be placed in such unexpected places as Everest Base Camp. Cheap cell phones, and SIM cards, are available in the Thamel District in Kathmandu, and use it to stay in touch while on your trek. Service will not be available everywhere, but you may just find yourself  surprised at how often you are able to make and receive a call.


Share Your Itinerary
The old outdoor adage of letting someone know where you’re going, and when you expect to be back, applies to trekking in the Himalaya as well. Be sure to let friends and family members know where you’ll be on any given day, and when you expect to arrive back home following your trip. Obviously, itineraries can change, and are often impacted by fluctuating weather conditions, but if someone has a rough idea of where you’re suppose to be, it makes it easier to find you should the need arise. Give someone a copy of your full itinerary, and if possible, alert them to changes. Some of the Himalayan villages actually have painfully slow Internet connections, but they are more than capable of connecting to email, and allowing you to let your contacts know that you are safe, and are possibly altering your schedule.

Go Slow
Almost every trekking route in Nepal will expose hikers to high altitudes, which can certainly test both the lungs and the legs. Be sure to take your time on your trek, and give your body the opportunities it needs to acclimatize properly to the thinner air. Altitude sickness is a real concern for anyone visiting the High Himalaya, and if it isn’t taken seriously, it can cause all kinds of health issues, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death. Be sure to build some rest days into your schedule, and don’t push yourself too hard out on the trail. A slow, steady pace is the best approach, and will give you the best chance of staying healthy, and successfully completing the trek.

Be Prepared for All Types of Weather
Fall is the absolute best time to go trekking in Nepal, as the weather is generally at its best, and most stable. That said, anytime you go hiking in the mountains, conditions can be unpredictable, and change rapidly. Be sure to bring the proper gear that will allow you to endure a variety of weather conditions that you probably can, and will, encounter. That may mean packing extra items that you may not ever use, but it is better to have them, and never need them, then the other way around. When I visited Everest Base Camp a few years back, I took a very cozy down jacket along for the trip. As it turned out, temperatures were warm enough that I never needed to break it out, but it was comforting knowing that it was there, just in case. Pack good base layers, a fleece jacket, and outer shells. Don’t forget proper hiking socks, a hat, and gloves. Having the proper clothing can be the difference between enjoying your walk, and suffering mightily.

Keep Your Valuables Safe
In years past, it was not uncommon for trekkers to be shaken down by bandits that they encountered on the Himalayan trails. Generally, these were Maoist rebels looking to collect a “toll” for using the route. Now that the Maoists have taken charge of the government, these incidences seem to occur less regularly. That said, there are still some unscrupulous types that wander the trails, watching for unsuspecting foreigners to waylay. Typically they are simply looking for money, and will be willing to take just about everything that you have on you. Store the bulk of your cash in a secure place, away from prying eyes. If you carry something like the PacSafe 125 Travel Pouch, it could save you a lot of grief, not to mention money.

Watch Weather Forecasts
As mentioned, the weather in the big mountains can be very fluid, and it is important to stay up on what is not only happening there presently, but what will be happening in the days ahead. That is easier to do before you depart for the Himalaya, although the forecasts can be checked in any of the villages that do have an Internet connection as well. Two good sites for keeping track of the weather include Mountain-Forecasts.com and MeteoExploration.com. Consult them both before you head to Nepal, and as regularly as you can while you’re out on the trail.

Buy Travel Insurance
I know many people don’t feel the need to purchase travel insurance before they go on a trip abroad, but if you’re visiting a remote region, it is a good idea to purchase some coverage none the less. Not only will it help protect you from an unexpected trip cancellation, it could also help pay for an evacuation to a hospital should the need arise. Travel insurance is generally relatively inexpensive, but it provides a good piece of mind when you’re visiting a part of the world where the environments and activities can be potentially dangerous.



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