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Beginners’ Guide to the Himalayas Pt. I - Himalayan Footsteps

Where are the Himalayas?

The Himalayas are a mountain range in South Asia. In a long arch, they stretch from Pakistan in the west over Nepal and Bhutan to India and China (Tibet) in the east. These mountains form the border between the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau. The Indian continental plate is still moving north, so the Himalayas are a geologically very active area and still growing by about 6cm per year.

The Himalayas are home to the highest peaks on Earth. All 14 Eight-thousanders are found in this mountain range, and indeed all of the world’s 100 highest peaks. The highest peak outside of Asia is South America’s Aconcaqua at 6,962 metres, while Mount Everest in Nepal stands at 8,848 metres and more than 100 mountains in the Himalayas are over 7,000 metres.

Despite the rapid increase in popularity of international trekking around the world, it is still possible to travel up-country away from roads and traffic and surround yourself with rural simplicity and values. In Nepal, you can spend days winding your way through the wooded foothills, along steep-sided gorges and up into glacier-filled amphitheatres to stand face to face with the highest mountains in the world. Our guide will take you away from the maddened crowd, and provide you everything you’ll need to know about preparing for your trip, planning the best routes and staying safe on the mountain. Get ready for the ultimate Himalayan adventure. However, you might ask yourself:

“Am I suitable?”

Despite many misconceptions, people from all age groups and social backgrounds are found trekking in the Himalayas. The majority of trekkers tend to be between the ages of early 20s to mid 40s, and there is a healthy mixture between seasoned trekkers and those who have never set foot on a mountain. The great thing is you don’t have to be Edmond Hillary to enjoy the majesty of the Himalaya! There is a huge choice of different treks suitable for all ages and abilities, from 5 to 85.

“So how do the Himalaya match up to say…the Alps?”

In Nepal to call an elevation a “mountain” rather than a “hill” a height of 4000 metres has to be reached, compared to other parts of the world where usually around 2500 metres are enough. The highest mountain of the alpine range is Mont Blanc at 4,810 metres – just a bit more than half the height of the highest peak of the Himalaya: Mount Everest, at 8,848 metres. The Himalayan range is also home to the world’s other 13 mountains which reach or exceed 8000 metres.

In the Himalaya trekking tends to take place on average between 3000-5000 metres, so it would be like spending a lot of time at the top of Mont Blanc! In the Alps accommodation is rarely above 2,500 metres, so while you might trek higher up during the day, you will not be exposed to great heights for a longer time.

Technically trekking in the Himalaya does not need to be any harder than the Alps – the only real difference is the length of trek (often much longer in the Himalayas) and the higher altitude. High altitude presents its own unique challenges, which we will discuss a little later, but if you take the right precautions the Himalaya are an ideal place for your first trek.


“So which country should I chose?”

There are four countries that straddle the Himalaya: India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. Each country offers its own unique experience, and presents its own challenges. So which is the best for beginners?

We would suggest Nepal is the ideal place for first-time trekking. The country has a solid infrastructure, one of the best road networks and offers a wide range of treks suitable for all ages and abilities. With one of the best safety records, security is also good in Nepal.

India has a large number of easy treks and is culturally very diverse, however there have been issues with security in Northern India in recent years, particularly in the Kashmir region. We would suggest Bhutan is more suitable for experienced trekkers due to high prices and a higher percentage of ‘technical’ routes.

Finally Tibet, though one of the most culturally rich countries to visit, is very inaccessible in most areas. There is little infrastructure and transport networks are poor. This makes it a high risk area in the event of accidents and thus recommended for experienced trekkers only.

Look forward to Pt. II of our Beginners’ Guide, which will go online in two weeks!