Starting out trekking

Starting out trekking

This introduction explains the basic concepts of fitness and mountain awareness, outlining some of the qualities differentiating the various destinations worldwide that attract both novice and veteran. It also provides preliminary pointers to treks suitable for first timers.

A trip into the wilderness is an excellent antidote to the stresses and strains of everyday working life. The places on earth that can truly still be called wild are becoming harder and harder to find. Due to their very physical character, the high mountains remain one of the last bastions of untrammelled nature.


More and more people are discovering the regenerative power of the outdoors, both physically and spiritually


More and more people are discovering the regenerative power of the outdoors, both physically and spiritually. Whether it's by taking a woodland walk during a lunch-break, spending weekends walking in the hills close to home or escaping for months on end to the greater ranges of the world, people the world over are pulling on their boots and going walkabout.

Start simply

Just as a complete couch-potato should not enter a marathon to get fit, anyone who has never walked up a hill in their life would be unwise to set off on a trek across the glaciers and mountains of the Karakoram. However, there is absolutely no reason why someone with a reasonably clean bill of health should not contemplate a trek. Having the right mental attitude from the start is perhaps more important than undertaking the training regime of an Olympic athlete. You will be fit at the end of a month's trekking in the Himalaya; starting out in good shape will just make those first few days easier to bear!

Having the right mental attitude from the start is perhaps more important than undertaking the training regime of an Olympic athlete

Mountains

Mountainous regions are not urban parks. They are not engineered and landscaped for the benefit of the local population. Mountains, and all who venture amongst them, are subject to the seasons, weather, flora and fauna in a direct and uncompromising way. In the same way that a tribesman from the Amazonian rainforest would be at a loss if suddenly transported to Manhattan, so a city slicker could not be expected to cope with the wilds of Patagonia. If you are contemplating a trek in an uninhibited, inaccessible mountain range it would be foolish not to familiarise yourself as far as possible with a mountain environment closer to home before setting off. Get used to carrying a pack, sleeping in a tent, cooking and living in the wilderness, dealing with the elements and finding your way in difficult country - and break in your boots! - before you go.

Having decided that trekking is for you, where are you going to go to savour your first real big mountain walk? Unless you are absolutely confident it would perhaps be prudent to select a shorter trek before setting off for a month or more. Though this does limit your choice of destination, fulfilling, shorter walks are possible in every mountain range.

Many trekking destinations are poor countries - what rules and guidelines there are may at best be haphazardly applied and at worst blatantly ignored

Your responsibilities

As well as generally familiarising yourself with the mountain environment before you set off on a trek, it is really essential to begin by thinking about the environmental, ecological and cultural impacts of mountain or wilderness tourism, and how your own journeys will contribute to this highly contentious range of issues. Many of the destinations to which trekkers are drawn lie within poor countries that do not benefit from comprehensive and rigorously enforced legislation on environmental issues, and what rules and guidelines there are may at best be haphazardly applied and at worst blatantly ignored. Start from the bottom line that we are each responsible for the consequences of our actions. Find out what they might be and take steps to ensure that they are positive.

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