Choose your journey
If you don't have a great deal of trekking experience but you're seeking that pure wilderness experience - and are prepared to carry all your equipment yourself and you can pace your itinerary according to how you feel at the start of each day - you might perhaps best consider one of the long-distance footpaths in America.
Trails like the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest can be taken in bite-sized chunks or turned into epic odysseys lasting many months, and whole cultures have developed around them. Veterans groups, clubs, guidebooks and volunteer associations maintaining the trails all contribute to the pathos of these historic routes.
Trails like the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest can be taken in bite-sized chunks or turned into epic odysseys lasting many months
On the other hand, if you want to experience a spectacular mountain environment and a complete contrast in human culture from what you are used to, you might be better turning towards the Himalaya or South America, where the challenges and rewards of interacting with indigenous peoples are as big a part of the whole experience as the actual physical completion of a trek.
Novice Himalayan trekkers need not necessarily opt for a 'tourist route' such as to Everest, Langtang or Annapurna in Nepal, but such places are popular with good reason: they offer stunning scenery, usually relatively well-organised facilities on trek and good transportation to and from the trailheads. Looking beyond such obvious and perhaps predictable choices, shorter treks in the far west (Dolpo, Humla) or the far east (Makalu, Kangchendzonga) will take you away from the clamour and commerciality. This general rule applies equally to the Andes in South America and mountain ranges the world over.
First-timers could also look to India, Sikkim, Bhutan and even Pakistan for something a little different
While Nepal is certainly still the trekkers' Mecca in the Himalaya, first-timers could also look to India, Sikkim, Bhutan and even Pakistan for something a little different. By choosing a less mainstream destination you increase your chances of finding that extra spontaneity with folk along the way and get away from the trekking 'scene'. How important are cold beers and hot showers anyway?
In Africa many people cut their trekking teeth on big walks such as Point Lenana on Mount Kenya, Toubkal in the High Atlas of Morocco or even the highest peak on the continent itself, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Like the tourist routes in Nepal, these have benefited (or suffered, depending on your perspective) from the development of infrastructure over the years, and the trails are well marked, huts have been erected and local people have become experienced and proficient at working as guides and organising other logistical matters.
Steve Razzetti is a freelance guide, photographer and journalist. He has travelled extensively in the Himalaya on foot and by mountain bike and journeyed to Africa and South America. Steve has been with KE Adventure Travel as a mountain guide for almost 30 years.
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