A large proportion of people who have scaled the heights on a trekking holiday rate it as their most memorable travel experience. timeoutdoors’ Travel Editor, Tom Le Bas, explains what it’s all about.
An organised trek gives you the chance to get out into the wilds of some of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges, to experience the intoxicating high-altitude air and travel to remote areas far removed from the modern world. It can be hard going at times, but the rewards are immense.
TYPES OF TREK
An average Nepal trek will last around ten to twelve days, while in Peru there are many five- to seven-day itineraries. Overall, there is a huge range of options on offer, from short two- to five-day routes to gruelling month-long hike. The longer and more challenging treks may involve some high-altitude trekking; in Nepal, Trekking Peaks are those summits generally defined as below 7,000 metres and considered to be achievable by anyone with some mountaineering experience.
Any itinerary of five days or less is categorised on our website as an Activity Break; longer treks are classified as Activity Holidays, and there is also a separate Expedition category (see below).
LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY
Trekking holidays range from gentle through moderate to challenging (or other similarly-worded grades), so you can make an informed choice on which trek is best for you.
The levels reflect the distance/duration and the terrain: on a gentle itinerary you might expect four to five hours of moderate walking each day, whereas a challenging route may involve six or seven hours (or more) on foot, with some major ascents. A longer trek – over two weeks – will generally be categorised as challenging even though it will involve some shorter days, or rest days to allow people to acclimatise at high altitudes. However, as you would expect, significant climbs and descents are part for the course – so you’ll need to be physically fit.
THINGS TO BE AWARE OF
Acute Mountain Sickness can be a hazard at any altitude above 3,000 metres: the best way to avoid this is to ascend gradually in order to allow your body time to acclimatise to the thinner air. Higher-altitude treks will take this into account, with some rest days included as part of the itinerary.
Some form of permit is usually required for a trek, but the tour company will take care of this for you.
Accommodation varies from country to country: in Nepal many companies use comfortable trekking lodges, while those in more remote areas involve camping – often on a company’s private site. Porters (sometimes mules) are employed, so you will only carry a light day-pack. In Peru and Tanzania, camping is prevalent, although some routes up Kilimanjaro involve the use of mountain huts. On longer excursions which involve camping, a cook will provide meals.
EXPEDITION / HIGH-ALTITUDE TREKKING
Expeditions are more strenuous: most will involve scaling a high-altitude peak (in Nepal these are termed Trekking Peaks, defined as up to 7,000 metres in altitude and requiring a climbing permit – anything higher requires much more expensive mountaineering permit fees). A typical expedition will last three weeks or more and you’ll be expected to be able to use climbing equipment such as crampons, ice axes and ropes. This is not an endeavour to be undertaken lightly!
WHERE TO GO
Most treks focus on high mountains – the Himalayas and Andes in particular, but also the Rockies, the Caucasus, the Alps and Atlas mountains as well as individual peaks such as Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kinabalu. There are endless trekking possibilities at lower altitudes, too – any extended hike through a predominantly upland landscape can be described as a trek.
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