The first time I came to close to mountains was when I visited Ladakh (in India) back in 2012. This one experience was enough to get the law of attraction working, only to develop my amazing fondness for mountains. So much so that since then, each year and sometimes twice I visit some or the other mountain or hill range.
Visiting Ladakh in the month of October that sees the onset of winters was one heck of an adventure in itself. Well, like most people, all my life I had fancied seeing snow fall. Being in Ladakh at that point of time made it possible. (Read my account of Ladakh here.) However, all wasn’t that hunky-dory as we were not well prepared. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and chilly winds left us literally shivering our spirits out at the picturesque Pangong Pso.
Recently, I attended a Warm Upworkshop organized by Decathlon, Sohna Road, Gurgaon on Hiking & Running for beginners. Decathlon is world’s largest multi-brand sports equipment retailer. Being a sports enthusiast, every time I visit this store I discover something new in terms of variety and end up buying something.
The Warm Up workshop that I attended was just the first edition with many more such workshops planned to be organized in the coming time. Though the first of it kind it was certainly a not-to-miss learning experience with experts namely Chetan Sehgal & Captain Dharamveer taking up workshops on Hiking & Running respectively.
For the wanderer in me, the Hiking workshop was a shot in the arm since it enlightened me with many simple do’s & dont’s while traveling in mountains. Here are my key takeaways from the hiking workshop lead by Chetan Sehgal.
#1. Get the Right Apparel
Only if you don’t want to die shivering in the freshly snow laden place or in the drenching rains then choosing the right set of apparels is important.
Ditch the Denim:
Most of us can walk, wear & even sleep in those favorite pair of denim for practically all twelve months of the year. But here you have to ditch them since denim isn’t easy to dry and on a windy day, they fail miserably.
Befriend Nylon & Polyester Pants & Shirts:
Nylon & Polyester fabrics are light, dry quickly and are comfortable even in sweaty times. During hiking & trekking where you have to encounter snow, cross streams etc. they are more helpful than other fabric clothes like cotton which takes away your body heat. Trust me you cannot afford to lose body heat in minus degree temperatures.
Say Hi to Full Sleeves, Hand Gloves & Hats:
Considerable sunburn can happen to exposed body parts during hiking, trekking or for that matter just visiting any place located at high altitude.
Select the Right Fleece Jacket & Top Jacket:
Ideally one should wear a fleece jacket inside & a top jacket while going to any minus degree places. Personally, I would prefer to first check the weather conditions of the place I would be going and accordingly select the right set of jackets to carry along.
Stores like Decathlon have different types of apparel, travel, hiking & trekking gears for different temperatures. So it is easier for one to pack right things for a more enjoyable and safe experience.
#2. Keep a Check on Climate & Start Early
Whether you are in the mountains as a tourist, or for hiking or as a trekker, one needs to start early. Especially if one wants to return to the camp on the same day. Starting early also benefits to avoid traffic jams which can spoil sometimes the entire day. One can also cross the streams or glaciers peacefully early in the morning with a smaller number of people.
Climatic conditions in the mountains is difficult to predict. During rains, one needs to act thoughtfully since the walking paths get slippery and at such high altitude places chances of a thunderbolt striking are more. It is better not to expose self during a thunderstorm and wait for the climate to get better before starting again.
#3. Hear your Inner Self & Be Human
When in mountain a single wrong step can push you towards death. If you are a beginner in hiking the best mantra for reaching the final destination is to keep on pushing your limits. Commitment to oneself and being patient at all times are the best qualities to adapt during such expeditions. However, for taking any tricky decisions it is better to listen to your gut feeling and go with it.
It is good to help other people. Use the stream water wisely as the same water is used for drinking by locals.
#4. Choose the Right Gear
Apart from wearing correct apparel, it is also crucial to take the right gear along depending upon the activities you are going to indulge in.
Dry fit shoes are good all throughout the year but insulated shoes are better for traveling in minus degree places (read through the label or tag for this information). It is advisable to use the shoes a couple of times in daily wear and then to use it for hiking or trekking.
Play with socks if you have a little issue with the shoe size.
Before wearing shoes and socks apply any petroleum jelly to protect the feet from getting friction rashes and blisters.
Go for the right tent, sleeping bag, and inflatable sleeping mattress if you plan to do camping.
Keep a pair of hiking sandals for crossing streams with ease.
#5. Pack the Backpack – Right!
Backpack ideally for a medium built person should not exceed 15 kgs. Usually for a week’s expedition 9-10 kgs. backpack is sufficient. Things like food, water bottle, knife, ropes etc. should be packed with an easy access. The backpack should be packed in such a manner that it neither falls backward nor frontward when kept on the ground. The right way to wear it is by putting most body weight on hip muscles rather than the leg or back muscles.
#6. Map It Correctly
It is very important to carry a right map along while going for any mountaineering expedition. Terrain maps are a lot more helpful than just the line maps. For beginners taking an experienced guide along and befriending a dog is a good idea. In most situations both will safeguard your life.
#7. Preparation is Important!
Mental & physical fitness both are important before heading to mountains as a tourist, hiker or as a trekker. Simple cardio activities like walking, climbing stairs can improve the stamina. While practicing breathing exercises like Pranayam improves lung capacity which is helpful in high altitude places where oxygen is deficient.
So for an enjoyable travel or adventure expedition up in the mountains as a beginner don’t forget to check this list out and carry the right stuff. Whether you are a beginner or an expert in this topic, would love to hear your thoughts.