Nepal Trekking Guide: Information You Need Before Trekking
About Trekking in Nepal
Nepal‘s mountainous, hilly, and terai regions offer some of the most spectacular Trekking in the world. Treks vary from high-altitude routes to simple ones within the Kathmandu valley. These treks will give you a chance to mix with the local people and get an insight into their livelihood and culture. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Trekking is clean mountain air and magnificent views of the mighty Himalayan peaks. One will feel at pleasure with nature and oneself.
Trekking is not mountaineering. Some of the popular trekking trails are used by Mountaineering expeditions on their approach marches but most are used by Nepalese For everyday travel and trade. A trekking trip can be any length you choose –there are Popular short treks around the Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys which only take a day to Complete ,there are short treks of two or three days ,or there are longer treks lasting From a week to a month. You could even string a series of popular treks together and Walk for months on end. On the trails and along many routes, the villages and their People can be as interesting as the scenery, as you meet people from many of Nepal’s Wide diversity of ethnic groups. The outgoing nature, general friendliness and good Humor of the Nepalese are often commented on by trekkers. Colorful festivals can make Trekking at certain times of year even more enjoyable.
There is no question that Nepal offers some of the most spectacular and beautiful scenery in the world. Of course it’s the mountains that are best known and the exploits of mountain photographers have made Everest, Machhapuchhre, Amadablam and other huge mountains instantly recognizable to keen trekkers all over the world. Nepal has a near monopoly on the world ‘s highest peaks-eight of the ten highest are found in Nepal and a number of the popular trekking routes offer you wonderful views or even visits to the base camp used by mountaineering expeditions. The mountains may be the most obvious scenic attraction, but trekkers soon find there are plenty of treats for the eye. The hill country is often breathtakingly beautiful with pretty villages, attractive houses, neat fields and interesting temples. As you climb higher and the subtropical lowlands give way to meadows, stretches of forest, swift flowing rivers and deep canyons before you reach the cold and often barren regions at the foot of the great peaks. The views change with the seasons whether it is the cycle of planting and harvesting or the brilliant displays of wild flowers in spring and autumn.
When to go?
The best time to trek is from October to May. The first two months of the dry season October and November, are probably the idea period for the Trekking in Nepal. The air, freshly washed by the monsoon rains is crystal clear, the mountain scenery is superb and weather is still comfortably warm.
December January and February are still good months for trekking but the cold can be bitter at high altitude. March and may also offers better weather. A Trekker can see the superb wild flowers, particularly Nepal’s wonderful rhododendrons.
About Trail Conditions
Trails are often steep and taxing. Walking the trails often entails a great deal of altitude gain or loss. One must remember that even the base of the great mountains of the Himalayas can be very high. Most trek which go through populated areas stick to between 1000 meters and 3000 meters, although the Everest Basecamp Trek and the Annapurna Circuit Trek both reach over 5000 meter. On high treks like these it is wise to ensure adequate acclimatization. A typical day’s walk lasts from five to seven hours and involves a numbers of ascents and descents.
In Nepal there are two types of treks organized by our agency.
Teahouse Trek: The most popular way to trek in Nepal for both Nepalese and foreigners is to travel through teahouse Trek. Hotel accommodation is most readily available in the Everest Region, the Langtang area and the entire Annapurna region. In these areas you can rely on teahouse for both food and shelter at any trailside establishment.
Camping Trek: In this type of trek you will be provided Sherpas, Porters, food and equipment and depart with all the comforts and facilities of an organized trek. On such a trek you camp in tents while porters carry your gear, Sherpas setup camp and meal are prepared and served to you by the chef.
Trekkers who opt for either a Teahouse or a Camping Trek, Particularly with a small group of friends or family members often have a rewarding, enriching and enjoyable trip. Our agency can organize the entire arrangements of the trek for individuals or groups.
Read More Information Below
Before Departure of Your Trip
We would like to make your travel worry free and memorable. For that we will try our best from our side. At the same time you should also prepare yourself beforehand so that it would be easier for us to communicate with you and make your travel easy. Before head off on your trip, please be sure that you have acknowledged following information, documents and requirements.
- You have accepted our Trek booking terms and conditions
- Prepared passport and visa requirement documents as per our recommended travel
- You have gone through the trip itineraries in detail
- You have secure your travel insurance policy
- You have read our safety guidelines
- You have read out what to bring list for your travel activities
- You are fully aware of health related issues in your activities
- You have enough information about weather and travelling season of our destination country
- You have enough information about the geography, environment and country information
- You have clear idea about getting there from your country
- You have contact details of our company
- You have read our responsible travel guideline
Travel Insurance is mandatory for all the clients who are going to participate in any of our adventure activities. We would also strongly recommend other travelers who come for any other recreational activities. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency repatriation and personal liability.
Before your departure to the trip, our tour leader will need to see your insurance policy. However, we would already have asked a copy of your insurance policy during your booking with us. Please ensure you have your policy number and emergency telephone number for your insurance company. If this is unavailable please ensure you provide us with the necessary information required by your Insurance Company in case of an emergency.
Having a good travel insurance will not only guarantee you peace of mind while you travel with us but also provide you with complete cover for anything things that may go wrong. If you do not have insurance yet then you can get it from any following insurance companies.
We recommend a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers repatriation and evacuation in case of a medical emergency, cancellation and curtailment as well as baggage and valuables. If your tour involves certain adventurous activities (i.e. Mountain Biking, Rafting) you will need to make sure your policy specifically covers these activities. You may also need specific cover for expensive camera and mobile phone.
Nepal Trek Packing List
Certain basic trekking equipment is essential on all routes. Depending on the area and season, we will provide you with a comprehensive list of necessities. Here are some recommended Equipment List for trekking in Nepal Himalayas.
- Lightweight walking boots. If new one is being bought, “ walk then in” to avoid blisters. Also bring spare laces.
- A pair of track shoes. To wear in the camp at night or when the boot is wet.
- Warm jacket. Fiber fills or down should be adequate. This is especially necessary during winter from December to February.
- A rainproof jacket with hood or a poncho. Get the one that is guaranteed waterproof.
- Woolen shirts and thick sweaters. During winter months, December through February these items are essential. Thick sweaters can be purchased in Kathmandu.
- A pair of lightweight/ heavy weight trousers. Jeans are unsuitable to wear on treks. Cheap loose cotton pants are available in Kathmandu.
- Heavyweight trousers are useful higher up in the mountains in the morning and at night. Windproof/ waterproof trousers are necessary on all treks going above 10.00ft.
- Thermal underwear. These are excellent to sleep in at night in the winter months thermal underwear are quite invaluable.
- A tracksuit useful for wearing in camp and in the tent.
- 2 pair of loose fitting long shorts/ skirts.
- 1 lightweight long sleeved –shirt is particularly suitable for avoiding sun burn.
- A woolen hat to wear in the morning and at night. During winter it is an essential item. A sunhat and ensure it has a wide brim to cover the face and neck.
- A pair of gloves. Leather with lining and woolen are best.
- 1 pair of sandals to wear in the cities and in camp.
- 2 pairs of thin and 2 pair of thick woolen socks.
- Underwear” normal quantity and swimming costume, hankies.
Equipment and Accessories
- Duffle bag or kit bag to carry to gear while trekking.
- Daypack: This is a small rucksack to carry personal requirement for the day e.g. toilet items, camera, film towel, soap, a boot etc.
- Water bottle.
- Snow glasses and sunglasses
- 2-4 large plastic bags to separate clean clothes from dirty ones. 6-10 smaller plastic bags to dispose garbage.
- Wallet and /or money belt with compartment for coins.
- Toiletries with large and small towels. Toilet paper can be by in Kathmandu and some villages in the mountains.
- Small headlamp and/ or torch with spare batteries and bulbs candles and lighter to burn toilet paper.
- Snow gaiters essential during wither and all treks going over at other times.
- An umbrella (optional), which is quite useful to as a sunshade and useful when it rains.
- Reading materials, camera and film, game items (optional), note book, rubber band, pen and pencil, envelopes, a diary, a calendar, a pocket knife, binoculars (optional), a small pillow or headrest (optional). Thermoses (optional)- an inflatable sleeping mat, trekking map, adequate quantities of passport photograph
Best Time to Visit (September – November & March – May)
The best seasons to travel or trek in Nepal are autumn, from mid September until end November and spring, from the beginning of March until the mid May.
Autumn (mid-September to end-November):
This is the most popular time to trek. Generally during autumn, the weather is clear with mild to warm days and cold nights. However, in the higher altitude, the nights drop into freezing temperature. In this season, the mountains views are astonishingly clear.
Approach to winter and the mid winter (end-November through March):
It is also possible to trek during winter, from December until the end of February. Daytime temperatures will be cooler; however, the nights will often be very cold. The days are generally clear but occasional winter storms can bring snow as low as 2500m. Early October through late November is also the busiest period for trekking. But in mid winter (January through March), trekking is more challenging in the high altitudes with semi-regular snowfall followed by more winter storms, which break the long fine periods. The mid-December to mid-February is the coldest time. As snow gets harder and wind condition remains stabilized in early winter, climbing some of trekking peaks is possible. Climbing Mera peak, Island peak, Chulu, and trekking in Annapurna, Everest, Langtang in early winter have been quite popular over the past few years.
Spring and early summer (mid-March through May):
In the spring, the mornings are usually clear but afternoon cloud build-up brings occasional showers. The days are mix up with warm and rain, which displays wildflowers like rhododendrons. The whole country is lush and an abundant green at this season. This period instigate the second most popular and pleasant trekking season as this is rice-planting time. Late-march into April is especially beautiful. It is also a good time for climbing as the high passes are usually snow free and the mountain views are still clear in April. Up to May, the weather becomes hazy and disturbed with the clouds.
The monsoon (June to mid-September):
From June to September, is the monsoon season. Generally the morning is cloudy and cloud wisps form on random ridges and peaks. Trekking at this time of year is generally difficult and uncomfortable as the weather is hot and it rains almost every day. The trails become muddy and are often leech-infested and the mountains are usually obscured by cloud. During April and May, there is an expectation of thunderstorm, hail shower and strong winds among the fine periods. There are, however, possibilities for summer trekking in the trans-Himalayan regions of mustang, Dolpo and Tibet. These regions lie in a rain-shadow and therefore receive significantly less precipitation than the more southerly areas.
Altitude Sickness in Nepal
Helpful information for Trekkers in Nepal
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
Commonly called altitude sickness, this has the potential to affect all trekkers from 2500m and higher. Your body needs days to adjust to smaller quantities of oxygen in the air – at 5500m the air pressure is approximately half that of sea level, ie there is half the amount of oxygen (and nitrogen). This is approximately equivalent to the top of Kala Pattar, in the Everest region, and the top of the Thorung La on the Annapurna Circuit. For treks below an altitude of about 3000m it is not normally a problem. AMS is caused by going up high too fast and can be fatal if all the warning signals are ignored. Note that it is not the actual altitude, but the speed at which you reach higher altitudes which causes the problems.
Altitude sickness is preventable. Go up slowly, giving your body enough time to adjust. These are the ‘safe’ rates for the majority of trekkers: spend 2-3 nights between 2000m and 3000m before going higher. From 3000m sleep an average of 300m higher each night with a rest day every 900-1000m. Ultimately it is up to you to recognise the symptoms, and only ascend if you are relatively symptom-free.
Normal symptoms at altitude
Don’t expect to feel perfect at altitudes of more than 3000m. These are the normal altitude symptoms that you should expect BUT NOT worry about. Every trekker will experience some or all of these, no matter how slowly they ascend.
Periods of sleeplessness
– The need for more sleep than normal, often 10 hours or more
– Occasional loss of appetite
– Vivid, wild dreams at around 2500-3800m in altitude
– Unexpected momentary shortness of breath, day and night
– Periodic breathing that wakes you occasionally – consider taking Diamox
– The need to rest/catch your breath frequently while trekking, especially above 4000m
– Your nose turning into a full-time snot factory
– Increased urination – many trekkers have to go once during the night (a good sign that your body is acclimatizing: Mild Symptoms
You know you have an altitude sickness if you have any of the following:
- Headache: common among trekkers. Often a headache comes on during the evening and nearly always worsens during the night. Raising your head and shoulders while trying to sleep sometimes offers partial relief. If it is bad you may want to try taking a painkiller: aspirin (dispirin), paracetamol, Ibuprofen (Aduil) or acetamenophen (tylenol). Never take sleeping tablets. You could also take Diamox: see below. Headaches arise from many causes, for example, dehydration, but if you develop a headache assume it is from the altitude.
- Nausea (feeling sick): It can occur without other symptoms, but often nausea will develop with a bad headache. If you are better in the morning take a rest day, or if you still feel bad descend.
- Dizziness (mild): If this occurs while walking, stop out of the sun and have a rest and drink. Stay at the closest teahouse. Lack of appetite or generally feeling bad – common at altitude due to too rapid an ascent. Painful cough or a dry raspy cough.
In other words anything other than diarrhoea or a sore throat could be altitude sickness. Assume it is, because if you have a headache from dehydration, ascending further is not dangerous, but if its due to AMS, the consequences could be very serious. You cannot tell the difference, so caution is the safest course.
Do not try to deceive yourself and accept that you body needs more time to adapt.
Basic rule: NEVER GO HIGHER WITH MILD SYMPTOMS
If you find mild symptoms developing while walking, stop and relax with your head out of the sun and drink some fluids. If the symptoms do not go away completely then stay at same altitude. Or if symptoms get worse, GO DOWN. A small loss of elevation (100-300m) can make a big difference to how you feel and how you sleep – descend to the last place where you felt good. If symptoms develop at night then, unless they rapidly get worse, wait them out and see how you feel in the morning. If the symptoms have not gone after breakfast then have a rest day or descend. If they have gone, consider having a rest day or an easy days walking anyway.
Continued ascent is likely to bring back the symptoms. Altitude sickness should be reacted to, when symptoms are mild – going higher will definitely make it worse. You trek to enjoy, not to feel sick.
Note also that there is a time lag between arriving at altitude and the onset of symptoms and in fact it is common to suffer mild symptoms on the second night at a set altitude rather than the first night.
- Persistent, severe headache.
- Persistent vomiting
- Ataxia – loss of co-ordination, cannot walk in a straight line, looks drunk
- Losing consciousness – cannot stay awake or understand things very well
- Liquid sounds in the lungs
- Very persistent cough
- Real difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing or feeling breathless at rest
- Coughing blood or pink goo or lots of clear fluid
- Marked blueness of face and lips
- High resting heart beat – over 120 beats per minute
- Severe lethargy and drowsiness
- Mild symptoms rapidly getting worse
- Ataxia is the single most important sign for recognizing the progression from mild to severe. This is easily tested by trying to walking a straight line, heel to toe. Compare with somebody who has no symptoms. 24 hours after the onset of ataxia a coma is possible, followed by death, unless you descend.
Basic rule: IMMEDIATE AND FAST DESCENT WITH SEVERE SYMPTOMS
Take as far down as possible, even if it is during the night. (In the Everest region: if you are above Pheriche, go down to the HRA post there. From Thorung Phedi or nearby: take to the Manang HRA post.) The patient must be supported by several people or carried by a porter – his/her condition may get worse before getting better. Later the patient must rest and see a doctor. People with severe symptoms may not be able to think for themselves and may say they feel OK. They are not.
– High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE) – this is a build-up of fluid around the brain. It causes the first 4 symptoms of the mild, and the severe symptom lists.
– High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE) – this is an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and since you are not a fish, this is serious. It is responsible for all the other mild and serious symptoms.
Periodic breathing – the altitude affects the body’s breathing mechanism. While at rest or sleeping your body feels the need to breathe less and less, to the point where suddenly you require some deep breaths to recover. This cycle can be a few breaths long, where after a couple breaths you miss a breath completely, to being a gradual cycle over a few minutes, appearing as if the breathing rate simply goes up and down regularly. It is experienced by most trekkers at Namche, although many people are unaware of it while sleeping. At 5000m virtually all trekkers experience it although it is troublesome only for a few. Studies have so far found no direct link to AMS.
Swelling of the hands, feet, face and lower abdomen – remove rings. An HRA study showed that about 18% of trekkers have some swelling, usually minor. Females are definitely more susceptible. It is not a cause for concern unless the swelling is severe, so continuing ascent is OK.
Altitude immune suppression – at base camp altitudes cuts and infections heal very slowly so for serious infections descent to Namche level is recommended. The reasons are not well understood.
Drugs you can take – Diamox (Acetazolamide)
This is a mild diuretic (makes you pee a lot) that acidifies the blood which stimulates breathing. Previously it was not recommended to take it as a prophylactic (ie to prevent it, before you get it) unless you ascend rapidly, unavoidably (eg flying to Lhasa or rescue missions), or have experienced undue altitude problems previously.
However, now some doctors are coming around to the idea that many people trekking above 3500m should take it using the logic that it has the potential to reduce the number of serious cases of AMS: the benefits may outweigh the risks. This topic still requires in depth research. Diamox is a sulfa drug derivative, and people allergic to this class of drugs should not take Diamox. People with renal (kidney) problems should avoid it too. (It also apparently ruins the taste of beer and soft drinks). The side effects are peeing a lot, tingling lips, fingers or toes but these symptoms are not an indication to stop the drug.
The older accepted recommendations are to carry it and consider using it if you experience mild but annoying symptoms, especially periodic breathing that continually wakes you up. The dosage is 125 to 250 mg (half to a whole tablet) every 12 hours. Diamox actually helps the root of the problem; so if you feel better, you are better. It does not simply hide the problem. However this does not mean that you can ascend at a faster rate than normal, or ignore altitude sickness symptoms – it is quite possible still to develop AMS while taking it. Note that it was recommended to start taking the drug before ascending for it to be most effective. This is not necessary, but it does help.
*HACE – can occur in 12 hours but normally 1-3 days. At first sign of ataxia begin descent. If it is developed try 4mg of dexamethazone 6 hourly, Diamox 250mg 12 hourly and 2-4l/min O2 or a Gamow bag (if available).
*HAPE – descend, Diamox 250mg 12 hourly, Nifed orally, 10mg 8 hourly and 2-4l/min O2 or a Gamow bag.
*Oxygen – supplementary O2 does not immediately reverse all the symptoms although it does help significantly. Descent in conjunction with O2 is more effective.
*Gamow bag/PAC bag/CERTEC bag – the latest devices to assist with severe AMS. Basically it is a plastic tube that the patient is zipped into. A pump is used to raise the pressure inside the bag simulating going to a lower altitude. It is very effective.
*HAF – high altitude farts – slang for HAFE.
*HAFE – high altitude flatulence emission. The cure – let it rip! You’re not a balloon that needs blowing up.
Acute Mountain Sickness Practicals
Rates of acclimatization
Individual rates of acclimatization vary enormously but ascending very rapidly and staying there will ALWAYS result in problems. Even Sherpas who live in Kathmandu upon returning to the Khumbu occasionally get AMS. Studies have shown that people who live at moderate altitudes (1000-2000m are acclimatized to those altitudes. They are much less susceptible to AMS when ascending to around 3000m (ie going to Namche).
However the benefits decrease once higher and they should follow the same acclimatization program as others. This has implications for people who have spent a week or two in Kathmandu (at an altitude of 1400m): they are becoming acclimatized to that altitude. For trekkers that fly from sea level to Kathmandu then almost immediately walk to Namche, they have no advantage and are more likely to suffer AMS. Unfortunately it is usually these people who are in a hurry to go higher. This is perhaps why it appears that group trekkers are initially more susceptible to troublesome AMS than individual trekkers, who often walk from Jiri or spend time in Kathmandu beforehand.
The Acclimatization Process
In a matter of hours your body quickly realises that there is less oxygen available and it first reaction is to breathe more – hyperventilate. This means more oxygen (O2) in but also more carbon dioxide (CO2) is breathed out and with the O2-CO2 balance upset the pH of the blood is altered.
Your body determines how deeply to breathe by the pH level (mainly the dissolved CO2 in your blood) – at sea level a high level of exertion means your muscles produce a lot of CO2 so you breathe hard and fast. While resting, your body is using little energy so little CO2 is produced, demonstrating that you only need to breathe shallowly.
The problem is at altitude this balance is upset and your body often believes that it can breathe less than its real requirements. Over several days your body tries to correct this imbalance by disposing of bicarbonate (CO2 in water) in the urine to compensate, hence the need to drink a lot because it is not very soluble. Diamox assists by allowing the kidneys to do this more efficiently therefore enhancing some peoples ability to acclimatize. In addition, after a day or two, the body moves some fluid out of the blood effectively increasing the haemoglobin concentration. After 4-5 days more new red blood cells are released than normal.
Individual rates of acclimatization are essentially dependent on how fast your body reacts to compensate the altered pH level of the blood. For slow starters Diamox can provide a kick-start but for people already adapting well the effect often less noticeable. If you stay at altitude for several weeks there are more changes, your muscles’ mitochondria (the energy converters in the muscle) multiply, a denser network of capillaries develop and your maximum work rate increases slowly with these changes. Expeditions have often run medical programs with some interesting results.
Climbers who experience periodic breathing (the majority) at base camp never shake it off and have great difficulty maintaining their normal body weight. Muscles will strengthen and stamina is increased but not the muscle bulk. Interestingly Sherpas who have always lived at altitude, never experience periodic breathing and can actually put on weight with enough food.
How long does acclimatization last?
It varies, but if you were at altitude for a month or more your improved work rates can persist for weeks meaning you still feel fit upon returning to altitude. You still should not ascend faster than normal if you return to sea level for a few days, otherwise you are susceptible to HAPE.
If you have been to 5000m then go down to 3500m for a few days, returning rapidly to 5000m should cause no problems, ie having been to Lobuche and Kala Pattar, then rested for two days in Namche you should be able to ascend to Gokyo quickly without problems.
Sleeping at Altitude
Many people have trouble sleeping in a new environment, especially if it changes every day. Altitude adds to the problems. The decrease of oxygen means that some people experience wild dreams with this often happening at around 3000m. Compound this with a few people suffering from headaches or nausea, a couple of toilet visits, a few snorers and periodic breathers, and it takes someone who sleeps like the proverbial log (or very tired trekker) to ignore all the goings on at night in a large dormitory. Smaller rooms are a definite improvement, and tents, although not soundproof are still manage to be relatively peaceful. Appetite Some people lose appetite and do not enjoy eating. Sometimes equally worrying, although it is a good sign, is a huge appetite. Your energy consumption, even at rest is significantly higher than normal because your body is generating heat to combat the constant cold, especially while sleeping. Energetic trekkers, no matter how much they eat will often be unable to replace the huge quantities of energy used.
Day trips and what to do if…
The normal accepted recommendations are to go high during the day and sleep low at night, the sleeping altitude being the most important. This is fine for trekkers experiencing no AMS symptoms whatsoever, and will probably aid the acclimatization process, for example in the Everest region, going up to Chukhung from Dingboche or Pheriche, or visiting Thame from Namche. However if you are experiencing mild or even very mild AMS then this is not the best advice. Instead your body is already having trouble coping so it doesn’t need the additional stress of more altitude. Instead stay at the same elevation. Mild exercise is considered beneficial, rather than being a total sloth but take it as a rest day.
If you have troublesome mild symptoms then descent for a few hours may even be more beneficial.
Required Nepal Trekking Permit
Required Nepal Trekking Permit
A trekking permit is required to trek in any part of Nepal. If you want to trek two areas, you will need two permits. Each permit requires details for the route and region. Police check points are set up in some areas so do not venture off the set route unless you carry cigerettes for officers.
Trekking Area Permit Fee Annapurna, Everest, Langtang
78% of all trekkings went to one of these three places in 1998. Also see National Park Fees below.
FREE Rara, and other areas. US $5 per week
US $10 per week
(after 4th week)
Dolpa* and Kanchanjunga*
Less than 1% of all trekkers tour here
This is Remote trekking
US $10 per week
US $20 per week
(after 4th week)
Manaslu* – Another Remote area US $75 per week (low season) US$90 (high season) Mustang* and Upper Dolpa*
The governments gonna get you on this one.
US $10 per Day
(after first 10 days)
* Through registered trekking agencies only.
- Permit fees are quoted in US$ but payable in Nepali Rupees
- Trekking Permits will not be extended past your Visa Expiry Date
- 2 Passport photos (black/white) required
- Information updated November 2001
Several National Parks and Conservation areas like ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) and Sagarmatha National Park (Everest area) require trekkers to pay an entrance fee.