Training tips by previous Nepal trekkers
Most first-time trekkers are anxious about whether they have trained enough for a trek in Nepal. Below are insights from previous Nepal trekkers: Tips on how they trained and what they wished they had done etc. We will add thoughts from more trekkers to the list as we receive them.
1) Robin H and Mike O – WA, USA (Annapurna Base Camp Trek – 2012)
On our first trek, we were 57 and 59 years old at the time. We live in an area of steep hills and mountains, so hiking was definitely part of what we did to train. That being said, the most important thing we did was going up and down the stairs nearby. We live by a staircase that is 112 steps. We slowly added one lap at a time, doing them every couple of days. By the time we went, we were probably doing 15-20 round trips. It turns out that that was the perfect preparation for Annapurna. Annapurna is very steep, as is most of the Himalaya, and in order to make the going easier (I assume essential in monsoon season) there are many staircases and steps built into the mountainsides on that trail. The stair climbing we did was perfect training for this.
Also, a word about water and food. Be really careful about brushing your teeth and drinking purified water. I lived in remote Nepal for 3 months and had a Grayl filter that filters out viruses. I never got sick there. There are other systems that filter out viruses as well as parasites, but I didn’t want to depend on a system that required batteries. Eat at places that are used to serving tourists and do not eat uncooked fruits or vegetables. Definitely made that mistake in Kathmandu!
2) Debra and John C – VA, USA (Gokyo Lakes Trek – 2022)
On our trek to Gokyo Ri in Nov/Dec 2022, I was almost 59 years old and my husband was 57 years old. To train, I worked my way up to rowing at a moderate pace for 30 minutes on level 8 of the row machine – followed by either 2 hours wearing a 18lb backpack on a treadmill with a 30 degree incline capability (about 80 percent of that time was at the 30 degree incline) and moving at a relatively fast pace OR 1.5 hours on the stair stepper without a backpack (taking a 30 second break every 30 minutes) and going at a medium pace and moving forward, backward, and doing side-steps for a variation and less boredom. My husband rode his bike at least twice a week for 20-40 miles along with arm, back, leg exercises at the gym.
The trek was challenging sometimes, but we took brief rests (30 seconds to a minute) up some of the steep inclines. Then of course, we took several breaks along the way of at least 10 minutes to drink, snack on something, and enjoy the amazing views.
I brought too many energy bars, so I would advise people to only bring a few. Even for my sensitive stomach, I was able to select food from the menus on places along the trek to keep me satiated. We each brought electrolyte packages to add to one of our two water bottles each day; we thought they were very helpful! Lastly, carefully read all the instructions provided by Crystal Mountain Treks, it included a lot of helpful information.
3) Claudine W – ME, USA (Annapurna Base Camp, Tengboche Trek, Kailash Trek (Tibet), Kanchenjunga Trek, Pikey Peak Trek)
My first adventure was in 2002. I focused—and still focus—on endurance and stamina, not speed. I hiked about four to five miles a day on the Roller Coaster section (14 miles of ups and downs) of the Appalachian Trail on the Blue Ridge in Northern Virginia. My training goal was to “stay vertical” (as my trekking buddy use to say) as well as stay healthy. I developed a slow-to-moderate pace that still serves me well. While hiking on the Roller Coaster, I carried a small backpack weighing 6-8 pounds—a 2-liter platypus of water, jacket, rain gear, snacks and a camera. I did not cross-train (for example, biking, rowing or gym workouts) or spend much time lifting weights.
I worked on steady, conscious breathing, especially when going up hills or steps—slowly inhaling through my nose, exhaling through my mouth—which definitely paid off in chilly Himalayan environments above 9-10,000 feet. Too much mouth breathing makes my throat dry and raspy and leaves my upper respiratory system vulnerable to infections.
What started out as training for my first Nepal treks has become a daily routine that I pretty much follow today, twenty years later. I used the “art-of-hiking” or the rest step method on rock stairs and steep paths. This method allows for micro breaks as you straighten your knee and pause after stepping up. Wider stairs allow for a couple of horizontal steps and time to catch your breath before continuing up. Again, keeping a relatively slow, steady pace and building endurance. Training for elevation can be tricky, so a couple of months before I left for Nepal in 2002, I spent a week in Colorado, climbing Fourteeners. Invaluable!