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Training tips by previous Nepal trekkers

Everest Base Camp

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.

Other tips:

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)
Debra and John
Debra and John

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.

Other tips:

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.

Other tips:

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!

4) Meg P – WA, USA (Everest Base camp Trek, Kailash Trek (Tibet), Kanchenjunga Trek & 17 other treks in Nepal.
Meg P
Meg Peterson with CMT guides in Pokhara
The trip to circumambulate sacred Mt. Kailash in Tibet in 2004 was a high point in my trekking experiences. We drove across Tibet, enjoying the beautiful evenings at our various campsites and just before the trek started I turned 76 at the Buddhist Saga Dawa festival, a joyous occasion.
To prepare for this trip, I did what I did for all high altitude treks…I picked a steep up-down walk of at least four miles near my home and tried to stick to a daily routine as much as possible. I did somatic exercises or movements each morning, and I ate a healthy diet, something that is very important whether trekking or not! This regime continues with a slight curtailment on the length and strenuousness of the walks. And it’s obvious that smoking is totally counter produtive if you want to climb. You can’t do both.
The Langtang trek in 2014, the year before the catastrophic earthquake, was beautiful and challenging. We had stopped in the town of Langtang, nestled below massive cliffs, never imagining that it would be obliterated the next year because of the earthquake. We did remark at the time that it would be a disaster if anything dislodged those overpowering rock faces, but could not imagine that it would become a reality.
The next few years we took several treks. We checked out the places we knew and the friends we had made over the years. Hoping they had not been too badly affected by the earthquake. The most memorable to me was the one in 2018 when I was 90. This was a glorious trek into the Annapurna circuit on a different route from my 1999 trek. This time we went to Khopra Ridge and down a challenging route that led to Pokhara. The scenery was spectacular and we were able to stay at a small farm secreted in the forest on the way back down
Other tips:
Research the area and learn more about the various places you’ll be visiting, as well as the history of the treks. It will add to your understanding of another culture and make your trip more meaningful.
Walk at the pace that is good for you! You’re not trying to win a race or prove a point. You’re here to enjoy and groove on nature. You can’t appreciate its beauty if you’re racing through. You can take two days instead of one if you have to. Naturally, as you get older you will go at a slower pace in high altitude. Again, I trained by going up and down a hill with a small backpack. But now I pick a smaller hill and go more slowly than in the past.
Always wear layers! This I learned from bitter experience. Carry a small backpack where you can put extra pieces of clothing if you need to peel as you go along…and you will. And carry water, drinking at small intervals to keep adequately hydrated. Take a snack or an energy bar for emergencies. I seldom used one, but was glad when I had one during an emergency.

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