From the distant looks of it, outdoor adventure appears to be something that's meant for free and wild souls. And this is the most incorrect perception. Mountaineers, climbers and extreme sport junkies are some of the most disciplined individuals I've ever come across. They tame their bodies to the point that they are absolutely sure about how each muscle works. For these outdoor enthusiasts, there's no scope for surprises and unpreparedness when they're out on a trek for 10 days and left to the mercy of nature.
On my recent trek to Brahmatal, our group was introduced to trek leader Mukesh Pawar on the first day at Lohajung Base Camp. Our competent leader had successfully completed the Advanced Mountaineering Course, Search and Rescue Course, led countless treks in the Himalayas and also volunteered for rescue operations during the 2013 Uttarakhand floods. This rather qualified and competent guide assured us on the first day that we were in safe hands.
Sharing his valuable learnings with the group, this trek leader made the trek a cakewalk for us. Here are some of his tips for readers to avoid mistakes on a snow trek, especially if you're attempting it for the first time.
Quick Trek Itinerary For Brahmatal
Reach the Lohajung Base Camp from Kathgodam, which is the final railhead that connects Uttarakhand to all major cities. Taxis are available from Kathgodam to Lohajung on pre-booking basis. If you're trekking with Indiahikes, the transport from Kathgodam is pre-arranged.
Lohajung to Bekaltal (6.3 km)
Bekaltal to Brahmatal (7.2 km)
Brahmatal to Brahmatal Summit and back (7.6 km)
Brahmatal to Lohajung (8.6 km)
Drive from Lohajung to Kathgodam
About the snow trek to Brahmatal
Lohajung is also the base camp for a more popular trek to Roopkund, but during the heavy snowfall period in winter, only the trail to Brahmatal remains open for trekkers.
We witnessed the snow cover right from the first day of the trek and the majestic views of the frozen Bekaltal and Brahmatal Lake checked off bucket list goals for outdoor lovers visiting the Garhwal-Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand. I started the trek with Indiahikes on 28 January. It proved to be just the right time to wake up to fresh snowfall outside my tent on all four days of the trek.
If you are planning to go for a trek in the coming season, here are a few often-repeated mistakes and important lessons from Pawar, my trek leader. These professional tips from a qualified mountaineer will help you look after yourself better when you are out in the wild on your next adventure.
1. Pre-trek preparations should be taken seriously: Your aim should be to run 4km in 30 minutes. Start the routine with warm ups and stretching exercises. To begin, break the routine into 10 minutes of brisk walking, 10 minutes of jogging and 10 minutes of walking slow. Pray intensely before bedtime for that inspiration to wake up early in the morning. Personally for me, a sticky note with inspirational cuss words by the bedside to read in the morning worked just fine.
2. How to find your rhythm as you walk: The best advice on finding my walking rhythm was to keep my mouth shut and breathe from the nose continuously. Taking a step further, I also began counting three steps for every breath I took and that developed into a rhythm. With these simple rules and moderate fitness, the breathing functions just fine even while walking on steep inclines.
3. Stay hydrated: On the mountains, your body needs more water than you'd expect. Walking for long hours continuously in cold and dry temperatures makes you lose moisture from your body with every breath you take. It's essential to drink 3-4 litres of water every day.
4. Pack your bag correctly: Believe it or not, a correctly packed backpack makes all the difference when you carry the load uphill. Use the ranger roll technique to pack your clothes. Here's a video that can help you pack your bags efficiently for your next trek.
5. Eat well and maintain your vital stats: Call it luck, but on this trek we had five doctors trekking along with us. There were times when some trekkers reported low blood pressure, but the immediate cure as suggested by the trek leader and the doctors was to drink sugar water and a lot of fluids, which served us just fine, even during the summit day with every member of the group successfully completing the trek. The trick is to not be a brat and consciously try and do what's best for your health.
6. Stay with the pack: Our chatty trek leader had countless, off the cuff, horrific anecdotes about trekkers getting lost in the mountains, even on the easiest of trails. We gave him no new story to remember but the lesson is to safely stick to the gang rather than walking ahead of the group, even if you can. Do not walk too far from the tents even for those short loo breaks in the middle of the night.
7. Wear no warmers during the day: It was rather a hard choice to make every morning to let go of the layers of warmers we slept in. The trek leader constantly emphasised on removing all the warmers while walking uphill during the day. The idea is to still dress in layers but get rid of the warmers that can produce excessive body heat while walking on inclines.
8. That's a dear friend of mine (the picture below) who walked like a champion during the entire trek but the bare ankles were just enough to give some rashes at the end of the trek. Keep yourself covered on a winter trek. Note that in the rulebook.
9. Your comfort is equivalent to the number of socks you carry: First on your packing list should be as many socks as you can carry on a trek. You can never predict the number of puddles you will manage to step into. It's best to keep more than just a pair for each day.
10. Personally for me, the trick was to walk ahead of the group: The key to enjoying a trek rather than just surviving it was to start walking ahead, especially when you're in a big group. It's only obvious that you get longer breaks than the others when the entire group stops.
Pro tip: An accidental trick I learned during the trek was to fix zips. I used my lip balm one night to fix the zip of the tent we slept inside. The cold temperature in high altitudes messes up the zips on your clothes and tents. The trick is to only use a lubricant. I went for a lip balm for the purpose and it worked.
Check out the other photographs from the Brahmatal Trek on my Instagram. Share your own tips and tricks to survive a trek in the comments section below. If you have travelled to an offbeat location on the map, share the story with like-minded travellers on Tripoto.
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