Going trekking in winter? Winter treks are considerably different from summer treks, and sometimes more difficult too. Temperatures are low, there might be snowfall leading to roadblocks, and choice of accommodation might be limited and very basic. On the plus sides, there are better chances of spotting exotic birds, enjoying mild snowfall and more.
Here are 7 things to keep in mind before you set out to conquer the hills in winter -
High altitude treks in winter can be subject from mild to heavy snowfall. Expect sub-zero temperatures and pack accordingly. Waterproof jackets are always a good idea. In the lower latitudes, however, winters are pleasant, temperatures are low, with clear skies and trekking is a very enjoyable experience.
Photo courtesy: esamskriti
Frozen conifers, icing-sugar like flakes of snow, ice needles hanging from leafless boughs and balconies, snow-covered slopes lit up by weak sunshine all give it the landscape a magical touch. Further down, expect lush greenery and a profusion of wildflowers. Often migratory birds flock down in winter. Flamingos, wild geese, terns and many more birds can be spotted during treks in winter.
Photo courtesy: kidinacandyshop.blogspot.com
Dehydration is a major problem during winter. Because perspiration is almost absent, you will hardly feel thirsty but lack of fluid intake can lead to severe dehydration leading to nosebleeds and nausea among other difficulties.
Photo courtesy: Frontier Treks India
Bad weather, including snowfall, can block roads and lead to flight cancellations. You might even be left stranded. Planning meticulously and checking out alternate trails is the key. For novices, we would recommend taking a guide along. A GPS device is handy; just ensure that your batteries remain warm enough.
Photo courtesy: Planet Way Round
Expect very basic accommodation if trekking in the Himalayas in winter. Most lodges and guesthouses shut down for the bleak season, so be prepared to spend chilly nights in camps and huts. A good sleeping bag and a portable heater is a must. If you're trekking in the lower altitude areas, expect the booming tourist season in winter. All lodges are open. Availability of a wide selection of food might be a problem on any trek but the local cuisine, no matter wherever you are, is worth checking out!
Photo courtesy: stuffedbackpack.wordpress.com
Most winter treks in the higher altitudes are marked moderate or difficult but that should not be a deterrent if you train a little before starting out. Keep bars of chocolates and dry fruits handy - they are great energy boosters! Longer treks like the Chadar trek are more difficult, though definitely doable even for the amateur trekker. You may read our article on 8 things to expect on the Chadar Trek for more insights.
Photo courtesy: Chennai trekkers
Treks are physically and mentally draining. Altitude sickness is a common problem on all high altitude treks. We recommend incorporating adequate rest days in your itinerary. Take adequate analgesics, antipyretics, antimetics, medicines for diarrhoea and altitude sickness, water purification tablets, band-aids, antiseptics and other prescription drugs. Also, keep a pain-relief gel handy.
The mountains beckon! Now that you are all prepared for the harshest of conditions - you know what to do, right?
Here are a few winter trekking options to help you decide -