Trekking in the Himalayas is an adventure worth experiencing, but what exalts the experience by many notches is the arrival of winters in the mountains. Trekking the challenging yet picturesque landscapes of the Himalayas in winters is an adventure daydreamed by many adventurers all over the world. However, along with the beauty of snow-laden mountainscapes, these treks bring a set of challenges.
Let us help you with your planning to trek the Himalayas in the winter season!
Trekking in The Himalayas
The Himalayas – famous for their sky-piercing, snow-capped peaks and their unmatched beauty – need no introduction to adventure enthusiasts all over the world. Rocky terrains blanketed in sheets of snow, vast green meadows, gushing water streams, dense pine and oak forests, and pristine lakes – Himalayas offer thrills and delights in various manners when you opt to explore their beauty on foot. With a seemingly unending list of trekking options, the mountains of Himalayas cater to all kind of trekkers.
Winter Trekking – An Extraordinary Affair
While it is fun trekking the Himalayas throughout the year, visiting its undulating terrains during the winter season has a unique charm and extra thrill to offer. With the arrival of the winter, the velvety green meadows and lush forested valleys start to hide under virgin snow, and the landscapes turn extremely scenic. The views of these bright white landscapes all around are bound to fill one’s heart with a feeling of joy.
More importantly, the extremely low temperatures and the thick layers of snow during winters keep tourists away from high altitude regions, creating for adventurers a perfect opportunity to enjoy the untainted beauty of nature all by themselves, giving them an opportunity to feel solitude and solace in snowbound mountains.
Choosing a Trek Wisely
One of the most important factors that you must not overlook while planning for a winter trek is knowing your limitations. Trekking is an adventure where experience and endurance matter, and it is advisable to upgrade the difficulty level gradually instead of taking giant leaps. Bone-chilling cold in high altitude regions and trekking through thick layers of snow make winter treks a little more challenging. While it is exciting to opt for an adventure that challenges you, before making a choice, make sure you have the kind of experience the trek demands and you are physically and mentally prepared for it.
Experience: One of the major factors to take into consideration while choosing a winter trek is your experience of trekking. For instance, if you are a beginner who has only done easy treks, you should choose a trek that ranges between easy to moderate difficulty level. In order to opt for extreme level treks, you must have prior experience of difficult treks because winter treks can be really challenging.
Preparation: Another important factor that plays a major role in winter trek selection is the ability and endurance of your body and mind. The adventure involves a lot of physical and mental exertion in the form of bone-chilling temperatures and challenging terrains. Before planning to take an extreme level trek, make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for what you are signing up for.
Popular Winter Himalayan Treks
Kedarkantha Trek, Uttarakhand
Offering a perfect adventure coupled with breathtaking vistas along the trail, Kedarkantha Trek in Uttarakhand is one of the best Himalayan winter treks. The trek begins at Sankri Village and takes you through meadows draped in the snow to Kedarkantha Peak at an elevation of 12,500 ft. that offers splendid views of prominent Himalayan peaks like Kala Naag, Bandarpoonch, and Swargarohini.
Chadar Trek, Ladakh
An adventurer’s wildest fantasy, Chadar Trek or Zanskar Gorge Trek is the most unique winter trekking adventure, and can only be done in January and February. The trek involves walking on the frozen Zanskar River while you can savour the beauty of snow-laden gorges and mountains that surround you all through your journey. The trek begins at Shingra Yokma and the return point is Naerak Village. Due to extremely low temperatures that may dip down to as low as minus 35 degree Celsius at night, this is one of the most challenging treks but the experience is worth taking.
Har Ki Dun Trek, Uttarakhand
This trek is one of your best bets if you want to witness the artistry of nature in the Himalayas. The scenic trail to the cradle-shaped Har Ki Dun Valley takes you takes you through multiple water streams, lush green forests, grazing grounds, and quaint villages. Winters bring a heavenly charm to the trail, adding snow to the perfect compositions of nature, making this one of the finest winter treks in the Himalayas. The trek starts and ends at Sankri Village in Uttarakhand.
Sandakphu Trek, West Bengal
Views of four of the world’s highest mountain peaks are what makes this winter trek a great option for winter adventure. Sandakphu Peak is the highest peak in West Bengal, and the adventure of trekking to this point involves passing through picturesque villages, raw nature, and witnessing magnificent views of mighty mountains hiding underneath sheets of virgin snow. The difficulty level of the Sandakphu trek is easy to moderate, so you do not necessarily need to have a lot in terms of experience to take this trek.
Brahmatal Trek, Uttarakhand
Taking you to an elevation of 12,150 ft., this Brahmatal winter trek in Uttarakhand is a delight for any adventure enthusiast. The trail teeming with forests of Oak, Rhododendron, Cedar and Fir offers splendid views of water streams and small hamlets. Upon reaching the snow-laden summit, you are greeted with enchanting views of Mt. Trishul and Nanda Ghunti peaks. The trek starts at Lohajung and the return point is Brahmatal Lake sitting at the summit.
Preparing Yourself Mentally and Physically
Himalayan winter treks bring with them a set of challenges which one should be prepared for before embarking on the adventurous journey. You should be physically prepared to walk long distances and climb steep terrains. And, you should also be mentally prepared to survive in places featuring extremely cold climate conditions with sub-zero temperatures and low-oxygen levels.
Strength Training and Aerobic Fitness
In order to be able to climb steep slopes carrying a backpack, you need to increase your physical strength through a proper training schedule. Besides, the Thin air in high altitudes makes trekkers prone to sickness. Before going on a winter trek in the Himalayas, you need to prepare your body to be comfortable with low oxygen levels.
You can include the following exercises in your schedule to build up muscle strength and boost up your aerobic fitness at least 1 month in advance:
- Leg-based cardio
- Long distance jogging
- Stair climbing
Things to Carry
Due to extreme cold temperatures and snow-bound landscapes you come across during Himalayan winter treks, it becomes indispensable to go well-prepared with all the necessary items present in your backpack.
- A 40-50 litres backpack with rain cover
- Walking stick to provide stability
- Hand torch or head torch
- 1-litre water bottle and hydration pack to keep you hydrated
- Energy bars to keep you charged throughout the adventure
- First aid kit and medicines if you are on medication
For Your Head
- Sun cap to protect your face from harsh sunlight
- Woollen cap to keep your head and ears warm
- Plastic sunglasses with UV protection
Selection of Clothes
- 2-3 synthetic trek pants for comfortable movement
- 2 dry fit T-shirts
- 1 fleece T-shirt
- 2 fleece jackets
- 1 windcheater jacket
- 1 down jacket
- 1 pair of thermal wear
- 1 Raincoat or poncho
Hand & Foot Care
- 4 pairs of cotton socks for trekking
- 2 pairs of woollen socks for camping
- 1 pair of waterproof high ankle trekking shoes
- Gumboots (Chadar Trek)
- 1 pair of waterproof gloves
- 1 pair of woollen gloves
- Sunscreen lotion
- Dry towel
- Toilet paper
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hand sanitizer
Guidelines for Winter Trekking
Since trekking the Himalayas in winters is a serious adventure, there is a set of guidelines that you must adhere to in order to ensure your safety during the trek.
- Pack all the essential items.
- Avoid packing unnecessary items as the heavier your backpack, the tougher it is to trek.
- Pack first-aid kit and medicines, if any.
Follow the leader’s instructions: Keep yourself out of all kinds of dangers and risks during the trek by sincerely following your treks leader’s instructions.
Wear layers: Wear layers of clothing instead of relying on thick clothes to protect you from cold. The outer layer is meant to keep the cold wind and perspiration out, the middle layer is meant to insulate you from the cold, and the innermost layer is meant to absorb the sweat from your skin, minimizing the chances of hypothermia.
Avoid wearing thermals inside: Wearing thermal wear for the innermost layer causes excessive sweating, which makes you prone to catching hypothermia in cold climate.
Cover skin: The harshness of climatic conditions during winter treks makes it vital for you to cover your skin completely. No part of the body should be exposed to cold winds in order to avoid frostbites. Moreover, the harsh sunlight can cause sunburns too.
Change socks: Wear cotton socks while trekking and woollen socks while sleeping. Change the socks immediately if they get wet at any point.
Stay Hydrated: It is of utmost importance to drink water regularly irrespective of whether you are thirsty or not to avoid dehydrating your body due to lack of thirst in cold temperatures.
Eat Regularly: Keep energy bars and snacks handy during the trek as in most cases you will not find shops and food joints on the trail. Eat regularly to keep your body charged for the adventure.
Stick with the group: Stay close to the group members as the trails tend to get confusing due to snow in winters.
The Bottom Line
Winter Himalayan Treks are an adventure for the lifetime. Every trekking enthusiast must try and taste the thrill of trekking in the snow-white Himalayas during the winter season. But winters increase the difficulty level of the treks with unbearably cold temperatures and steep climbs in the snow. So, it is advisable to go for winter treks well-prepared. From your body and mind to your backpack, everything must be prepared for the adventure.