For many people with an adventurous spirit, the beautiful Himalayas stand like a vast invitation, welcoming those who want more than your average thrills and spills. And that is just what youâ€™ll get on a winter trek in the Indian Himalayas, a chance to visit a mountain world that only a few of us have experienced, and an opportunity to pit yourself against its extreme conditions.
But while the stunning landscapes and dramatic peaks are enticing, there are some serious practicalities that you will need to consider before you set off â€“ and Iâ€™m not just talking about getting some really good winter sports insurance to keep you covered! When youâ€™re planning a winter hike to an area where temperatures regularly fall to below -10ÂºC, planning â€“ as well as careful packing â€“ could actually save your life.
The first thing to note is that for winter trekking in these conditions, you will need a certain level of fitness. Being in a good, healthy condition will not only help you clock up the kilometres youâ€™ll need to cover each day, but will also protect you from the cold. You donâ€™t need to be a marathon runner, but you should get yourself to a level of fitness in which you can run for approximately 25 minutes at a stretch before you set off.
What to Pack
Having the right type and amount of clothing is crucial. Temperatures on some of the hikes can fall to below -10ÂºC, and itâ€™s a good rule of thumb that you should wear at least five layers (six if the temperature is likely to go lower). Itâ€™s a good idea to make sure that your first three layers are made from quick-dry synthetic materials, as youâ€™re sure to work up quite a sweat while youâ€™re walking!
Special winter trekking shoes with good treads are essential, and you might want to pack gaiters to prevent deep snow from getting into your boots. While not essential, trekking poles will take a lot of the pressure off of your legs.
Where to Go
So, youâ€™ve got your winter sports insurance and bought your thermal base layers and boots… what next? Now you need to decide where in the Indian Himalayas to go. Hereâ€™s my recommendation for three of the best winter hikes.
â€¢Prashar Lake â€“ There are a number of relatively â€˜easyâ€™ hikes in the region, but they tend to get quite busy. The beauty of the Prashar Lake trek is that it isnâ€™t too difficult, but it is off the beaten track, so you wonâ€™t see too many groups of hikers on your journey. Situated at an altitude of 8,477ft, the lake is a sacred spot for locals, offering views over the Kinnaur, Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal mountain ranges. It will take around three days.
â€¢Har Ki Dun â€“ This trek into the Garhwal region is more difficult, but is still a good choice for those who are new to winter hiking. Again, youâ€™ll be passing through a beautiful and remote landscape where local communities welcome strangers as a rare and fascinating sight. This trek will take around eight days.
â€¢Chadar Trek â€“ This is a truly unique route, taking you along the frozen Zanskar River. Youâ€™ll follow the riverâ€™s winding path through steep mountain valleys and stunning landscapes. This is a difficult hike, in part because temperatures are likely to stay below zero even during the warmest parts of the day. It takes around nine days to complete.
Whichever trek you choose, youâ€™ll feel much safer knowing that youâ€™ve invested in the right equipment and in a good winter sports insurance policy, protecting you from any unforeseen eventualities and leaving you free to release your adventurous spirit in this unique environment.
Patrick Chong is the Managing Director of InsureMore, an award-winning team of specialists in global single trip, annual, family, business and winter sports insurance. Besides offering great deals on travel insurance, Patrick also collects and shares the best free travel competitions to help his clients get the most out of their holidays.
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