Trekking

By Tahir Imran Khan

Unfortunately, trekking/mountaineering is a less popular sport in Pakistan. Foreigners come from abroad and enjoy the matchless beauty of our homeland. Due to the lack of published material on this subject and rare chances to get a good map or information, most of the people even don't have the basic knowledge of this game. Only a few private clubs and two government supervised organisations are taking part in the promotion of trekking/hiking.

Pakistan attracts thousands of tourists every year and most of them come only to visit the Northern areas of Pakistan. This region is supposed to be one of the most rugged, isolated place on earth. Trekking in Pakistan is unique and unforgettable, world's highest mountain and famous mountain ranges meet, the Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Hidu Kush. These are world's newest mountains. They are only 55 million years old.

In these mountains, Siachen, Hispal, Biafo and Baltero are the largest glaciers outside the polar in the world region.

Exploring these areas in unforgettable and we have the world's best venues for trekking.

First of all let's see what is trekking? In literary language the word trek means:

  1. To migrate
  2. Journey with one's belongings on an Ox-Wagon
  3. Organized migration of body or person

In broad sense it may be defined as the act of travelling on foot, with the purpose of sight seeing and recreation at various natural and cultural site and in places where means of modern transport are either not available, or are purposely not used.

The simplest definition can be, to walk on foot - mountains for pleasure.

Normally, trekking have been divided into three grades, A, B and C.

A-Grade: It is complete mountaineering and requires technical skill and equipment.

B-Grade: In this grade, one should know the use of basic equipment like ice, axe crampons and climbing ropes.

C-Grade: No technical skill is required in this grade, a person having average physique and common sense can do it properly.

Trekking is an excellent invigorating sport for health and enjoyment. It also helps to develop many qualities - the trekker, ascending and descending with one's belongings with tough trails, arranging and cooking foul, pitching the tents, co-operations with the colleagues and keeping the composite and environment clean are a few to mention. After this brief introduction of trekking let's see how to select trek.

To choose a trek, few basic points are to be considered:
 

  1. Number of days which can be spent for trekking.
     
  2. Amount of money required or could be arranged,
     
  3. Weather conditions of the trek/route
     
  4. Physical condition and stamina of the trekker.

It becomes very easy after considering thoroughly these points. The next stage starts, which is to collect the equipment necessary for the trek.

Apart from individuals clothings, according to the temperatures, other equipment can be divided into two parts, individual and collective.

The basic things required for an individual are: Ruck sack, sleeping bag, mattress, trekking shoes, rain coat, gloves, sunglasses, walking stick, torch, knife, whistle, water bottle, toilet roll and other requisites like crockery, plate/cap/spoon, match box and lighter.

For a group the most essential things are as under:

  1. Tent
  2. Stove and fuel
  3. Cooking utensils
  4. Water container
  5. Camp light
  6. Medicines
  7. Food stuff.

On B-Grade trek or even on C-Grade, a few technical things can be very useful i.e.

  1. Ice axe
  2. Crampons
  3. Climbing rope
  4. Compass.

This list almost covers the basic requirements for a normal trek. The amount of equipment depends upon the proposed route, weather conditions and duration of trek. Steps should be taken to include every important item, but there shouldn't be any unnecessary burden.

A brief introduction of these technical equipments is described herewith.

a) Ice Axe:
It is very important tool for climbing vertically on the walls and it is also to be used for the cutting of steps on hard ice, digging, using as a stick and to make anchor for rope etc.

b) Crampons:
It consists of metal spikes and is fitted under the sole of shoes. It is used to climb up & down. Crampons are available in different & adjustable sizes.

c) Climbing Rope:
As the name suggests it is used for climbing. Moreover, it is necessary to walk glaciers & to cross crevassed.

d) Compass:
It is a common item as its needle indicates direction.

After having a list of equipment & knowledge to use it, one has to face another problem as these items are not easily available in Pakistan. A few items which are now available in Lahore & Rawalpindi are of sub-standard & low quality so one has to arrange these or import and the best solution is to get it from Gilgit or Skardu where good but used & second-hand material is available.

Unlike our usual routing tasks, activities during trekking are tough & exhaustive. Sometimes uncertain situations have to be faced, when the route is not clear. A trekker should have enough courage and determination to cope with these difficulties. A few important guidelines should be considered while preparing a schedule for trekking:

  1. A complete medical check up before starting the trek is advisable.
  2. Patients of asthma & diabetes should not go above 10,000 feet.
  3. In case of any severe sickness, get down quickly.
  4. Protect your body from changing weathers.
  5. Always wear comfortable shoes.
  6. Try to get as much information as you can about the trek and verify it from local people.
  7. Keep all the equipment and food stuff in order.
  8. Select campsite near drinking water, camp under trees.
  9. Pitch your tent on inclined surface and dig a small trench around tent.
  10. Set off for trek early and cross the streams in morning.
  11. After cooking, extinguish fire completely, specially in forests.
  12. Before setting off, clean the campsite, waste and the litter properly to protect the natural beauty & keep the trail also clean.