Vasant Kunj, Delhi, India
Vasant Kunj, Delhi, India
Trekking, as an adventure sports, has gained much recognition these days. But many people, especially women, still have a multitude of inhibitions and apprehensions with regards to safety, hygiene and travel in general despite their interest in trekking.
We have Shipti Shradha with us to share her insights and throw light on the various facets of trekking and being in the mountains. She also suggests why women should choose to trek even if they have the minutest interest.
She is a qualified doctor (Anaesthetist & Intensivist) and the co-founder of Me and Mountain Global Adventures Pvt. Ltd.
1. When and how did you come to realise your love for trekking?
I had a love for travelling ever since I was in school. But back then, I did not get many opportunities to travel, apart from the regular family trips, which of course, I loved.
I started travelling when I was in Bangalore for my MBBS. I explored the gems of southern India, especially the beaches and was absolutely mesmerized by their beauty.
My first trekking experience, was during my post-graduation in Kolkata – my first expedition to the mountains – The Valley of Flowers trek.
It was such a different experience to feel the solitude of the mountains.
Being on the mountains was peaceful. These were lesser explored places, less crowded as most of these places were accessible only through trekking.
After this experience, I kept going on other treks and getting more addicted to the wonders of the mountains. The mountains not just helped me connect with nature but also with my inner self.
2. How did Me and Mountain come into being?
On one of my treks to Annapurna Base Camp trek (Nepal), I happened to meet Krishnendu – a professional mountaineer and trekker with 20 years of experience.
For the passion of mountaineering, he had quit his job from a reputed IT company and had founded Me and Mountain as a sole proprietorship.
After trekking together, we realised our common interest, which gave us the idea to take Me and Mountain to the next level and we registered it as Me and Mountains Global Adventures – a private limited company.
Our vision was to make adventure travel accessible and safe for all adventure enthusiasts.
3. What would be your advice to women who want to start with hiking?
Kudos to women who have thought of starting with trekking adventures. This, I believe, is the first step.
I always advise people to trek only when they are ready to do so.
Never plan for a trekking adventure under the pressure of your friend circle or partner or just to follow a trend or to act cool on social media.
You can enjoy your trek only when you have an interest in it. No other reason can give you the desired experience.
I suggest that women should start trekking even if they have a minute interest but they must make sure to go on the first trek with a reliable company that ensures quality and safety because the experience of your first trek will decide if you will continue with trekking in future.
Choose a company that offers a pre-trekking guidance on fitness, gears and any sort of preparation that a beginner may be looking forward to. Be ready to pay more but never compromise on the safety standards.
The most important essential is to start with physical fitness at the earliest. Physical preparedness will help you trek smoothly.
4. Are there any age limits for women who want to hike?
There is no age limit to start trekking if one is physically fit.
Many mountaineers have started as late as 50 years of age and have set inspirational marks for those who think that they are too old to begin.
If you are physically fit, there is no age bar.
5. How important is physical fitness for women who want to hike?
Physical fitness is important for everyone who is wanting to start, men and women both.
There cannot be any compromise on fitness level because it decreases the risk of falling sick on the mountains which allows you to enjoy your trek to the fullest. People with inadequate fitness end up struggling and these struggles make the experience bitter not just for the trekker but for the entire team. Cardio exercises and muscle strengthening should be included in the exercise regime before heading for trekking.
6. What tips would you give someone who wants to start hiking after the age of 40?
• Start getting physically prepared – begin with jogging and then running.
Cardio exercises like rope jumping, stair climbing also help in building muscle strength.
Get enrolled in a sport of your choice. Could be swimming, badminton and if you are a gym person, make sure to include more of cardio exercises.
• As you decide to choose a new adventure in your life, some people around you may turn out to be quite judgmental and criticize you for starting late. Their words can be disheartening and demotivating.
At such times, you will be in need a constant support system who believes in you and will be encouraging you in your journey. Choose such a buddy as your support.
• Research about the various treks, routes and requirements. Make a list of beginner treks. Select a few and read extensively about these and make a selection of the one you really want to start with.
All beginner treks are different in terms of season, terrains, state and so on. Being knowledgeable will help you narrow down that one trek with which you want to start.
Nevertheless, do consult the experienced trekkers in your contact to take advantage of their first-hand knowledge and experience which may not be available online.
• Start following a strict diet regime – include proteins, vitamins and mineral supplements. These reserves cannot be built overnight. Therefore, it is important to start in advance.
• Consult a doctor if you are on medication. Get yourself checked by physicians. It is important for your doctor to suggest if you are fit enough to go on a trek.
Lastly, reveal all the information and health conditions to your trekker.
7. Are there any specific challenges for women?
• Hygiene is a bit of challenge pertaining to nature’s call and menstrual cycles, especially for beginners, but it is not something that cannot be handled. We assign a buddy to every trekker who guides on such issues.
• Speaking about Safety, trekking trails are one of the safest places for women.
People in the mountains respect women a lot. They go an extra mile to help any woman in need. Unlike the cities where it is difficult to survive in a male-dominated society, it is very easy to live on the mountains as women because people here are compassionate.
One will rarely find a cheater among them. Safety is, therefore, not a big concern for women.
But other aspects like safety from unpredictable weather conditions, wildlife, illness, not just for females, but for everyone, are well taken care of by professional trekking companies. There is no extra concern for female trekkers in the mountains.
• As stated above, the rules for fitness are same for men and women. No compromise can be made on this front. Physical strength can be challenging for both male and female, especially for those who have been leading a sedentary life.
Apart from this, there is not really any extra challenge for female trekkers.
For more tips, you can click the following link.
8. What is the difference between hiking and trekking?
There is not much of a difference between hiking and trekking, except that hiking involves one day of climbing a hill or going in the wildernesses. The hiker is back to the starting point by the end of the day. There is no overnight camping involved in hiking.
Trekking, on the other hand, is for more than a day. The trekker needs to camp at multiple points when on the trail. Trekkers need to backpack – this includes carrying food and other essentials to sustain in the wilderness or mountains for several days.
9. Could you share one of your most memorable experiences?
Annapurna Base Camp Trek, commonly referred to as ABC trek which is in Nepal in undoubtedly my most memorable trekking expedition.
We drove from Kathmandu and reached the starting point of the trek from where we trekked to the base camp of Mount Annapurna which is one of the 14 Eight Thousanders.
Trekking in Nepal is totally a different experience with scenic and diverse trails filled with everything that you can think of. Snow-capped Himalayas, waterfalls, rivers, rocky terrains, glaciers, long staircases, hanging bridges, dense forests, beautiful tea houses, hot springs, rhododendron flowers are just to name a few.
Unlike the Himalayan treks in India, the trails here are more secluded. At several sections of the trail, it was so secluded that I was the only one walking amidst nature.
There was so much quietude at some places that the sound of the chirping birds and the rumbling river would take my senses to the next level.
Its uniqueness was of being free from crowd.
I have to mention that I had never seen such a diverse trekking community like I met enroute Annapurna base camp.
The variety of food offered on this trek at this height was unbelievable. The facilities were unmatched.
We had pizza at one of the campsites, 3000 meter above sea level. It remains the best pizza I have had till date.
10. How do you manage to balance your profession and your hiking schedule?
Balancing my professional life with my trekking schedules is a bit challenging though I believe in the saying जहाँ चाह, वहाँ राह (Where there is a will, there’s a way).
I do have to make certain adjustments but thanks to my supportive family that I spend all my paid leaves to be there on the mountains. My family visits me at regular intervals which takes care of my need to go and meet them. I choose my workplace where I can take all my weekly and post night offs together. I work at a stretch to take all my offs at one go. I leave for the airport directly from the hospital and I head back to the hospital directly from the airport on my return.
11. As more people are embracing adventures like hiking, how can we ensure nature is preserved while still enjoying the activity? What would be your advice towards mindful trekking?
It is good to see that many people and of all ages are taking a keen interest in adventure activities like trekking.
But mountains are very vulnerable. One must be a responsible traveller and ensure sustainability throughout.
We follow a trash back policy where we strictly refrain from littering the trails in any way. We carry trash back with us to the city to dispose them off. Other important things that can be done are:
We have an article on sustainable trekking on our website to give a detailed insight:
12. What benefits can young girls gain from beginning to hike at an early age?
A trekker faces a multitude of challenges and tricky situations. With trekking experience, one learns to handle tough circumstances all by himself/herself.
There are several other benefits for those who start trekking early. One big advantage is that it moulds a person’s personality by developing confidence and leadership qualities.
Trekkers are the most disciplined people even when they are back.
In totality, trekking works on the mind and the body alike and grooms a person for the better.
13. What do mountains mean to you?
Mountains to me are the healthiest addiction that one can have.
It’s the rawness and the solace of these beauties that take me back to them. Trekking is a kind of regenerating activity for me that essentially keeps me alive. Each mountain and trekking trails are so unique that they leave an unforgettable mark.
Another motivation for me is my love for photography. Although I am not a professional or a trained photographer, it gives me a sense of satisfaction to be able to bring back a part of this beauty in the form of photographs. I time travel to these mountains every time I see their pictures. And now videos have become equally appealing and a great way to relive those experiences again and again.
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