Your first trek will always be the most memorable one.
You will feel like the most unprepared person on the trek, you’ll forget to take half the necessary things, you will struggle to understand the mechanics of your sleeping bag, and for the first time in your life, you will understand the importance of toilet paper.
And let’s not forget the culprit who convinced you to go on your first trek. You will curse them over and over again but as the trek comes to an end, you will be giddy as hell, not just because the trek is over, but because, you just experienced what walking in the wilderness feels like.
Kuari Pass is one of the coolest winter treks in the Himalayas. The best thing about it is that it’s short, not extremely daunting and ideal for someone who’s never been on a trek before.
But still, no trek is ever a piece of cake.
Know the challenges you can expect as a beginner and prepare yourself for your first epic trek.
1. Pre-trek exhaustion:
This doesn’t really hit us, until it’s too late. Getting to Joshimath (which is the starting point of the trek) could be a long and tiring journey. A lot of the trekkers are already exhausted before the trek even begins. And the added stress of walking uphill on the first day completely flips their systems and gives them an upset stomach or headaches.
Solution: Keep the journey in mind and give yourself at least half a day or an entire day of rest before the trek. You will not enjoy the absolutely gorgeous views waiting for you at Kuari Pass, if you have no energy on the first day.
2. A series of firsts:
Now, here are a few things that you will experience for the first time in your life while on the trek.
Walking for hours:
Even as an easy trek, you’ll have to walk for hours every day, up and down the hills, in and out of forests, in meadows and in snow slopes. It is a little bit easier for avid trekkers, but you might find it exhausting. Most trekkers find the first day the most tiring because of the gradual but constant ascend for about 5-6 hours. If you can make it through the first day, the hardest part is over. The trail for the next two days is smooth as butter.
Solution: Condition and train your body before heading out for your first trek. You need to toughen up your legs; so go cycling or go on day hikes with a backpack in order to prepare yourself.
Traversing in snow and ice:
The weather in the mountains is always unpredictable. In the year 2017, trekkers who went on Kuari Pass during the Christmas weekend came across snow in patches, and beautiful snow dunes right before Kuari Top. While the batch that went there a few days later, the same year, witnessed snowfall and had to walk on snow the whole day. The initial trail through the forest, for about 1.5kms, is a mix of slippery uneven ice and snow. And for the rest of the trail, you will have to traverse through snow slopes and dodge icy patches.
Solution: First things first, make sure you have the right winter gear, especially a good pair of waterproof boots with ankle support. Also, they need to be broken into. Don’t wear them for the first time on the trek.
Secondly, I personally think, a walking pole really helps you balance yourself on slippery icy terrains. Get one.
And finally, walking in snow is actually a lot of fun when it's sunny. Ask your guide to teach you proper ascending and descending techniques, so you can walk effortlessly. Your team will provide you with spikes, if needed, to make things easier for you.
Dealing with sub-zero temperatures:
When you head out on a winter trek, expect chilly nights and snowfall. It gets cold up there, so much so that a walk from the dinning tent to the toilet tent, which would hardly be a few meters, seems dreadful. I noticed that this was the hardest thing to bear for all the first time trekkers in the Kuari Pass batch.
Solution: Your body can endure a lot more than you think it can; you just need to give it time. Walk around the campsite to keep your body warm and make sure you carry extra pairs of warm socks, thermals and a down-jacket to keep you fairly comfortable.
3. Watch out if you have vertigo or fear of heights:
Right after crossing Tali lake on your last day, you will have to walk on a really narrow path for about 1.5kms, with a mountain on your left and a valley on your right. If you have vertigo or fear of heights, this could be extremely uncomfortable for you.
Solution: Inform your trek leader about your condition or fears in advance. They’ll make sure you have the support you need to cross this patch comfortably.
And that’s pretty much it.
Just keep these things in mind before heading out for Kuari Pass, and you will come back with an amazing experience. There is a reason why trekking is so addictive, and there is just one way of finding out – by experiencing it yourself.
But you don't have to take my word for it. Here is what Ruchika, my awesome tent mate, had to say about her experience. This was her first trek in the Himalayas.
"It was truly magical to watch the majestic mountains. The mountains covered by pure white shield of snow was a treat to watch. The dark blue color tents and snow covered camp site was beautiful. Still I feel I haven’t really returned back from the place I visited. Being my first trek it was one hell of a learning experience...
Sometimes it is important to take the first step, only then one can know how beautiful the journey can be. Set yourself free from all fears, inhibitions and mandate to complete the journey to reach your destination..."
Now, hold on, we are not done here. Now that you know the challenges, also read up about the reasons people fall in love with this trek here.
Cheers to your first adventure in the mountains.
This article was originally written by Pooja Dhiman on 02-01-2018.
It was edited and updated by Neeti Singhal on 15-11-2023.