A trekker capturing the spectacular mountain views with her camera, keeping this memory forever alive.
07 Aug, 2022 - North Nepal Travels and Treks

Trekking in Nepal: How it all began(2022 )

Known as the land of the Himalayas, Nepal hosts 8 out of the 10 tallest peaks in the world. Today, Nepal is regarded as a highly-sought destination for trekking as well as other adventure sports like rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, canyoning etc. Naturally, trekking guides are also highly sought after in these times. It took many years to reach the professionalism that the Trekking industry is in right now.

The history of trekking guides ranges from before 1950 AD. Before that time, Nepal was unknown to the world for trekking purposes. The country only hosted the British embassy and even then, envoys didn’t visit frequently. The Rana regime frowned upon the entry of foreigners and took them as threats that would oppose their autocratic governance.

This hindered much of the exposure to Nepal’s diverse and majestic culture, wildlife, and trekking destinations.

Trekking in nepal

It was nearly unthinkable to see these pitched roads outside the valley, leading to high mountains. The navigable trekking routes within the country were less than 1 per cent, and only a few hundred people knew English. The maps of the country were not consistent. The foreigners had no idea about the topography of Nepal.

During the 1920s, George Mallory and his team went on an expedition to the highest mountain, Everest. In those times, there were motor roads within Kathmandu valley. Mallory was the first person to take a Nepalese as an unofficial trek guide.

But, Mallory’s voyage was in vain. He died in the footholds of Everest.

Throughout the end of the 1940s and the start of the 1950s, many Himalayan expedition teams entered to trek in Nepal. After many obstructions from the Government, British adventurer Bill Tilman got permission from the then King for multiple treks in 1949 AD. He explored the Helambu, Everest, and Kali Gandaki regions alone.

The Americans in 1950 and the British in 1951 led mountaineering expeditions to Mount Everest with their own teams. They also sought out help from local Sherpas to learn about the terrain they were going to scale.

Maurice Herzog and his French team successfully conquered Mount Annapurna (8091m) on 3rd June 1950 AD. This was only possible due to the directions of a trekking guide. Eventually, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay scaled the famed Mount Everest on 29th May 1953. Due to Norgay’s contribution to the team to reach the summit, the guides (preliminarily Sherpas then) were lauded throughout the world. 

Slowly, mountain climbers speculated Nepal’s significance in trekking to the Himalayas after Mt. Everest was put down in history as the tallest mountain in the world in 1956 AD. In the 1960s, tourists started to enter Nepal to explore other parts of this magnificent country.

Nepal’s market was open to the international economy. Kathmandu even had Tribhuwan International Airport as its main portal of connection to the world. The number of tourists increased, and so did the need for trekking guides. Sherpas were chosen to lead teams to the summits of various peaks and were lauded for their bravery to tackle any situation that arose during the trip.

Now, the tourists were keener on exploring different parts of Nepal and not just the Himalayas. The lack of roads and clear mapping were still a hindrance to explorers. There was also a lack of good hotel and lodging services for the tourists.

This led to a common practice of foreigners hiring a guide and porters to go on long adventures. The guides were the only source of knowledge that they had to know about the culture, religion, customs, and traditions of the place they were trekking to. The porters used to carry the luggage and were also responsible for making the food throughout the trip.

Motor roads gradually reached everywhere in the country. Hotels and lodges were built with better architecture. Hot showers were available readily. People could find trekking equipment like water bottles, down jackets, etc. easily.

The camping treks started gaining popularity.

Though the peak seasons were spring and autumn, tourists started flocking all year round. The culture of trekking grew even more. People started to go to Upper mustang to admire breathtaking mountain views and Gokyo lake.

The backpackers didn’t want to scale the Himalayas but did want to remain within the vicinity of the mountains and explore them. They wanted to immerse themselves in the cultures and customs of the high alpine. But due to the topographic hardships, they didn’t have ideas on how to quench their queries. That is when the guides helped the foreigners to know about Nepal and absorb the Nepali pan.

Even now, a lot of travellers are seen to opt for travel guides and porters to battle the hard terrain of Nepali hills. 

The major difference between the trekking with Nepali guides then and now is the comprehensive knowledge that they have. Before, the basic knowledge of the terrain and broken English made a person qualified to be a tourist guide. Now, a guide must go through mental and physical training endorsed by Nepal Government to be legitimate. Yearly experience also plays a key role in the problem-handling capacities of a guide.

Being a trekking guide is extensive. Guiding a group to their destination, especially if the destination is more than 5000m from sea level, is a challenging task. Dealing with altitude sickness, injury and difficult customers are some occupational hazards that they face.

Regarded as Himalayan doctors, they know the herbal as well as pharmaceutical medicines for an illness that trekkers might face. With volatile environments and landslides frequently messing up the trails, it is of utmost importance for the guides to lead the team out of danger.

Apart from physical injuries, many tourists succumb to altitude sickness. It is the obligation of guides to minimize any chances of injury and illness. They always carry first aid and other medicines for use in emergencies. Trekking in the Himalayas may entail walking along with thick snow and narrow roads.

Now, people travel all over Nepal for trekking. Mainly, the Annapurna circuit trek, Manaslu trek, Annapurna base camp trek, and Mardi Himal trek have gained much popularity. Tourists visiting Nepal revel at how developed the tourist industry is.

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