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Indiahikes 24-Point Safety Check for Trekking during COVID Times
By Swathi Chatrapathy
Safety is something that Indiahikes is a pioneer of. Most modern trekking systems in our country have been introduced to trekking by Indiahikes.
Covid 19 is a serious problem in the past few years. We are constantly upgrading our Covid protocols to go with the times. We are not only worried about the safety of trekkers, but the safety of our mountain folk as well.
Keeping this in mind, we are taking several precautions to ensure Covid safety. Here are our COVID-time safety steps:
| Initial safety checks during transport:
1. Trusted vehicles for transport: Drivers will always wear masks. If for some reason, they are not wearing mask, trekkers are requested to ask drivers to wear mask before start of the journey.
2. Food on transit: For breakfast and lunch, trekkers will be taken to a trusted restaurant. Trekkers are advised to take their own cutlery for these meals (plate/box) including a cup for tea. Please note: despite being trusted restaurants, these are public spaces. Please exercise due caution before entering such premises. If it is too crowded you have an option to not proceed with the meal.
3. Safety during travel: The transport vehicle will be sanitized for your use. If in doubt, request driver to sanitize before travel.
4. Sanitization facilities while travelling: Trekkers are expected to carry their own sanitizers during transit in transport vehicles.
5. COVID test before travel: As of 15 February 2022, you are not required to carry RT-PCR test certificate, if you are fully vaccinated. For this, you’ll need to show your double vaccination certificate. Only those who aren’t double vaccinated are required to come with a test, which is done not less than 72 hours before your trek
| Second set of safety checks at the base camp:
6. Health check at base camps / starting point: Once trekkers reach the base camp, before they enter their rooms / tents, their oxygen saturation, temperature and general health will be checked immediately. Their status will be updated on our IH Trek Vitals App.
7. Immediate action upon noticing symptoms: If any team member shows any COVID-19 symptoms, then, he/she will be immediately isolated and sent back to the base city. If you notice anyone with symptoms it is your duty to inform the trek leader/slope manager. You have a choice to discontinue the trek immediately.
8. Personal hygiene liners for trekkers: Once trekkers get past the initial tests, they will be assigned their own freshly sanitized hygiene liners, which they use inside their sleeping bags. These will be used throughout the trek. In addition, we advise you to use a small towel or napkin on the pillows at the base camp.
9. Freshly sanitized equipment for all trekkers: Trekkers will be given sanitized sleeping bags at all camps. All tents will be thoroughly cleaned before trekkers reach the camp.
10. Sanitized rooms at basecamps: All our rooms at the base camps and tents will be sanitized for your use.
11. No village visits for trekkers: To keep local residents isolated, trekkers will not be allowed to venture into any villages.
12. Private, sanitized Indiahikes kitchens: Trekkers will not be allowed in the Indiahikes kitchen, where food is cooked for the entire slope team. This is to prevent any possibility of our back-end team of catching an infection.
13. Sanitized rental equipment: All trek rental gear will be sanitized before trekkers receive them.
| On-trek safety:
14. Health check up of IH team: All accompanying Indiahikes team members and staff will be checked for oxygen saturation and any symptoms of COVID-19 before joining trekkers.
15. Daily health check up of trekkers: Trekkers will be tested everyday for oxygen saturation (as per our norm) and the Indiahikes team members will also be checked everyday.
16. Trekkers will stay two in a tent**: Trekkers will stay two in a tent, until the Covid situation reduces in our country. Our tents are 3-men tents.
17. Dry toilets**: There will be bio toilets at all campsites (trekkers use their own toilet paper). These are no-contact toilets, where trekkers don’t sit on seats or come in contact with anything except the zip of the tent and shovel. There will be ample water and soap to sanitize hands after using the toilet.
** For points 16 and 17, the Sandakphu trek setting is different. You will be staying in lodges and not in tents. The rooms will accommodate either 2 or 3 people, based on the availability of the rooms. The toilets will be regular Indian / Western toilets and not dry toilets.
18. Bring your own cutlery: As is the norm on our treks, trekkers will be instructed to bring their own cutlery, and will be given enough sanitizing facilities for their cutlery.
19. Professional high altitude medical kit, including oxygen cylinders: The Indiahikes team will be equipped with oxygen cylinders and a full fledged high altitude medical kit that will be available to trekkers at all times. Our trek leaders are trained to handle Covid emergencies or any shortfall of oxygen.
| Fourth set of safety checks after the trek ends:
20. Return transport to the base city: Trekkers will be dropped back to the base city in a sanitized vehicle. Drivers will wear masks. If drivers are not with masks, trekkers are requested to insist on drivers wearing masks.
21. Bringing your own vehicles: Trekkers are allowed to hire or drive their own vehicles to the base camp. All base camps have parking space. It is expected trekkers exercise precaution of being in public places which travelling to our basecamps. Indiahikes is not responsible for any contract of Covid during your travel.
22. Post-trek health check of Indiahikes Team: Once trekkers leave the base camp, the accompanying staff will be checked everyday for any symptoms. If found positive, you will be informed about it.
23. Post-trek sanitization of trek equipment: Once the trek ends, all the equipment used by trekkers will be sanitized thoroughly.
24. Post-trek follow up with all trekkers. The Indiahikes Experience Coordination team will remain in constant touch with every trekking group. In case anyone shows symptoms or tests positive, all trekkers will be notified about it immediately.
If a trekker is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms on the trek, here’s the protocol we will follow:
1. The trekker will be evacuated to the base camp, and further to a COVID testing centre.
2. Indiahikes team members who were with the trekkers will not be accompanying trekkers beyond the base camp. They will be quarantined at the base camp location in a dedicated room.
3. The Indiahikes ground team will remain in constant touch with the trekkers over phone, until trekkers go back home.
Note: Trekking is a sport where social distancing is difficult. You camp in tents, eat together, help each other on trails and trek closely together. While we use commonsense and general precautions to keep everyone safe (as mentioned above), please be aware of this reality as well.
If you choose to trek during the pandemic, please understand that despite all protocols, there are chances of you catching the infection during your onward or return travel.
That said, trekking is also probably the only safe activity where you are isolated from the rest of the world. There is no one else in the mountains except you and your team. It is the best contact-less sport in the world.
Your responsibility on the trek
Being pioneers of safety in Indian trekking, we’ve kept safety at the forefront of organising these treks.
However, in these COVID times, a lot of the onus is on you. This applies before your trek, during your trek and after your trek as well. Follow these protocols as much as possible to ensure your safety and that of those around you:
- For at least 15 days before your trek, avoid crowded spaces.
- Wear a mask every time you step out of your house and every time you’re in enclosed spaces with trekkers.
- Keep a sanitizer handy and sanitize your hands every few hours
- Avoid eating food from unknown sources.
- Wash your hands thoroughly every few hours when you have water and soap available.
- Alert your co-travellers and officials if you have a fever or headache. Visit a doctor to be sure. After all, prevention is better than cure.
- Maintain social distancing everywhere you go.
Here are questions that trekkers are asking us:
❖ I’m a solo trekker. Can I join a trek?
Yes, you’re welcome to join our treks. They are not private treks and are open to anyone. Lots of solo trekkers are already signing up for treks. You can do so too.
❖ What is the team size?
There will be around 18-20 trekkers in every group.
❖ I have an Indiahikes voucher. Can I use it for my trek?
Yes, if you have a valid Indiahikes voucher in your name, you can use the voucher to register for the trek. You will find this option at the payment stage while you’re registering. If you have any trouble with this, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you take this as a chance to head outdoors, and take part in one of the most risk-free outdoor sports. Do take care of yourself and of others around you.
Keeping that in mind, let’s trek.
If you have any doubts or thoughts, drop in a comment. Our expert team members will get back to you as soon as possible.
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