When I started Indiahikes, I wanted trekking to be a transformative experience—an experience that would affect our mind, body, and spirit.
I always returned after a trek feeling refreshed, re-energised, and ready to take on the world. I always understood that there was more to trekking than just the landscape.
Trekking helped me build determination and focus. I was able to surpass my limitations and become more mentally strong. It showed in my work and how I dealt with people.
I used to work in our family business before starting Indiahikes. The more we expanded as an organisation, the more challenging the work became. Yet, after returning from a trek, I usually felt more capable of facing such challenges.
On the other hand, trekking also allowed me to live a more fulfilled and enriched life. Trekking gave me a lot of joy. I found a balance between my mind, body, and spirit.
I noticed that the spirit of trekking I believed in played a significant role in my personal transformation.
What is the Indiahikes Spirit of Trekking
The spirit of trekking is a set of simple values and principles that encourages me to trek more mindfully. It is a map that guides my behaviour on a trek.
On a trek, I am often at crossroads. I sometimes want to quit a trek because I find it difficult to carry on. At times, I become irritated with my teammates. In these moments, the spirit of trekking has helped guide my behaviour on a trek.
Here they are, in brief, the six principles of our Indiahikes’ Spirit of Trekking.
1. We are always up for an adventure
The first principle of the spirit of trekking is to be open to adventure. This mindset encourages you to embrace the challenge of the trek. It allows you to immerse yourself fully in the trek.
I’ve learned that trekking will not always be easy. Sometimes things may not go as planned. But that's the beauty of it. It means preparing for whatever may come your way. We learn to take the good with the bad.
By accepting the ups and downs of the trek, I have often pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. I have experienced a beauty that I never thought was possible.
Once on the Roopkund trek, the wind blew so hard that we couldn't pitch our tents. We were at 12,000 feet. We had to walk for another six hours to find shelter. We had to spend the freezing night in a dilapidated shepherd’s hut. The same night, unable to sleep, I stepped out. I saw one of the most beautiful sights of the Milky Way.
I could enjoy a trek even in less favourable conditions, such as rain, snow, or gusty wind. This allowed me to have an unforgettable experience. It helped me to understand the true meaning of adventure.
This mindset taught me that I am capable of more than I ever imagined. At Indiahikes, we face organisational challenges almost every day. Trekking has taught me to be resilient. It helps me overcome these difficulties and guide the organisation towards success.
Being open to adventure means being open to new perspectives and ways of thinking. It encourages flexibility and adaptability.
2. We blend in with nature
The second principle of the spirit of trekking is to blend in with nature. Being noisy while trekking can be disruptive to other trekkers and harm the environment.
The mountains are a sanctuary of peace and tranquilly. We must be mindful of our noise.
Earlier, I often saw monals, one of the most exquisite birds in our Himalayas. I also used to see martens and foxes. Nowadays, I rarely see them. It is the noise of trekking that is driving them away. This loss makes me extremely sad.
I see trekkers singing loudly or listening to music through Bluetooth speakers. Antakshari is the go-to entertainment for trekkers.
I don't like it when trekkers shout or listen to loud music. It's disrespectful and ruins the peace of nature. I choose to avoid them.
The sounds of birds singing, the rustling of leaves in the wind, and the sound of a gentle stream contribute to the peaceful ambience of the mountains. Being quiet, I can truly take it all in.
At Indiahikes, we blend in with nature. We are part of nature, not just visitors. It is in this spirit that we trek.
3. We protect the environment
The third principle of the spirit of trekking is to protect the environment. This means being mindful when using resources such as water and fuel. It also means properly disposing of waste. As trekkers, we are responsible for minimising our impact and leaving the mountains better.
Very early in my trekking life, a fellow trekker forced me to carry back all my trash. I used to burn them earlier. I imagined that burning was taking care of the trash. I was wrong. I was polluting the atmosphere and leaving a lot of unburnt debris behind. It made me realise the impact of human activities on nature. It made me more aware of my actions and their environmental effects. It made me want to do better and be more responsible.
Modern trekking is changing our trails. Wrappers, aluminium foil, alcohol bottles, and sanitary napkins are all over our treks. I anguish every day about the amount of litter left behind.
A few years ago, I was on the Deoriatal Chandrashila trek. Around a bend, where no one could see, there was a hillside full of trash. It was like a landfill. It horrified me.
A few months ago, the Khullara campsite on the Kuari Pass trek was shut down because of excessive litter. For no fault of ours, a beautiful camp was inaccessible. I was angry and upset.
At Indiahikes, we want to be sustainable trekkers. That’s why we carry an eco-bag around our waists to pick up litter from the trail. Further, we segregate this waste. We undo the damage others have done. It is our way of preserving our environment.
Being sustainable on our treks has impacted my personal life as well. At home, we have significantly reduced our consumption of packaged goods. When we want takeout food from a restaurant, we do that in our stainless steel dabbas. I have consciously moved towards leading a very minimalistic lifestyle. It feels more fulfilling. It allows me to actively contribute towards preserving our environment.
Sustainable trekking helps reduce the impact on the environment. It promotes conservation efforts. Doing so ensures that our future generations can experience the same beauty we have on our treks.
4. We are self-sufficient
The fourth principle of the spirit of trekking is self-sufficiency.
Recently, we explored a new trail to the Gidara Bugyal. We had to carry everything, including tents and cooking gear. At one of the camps, the water source had dried up. We had to melt snow for our cooking and drinking water. Being self-sufficient, it did not bother us. As the trek progressed, we often had to deal with trek emergencies. We could handle most emergencies because we had everything we needed with us. I felt a sense of accomplishment. We completed the trek on our terms.
Self-reliance is an essential aspect of trekking. It does not always mean carrying everyone in your backpack. It is more of a mindset.
Even on supported treks, we pack well and light, taking only what we need. Our backpacks weigh, at most, 8 or 9 kg. We don’t offload them to the support team. This way, we are self-sufficient. We do not need another human or animal to carry our load. I find that very demeaning.
Self-sufficiency also means knowing how to read trail maps (like Gaia or GeoTracker). I don't have to ask the trek leader how far the camp is or how long it will take. With these apps, I can figure out the distance and time needed. On the trek, it makes me independent. When I am on a new trek, I don’t feel lost.
Self-sufficiency also means that we do not expect others to do our work. Some trekkers expect our helpers to clean their dishes or set up their tents. It bothers me greatly. It's better to be able to do things ourselves and not treat others like they are there to serve us.
This is why at Indiahikes, we always insist that you clean your dishes and pitch your tents.
Being self-sufficient is a powerful reminder that we can do much more than we often give ourselves credit for. It is a valuable life lesson that we carry with us everywhere.
5. We are supportive
The fifth principle of the spirit of trekking is being supportive.
Being supportive means being willing to share, whether lunch, water, or equipment. It's also about helping fellow trekkers. It is about putting the team first. Often, this comes with sacrifice.
One winter on the Kedarkantha trek, I had to wait more than an hour for a slower team member to catch up. It was bitterly cold. Yet, my teammate was very grateful for this gesture. It went a long way toward helping him complete the trek.
By being willing to share, we can build a sense of teamwork that helps us overcome the challenges of the trek together. It also allows us to make lasting connections with our fellow trekkers.
Sandhya, one of my trekking partners on the Gidara Bugyal trek, saw that my backpack was making me slow down. At one of the resting spots, she quietly took out a heavy jacket from my bag and put it in hers. This support made the trek easier for me. It made me feel grateful. These gestures made me want to trek with her more often.
Being supportive helps us look beyond our needs and focus on the group's well-being. This spirit reinforces the idea that trekking is not just about individual achievement. It allows us to create an unforgettable experience together as a team.
6. We are fit and prepared
The sixth principle of the spirit of trekking is to be fit and prepared. It means building stamina and endurance and getting stronger. You learn the skills needed to walk long distances.
Kugti Pass was a trek that went above 16,000 feet. On the day we crossed the pass, we started at 5 in the morning. It was a long day. By the time we ended the day's trek, it was 5 pm. We had trekked for 12 hours at extremely high altitudes. By preparing well for the trek, I had enough energy to help set up camp, cook dinner, and finish my journal.
Preparing well for a trek requires commitment. It is crucial for the success of the trek.
By preparing well, you become an equal member of the team, not a burden or hindrance. You can keep up with the group and not rely on the trek leader or guide. You can be of help to the team. I have noticed that well-prepared trekkers constantly help others.
A few weeks ago, I was on the Chhattisgarh Jungle Trek. One of the seniors, who was 59, was the fittest of the group. He would help with lunch or dinner even after a tiring trek. It was a long walk from the kitchen tent, but he would be okay carrying the heavy dishes. During meals, he would help serve. Being well-prepared and fit helped him become a valuable member of the team.
On the Hampta Pass trek, one of our trekkers developed acute AMS. It was a cold and desolate camp at around 12,000 feet, just after crossing the pass. The moment the emergency struck, two fit trekkers offered to help. With the help of the trekkers, we evacuated the affected trekker to Manali safely. Preparing well allows you to jump in to help in an emergency.
Also, by taking the time to prepare, you're less likely to experience injuries or discomfort. Such things can make for an unpleasant experience. People ask me how I descend quickly off the mountains without straining my knees. It is my everyday preparation that helps me.
Preparing for a trek can be rewarding for your personal life. It is a great way to set and achieve fitness goals. Training for a trek has been a big motivation for many trekkers to lead an active lifestyle.
Our Spirit of Trekking is a set of values and principles that encourages you to trek with the right mindset.
Trekking is an experience like no other. It is an unforgettable experience. But to truly enjoy and appreciate the trekking experience, following the Spirit of Trekking allows us to take much more home.