Why 2020 was a Landmark Year for Trekking in India

Why 2020 was a Landmark Year for Trekking in India

Category About Indiahikes Thursday Trek Talk

By Swathi Chatrapathy


This morning, I started my day by reading this old article — our founder’s predictions for 2020. It has 10 fairly ambitious predictions for the decade of 2020. 

It was with a slight sense of trepidation that I reopened it. I had not visited the article since then. I wondered how many of the predictions had come true.  

The pandemic put a hard stop on all our trekking activities for 7 whole months. A full stop to 13,000 trekkers who would have otherwise been trekking with us in that period. 

Given the year 2020 has been, had any of the predictions come true at all? 

But as I ran through Arjun’s predictions, a sense of comfort washed over me. Many of Arjun’s predictions have almost miraculously come true this year.

1. There has been an explosion in trekking interest this year.

What’s surprising is that the interest is almost at par with last year. This winter season, especially, has seen an unprecedented interest in trekking. We see not only trekking enthusiasts, but lots of beginners who have never set out to trek before. We also see several families trekking together. 

“I’m not surprised to see this explosion of interest,” says Arjun. “Trekkers have been cooped up at home for a long time. It’s only natural to rush to the outdoors, to get a breath of fresh air and stretch your legs a bit. I’m not surprised to see that even January is as packed as December. In fact our registrations for January are more than last year. January has traditionally been a lean trekking month,” he says.

2. Some trek zones have gotten saturated.

Two treks, to be specific, Kedarkantha and Brahmatal, have seen unprecedented footfalls this year. Our ground team reported yesterday that there were trekkers swarming all over Sankri, the basecamp of the Kedarkantha trek.

People were sleeping in stables and in courtyards of village homes (in this peak winter with temperatures dipping to negative numbers). The entire villages of Sankri, Sor and even Kotgaon had turned into a fair. There were reports that almost 7,000 trekkers entered Sankri in the last 10 days of December.

Thankfully, Indiahikes no longer takes trekkers on the Sankri route. We take the pristine Western ridge of Kedarkantha. We took the decision to move away from this maddening crowd two years ago. We have kept a close eye on crowds on treks, and we’re trying to spread trekkers out to different routes and avoid concentration on just a handful of trails.

3. Other states have joined trekking.

I can’t help but feel proud when I see teams readying themselves to trek in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh this January. Trekking has never been known in these regions before. Indiahikes has stepped in and made it happen. The tourism departments of these regions and Indiahikes had to work together extensively to make it happen.

On the other hand, we have opened up our beautiful Western Campus in Maharashtra. This is in the heart of the Sahyadris, surrounded by hills, waterfalls, and forests. This is the first time we have formally spread our operations outside of the Himalayas. For all educational institutions in the West and Southern parts of our country, 2021 looks to be a year of outdoor education and adventure. 

4. “Trekkers will look for more from a trek than just trekking.”

This prediction has come remarkably true! At Indiahikes, we receive at least four emails a day from trekkers, thanking the Indiahikes team for a life-altering experience. Our Trek Leaders have trained endlessly for this transformative experience of the mind, body and spirit to happen.

5. Technology has played a big part in trekking.

Not many people know this, but at Indiahikes, we see ourselves a lot like a technology organisation. We believe technology can impact a trek in a very big way.

Using an Experience Map has become a norm for our trekkers. We handover a digital map to them on the first day of their trek and they navigate the entire trail using these Experience Maps. It makes trekking a lot more fun without compromising on safety. 

On the other hand we now capture health-related data of trekkers in our Trek Vitals mobile app. This data is a powerhouse of research information for us. Digging into this data can reveal how individuals perform in the mountains. For example, at 11,000 feet are men or women more susceptible to mountain sickness? Or what is the average pulse rate for a trekker who is at 13,000 feet. You can expect to see a lot of research papers from us very soon. 

These are just two examples where technology has played a big part this year. There’s a lot more to come. 

6. DIY (Do-it-yourself) trekking are no longer be restricted to die-hards.

Believe it or not, over the past one week, we have received around 400 requests from trekkers to share GPX files of different trekking trails in our country! With our DIY trek documentation increasing every week, we notice more and more trekkers using information and technology to do treks on their own. 

Even though it is the small weekend treks that trekkers are choosing to do, we believe this will extend to easy Himalayan treks in 2021. 

7. More regulations from the Government are in place.

Just as I write this, one of our core team members just returned from important meetings with government officials in Uttarakhand. We see that the government and forest department are taking a determined interest in regularising trekking. They realise the importance of trekking — the boost it provides to the economy, the skills it builds amongst locals. They also realise it is one of the most environmentally-friendly sports.

That’s not to say that all of Arjun’s predictions came true. 

We expected Indians to take up trekking internationally. That could not happen this year because of the pandemic. On another note, we expected very high altitude treks to see increasing footfall this year. The pandemic washed away the two big seasons for 15,000-er treks. 

In conclusion

Overall, when I look back, the whole country was locked down. But behind the scenes, Indiahikes did not stop working for a single day. Away from the hustle and bustle of trek operations, we got time to pause and make very progressive decisions. It is a reflection of these months of hard work that I see this year.

Trekking has changed for the better. It has become safer, more sustainable, more transformative and informative. 

“Having observed the trekking industry for twelve years now, I know that 2020 has been a landmark year for Indiahikes. The changes that we have made at Indiahikes will impact not only Indiahikes, but trekking as well. I expect very big observable changes from July and August 2021 onward,” notes Arjun.

Not many people realise it, but these changes at Indiahikes have a direct impact on the entire trekking industry. Being the industry leaders, when we make a change, it sets the tone for the rest of the trekking industry in our country. Looking at it from a bird’s eye view, the tone we have set this year will have far reaching implications. 

I’m sure the next year is going to be extraordinary for the trekking community. I hope it’s full of treks and adventure for you too. 

With that, let’s bid a happy goodbye to 2020, and welcome 2021. 

Happy New Year! 🙂

Swathi Chatrapathy

Chief Editor

About the author

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers.

A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content.

Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters's in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact on a person's mind, body and spirit.