What the trek difficulty ratings mean

We often get calls from our trekkers asking us how we classify a trek as “easy” or “difficult”.  To be fair, when we say “easy”, we mean “easy in comparison to other Himalayan treks. ” There are certain standards by which you grade a trek.  We will talk about them one by one.

38. Rupin Top

Treks are classified based on the following criteria:

  • Altitude gained every day of the trek
  • Highest altitude of the trek
  • Length of trek each day
  • Gradients during the trek
  • Nature of terrain (grass, even path, gravel, stones, boulders or slippery)
  • Temperature during the trek, snow/ice on the trail, camp site locations
  • Availability of water

What Do we mean when we say a Himalayan trek is easy?

On an easy trek, the trails are even and gently laid out. As a Pahadi would call it, the trail would be a seedha rasta. They usually run through meadows and forest cover. This means the altitude does not go so high that it hits alpine sections.  These treks are not more than 5-6 days long. Camp sites have good access to water. The trail also has easy exits– should anything go wrong.

Trekking in the Himalayas-Kuari Pass-Indiahikes-Devanshi Mittal-1600-2
A trekker on the Kuari Pass trail.

Deoriatal-Chandrashila, Kuari Pass treks are easy treks.

What would you call a moderate trek in the Himalayas?

The trails are generally even but may have steep climbs or descents. The number of trekking hours could last up to 6 hours.  The trail may run into snow or climb above 14,000 ft. Campsites generally have good access to water. There are easy exits possible from some campsites, not all of them.  For example, in Hampta Pass, once you have crossed over the Pass, the exits become extremely difficult.

Hampta Pass-Indiahikes-Nikshep Trinetra-Shea Goru Campsite
Shea Goru Campsite. PC: Nikshep Trinetra

What is a moderate-difficult trek in the Himalayas?

The trails could have some rough sections. Prior high altitude trek experience and peak fitness is ideal for treks like these. There could be long sections on snow, moraines and boulders. Steep climbs and descents sometimes over three hours long could be present on some days. One or two sections would require careful navigation. Trek could last 6-7 days. Temperatures at higher camps could dip in minus. Highest altitude gained could be above 15,000 feet (4,500 m). Chances of altitude sickness is very high. Easy exits possible from the initial camps. As you go further into the trek, it becomes difficult.

Kashmir Great Lakes-Indiahikes-Padmanabha-Lone Trekker
A trekker walking along the valley. PC: Padmanabha

How do you classify a difficult trek in the Himalayas?

Trails could be uneven on some days. Trek days could be long, stretching to 8-9 hours. Highest altitude gained could be above 16,000 feet (5,000 m). There could be some high altitude camps where air is thin and temperature in minus. There usually would be long walks and climb on snow. Glacier/crevasse crossing possible. Chances of altitude sickness high. Weather is generally unpredictable with rain/snow chances any time. Few exit options. Eg. Pin Parvati Pass Trek

Trekkers traversing the Pin Parvati Pass trek. PC: Sandeep

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