How Trekking Is Changing

Today, I want to share with you about what I think about the future of trekking and why I need some advice from you that will help to shape it.

When we started Indiahikes ten years ago, we gave a fillip to trekking in India. With the new trails that we brought in, scores of Indians discovered trekking for the first time.

The new trails brought in the biggest change to trekking in India. I noticed how trekking in India took off after that.

The safety measures that we introduced gave another big boost to trekking. I noticed how introduction of microspikes virtually stopped accidents on snow. The enveloping comfort of safety brought trekking closer to a new generation of trekkers. Other organisations took to it very quickly. When we got in pulse oxymeter tests I noticed how quickly it was embraced by the trekking fraternity.

I soon realized that Indiahikes had a lot more impact on the trekking world than we imagined. We were practically setting the standards for the future of trekking in India.

As years passed we took our pioneering role more seriously. Our Green Trails process became the standard on how to conduct environmentally friendly treks.

Soon we had researchers, interns and fellows from all over the world participating in our Green Trails projects.

Today, when I look at the future of trekking, I foresee considerable regulations being brought in by the Government. Trekking may not stay the way it is.

Restrictions on trails, camping are in order. Environmental and forest laws are becoming tighter. The freestyle way of trekking that we are used to may not be possible.

Already camping has been put on hold in many areas of our country. For example, we no longer run the lovely Deoriatal Chandrashila trek because there’s been a stay on camping in these parts. In a way it is good for the land and forests, but not really very good for trekkers.

Illegal dhabas had mushroomed all over this hugely popular trail of Kheerganga in Himachal. Government restrictions on camping in the area have brought the situation under control.

In future I fear a similar restriction on treks like our Roopkund and Kedarkantha. These trails have become overcrowded. The Government, in their own way, are trying to work around this problem. Generally, the practice is to put in a restriction to either camping or limiting the number of trekkers who can visit these places.

Is this good or bad? I am not very sure which way to call it.

As the pioneering organisation in trekking, I welcome these steps. It definitely helps to regulate trekking. On the other hand, overzealous implementation of these restrictions hits the business of trekking. It is worrying.

On a brighter note, India has plenty of trekking trails, especially in the Himalayas. Himachal, Uttarakhand have lots of these little options. Nepal is another lovely zone for trekking. The cost and the duration of treks are similar to India.

It is best to fan out and try new trekking trails where there are less crowd and not much of restrictions. There are plenty of such treks with us.

Try the Dayara Bugyal trek this winter. Or the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal this Dussera. The new Phulara Ridge trek is very exciting if you are looking to trek in September.

The Dayara Bugyal trek in winter is a hidden gem. Less populated, plenty of snow and 360-degrees mountain views make it a must see.

Before I end, can I ask for some advice? If you would like me to bring in a change in trekking what would it be? We sometimes sit too close to trekking to see things from a bird’s eye view.

So, if you have to advise me, can you suggest what changes can we bring in at Indiahikes or to the world of trekking that will have an immediate impact? Put down your thoughts in the comments below.


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Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking, he leads Indiahikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India. He has written extensively for Discover India magazine and is a TedX speaker. Read Arjun's other articles. Read the full text of Arjun's TedX talk. Watch Arjun speak about our trekking trails. Learn from Arjun about what it's like to work at Indiahikes.

70 thoughts on “How Trekking Is Changing

  1. Limit the number of trekkers in each trek.
    Make sure the rules are strict and followed by the trekkers.
    Conduct treks more often if you’re planning to reduce number of trekkers.
    More manpower to work in India hikes would be helpful

  2. Hey Arun,

    Got your email and it felt really nice to be able to let you know our likes and dislikes. Thanks for your efforts in Trekking and making India a healthy young nation.

    I would like to mention you should start young, I understand that we lack infrastructure in India as we have in other developed countries, but I am sure you would agree they also faced challenges.

    Last year I wanted to go on track with my family, which includes my 3-4 year daughter, who was not allowed, I wish to get her the habit of trekking and to explore new get away, unlike a road trip to a hill station, so I would say if you can work something for families, it would be great.

    Wish you very best!!

    Sufi

  3. Hi Arjun,

    Many of us on the (9th July 2018 batch)KGL trekk had acidity problem in the evenings. There was some problem with the food. I don’t know what but if you can check and rectify this. It will help. Rest everything was perfect.

    Regards
    Pragya

  4. I have a suggestion. Make it easier for trekkers to get proper training in mountaineering.

    The current options are the mountaineering institutes run by the Defence ministry. It is tough to get into it for many reasons. Some (like me) will be too old. I started serious trekking at the age of 40. Some will not be able to spare a month from their day jobs. Some may not get through simply because the admission process is complex and opaque (you need to know somebody).
    While it is good that more people are taking up trekking in India (and kudos to Indiahikes for playing a stellar role in this), too many take it up without a proper understanding of what it involves. Many even take trekking groups to potentially dangerous destinations without training. Also, the serious summit climbing is still mostly done by the foreigners.
    We are blessed with so many trails, rocky cliffs and challenging summits. Surely we should be able to do many more expeditions (so many mountains yet to be explored) and offer so much more to the world. I think scientific training provided at affordable rates which is easily accessible to anybody who is looking for it – will be a big step forward.

  5. There are many people who have claustrophobia, I also have it.
    Tents sizes of India hikes are small compared to other organizers specially less height.
    And on top of that three people in a tent make it worse.
    I think there should be a option of having bigger tent or less people in a tent
    or some other way to solve it.

  6. Lovely reading your Arjun…

    I did my first trek with Indiahikes last year and have become a conscious fitness freak since then. So much so that I have started learning lawn tennis at the age of 36, with no previous exposure to any sports or fitness training and as per my coach, I am doing pretty well 🙂

    You have very rightly mentioned Indiahike to be pioneer in your field, to the extent that I don’t want to try anyone else and your treks are mostly full (as I can’t book treks too much in advance) which has kept me away from trekking…

    You have asked for an advice but I want to ask for a favor…. I’m a 36yr old solo female trekker. Best part of trekking with indiahikes is the care,
    comfort and safety that I received from your guides. But my trouble is traveling from Delhi to base camp and staying alone in a hotel the night before you guys pick us up from the point. If feasible, please provide some safe place to stay at your pick up points…..

  7. Hi Arjun,

    I think this change in trekking is for greater good. India rich in topographical diversity has various beautiful trek to explore so in coming future there is not going to be any scarcity for explorers.
    Having said that responsibility and ownous is on the trekkers to maintain the sanctity of the mountains. Definitely India hikes had been pioneer is great inititaives like green trail but still lot need to be done.
    Keep up the good work, I’m always with you guys your loyal partner and admirer.

  8. From my point of view. Gov’t could auction quotas (restritcted numbers) for treks in a region and let trekking companies like yourself buy it. And all this pool of money should go into clearly visible escrow accounts where trekking institutions & companies of the likes of indiahikes are members with restricted powers in parallel with sports and environmental & socio development govt. agencies.

    This pool of money can be used to maintain, develop areas and infra in and around the trek locations. However, this pool of money must be used and should not stay ideal with late decision making. If not used, it should go back to trekkers within 1 yr. For. e.g. if a trekker is paying 10,000 rs for the trek. 1000 rs from this should be clearly marked as development advance (refundable if not used).

    In ideal world, this sounds great. But hope someone can use this idea to formulate a nice implementable and working policy.

    Regards

  9. Fanning out is a good option as you said. But as mentioned in your mail, regarding the places to trek, it was limited to Himachal, Uttarakhand and Nepal. North-east seems to be a new region to be explored. Even on IH website, I did not find much on North Eastern Treks that can be in a way comparable to Northern treks. Apart from that, why just “IndiaHikes” and why not “IndiaHikesTheWorld”. There seems to be a lot of amazing mountains that can be covered outside India. Could be a part of expansion of IndiaHikes,

  10. I think there should be a strict no no to overweight people. I know indiahikes have a condition when filling up online application form but when I went to Sandakphu trek in January this year there was one person who’s BMI was very high and was trekking. He faced a lot of problem on day 4 and wasn’t able to breathe. Thanks to our trek leader and ornery leader as well as army help else it could have been very difficult. I humbly request you to please take care of such applications very very strictly and also to verify BMI information before any trekker starts the trek to help you all save your time and efforts. I honestly would say hats off to trek leader Vikas who was an angel and other local trek leaders. They did amazingly executed job. Their names are Ajay and Vijay who were liked. Messenger of God..

  11. Dear Arjun,
    Hats off to you and entire team, especially the digital assets/content management team. You all are doing an excellent job setting bench marks high.
    I have not got a chance to experience Indiahikes; (in the small trekking community) the name is synonymous for professional and responsible trekking experience in India. But before I do any trek, it is my first step to see and hear what you have told about the same; from your website, Swathi’s videos, especially your comments.
    From what I’ve heard, your punctuality and fitness filtration criteria are the two points I greatly admire and want other trekkers to follow to ensure safety of all. Regarding comfort, it is one man’s opinion; personally I would prefer and enjoy the trek better, if I don’t have to wash the plates and pitch a tent. (Some trekkers hire mules/potter to carry their backpack, I prefer to carry by myself.) Regarding the transportation expenses; in a ecommerce marketing perspective, customers would be more happy to hear the ‘transportation free’ and pay higher price for the product. Net result, your packages appear slightly lesser compared with your competition. Positive side, you would get more bookings. The other side is that the price is associated with quality, it could be perceived as second to someone.
    Either case, I look forward to experience the difference with Indiahikes. For me the most important is safety and leaving least footprints; I believe you are doing a wonderful job there.
    Joseph

  12. Jobs opportunities should be there for 18 year old young leaders. I swear this will give India hikes a boost that no one can ever imagine.
    People who are 18 or above are dying to get opportunities like that. But they are forced into studies, providing them job opportunity at this early age could take our country to the next level. I am concerned about this and I’m sure India hikes is to.
    Thank you
    Akshat Sharma

  13. 1. you have written about many restrictions imposed on trekking and camping etc. , which is very essential. Invasion of outsiders to make business, disturbance to natives, disturbance in mountain eco systems, forests is happening due to unlimited footfall of trekkers.
    2. to enhance the profitability of the activity all trekking institutions are increasing size of batches and number of batches plying on the same routes. It is causing a considerable destruction, pollution of the nature and the trekkers are not at all aware of it. They think that natives are at their service, their demands of luxuries and comforts are increasing. “Chadar trek” is a very good example. For easy walk organisations provide crampons which make the ice melt very fast and the routine of the nature and natives get destroyed.
    3. the organisations and institutes never test and judge the capacity and capability of the participants. They just come out of craze and create trouble for all the system. So number of trekkers must be restricted. trekking has become a business instead of adventure sport. Participants “Just throw money ” and do the trek with the help of the leaders, guides and porters like parasites.
    4. The real and genuine spirit of trekking is lost from the organizers as well as participants.
    5. i think, some trek routes should be kept untouched at least for few years, so that the nature will have a breathing time to revive and gain the original status of it.

    1. Well summarised. I too completely agree with your comment and share similar views on the current trekking landscape. The increase of commercialisation in trekking is making a business out of it and needs to be regulated for betterment of all

  14. Hi Arjun,
    It was very overwhelming to read the article from you in my mail box. There is no doubt that Indiahikes are known to organize the best treks in India, and hence it has such a great reputation in market.
    There is no second thought on the depletion of forest cover and vegetation being the concern these days to people and government, but I strongly believe that putting a stop to great treks around Himalayas is not a very welcoming step from a trekkers point of view. I rather feel people travelling through these trails should be more aware and feel responsible to not just restore but enhance the beauty and safety of the vegetation cover. I insist every trek organizers in the fraternity to take responsibility of having environment cleaning and restoration initiatives and implement it with serious determination. It kills my heart to know great treks like Deoriatal Chandrashila ,Roopkund and Kedarkantha being endangered from the list. But this might in turn make the serious trekkers to rush to these destination even more ,causing it to crowd up. I wish there was better ways of channelizing this traffic and stricter measures who deplete the natural beauty in anyway. It only takes small steps like tieing a cloth bag to our trekking bags and dump all the wastes into it ,as we trek through the trail and dump the lump-some garbage at the campsite where there are better measures to recycle/manage wastes. Because changes begin from within, from individuals, from small steps, and there is a dire need for everyone to understand this , or in no time we will see the loss before we could mitigate any upcoming risk.

    Thanks,
    Nitika

  15. Hi Arjun,

    I personally feel that trekking in the Himalayas has become a kind of status symbol for many people in India. I am not sure how many people are aware of the real purpose and spirit of trekking. I share your same thoughts and have experienced over-crowded and littered camps and valleys. I sometimes feel that I have also contributed to this menace by alluring people about the Himalyas from my trek photos and experiences. Now I sincerely feel that regulation is a needed action to reduce the harm that we are causing to our beautiful mountains, rivers, and valleys. I myself am staying away (or not frequenting) these days from trekking to do my part in protecting the nature because I feel after all the awareness we spread about the need for protecting our natural reserves people seem to not understand the situation.

  16. I am totally undecided.
    I see for every person who picks up the garbage on the slopes there are 5 people who drop fresh garbage on the slopes with no concern to the environment or fellow trekkers.
    When in end May 2018 during Har Ki Doon trek there was another group camping adjacent to India hikes, one of the trekkers from that group got into the water inspite of protests from India hike staff and trekkers not to do so as the water is flowing to villages down stream and is their only source of drinking water also.
    The trekker from another group screamed back asking us to get lost and the trekking group infact encouraged him to do whatever he wanted.
    Discipline on the slopes is a rare commodity, In my treks with India hikes I see the concern for environment and being responsible whereas I don’t see it with other groups offering treks.
    I am sure we will end up with very strict regulations on no. of people with various groups protesting and complaining that their livelihood has been affected.
    Next we will have total ban on trekking some of the beautiful trails.
    Next we will end up planing treks arround mounds of garbage.
    Then we will have a clean Himalayas project with allocation from government.
    I think the best way to handle this is making aware the villages on the trails that the trekkers are visitors for a few days and even though the trekkers are a good source of income the mountains are still their homes and the trekkers need to follow their house rules of being disciplined, environment responsibility is not negotiable, Good behavior is a must..
    The same applies to the trek guides too as the guides are from local places and it is their home and area also in best position to insist on the above.

    1. Hi Pradeep,

      I completely agree with you. Education and awareness are the only long-term solutions to solve this crisis at its roots.

      Thanks
      Aditya

  17. I think it will be a good move from the government if they restrict the numbers of trekkers per year per trail, only then will trails be less full of trash and only then will the serious trekkers be able to trek instead of tourists visiting these sites on mules etc.
    I was trekking in the last week and there were so many people mostly selfie / instagram lovers all over the mountains that it felt like I was visiting a busy market place instead of the calm and quite of the mountains, it was disappointing to say the least.

  18. Thanks Mr Arun for the mail. I suggest

    1- Treks/trails are overcrowding. Thats d fact and lets welcome govt norms to restrict no of pax. Better we (trek organisations and participants) plan our schedules well in advance so as to book limited seats. Overcrowd kills peace, serenity, cleanliness, resources etc

    2- IH can try something like Family trekking (short distance treks for 2-3 days where kids more than 8yrs age can also participate) or Family camps (no treks or a one day trek and,other days sightseeing in basic way). Similar to what Yhai is successfully doing. I participated in Leh camp and loved the concept.

    3- Regular scheduled treks in north eastern states.

    4- Luxury treks: may be little costly but providing good decent clean stays and food and family tents.
    Thanks

  19. Hello Arjun,

    Thanks for your email. I think a major change initiative that can be taken is to plant saplings while trekking.

    As you said, trekking has become very popular in last 10-15 years or so. And that has brought, along with it, adversities to the mountains. Roopkund trek was truly overcrowded. Too many people at a place where they were not supposed to be, creates disbalance to the local environment.

    As the photo you shared above, Illegal encroachments have taken over, reducing greenery to a huge extent. If you say that Government has taken initiatives, that is fine. Even if the encroachments are removed, the scar will stay.

    Natural causes like landslides also wipe out greenery at times.

    There are n number of reasons that can be discussed here. But what cannot be debated is that greenery need to be replenished. Yes, even in the mountains.

    Maybe this is what can be done during the treks. Handover a healthy mature sapling (of trees that is local flora) to each trekkers at the starting point. Barren lands may be identified beforehand. While on the go, they are to be planted.

    Just a broad idea, minute details can be chalked out in further course of action.

    Cheers,
    Sayantan

    1. Hi Sayantan,

      Since most of these lands are protective forests I am not sure whether planting samplings of even local flora would be an allowed step. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction. We will have to see whether this can be implemented.

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  20. Dear Arjun,
    The mail was a pleasant surprise. You aren’t as unpopular as you might think, so the introduction was somewhat redundant :). While I agree that trekking has of late become rather popular, the worst I believe is yet to come. I think trekking is yet to hit the boom phase, where it sort of becomes the “FOMO buzzword” for anyone with even the faintest of adventure streak within them. Also, I think my fellow tourists are beginning to blur the lines between a vacation and a trek. I often hear phrases like, “if not x hill station, to fir lets go for a trek?” While it is pleasing to see trekking catching on, it also worries me as:
    Not everyone should be trekking.
    Not everyone is fit enough to trek.
    And not all treks are meant for everyone.
    This might mean more business for organizations such as yours, but it increases risks disproportionately, and one bad judgement by one careless trekker can bring an avalanche of bad publicity to the relatively naive trekking industry(like the the Stok Kangri Trek).
    A few things therefore that I feel would help trekking to blossom, while minimising the downside:

    1) A national self regulating body that the trekking fraternity might set up by itself(Somewhat like the Press Council of India, albeit on a much smaller scale) that grades treks, comes out with sharply defined guidelines, and most importantly, rates trekking companies based on multiple parameters(like treks run, no of incidents,etc), while denying the same to small unregulated and unsafe businesses.

    2)Wide publicity and enforcement of the same.

    3) Regulation on the number of trekkers per season per trek divided among all the trekking companies, based, inter alia on the rating they have. While this would require consensus building, I think its important. Also, trekking companies that do not adhere to the guidelines shouldn’t be allotted any quota of clients.

    4)Devise ways to check the wild disparity between the prices being offered by reputed organizations like yours and local operators. This not only confuses trekkers, but also prevents efficient price discovery in the market, besides indirectly diluting the needed emphasis on safety standards(Which is where a part of the cost comes from).

    5)Stricter enforcement of health standards. I have often seen trek guides take chances until the first camp with clearly unfit clients. While this has not resulted in any mishaps so far, I think its an unhealthy practice, specially when you have an over enthusiastic client with the ability to convince you about his resounding health(have see a few already). Decisions that are in the best interest of everyone may be taken at the base camp itself.

    6)Greater encouragement to independent trekkers and trekking(the recent mail about treks where you don’t need Indiahikes was wonderful)

    I hope this helps. Been a few months since my last trek after a barrage of adventures, but cant wait to hit the trail soon.
    Peace,
    Abhishek

    1. Hi Abhishek,

      You make some excellent points there. I wish more people have the same outlook towards the world of trekking.

      Thanks
      Aditya

  21. Roopkund should remain an option for those who want to go there. Indian courts are experts at reducing economic activity, they themselves are paid for life so I doubt they have any idea of life of people in region.

    Take heavy fees if too many trekkers are entering. Create a fund and use it to clean up. But instead courts would outright ban any activity, take easy way out.

    Indiahikes is doing their part by cleaning trail as much as possible. Since you call it your flagship trek (if there is such a thing), you should fight to keep it as an option.

  22. Hi Arjun ,

    We have registered for Roopkund Trek for September batch(Sep 30th-Oct 8th) , what is the status of it now ? as Government has banned stays in Bugyals ,Since we have already booked for the Trek and Flight/Train commute as well we are worried about it. Can you please confirm on the future status of the Roopkund trek which we have already registered .

    1. Hi Chaitra,

      The Honourable HC’s ban will take some time to be brought in action. We’re already in talks with the government to find a way out.

      None of the treks are called off now.

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  23. I believe this is inevitable this and will keep on happening unless we take proactive step. This is everyone’s responsibility to preserve/not ruin the environment/mountains by overcrowding single trek. For example, instead of organising daily trekking batch for roopkund, some other trek can be encouraged. Obviously its about the demand and supply and thus, profits, but at the same time we have to keep it in mind that we are not completely ruining it by overcrowding. Thus, one thing that comes to my mind what indiahikes can do is, gradually keep on shifting focus from one trek to others. Obviously, one of the challenge over here will be keep on exploring new treks/routes, but that is also kind of exciting thing to do for indiahikes as well as other trekkers

  24. India should develop trekking infrastructure like Nepal so that you can trek w/o need of food & camping. This will give fillip to local employment too.

  25. Hi Arjun, I have done a fair number of treks in the Himalayas and a couple with Indiahikes. My suggestion of a change that Indiahikes should bring about immediately to reduce the environmental impact & pollution that trekking causes in the mountains would be to ban (not just discourage) the trekkers from bringing and purchasing any packaged foods during the trek. That would mean not bringing / buying chocolates, biscuits, etc, not being allowed to buy Maggi (since we know this is a big pollutant) during the trek, not bringing disposable plastic bottles, etc.

    Similarly, Indiahikes can match this commitment by reducing the plastic packaged consumables that the kitchen staff bring on the trek – basically instead of buying plastic packaged flour, pulses, etc, buying open (unpacked) groceries and transporting them in reusable tin or plastic containers. This would of course have cost implications, but will help reduce the plastic that gets disposed in the mountain areas that don’t have enough recycling ecosystem even when you bring the waste down to towns like Manali, Dehradun, etc.

    Regards,
    Sanjay

    1. Hi Sanjay,

      Thanks for your points on this. As for our kitchen staff using recyclables, we already do this on most of our slopes.

      Most of our containers are re-usable. We try our very best to keep such things under proper checks.

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  26. Hi Arjun,

    My suggestions to you are basically inward looking and has to do with your statutory requirements and trek leaders:
    a) On the 5K time trial: This is a very positive step given the amount of unfit people signing up for the trek. However i have a few issues with the way this is administered. Deciding on who gets to take it based on BMI: BMI even though is a good indicator of fitness, it is not the only indicator. There may be cases where people can be within BMI but can be totally unfit due to smoking etc. So my suggestion to you is to make it mandatory for everyone. Alternately you can also choose to decide to stop administering this all together(which i don’t prefer) transferring the full accountability to the trekkers. Second issue i have with this 5K time trails is that you should make it mandatory for people to take this as close to the trek as possible. This at least reduced the chances of people declining in their fitness level from the time they took this test.
    b) One of the major reasons why the trails are getting crowded is because of the off-loading facility provided by organizing companies. This attracts more tourists than trekkers and totally take away from the idea of being able to carry your own weight across the mountains, which is at the core of every trekking experience. To this i recommend you to not offer any off-loading facility but be prepared for it in case of emergencies. This further will instill a seriousness in people who are signing up for the trek and can stop people who treat treks like excursions from signing up, because after all nobody signs up for a marathon hoping they can finish it in a bicycle. I n this sense every treak is a marathon in its own sense
    c) You trek leaders are very friendly and polite people who are very caring! However in my recent trek i felt this attribute go in the way of a good experience. Our trek leader was too nice and couldnt take charge of this own team and the group. This lead to the entire group thinning out significantly and in turn created minor unpleasant experiences. Please ensure that they are, most importantly, leaders first and then friends later.

    These are my 2 cents on how you can create a better experience for your trekkers (not tourists!!).

    Regards
    Anand

  27. It is true, that on many of popular trails like kheerganga , triund which are of easy nature, are overcrowded and on holidays the condition is worse, which defeats the very purpose of trekking . In this situation , authorities should take immediate action which can include.. limited access (nominal access fees may be taken ), zero plastic waste policy, no eatery/illegal dhabas should be allowed , trail may be restricted for one or two years on cyclic manner . Camping may be restricted in low altitude treks. The onus of maintaining the environment, forest is heavily depends on us. I have found people littering , playing loud music on the treks which ruins the beauty of trek .

  28. I am experiencing similar issues with sahyadri treks…. there should be coordination between government and private trekking organisations and control over it in more rational and balanced manner.

  29. Hi Arjun,
    Thanks for your mail.
    I am a mountain lover and summitted Roopkund this June. Sadly, It was overcrowded. I am not sure what steps govt would take but i would love to explore some other new trails now. But definitely those trails will also become overcrowded by passing time. If I think about the solution, few points come into my mind. Firstly, we can restrict the number of trekkers going for the particular trek. No more applicants shall be allowed after that ( I know, Indiahikes is already doing this but I am talking as a whole from a govt front). Secondly, I appreciate the way Indiahikes has made trekking little comfortable but giving more comfort attracts non-serious trekkers. The trails should be kept as it is so that only who are really serious for trekking might join in. Thirdly, (For govt specially ) They can ban dabbas over mountains. Although i loved having a tea with Parle G over there, but being an India-hiker I was carrying my Eco bag and was very particular in not throwing things else where but that’s not the case for other company hikers or private trekkers. Surprisingly, I saw many plastic rappers lying on the mountains on the Bhawavasa camp site of Roopkund. It was sad to see that. It is sadder to know that because of some irresponsible people, trekking industry has to face it. As I said, I do not know what steps govt would take but as a responsible people we should keep some basic things in our mind. Also, as trekkers, we must try some new trails and explore the hidden, not just following what is being posted by our friend on Insta last week. 😛
    Moreover, Indiahikes is already doing a lot and trying to give us the best of Himalayas. I wish Indiahikes all the very best. Keep up the good work.
    Thanks

  30. Hi Arjun,

    Its really sad to know that government is putting restriction in some of the ‘must-go’ treks in India. Whenever I go for any trek I always get this thought that someday my future generation will come here and have the same beautiful experience as I had. We, as trekkers, have to take this serious responsibility for cleaning the mountains to ensure that they are always in green and flourishing state.
    The main challenge in taking up this initiative is the difference in mind-set among trekkers. I know few of my friends who are good in trekking but when it comes to picking up a plastic waste on a trek they don’t agree to it. They fully understand the benefit of removing plastics from mountains but they are just not willing to contribute towards it.
    To tackle this you can introduce a contest around this theme of ‘Green Mountains’. On any particular trek the one who collects maximum quantity of plastics will be awarded as ‘Star of the Trek’ and will get featured on the IH website. Everyone loves to compete and such contest will bring a different kind of energy among trekkers which will in turn make our mountains plastic free.

  31. Hello Arjun,
    True in every way about trekking with India Hikes.The safety norms and care for environment is what made me shift my treks to be done with only India Hikes for the past few years.
    What can make our treks even more interesting is to reduce our group to smaller numbers. Very often you find a cacophony of voices and don’t get to enjoy the peace and calm n sounds of nature..
    Our green trail activists have done wonders in the Roopkund sector, but was quite disturbed with our KGL trail. And the solution does not lie with India Hikes clean up every week with their groups. Here I felt , the locals could be sentisized to the issue. If locals are involved, some semblance of cleanliness can be expected. Especially, the lake bed of Nandkund(Gangabal) was a pitiful sight.And a total no no to handing over chocolates to the kids who are literally begging you for them and much more. Voicing out my concerns and suggestions.Cheers, Indu

    1. Hi Indu,

      Thanks for the pat on the back.

      I completely agree with you on the KGL scenario. We need more conscious trekking not just by IH trekkers but everyone who goes on this trek.

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  32. Sometimes people opt for mountain as their destination to escape from the overcrowded tourists places, but it turns out that it is crowded in the mountain as well! Limiting the number of trekkers is one of the ways to protect the trails and mountains, but I think insisting every trekkers to take full responsibility on each and every waste they create and bring into the mountain is a better way. Single use items should be banned or at least the trekkers should be the one who is responsible to take of of the trash he/she created. I hope in the future, trekking not just being taken as a adventure, instead as a way to make human beings realise and appreciate the beauty of mother nature.

    1. Hi Liyong,

      You make a brilliant point. I couldn’t agree more with you.
      A general awakening amongst trekkers by proper education is the most reliable solution.

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  33. Hi Arjun,
    You know best why these regulations are brought in govt.s for various trekking trail. The trails are dying along with treasure they kept intact for centuries. But I do agree that a blanket ban or rule for all trails is not the solution, not only will it deprive the seekers opportunity to be one with the ones they admire, love, worship but it is also going to hit the now altered economy depending on trekking and tourism.
    Some of solutions that I can think of are careful registration of commercial trekking outfits, the ones only with all safety mechanisms and equipment in place should get it.
    Independent solo trekkers or group of trekkers opting for local guides and porters are still limited. It is the ones who provide customised everything on plates have made the trails both popular and crowded. So independent trekkers shouldn’t be restricted as per me. Not everyone who treks has the caliber of planning and putting everything in place by himself/herself. Those few who can deserves the effort.
    The second is, reducing the numbers of batches and trekkers per batch. I know that will take the cost higher but the damage on ecology will be reduced. The cost can be adjusted by making certain services premium, like you do for off loading. Add more services and costs to them. The logic is simple those who have lesser penny will prepare and only avail basic services, hence not being deprived of the experience but at the cost of personal comfort (not safety mind it!).
    And third is of course fanning out and then giving a break to that trail to breath for some years before offering it again. And this should be planned. Planned entry and exit, breathing time and then again reintroduction.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Sayonee,

      I like the way you approach this issue at hand. We definitely need more measured regulations that target the root causes.

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  34. As I have start knowing about the Indiahikes, opening new possibilities for the trek enthusiats and I am a big fan of Indiahikes. Getting to know new things everyday but as I have gone through your post, its sad to hear that some of the treks cant be explored in future.
    No doubt that the amount of dumps are deteriorating the ecosystem and measures should be taken but not by closing the trek routes.
    According to me what I can offer is that :
    1) Proper checklist should be made compulsory before starting the trek ( including the independent trekkers)
    2) Heavy fine should be imposed if someone found dumping.
    3) A small session for all the ( organise trek & independent trekkers) regarding the attitude towards the mountains.
    4) Locals should be aware regarding the environmental issues caused during treks.
    You guys are doing your bit and am proud of it. And as a trekking enthusiats I will do my bit.
    Banning treks routes will be a heart-breaking kind for me and the others too and If needed we can sign petition for you as well.

    Regards,
    Dibyojyoti Khakhlary

    1. Hi Dibyojyoti

      You’ve made some really effective points here. I wish more trekkers think like you.

      We will see how we can bring these rules into action for all trekkers irrespective of the organisation they go with.

      Thanks
      Aditya

  35. Hi Arjun,
    I am not sure whether these restrictions are good or bad in the long run either. There is no doubt that as trek routes gain popularity, they also gain plastic. But more trekkers also mean more income for the locals. It is indeed sad that many of us wont get to witness many must-do trek routes in India if things go this way. I will be devastated if I can never do the Roopkund Trek which I have heard so much about.
    Maybe, India Hikes could start a whole new set of treks in the Northeastern states, which as of now, do not feature much in your list of treks. It could mean diverting some trekker traffic to this area which doesn’t feature much on the trek map of India but it is full of options. Tourism, on the whole, is not promoted to the extent it should be in this region. Sikkim already has strict rules regarding plastic entering the state already in place. So it could be a good place to start.

  36. Arjun,
    Can see your concern and pain. Especially since you have spent so much energy in creating awareness and bringing professionalism in to the field.
    Regulation is inevitable and perhaps necessary if trekking is to remain a long term sustainable activity. Helping lobby the law makers with suggestions for best practices and means to regulate would e an area where you should take the lead.
    Serious trekkers and professional groups try to be green and clean. Its the do it yourself, casual traveller who may not be so sensitive. Forest Dept should restrain such users.
    At the end, you could look at the Sayadari or the western ghats for trekking trails. These may not be the Himalayas but can be a good experience for easy treks.
    I do hope that future generations too can experience the challenges and highs of nature.
    Best to you and your team.

  37. Arjun,
    I agree with some of your concerns and I welcome the initiatives taken by the government to control in their own ways. As a trekking organisation, it would be very much appreciated if Indiahikes can control the size of the group and number of trips they plan for a year on different hikes that are offered.

    I would also strongly recommend introducing permits to restrict the number of hikers and rotational format on the treks offered over a fixed years term. Trekking organisations will take the hit on the business side but taking responsibilities come at a cost.

    However, I would also think, it would be a good time for indiahike to expand their portfolio outside of Himalayas.

    Cheers,
    Madhu

  38. Hello,

    My suggestion here is based on my experience at Stok Kangri last month. The overall experience and safety standards were quite poor there.

    My co-trekker, an experienced runner, for whom this was the first time trekking, was convinced by the organisation that this particular trek can be done by an absolute newcomer to the sport also. What a way to sell a trek! He had to cross a glacier and climb to the top of Stok Kangri, without ever having seen snow in his entire life. He wisely took a call during the first few hours to descend. The organization failed to educate the participants before hand and moreover, took advantage of ignorance just to make money.

    Another guy in my batch, who was hit badly by AMS, was allowed to descend alone from the summit, all by himself. He somehow reached the basecamp in an hour, vomiting all the way down the summit. The guide felt that he could handle himself as the trekker had completed a Basic Mountaineering Course previously. I can see why the guide was forced to take that decision; he had other slow climbers to herd. It would be to his advantage to have as few people as possible to take care of at the summit, as most of the batch was struggling to reach the basecamp in one piece. I feel it is morally wrong for the guide in an organized expedition to abandon a trekker, that too, one in distress.

    I have heard bad reviews from friends who did the same expedition with other organisations also. Some friends commented similarly about other treks in Ladakh too. It is understandable that Ladakh has its own unique set of problems, but I think organising expeditions with at least small batch sizes, if not in large numbers, with zero compromise on safety will be of great service to the trekking community. The local organisers are compromising standards, and delivering poor value for money due to lack of healthy competition. Someone has to set the bar high enough for the rest to follow suit.

    TLDR: Ladakh needs Indiahikes to step in.

  39. Dear Arjun,

    Thanks for your email. Its a topic that is very close to my heart. I have been to only 1 trek so far, and that too with Indiahikes. However, I am a sucker for wildlife and nature. I believe the end state will be like a compromise for both Govt, trekkers and organizers. Just like a national park has a booking requirement with a certified driver and guide, I believe a similar approach to trekking can be adopted to ensure trail continuity, and trekking experience for trek lovers. The problem is acute in the Himalaya due to lack of fixed entry points like a national park.

    Also, rotation of trekkers can be done for popular routes – say alternate years for different companies.

    Third could be mandatory carry of your bags – big deterret for non-serious crowds. Its a fine balance that needs to be done right. Maybe take inspiration from Karnataka govt and the Jungle Lodge Resort concept ?

    1. Hi Makrand, I have trekked for years and have no use for either a certified driver and/or guide, Such a requirement only increases the number of people on the trail and adds to the cost of trekking. Alternate years for different companies creates a booking problem and traffic problem for the companies. A free lottery system for trekking could control the trekking volume and be economically fair. The Indian government can process (they say) most visa requests the same day. Certainly the same efficiency could be applied to a trek lottery. I agree that a mandatory carry of your bag(s) would be a big deterrent for both serious and non-serious trekkers. Even so, that would restrict lots of folks to day-hikes! Few people can carry full provisions for a seven-day trek.

  40. Hi Arjun,

    Let me start of thanking you for the mail that you have send, I am feeling honoured that you have send mail to the trekkers personally. Let me just tell you that i am a big fan of you and indiahikes for the work that you all are doing, specially the work on green trail, it is outstanding and the effect it has on the society is mammoth. In the mail you have also asked for new ideas that can make an impact on the trekking, frankly speaking in front of you i found myself less qualified to give any idea about trekking, but there are couple of thing that i want to mention. The first point is in addition of the green trail if each and every batch of indiahikes that is going for a trek in the mountain if they plant a tree in the jungle and that tree will be marked with the batch number and with the date and other details that could make a environmental impact as well as a personal connect with the trekkers, if they ever go for the same trek they will fell a personal connect with the trek and a legacy will be created. Second aspect is trekking is such a sports which teach us about the nature and it’s impotence in our life. Also how can we use the nature to save life during the emergency. Basically i am taking about the skill of living on the ground. During a trek if the trek leaders can arrange a causal session at evening time over a cup of tea in which they will gives us knowledge of living on the ground just like if there is a emergency and we need a rope and we are not having a rope how can we make rope by the natural resources we have or if someone is injured during the trek and have to bring that person down and we don’t have stretcher to bring that person down how can we make a stretcher with the natural resources. These are the skill that can make person self-reliance and gives a confidence that he will cherish for lifetime. it will also create a personal impact on the life of that trekker and will bring that person closer to the mother nature.

  41. If fees to hike increase, yes, the number of trekkers will diminish. Is the result we want: that only the rich can trek? Economic restrictions do this, of course. A fairer idea is to impose a lottery system! It could be imposed on the trekking companies or individuals. A lottery could control the number of trekkers and be economically fair. Also, trekkers ought to carry “poop bags” and the government create deposit stations along the way. Many USA trekkers come from cities and have no idea what poop bags are and how they are used unless they take a dog to a dog park.

  42. Having done a few treks with you, and being a recipient of a lot of your informative emails, I’m not surprised to hear that such steps are being taken. Last month we got to know from Swathi that during May-June months almost 200 people summit Roopkund everyday. That kind of crowd creates serious ecological and environmental problems in the mountains.
    I believe that increased batch sizes contribute to these problems. Limiting batch size to say 15 people might help manage a lot of problems.
    1. With limited batch sizes, it gets easier for your or any other trekking company’s staff to manage the waste situation. Also it helps in identifying the unaware trekkers, who can me made aware to not cause further problems. In bigger batches it gets difficult to monitor all the members.
    2. Once the batch sizes are limited, it should be made the trekking organisers responsibility to ensure that their trekkers do not throw waste or act irresponsibly. Whichever organisers camp areas are found dirty, should be fined, so that they encourage their trekkers to act in a responsible manner.

    I know that Indiahikes is trying their best to educate trekkers but other organisations do not take such pains and allow their trekkers to act irresponsibly in the name of having fun. Also, we as Indians have very poor understanding of our civic duties, therefore we won’t really change until there is a very real possibility of having to pay a fine.

  43. Trekking in smaller groups perhaps make sense. We Indians are a lively bunch so a large number may be too lively, if you know what I mean. Trekking fundamentally should mean – exploring, climbing new heights, connecting with nature, respecting nature and then letting nature be by leaving as quietly as you come in. Be a conscious and appreciative guest. For every 10 trekkers, two may be in it for the kicks or to just go wild. These two may spoil it for everyone else although they have every right to be at any place they wish. Also large groups mean a larger carbon footprint, more food preparation, tents, support, waste etc etc. Due to India’s large population and fragile ecosphere, restrictions and regulations may be required.

  44. Hi IH and trekking friends,

    So heartening to see the concern for the environment and our slopes.
    If we don’t do it, who will?
    IH has always been a true leader in this area. Thank you IH for that.
    In addition to some very good suggestions above, IH can think about

    A consortium of trek organizers where competing interests come together and do what is in the best interest of everyone involved. (there are several examples of this in other industries. For example software companies fight tooth and nail for clients / projects but have an association like NASSCOM, )

    This also will form a pressure group for government.

    On individual trekker’s side, we can pledge to be as clean and as green as possible and also may be give a week per year or one week per every two years just to help organization like IH in their green trail project. Never underestimate the impact one person can make with honest intention and determination.

  45. Hi IH and trekking friends,

    So heartening to see the concern for the environment and our slopes.
    If we don’t do it, who will?
    IH has always been a true leader in this area. Thank you IH for that.
    In addition to some very good suggestions above, IH can think about

    A consortium of trek organizers where competing interests come together and do what is in the best interest of everyone involved. (there are several examples of this in other industries. For example software companies fight tooth and nail for clients / projects but have an association like NASSCOM). Can happen in trekking industry as well.

    This also will form a pressure group for government.

    On individual trekker’s side, we can pledge to be as clean and as green as possible and also may be give a week per year or one week per every two years just to help organization like IH in their green trail project. Never underestimate the impact one person can make with honest intention and determination.

  46. Dear Arjun,

    While returning back yesterday from my first trek in Himalayas, I saw an article on honorable Uttarakhand HC decision on alpine meadows.

    Not only IndiaHikes but also other similar organizations should come together and create a group to regulate their own affairs and present themselves to government and courts as well wisher of environment rather than otherwise. There has to be some concrete efforts and not just Green Trails, which I saw no other group was following creating a lot of waste on Great Lakes trail in Kashmir. The formation of group and some concrete efforts will show the group in positive light and will reduce the possibility of complete ban on treks on fragile routes.

    Dhabas are nuisance with plastic waste strewn all around but locals don’t know any better. Locals also have to be sensitized for long-term development of treks & trails. IndiaHikes can take a lead by working with group of well meaning NGOs and nudge others to do so.

    There should also be more trails explored to cater to ever increasing demand for treks. Other geographies like NE, Sahyadris, Western & Eastern Ghats should be explored and marketed well. This would reduce unbearable pressure on the exisiting trails.

  47. Hi Arjun..!!
    Thanks for writing to me.
    I personally feel there is an urgent need of controlling the pollution in the trails.
    Here I am suggesting few ways with which you can work:
    1. Introduce felicitation of trekkers who is found t be complying the environment law and collecting maximum garbage during green trial.
    2. Levy penalty over the one who is found to be spreading pollution. This should be strictly complied and he/she may be completely banned over going on any trek. You may also not issue certificate of completion of trek if he finds to be violating the laws and undertaking of the same may be taken while enrolling for the trek.
    3. Use of plastic material over trek should be completely banned.
    4. No of trekkers for any trek during the year or by the company must be fixed by the government so that limited no of footfalls will limit the pollution.
    5. Sale of any food that has plastic packaging must be necessarily banned like maggie, choclates etc.

    With this I think we can control pollution upto a great extent. Otherwise soon there is going to be a situation when government will completely ban treks in Himalayas.

  48. Hello,
    It was nice to see a different kind of mail this time.

    Government restrictions are, as you mentioned is to protect the forest,land, nature. I would like Indiahikes to work with local authorities in order to make trekking in India safer and better, keeping nature above. If conditions stays the way they are right now, surely it will not be possible to conduct few more treks in future.
    This can be done by restricting number of batches by trekking company, updating locals and trekkers about trash, pollution it causes. Even if authorities could ban Maggi on mountains, i believe we can eliminate 30-40% trash. If trekkers are given proper food, nutrition time to time, there will be need of maggi points in between.
    Another way is to spread out green trail operations throughout the country by organizing trekking and cleaning drive on popular local treks in other treks (western ghat, bangalore region, West Bengal) with the help of regional team members, volunteers as this will make people aware of the problem at very beginning and when they come to Himalayas, they would know what NOT to do. I personally would like to be a part of such campaign in Sahyadri region as trekking in Monsoon is very popular here.

    Thank you for reading. I would like to know your thoughts on this.

  49. Hi Arjun,
    I want to say something about your mail.
    1. Education is the formost thing to do. Educating trekkers before the start of the trek is a must. Some points must be covered there like how not to pollute water sources, segregating garbage, limiting no of trekkers, encouraging not to offload etc etc on firm points basis. This should be done for all trrks.s.
    2. Hevay fine should be taken for trekkers for not following rules which pollute environment. IH may be the first to start it and set the example for other organizations and encourage others.
    3. IH should change the old trails and find new trails to handle the crowd.
    4. Encourage and educate locals for pollution so they can also ask trekkers to follow the same. As they are people going to stay there.

  50. Hi Arjun, such a thoughtful letter –
    1. The involvement of government in trekking if implemented with transparency can be a welcome thing. As an example, Washington has many hiking trails and for the popular ones they have a permit system where permits are allotted based on FCFS or random lottery pick. Interested hikers have to pay for the permit if allocated. It would be good if we get this system here as well.
    2. More is less when it comes to educating hikers on clean hiking habits. Few tactical suggestions – orientation video educating hikers on waste management and disposal as part of their welcome email. Indiahikes has done a fab job on this front, But i have noticed a few hikers especially at higher altitudes or fatigued situations disregard these practices. As a result campsites higher up are littered with plastic wraps. Again IH staff do a great job cleaning up, but they shouldn’t have to. Clean-hiking should be an unbreakable promise every hiker makes and follows. Mandating educational video/workshops to all trekking companies and hikers will be useful
    3. Make littering on trails a fine-able offense – I’ve noticed many local trek operators litter everywhere. Recollecting my chadar hike, I still cringe at the complete lack of poop system and dont want to imagine what happened to locals who relied on the river’s water. With the help of governments, Creating Designated poop holes with a natural compost system is one way this could be avoided.

    It’s great to see you take active lead in thinking through and influencing the upcoming regulations. I wish other trekking organizations also join this effort. Let me know how I can help your effort to preserve the amazing Himalayan trekking experience.

  51. Hello Sir
    Firstly a very hearty congratulations to complete 10 years in the great Indian trekking Scene.
    Glad to have received your mail. All I can suggest is that the trails can have a limited number of trekkers to take it, at once.
    We can figure out a number that suits the professional trekkers at IH (India Hikes) who can actually manage and control the trekkers.
    This definitely seems next to impossible but surely doable.
    If this happens then the management and security as well as environmental protection can be well looked upto.
    This is what I can suggest best at the moment.

    P.S. Sir, My heartfelt gratitude for considering my opinion of some value.

    For the love of Mountains across the globe.

  52. Hi Arjun,

    Good to hear from you. I can understand the anguish and divide in your head. Thank you for reaching out. From what I have been able to understand, I would suggest a three pronged approach:

    Education & Awareness:
    Every trekker who goes to the mountains should know what a trek is meant to be – to be one with nature and not to ‘chill around’ amidst nature. Filter aspirants on mindset, and not just on physical fitness – easier said than done. But be picky, have a community of people who trek for the love of nature only, and nothing else.

    Even after that, have explicit guidelines – like you have for ‘no alcohol’. Specify no packaged food, provide options and alternatives. If you don’t already do so, do a quick ‘how to handle your garbage’ awareness session at the start of each trek.

    Radical Suggestion: Have a ‘friend of the earth’ deposit from trekkers. If they pollute / flout the norms, fine them from this. Use the money collected for eco-sustenance.

    Participation & Sustenance:
    Every trekking company can possibly engage in activities that will keep a trekking route rejuvenated – that could be cleaning up garbage (their’s or historic), planting saplings, cleaning of water bodies, reaching out to communities on the way and helping them. What this also means that presence of trekking companies should not just be limited to trekking routes – they can possibly help the communities around the route. Engage trekkers in such activities. The moment you specify that trekking involves cleaning too – you will auto-filter ‘only fun’ enthusiasts, which may mean trimming the business numbers a bit, but for the larger long term good.

    Wherever possible, make trekking a mixed mode activity – trek during the day, and instead of camping, opt for home-stays. Adopt villages.

    Also, it may make some sense to limit footfall on treks. Various National Parks operate on this philosophy and it has worked well for their purposes. More routes will also lead to a possibility of rotating routes open for trekking or not. A ‘no external visitor’ time will help in settling in of the route.

    Cooperation and Growth:
    The trekking community can possibly come together and form a consortium – it wont be easy to begin with but now is the time. A consortium – a well-minded consortium, can work with the government for balanced regulations, share knowledge, will be a good platform to communicate – be open to each other and drive sharing of traffic. No matter how much we talk about limiting treks etc., at the end of the day all businesses want to do great – and there has to be a mutual understanding on how to grow together as opposed to cutting open the golden egg laying hen.

    A body could also pave way for adoption of various standards not just for preserving ecology, but also on measures such as safety, fees etc.

    It is a huge market, with tremendous potential. Its logical for the prudent to come together and show the way.


    As I see it, the world of trekking is undergoing a transition – that is a good thing, as long as the churn leads to something positive. The way to do it is to accept the change and work with a long-term vision. Indiahikes is well placed, with its experience, initiatives, reach-out with communities around the treks, and a vast network of trekkers. Organise face-to-face sessions…talk to people, engage with government. I am sure if the ethos is the same (love for nature), a path can be found. As always, reach out for any help that I can offer.

  53. Hi Arjun,

    Good to hear from you. I can understand the anguish and divide in your head. Thank you for reaching out. From what I have been able to understand, I would suggest a three pronged approach:

    Education & Awareness:
    Every trekker who goes to the mountains should know what a trek is meant to be – to be one with nature and not to ‘chill around’ amidst nature. Filter aspirants on mindset, and not just on physical fitness – easier said than done. But be picky, have a community of people who trek for the love of nature only, and nothing else.

    Even after that, have explicit guidelines – like you have for ‘no alcohol’. Specify no packaged food, provide options and alternatives. If you don’t already do so, do a quick ‘how to handle your garbage’ awareness session at the start of each trek.

    Radical Suggestion: Have a ‘friend of the earth’ deposit from trekkers. If they pollute / flout the norms, fine them from this. Use the money collected for eco-sustenance.

    Participation & Sustenance:
    Every trekking company can possibly engage in activities that will keep a trekking route rejuvenated – that could be cleaning up garbage (their’s or historic), planting saplings, cleaning of water bodies, reaching out to communities on the way and helping them. What this also means that presence of trekking companies should not just be limited to trekking routes – they can possibly help the communities around the route. Engage trekkers in such activities. The moment you specify that trekking involves cleaning too – you will auto-filter ‘only fun’ enthusiasts, which may mean trimming the business numbers a bit, but for the larger long term good.

    Wherever possible, make trekking a mixed mode activity – trek during the day, and instead of camping, opt for home-stays. Adopt villages.

    Also, it may make some sense to limit footfall on treks. Various National Parks operate on this philosophy and it has worked well for their purposes. More routes will also lead to a possibility of rotating routes open for trekking or not. A ‘no external visitor’ time will help in settling in of the route.

    Cooperation and Growth:
    The trekking community can possibly come together and form a consortium – it wont be easy to begin with but now is the time. A consortium – a well-minded consortium, can work with the government for balanced regulations, share knowledge, will be a good platform to communicate – be open to each other and drive sharing of traffic. No matter how much we talk about limiting treks etc., at the end of the day all businesses want to do great – and there has to be a mutual understanding on how to grow together as opposed to cutting open the golden egg laying hen.

    A body could also pave way for adoption of various standards not just for preserving ecology, but also on measures such as safety, fees etc.

    It is a huge market, with tremendous potential. Its logical for the prudent to come together and show the way.

    As I see it, the world of trekking is undergoing a transition – that is a good thing, as long as the churn leads to something positive. The way to do it is to accept the change and work with a long-term vision. Indiahikes is well placed, with its experience, initiatives, reach-out with communities around the treks, and a vast network of trekkers. Organise face-to-face sessions…talk to people, engage with government. I am sure if the ethos is the same (love for nature), a path can be found. As always, reach out for any help that I can offer.

  54. Dear Arjun,
    Thanks for the email.

    You are right, trekking is changing.
    IH is implementing quite some good ideas into practice (GreenTrail, HealthCard) which I feel are great ones.

    Between last 3 years, I could observe changes in the mindset of trekkers towards casual approach. One of the ways to handle it could be by creating awareness earlier than trek start; an audio-visual of legacy of trekking could be shared by the ground co-ordinator once the what’s app group is formed. I believe that could help to have the right frame of mind even before getting on the transport towards base camp.

    On Buran Ghati trek we had pitched in the tents each day; a nice experience which was missed on Rupin pass and Roopkund. I know, these are much more populated treks than Buran Ghati so it is not necessary to pitch out the tent. On Rupin and Roopkund trek leaders show the practical of tent pitching; however I believe at least one tent could be pitched in and out at every camp. That will help almost everyone (in group of course) gets the tent pitching experience without adding too much burden on camp staff.

    On the email from Swathi about faking fitness proof, I couldn’t respond in time; however, I see that running marathons have helped me acquire required fitness for trekking, and timing in marathons is not easily fakable. Therefore I would suggest to ask participants to run a timed 5k (not many 5k are timed though) or 10k run within 2 months of the trek and provide the timing certificate of it – in addition to Nike run app proof.

    Regards,
    Anand Limaye

  55. Hi Arjun,
    You are absolutely right, the trekking destinations are getting crowded, polluted and commercialised. Most people expect all luxuries of a vacation while on treks. With the population of country bursting at the seams, and affluence levels increasing, it is definitely going to get much worse.
    What can be done :
    – Ban all commercial activities, shops, dhabas, along the route. Keep the food outlets to bare minimum. An example that comes to mind is “The Goat Village” resort enroute Nag Tibba. This should never have been allowed.
    Look at hundreds of shops around Kempty Falls, the place looks more like Palika Bazar of Delhi.
    – Do NOT improve connectivity and access to remote summits and trek destinations. That actually eviscerates the adventure and thrill out. It would be no fun if you could drive your SUV right till the banks of Roopkund Lake.
    – All shops must arrange to bring down all their non-recyclable garbage. Better still, they use only bio-degradable packaging. I wonder, why Maggi cant come up with a biodegradable packaging option at an additional price, if necessary.
    – Ban trekkers from carrying any polythene, or plastic sheets.
    – Educate trekkers on “zero footprint” , leave no trace you came.
    – If all else fails, limit the numbers, possibly on first come first serve basis.
    – Most importantly, educate the locals on limiting plastic waste.
    – Governments, organisations like India Hikes, have to arrange for cleaning expeditions.
    I believe trekkers picking up garbage (India Hikes Green Trail initiative) is more of a symbolic activity, meant to send a message. Equally important is ACTUAL cleaning work. A paid local sweeper with proper arrangements can clean up more than what 100 trekkers would. I (and most trekkers) would be glad to contribute towards such activities. This, in ADDITION to ourselves carrying the “eco-bag” and doing the best that we can do.
    I believe at Gomukh trek, number of trekkers per day is limited. The trekkers bags are physically checked for plastic packaging sheets. That is an excellent system.
    Regards
    Sushil

    1. Hi Sushil,

      I agree with your points. We need more education and awareness initiatives as you mention.

      What many people don’t know is that Green Trails is much more than trekkers carrying Eco bags. In places like Lohajung, Sari and Jaubhari we are working with multiple self-help groups, mahila sansthans, schools and municipalities to make these mountain villages cleaner. You can read more about it here: https://indiahikes.com/green-trails/

      Thanks,
      Aditya

  56. Hi Arjun,

    Just read your mail. I have come two days ago from my first trek ever which was done with India hikes at Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. It was sheer pleasure due to the support of your Trek Leader and guides which made this trek a memorable trip for me at age of 43. Regarding your concern and reading Swathy’s mail sharing the High Court order of putting blanket ban on Uttrakhand treks is really disheartening. This is not what was expected from the case settlement. The environmental concerns are surely something which we all share and to maintain this, instead of jamming the trekking altogether govt should issue permits and restrict no of trekkers per season. This though would have its own effects but atleast serious and concerned trekkers would not suffer. Also less or no-experienced companies would not be risking lives of people.

    Also I have a suggestion that if India Hikes apart from running Green Trails, also offers to the local authorities to adopt a particular trek zone and surrounding villages/ residential areas, I am sure the benefits would be multi fold. It would not only reflect the seriousness of IH towards environment but also give locals better self-esteem. Exploring new treks is a good option which in any case is healthy in long run but its always good to keep up with a few treaded paths. India Hike in any case should consider reducing the group size of trekkers.

    Best wishes,

    Monika

  57. I request you to consider starting expeditions to 6000m+ peaks. There are quite a few trekkers like me who have already done most of the treks offered by Indiahikes, and we would like to graduate to high altitude summits.
    Would be great if you could consider adding these.

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