We have good news for you. Starting this October, we are reopening Himalayan treks in small groups.
Small group treks are exactly like our regular Indiahikes treks, but they are different in two ways:
– They are limited to a maximum of 8 members
– They have a 31-point safety check specially designed by Indiahikes for COVID times.
Ever since Unlock 3.0 in August, the country has opened up considerably, especially the travel and tourism sector. Flying from one state to another has almost returned to how it was before COVID times. In most cities, life has returned to near-normalcy.
When this is the case across the country, we believe that trekking can also resume, albeit in a small way. It can work only if there’s extra care given to safety of trekkers as well as mountain folk.
Which is why we have opened up trekking for small groups, with a minimum of 3 members and a maximum of 8, along with a 31-step safety check, specially designed by Indiahikes for trekking safely during COVID times.
In this post, you’ll find all information about our safety protocols, along with an FAQ section, to answer questions you may have.
How are we going to ensure your safety on small group treks? Here is our 31-point safety check:
Safety is something that Indiahikes is a pioneer of. Most modern trekking systems in our country have been introduced to trekking by Indiahikes.
We are not only worried about the safety of trekkers, but the safety of our mountain folk as well. We are wary of taking the virus to the mountains, which can be a catastrophe. Health care systems in the mountains are negligible.
Keeping this in mind, we are taking several precautions to ensure safety. Here are our COVID-time safety steps:
| Initial safety checks during transport:
1. Every participant has to come with a COVID-19 negative test report (RT-PCR test), which is taken not earlier than 96 hours before your trek date. Such tests can now be easily done in government hospitals across the country.
2. We will organise transport from a common pick up point, which will be shared with you well in advance. Trekkers’ temperatures will be checked before they board the vehicle. Anyone with a fever or temperature above 98.6 will not be allowed to move forward to the Basecamp.
3. We will have Tempo Travellers (max 8 trekkers) and Tata Sumo-like vehicles (max 4 trekkers).
4. For breakfast and lunch, trekkers will be taken to a trusted restaurant. Trekkers are advised to take their own cutlery for these meals (plate / box) including a cup for tea.
5. The transport vehicle will be sanitized for your use and there will be a barricade between the driver and trekkers, similar to what we see in taxi services.
6. Every vehicle will have a bottle of sanitizer in it. Trekkers are expected to sanitize their hands every time they get in and out of the vehicle.
7. The driver and trekkers are all expected to wear masks for as long as they are in the enclosed space of a vehicle. (Tip: If you’re coming by flight, don’t throw away the face shield that the airline gives you, reuse it in your vehicle.)
| Second set of safety checks at the base camp:
8. Once trekkers reach the base camp, before they enter their rooms / tents, their COVID certificate, oxygen saturation, BP and general health will be checked immediately. Their status will be updated on our IH Trek Vitals App.
9. If any team member shows any COVID-19 symptoms, then, he/she will be immediately isolated and sent back to the base city.
10. Once trekkers get past the initial tests, they will be assigned their own freshly sanitized sleeping bags and liners, even at the base camp. These will be used throughout the trek.
11. Trekkers will not exchange their sleeping bags / liners or tents throughout the trek. Each of these will be numbered so they identify their own gear.
12. All our rooms at the base camps and tents will be sanitized for your use.
13. To keep local residents isolated, trekkers will not be allowed to venture into any villages or interact with locals on the way. From the base camp, they will only go onto the trek and leave from the base camp.
14. Trekkers will not be allowed in the Indiahikes kitchen, where food is cooked for the entire slope team.
15. Trekkers will not come in close contact with any Indiahikes staff except their Trek Leader, except in case of emergency. Social distancing will be maintained as much as the trek allows.
16. In case of camping at the base camp, the camp will be located slightly outside the premises of the village.
17. All trek rental gear will be sanitized before trekkers receive them.
18. In case of offloading, we’ll do a no-contact offloading system, where trekkers don’t come in contact with the mule men / porters. Trekkers will offload it into a kit bag, which will later be zipped up and taken by the mule men. None of the mules will be walking along with the trekkers, they will leave later and reach the designated camp before trekkers.
| On-trek safety:
19. All accompanying Indiahikes team members will be checked for oxygen saturation and any symptoms of COVID-19 before joining trekkers on the trek. (A COVID test for every team member in the current situation is not a possibility.)
20. Trekkers will be tested thrice a day for oxygen saturation (as per our norm) and the Indiahikes team members will also be checked thrice a day.
21. Trekkers will stay two in a tent. We will have single person tents available on request at an added cost of Rs 1,500 per tent for the entire duration of the trek. If you’re trekking alone, we would recommend staying alone in a tent. Avoid staying with trekkers from other cities.
22. There will be dry toilets at all campsites (trekkers use their own toilet paper). These are no-contact toilets, where trekkers don’t sit on seats or come in contact with anything except the zip of the tent and shovel. There will be ample water and soap to sanitize hands after using the toilet.
23. All our kitchen staff members and Trek Leaders will wear masks while cooking and serving. Only the Trek Leader will serve meals to trekkers, wearing a mask.
24. Food will be served outdoors, unless the weather requires us to use a dining tent. In case of bad weather, we will serve food in sleeping tents.
25. As is the norm on our treks, trekkers will be instructed to bring their own cutlery, and will be given enough sanitizing facilities for their cutlery.
26. The Indiahikes team will be equipped with oxygen cylinders and a full fledged high altitude medical kit that will be available to trekkers at all times.
27. Any time trekkers are gathered together (during briefings, reflections), trekkers will be expected to wear masks.
| Fourth set of safety checks after the trek ends:
28. Trekkers will be dropped back to the base city in a sanitized vehicle.
29. Trekkers are welcome to hire or drive their own vehicles to the base camp if they have the option. All base camps have ample parking space.
30. Once trekkers leave the base camp, the accompanying staff will be checked everyday for any symptoms. Their oxygen saturation and temperature will be checked thrice a day.
31. Once the trek ends, all the equipment used by trekkers will be sanitized thoroughly.
Trek Leader’s COVID-19 Kit
Every Trek Leader will have these safety gears in a COVID-19 Kit:
- Pulse Oximeter
- Infrared Thermometer Gun
- Face Shield
- Oxygen Cylinder
If a trekker is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms on the trek, here’s the protocol we will follow:
1. The trekker will be evacuated to the base camp, and further to a COVID testing centre in Dehradun.
2. Indiahikes team members who were with the trekkers will not be accompanying trekkers beyond the base camp. They will be quarantined at the base camp location in a dedicated room.
3. If the trekker tests positive, the staff members will be brought to the city and tested as well.
4. The evacuating driver will take all necessary precautions (social distancing and hygiene) while bringing the trekker to the city.
5. The Indiahikes ground team will remain in constant touch with the trekkers over phone, until trekkers go back home.
│ Note: Trekking is a sport where social distancing is difficult. You camp in tents, eat together, help each other on trails and trek closely together. While we use commonsense and general precautions to keep everyone safe (as mentioned above), please be aware of this reality as well.
That said, trekking is also probably the only safe activity where you are isolated from the rest of the world. There is no one else in the mountains except you and your team. It is the best contact-less sport in the world.
If any trekker is disregarding any of the above mentioned rules, he / she will be sent back to the base camp.
Your responsibility on the trek
Being pioneers of safety in Indian trekking, we’ve kept safety at the forefront of organising these treks.
However, in these COVID times, a lot of the onus is on you. This applies before your trek, during your trek and after your trek as well. Follow these protocols as much as possible to ensure your safety and that of those around you:
- For at least 15 days before your trek, avoid crowded spaces.
- Wear a mask every time you step out of your house and every time you’re in enclosed spaces with trekkers.
- Keep a sanitizer handy and sanitize your hands every few hours
- Avoid eating food from unknown sources.
- Wash your hands thoroughly every few hours when you have water and soap available.
- Alert your co-travellers and officials if you have a fever or headache. Visit a doctor to be sure. After all, prevention is better than cure.
- Maintain social distancing everywhere you go.
To ensure we reduce human contact as much as possible, we are adopting a bit of our Do-It-Yourself trekking style for small groups.
Every small group will have a Trek Leader, a cook and a helper. This 3-member team will ensure you’re safe, well-fed and comfortable on your trek.
While this 3-member team can handle everything on the trek, we expect you to help pitch tents, set up camp, take small leadership roles in navigating and serving food to your trek mates. It’s an exciting way of trekking, which trekkers have come to love since last October. In this trekking style, you are as much the organiser as we are!
A thoughtful decision on the cancellation policy from our team:
We understand that the COVID situation is unpredictable. Which is why we don’t want you to worry about registering for a trek. If you sign up for any of our treks and you are unable to do the trek because of the COVID situation, we will have no cancellation charges from our end, except for a 4% transaction charge.
This helps you to register for a trek with peace of mind, knowing you can cancel your trek even until the last moment. Trekkers have started registering for treks, and we’d like you to do so with full confidence. We don’t want you to worry about losing out through cancellations.
Here are questions that trekkers are asking us:
❖ Which treks have you opened up for small groups?
We have opened up 6 treks for small groups, all of which are in Uttarakhand.
❖ I’m a solo trekker. Can I join a small group trek?
Yes, you can join any of our small group treks.
We have designed these small groups keeping in mind that there would be solo trekkers like yourself, or trekkers in 2’s and 3’s who want to join existing groups to have a better trek experience and also to reduce the cost. Just follow our usual registration process, our Trek Coordinators will put you in touch with the rest of the team once there are at least 3-4 members registered.
❖ What are the minimum and maximum number of trekkers in small groups?
We will need a minimum of 3 trekkers in small groups to run the trek. And we are limiting the maximum number to 8.
❖ What if 3 people don’t sign up in a group? Will the trek still run?
If 3 people are not confirmed for a certain group, we may merge two groups. Or we may request you to postpone to another date. Do keep in mind that in these Covid times, trekkers may cancel treks in the last minute because of Covid symptoms or general uncertainty.
❖ I want to have a single person tent, is that possible?
We have the option of single person tents for an added cost of Rs 1,500 per tent for the entire duration of the trek. You can make this request to your Trek Coordinator after you have confirmed your trek.
❖ How do I register for a small group trek?
The registration process is the same as our regular treks. Just click on the date that suits you in the calendar and proceed with the instructions. You will have to pay the whole amount while registering. The dates are fixed, and you’ll be able to see them in the calendar.
❖ I have an Indiahikes voucher. Can I use it for a small group trek?
Yes, if you have a valid Indiahikes voucher in your name, you can use the voucher to register for the trek. You will find this option at the payment stage while you’re registering.
We hope you take this as a chance to head outdoors, and take part in one of the most risk-free outdoor sports. Do take care of yourself and of others around you.
Keeping that in mind, welcome back. Let’s trek. 🙂
If you have any doubts or thoughts, drop in a comment. Our expert team members will get right back to you.