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. Transport to the base camp: We will create small transport bubbles on all our treks, by isolating trekkers in a bubble. We will organise transport from a common pick up point, which will be shared with you well in advance.
2. Vehicles for transport: We will have Tempo Travellers and Boleros with a trusted transport service that we have been working with for nearly a decade.
3. Food on transit: 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.
4. Safety during travel: 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.
5. Sanitization facilities while travelling: Trekkers are expected to carry their own sanitizers for all transport.
6. Expectations during travel: 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.)
7. COVID test before travel (mandatory for select regions): As of April 1st, Uttarakhand has made it mandatory for trekkers from 12 states to undergo RT-PCR tests before reaching Uttarakhand. These states include Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan
In Sikkim as well, all travellers are required to carry an RT-PCR Negative Report along with them. So anybody going on the Goechala trek will have to test themselves no less than 72 hours before the trek.
In most cities, doing a COVID test is easy, and free in government hospitals. Whether it is mandatory or not, tt is something we highly recommend to ensure that no trekker takes an infection to the remote mountains.
| Second set of safety checks at the base camp:
8. Health check at base camps: Once trekkers reach the base camp, before they enter their rooms / tents, their oxygen saturation, temperature and general health will be checked immediately. Their status will be updated on our IH Trek Vitals App.
9. Immediate action upon noticing symptoms: If any team member shows any COVID-19 symptoms, then, he/she will be immediately isolated and sent back to the base city.
10. Personal hygiene liners for trekkers: Once trekkers get past the initial tests, they will be assigned their own freshly sanitized hygiene liners, which they use inside their sleeping bags. These will be used throughout the trek. We advice you to use a small towel or napkin on the pillows at the base camp.
11. Freshly sanitized equipment for all trekkers: Trekkers will be given sanitized sleeping bags at all camps. All tents will be thoroughly cleaned before trekkers reach the camp.
12. Sanitized rooms at basecamps: All our rooms at the base camps and tents will be sanitized for your use.
13. No village visits for trekkers: To keep local residents isolated, trekkers will not be allowed to venture into any villages.
14. Private, sanitized Indiahikes kitchens: Trekkers will not be allowed in the Indiahikes kitchen, where food is cooked for the entire slope team.
15. Physical distancing on the slopes: Trekkers will not come in close contact with any Indiahikes staff except their Trek Leader and guides, except in case of emergency. Physical distancing will be maintained as much as the trek allows.
16. Sanitized rental equipment: All trek rental gear will be sanitized before trekkers receive them.
17. No-contact offloading of backpacks: In case of offloading, we’ll do a no-contact offloading system, where trekkers don’t come in contact with the mule men / porters. 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:
18. Daily health check up of IH team: All accompanying Indiahikes team members and staff will be checked for oxygen saturation and any symptoms of COVID-19 before joining trekkers on the trek.
19. Daily health check up of trekkers: 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.
20. Trekkers will stay two in a tent (all treks below 13,000 ft): Trekkers will stay two in a tent. Our tents are all 3-man tents and comfortable enough to house three people. For higher altitude treks. For treks above 13,000 ft, we have an option of staying two in a tent at an additional cost.
21. Dry toilets: There will be bio 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.
22. Mask-wearing cooks and helpers: 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.
23. Food will be served outdoors, unless the weather requires us to use a dining tent.
24. Bring your own cutlery: 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.
25. Professional high altitude medical kit, including oxygen cylinders: 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.
26. Mask rule: 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:
27. Return transport to the base city: Trekkers will be dropped back to the base city in a sanitized vehicle.
28. Bringing your own vehicles: Trekkers are allowed to hire or drive their own vehicles to the base camp. All base camps have ample parking space. Indiahikes is not responsible for your travel or your vehicle at the base camp.
29. Post-trek health check of IH Team: 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.
30. Post-trek sanitization of trek equipment: Once the trek ends, all the equipment used by trekkers will be sanitized thoroughly.
31. Post-trek follow up with all trekkers. The Indiahikes Experience Coordination team will remain in constant touch with every trekking group. In case anyone shows symptoms or tests positive, all trekkers will be notified about it immediately.
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.
Face no cancellation charges even if you have to cancel your trek the previous day
We understand the uncertainty around COVID-19, and the possibility of last-minute cancellations. Which is why we have designed a cancellation policy such that trekkers lose nothing, even if you cancel in the last minute.
This is why we have one of the most trekker-friendly cancellation policies.
– Cancellation upto 7 days before the start date of the trek — Get a complete cash refund (minus 4% transaction fee). The money is refunded to the same bank account, credit or debit card from where payment was made.
– Cancellation during the last 6 days before the start date of the trek, and not counting the day of the trek — Full refund with 100% of the trek fee in the form of an Indiahikes Trek Voucher. Valid for 1 year from date of issue. Can be used on any Indiahikes trek.
– Cancellation on the start day of the trek, or no show on the start day of the trek — Unfortunately, no refund.
Important note: The Trek Insurance amount is not refundable.
Here are questions that trekkers are asking us:
❖ Do I need a COVID certificate to trek?
As of March 22nd, 2021, only the Sikkim state government has made a COVID negative certificate (RT-PCR Test) mandatory upon landing in Sikkim. This will affect anyone trekking to Goechala. No other state (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal) has made it mandatory.
Even though it isn’t mandatory, we highly recommend getting yourself tested through an RT-PCR test, just to stay on the safe side.
❖ Which treks are open?
We have opened up dates for all our treks all the way till October 2021. You’ll find all the treks here – https://indiahikes.com/upcoming-treks/
❖ I’m a solo trekker. Can I join a trek?
Yes, you’re welcome to join our treks. They are not private treks and are open to anyone. Lots of solo trekkers are already signing up for treks. You can do so too.
❖ What is the team size?
There will be around 18-20 trekkers in every group.
❖ I have an Indiahikes voucher. Can I use it for my 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. If you have any trouble with this, write to [email protected]
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.