How Indiahikes is making your trek safe

This is the final article of a three-part series written by Arjun Majumdar about safety on high altitude treks. Read the previous post here.

In my last post I expressed my anxiety and frustration at how loosely trekkers in our country take preparing for a trek. Lack of preparation has become an epidemic. As more and more unprepared trekkers are getting to high altitudes the risks are enormous. Naturally, safety on treks comes into question.

Even Indiahikes cannot insure a trekker’s life unless safety is seen as a two way process. Trekkers play as big a role in safety as the organisation.

Before I get into some of the new safety protocols Indiahikes has brought in, I want to share some background.

Indiahikes has always been at the forefront in bringing in new safety practices into Indian trekking. Microspikes for walking on snow was introduced by Indiahikes. Emergency bottled oxygen on all treks was made mandatory by Indiahikes. So was using pulse oxymeters to test pulse and oxygen saturation levels. Radio as safety communication device was introduced in treks by Indiahikes. Though not every organisation follow these systems, I am happy to see many of our competing organisations adopting these practices (fairly quickly, I must admit!).

As I write this post, I am aware even these new practices that I am going to talk about will be adopted by other organisations, perhaps in record time. Why then do I talk about these new protocols openly in a post like this?

By discussing these new safety protocols I have three purposes in mind: One, I get quick feedback on how some of these protocols are looked at. For me, this is the fastest way to reach out to trekkers. Two, many of our trekkers are in the dark about these protocols. I don’t like that. I feel it is unwise for anyone to trek unless they know what safety practices are in place. Finally, Indiahikes is the leading trek organisation in India. What we do becomes the industry standard. While we usually go about our work quietly, sometimes, on topics as serious as this, it is important for people to know what the industry leader is doing.

I know many of these safety protocols are hard pills to swallow. Yet, I firmly believe, for the sake of future of trekking in India, these steps are very much required.

Here then are the new safety protocols that Indiahikes is bringing in.

 

Pre-Trek Safety Checks

1. Eligibility Criteria for Treks

This is something new that we are bringing in. Every trek will require a minimum fitness criteria for registration. By the time a trek starts, participants are expected to reach a fitness criteria unique to each trek. Proof of performance is shared by using fitness apps. Sufficient time is given for preparation. If, within the last ten days, a candidate is not able to meet our fitness expectations, then he is dropped from the trek group and his money refunded.

What do we expect out of this? We expect trekkers to prepare for a trek. Lack of preparation is inexcusable. It not only affects safety of a trek for the entire team, it also spirals out on the overall enjoyment of the trek.

2. BMI cutoffs for treks

Our statistics show overweight trekkers are becoming a big safety concern. While I do not want to get into personal lifestyle we do notice overweight trekkers do not prepare enough for a trek. 

We have now introduced BMI cutoffs in our registration process. Our BMI cut off is 28 for an easy trek, 27 for a moderate trek and 26 for a difficult trek. Those who fall between 25 and the BMI cut off will have to show us proof of fitness performance.

Our logic: Anyone above a BMI of 25 is considered overweight (though above 23 in Indian conditions is more appropriate). We have kept a wide cut off margin keeping in mind Indian lifestyle conditions. But really, we cannot be harbouring trekkers who are unprepared and overweight. It puts the entire team’s safety at risk.

Some trekkers feel BMI check is not a fair system, that many folks with high muscle mass can have high BMI. Then some trekkers who have high BMI but otherwise trek well also feel this is not very fair. My response to this is we deal with thousands of trekkers. We need to put in a system that will screen thousands. BMI is a globally accepted norm for those overweight. Frankly, our worry is not high BMI. Our worry is proof of performance. If you have high BMI but confident of your performance, then you have nothing to worry about. Just send us proof of performance and we should be ok.   

3. Extra acclimatisation day

Indiahikes has now added an extra acclimatisation day on all treks. Treks that were 6 days long will now take 7 days. The acclimatisation day is meant to give rest and more oxygenation time. We have seen adequate rest goes a long way in ensuring successful completion of a trek. On some treks the acclimatisation day is a short trek to another camp, generally less than 3 hours without much altitude gain. For instance on the Roopkund trek, an extra day has been added at Bedni Bugyal, with a short climb to Bedni Top and back.

We have not raised our trek fee to accommodate the acclimatisation day. An extra day on a trek usually means an increase in trek fee by around Rs 2,500. Indiahikes will absorb this cost for the moment.

On-Trek Safety Checks

1. On-arrival health check

This is another system that has been brought in. Every trekker’s health is checked on arrival at the base camp. Parameters that we check are their personal medical records, Blood Pressure and BMI. BP is something we take a very close look at. Trekkers with high BP worry us.

Trekkers who report a systolic reading of 160 or diastolic reading of 100 (or above) are at grave risk. Usually, trekkers with such high readings recover after a night’s sleep. However, in some cases they do not recover. Unfortunately, such trekkers will not be allowed to trek. This process is already operational.

Reasoning: Medically, anyone with high BP must not be allowed to do strenuous activity like a trek. The risk of stroke or a heart failure is very high. Outside that, we have noticed trekkers with high blood pressure often find a trek very grueling. They get dizzy, nauseated and usually hyperventilate. This is not OK at high altitudes.

2. Health Card

trek-safety-health-card-indiahikesTrekkers are issued health cards after their primary health check is done. The health card records all critical physiological parameters of a trekker as he progresses through the trek. It is recorded everyday. The health card is also a self diagnostic tool that allows a trekker to see how he is doing.

Our belief is that a trekker who is in a position to monitor his own parameters is in a position to take a lot of safety calls. A knowledgeable trekker is far less a safety hazard than someone who is ignorant. The health card also helps the trek leader monitor a trekker without relying on intuition or judgement. As a side benefit the health card helps us gather valuable data about trekker physiology spread over various terrains, in different weather situations.   

3. Daily BP reading and cutoff

Every trekker’s BP reading is monitored daily. Systolic reading above 160 and Diastolic reading above 100 are our cutoffs. Any readings above our cut offs will mean descent to the base camp. I have already explained the rationale earlier. 

4. Daily oxygen saturation and pulse readings (thrice a day)

Oxygen saturation shows the amount of oxygen in your blood. As you climb higher the oxygen saturation percentage in your blood reduces. Only when your body acclimatises to the lower levels of oxygen, the oxygen saturation level in your blood increases. This is normal. It is not a cause for worry. However, there is a point beyond which the oxygen saturation in your blood must not fall. At very low oxygen saturation levels your vital organs start to malfunction. A trek can suddenly become a death trap.

Similarly, your pulse. Your heart must not beat above a certain rate per minute. A high pulse rate indicates an overworked heart which is pushing itself to oxygenate the blood. While a higher pulse rate at altitudes is expected, a pulse rate above 140 is not acceptable. An overworked heart can collapse. Trekkers with such pulse rates will be sent down. 

Your oxygen saturation and pulse readings are taken thrice daily, once on arrival at camp, again in the evening and before your trek starts the next morning. There are cutoffs for both oxygen saturation and pulse readings. These cutoffs change as you go higher. They are mentioned in your health card.

Anyone whose readings are beyond our cutoff limits is first treated. In most cases trekkers respond to treatment and recover. If readings still go outside cutoff limits, especially the following morning, the trekker is descended to base camp.

Our attempt is always to treat a problem before it takes any larger, unexpected shape. In almost 80% of the cases, if treated early, a trekker can successfully complete the trek. These new protocols help us tackle problems sooner so that trekkers do not lose out on a great trek.

5. Turn Around Time at every camp

Trekkers are expected to reach camp within an average trekking time. A grace period of ‘plus 60 minutes’ is added to the average trekking time. If trekkers do not reach camp within the grace period, it means he/she is not physically ready for the challenges of a trek. These trekkers are turned around from the trek and sent back to the base camp.  

Note: When we calculate an average trekking time, we factor an average trekker’s speed that includes breaks for rest, food and photography. A plus one hour over this is ample time to get to camp.

Reasoning: We have found extremely slow trekkers a bane on treks. A co-guide and sometimes a trek leader accompanies them. Extremely slow trekkers not only hog resources meant for the team, they also come at a big safety risk. On summit and pass days they stall the entire team. Often at 15,000 feet team members are freezing in the cold waiting for a slow member to catch up or move ahead of them. Worse, the technical team is stuck with the slow member.  

Extremely slow trekkers are also hazards to themselves. Being slow, they reach camp late, which does not allow them enough rest or acclimatisation time. Also, prolonged exposure to the cold air of high altitudes also makes them susceptible to hypothermia. On a high altitude trek these spell future trouble.

6. More Oxygen Cylinders

Two oxygen cylinders accompany every team. On longer treks there are now three (treks that are more than 4 days long). These cylinders are heavy duty and take care of most medical emergencies. Oxygen lasts for 2 hours in an emergency. Treks that have fixed camps have additional cylinders installed at every camp.

At high altitude, the biggest risk is the low availability of oxygen, more than the risks of falling or getting lost. An increase in the number of bottles that are carried on a trek brings more safety.

7. Stretchers accompany the team on every trek

This is a mandatory evacuation device. Though it is rarely used, a stretcher must be present on all treks. On treks with fixed camps, stretchers are available at every camp. On this note, I must add on some sections of a trek evacuation by stretchers is not possible — especially on narrow, slippery or landslide prone trails. In such cases evacuation is done manually.

8. HAM kit

A High Altitude Medical kit (HAM) accompanies trekkers in every team. These kits contain all emergency medication required for high altitude treks. Some of these medicines can save your life. There are 3 such kits with the team. A kit with the trek leader, two others are with the guide and co-guide.

9. Radios

Radios are very big safety devices on a trek. They help establish communication in regions where no other system works. Hand held radios accompany the team on treks. Only on treks in Kashmir and Sikkim radios are not allowed (border areas). 

 

Technical Safety

1. Technical team on all snowy slopes

A technical team, specialists in snow craft, is present on all slopes where there is a pass crossing or a summit to climb. The ratio of technical team to trekkers is 1:10. They keep trekkers safe and guide them through technical sections of a trek. In an event of an emergency they can reach any trekker in a flash. Our technical team comprises of advanced level mountaineers.

buran-ghati-trek-safety-ropes-descending-the-wall-indiahikes
Trek leader and technical staff help a trekker belay down the Buran Ghati wall. PC: Vinod Krishna

2. Microspikes on all snow treks

Microspikes are snow traction devices that are attached to trekking shoes. With microspikes on, walking on snow, even on an incline is a breeze. With microspikes trekkers feel there is super glue under their feet. This makes walking on snow extremely safe. After introduction of microspikes slippages on snow have virtually stopped overnight.

indiahikes-trek-safety-1
A trekker climbing upto the pass wearing microspikes

Trek Leaders and Safety

Everyone knows Indiahikes has great trek leaders. Some of them have fan following in thousands. More than their popularity, they bring in incredible safety to a trek as well.

Indiahikes trek leaders undergo extensive and continuous training to upgrade their knowledge. Trek leaders in training have to undergo basic life support training (BLS). To become a trek leader at Indiahikes it takes at least 4-6 months. Trek leaders in training go through two stages of trial by fire before moving ahead. At each stage there are rigorous examinations to clear.  

Indiahikes also has special association with NOLS (National Outdoors Leadership School, US). NOLS now conducts their very exhaustive Wilderness First Responder training exclusively for leaders of Indiahikes. The training is done on campus at Indiahikes. 

safety on indiahikes treks
A Trek Leader watches over trekkers as they trek through a boulder section on the Hampta Pass trek. PC – Milind Tambe

What it means is this: Indiahikes trek leaders are rare people. They have been carefully chosen, specially groomed, and rigorously trained. They know safety protocols like the back of their hand. Often people ask me why don’t we grow Indiahikes at a faster pace. This is the reason. Grooming trek leaders takes time. We can always increase the intake of trekkers, but we will not be able to increase the number of trek leaders at the same pace. We do not hire from other organisations either. They simply don’t measure up to our standards.

Mountain Staff and Safety

If Indiahikes trek leaders are stars, then our mountain staff members are no less. Our mountain staff are not part-time or seasonal folks. They are permanent employees at Indiahikes. Most of them have done their courses in mountaineering. They have also done a course in Basic Life Support (BLS).

Our mountain staff members have been working with us for many years. They bring in tremendous experience. This experience has been distilled down to minute safety processes, which our mountain staff carry out with effortless ease. Simply put, a mountain staff member who works at Indiahikes can not only save lives, but can single handedly run the whole trek on his own — that’s their level of competence.

Indiahikes Philosophy

Having explained all the processes Indiahikes has put in place, I still maintain that safety on treks is a two way process. Trekkers put in their effort to prepare for the trek, Indiahikes ensures that on slope their safety is taken care of. To ensure safety, we may sometimes have to swallow a bitter pill — like returning from a trek. Yet, this gives us freedom to come back to the mountains again and again.

At the end of the day we live by our ideology. I am not very sure if you are aware of it :

If for some reason you have to return from a trek, you can come back and do the trek again. For this you do not have to pay us any money.

There’s another one.

If you have liked a trek and want to do it again, come back and do it. For that you do not have to pay us any money either.

Why do we have such an ideology? We don’t have a ready answer. We are trekkers. And this is how trekking must be. Our ideology helps us to take bold steps such as these about safety in Indian trekking. It helps us to take safety calls on trekkers knowing trekkers can always come back and trek again.

I would like your thoughts on the new safety protocols at Indiahikes. If you think some of these points need discussions, let me know. Put them down in the comment box below.

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Arjun Majumdar

Arjun Majumdar

An entrepreneur by profession and a trekker by passion, Arjun started Indiahikes in 2008. Long years of trekking and facing problems in getting information about trails led Arjun to start Indiahikes. With a vision to explore and document new trails, solve problems in the mountains and implement sustainable ways of trekking, he leads Indaihikes, a community that has changed the face of trekking in India.

35 thoughts on “How Indiahikes is making your trek safe

  1. Hello Arjun,

    Although I have not yet done a trek with Indiahikes, I follow the Indiahikes blogs and youtube videos. Having watched almost all of them, I can confidently say that Indiahikes is doing a great job. The most important thing for any newbie is reliable information and Preparations of what to expect, both Physically and Mentally. This 3 part blog definitely ticks all departments.

    I would also like to request a video or blog on the food menu provided during the trek as mostly we Indians are either Vegetarian or reluctant to try anything new. This way trekkers will know what to expect and why not to carry khakras and theplas for trek.

    Pls. Carry on the good work. I am traveling out of country now but hope to do a trek soon in April with Indiahikes.

    Regards,
    Ram
    Ramavtarpoddar@gmail.com
    +91-9833037465

  2. How well it is said when I say that Indiahikes has given not only an opportunity for the people to realise and experience trekking but also a high bar on their safety. This is one such default article every registered trekker should be made to read if he/she likes or not.

  3. The philosophy is quite unassuming by the look but very unique in service industry.

    I have not trekked with this group but I see very high standards being set here. Can’t wait to join on one of the treks.

  4. Hello
    I hv read all the three posts and appreciate ur efforts towards the safety of Trekkers and agree to all your concerns about a Trekker’s fitness and preparation as written in the second post ….I hv some suggestions that u might want to think over –
    1. For your treks that are very high altitude or of longer duration or have a higher difficulty level , do not allow first timers. I hv done the goechala trek wth u where we had ppl in our group who were in the mountains for the first time, with no prior experience of staying in tents, back packing etc … For them , basics of camping were a difficulty … The weather , terrain, altitude just kept adding to their troubles ….Mayb if they had done a smaller easier trek before they would hv coped better … For higher graded treks, IH shud make experience of an earlier Himalayan trek mandatory ….strictly so .
    2. We found that trek leads r geared up to handle emergency situations but unfortunately our lead was unable to take care of his own health … The leaders hv to accept that they too cn b affected by altitude where in a backup is necessary… Mostly the trek guides will take over but egos of the leaders are of no use here …they hv to accept that they need medical help and cannot go ahead … Then what happens to the group and specially to the first timers ?
    3. High altitude causes emotional disturbances too … Anger outbursts .. Over sensitivity etc … Has IH in anyway thought of how this cn b managed at high altitudes and are the leaders geared up fr this ? Their own health first and also of the group ….

    1. Dear Bharati

      It is rare for a trek leader to fall sick, but it can happen. They are humans too. In such cases we have our guide and co-guide to take care of the team. They are quite capable of managing a team. They are usually full time employees of Indiahikes.

      Again, such situations would be a rarity than a norm. So we won’t be building back-up trek leaders to cover these situations.

      It is a wrong notion that first timers cannot do a trek with a high difficulty level. What is more important is preparation. If you have physically and mentally prepared yourself, then most treks are possible. Given that, in our selection process we do not take first timers for treks marked difficult.

      At high altitudes if you have noticed people irritable or angry then such participants could be suffering from HACE. This is not a good situation. Such trekkers must be treated and descended immediately. Anyway, your trek leaders are equipped to handle such situations.

      Arjun

  5. I appreciate the steps IH is taking. However, IH needs to be careful to consider variations from one individual to another. Some of my questions/ suggestions are as follows: –
    1. How would you ensure that a person has minimum fitness? I do not think having a fitness test in base camp is either advisable or feasible. You need to depend on self certification.
    2. Not only in treks but during any travel many people like me spend considerable time in photography and just enjoying the journey rather than focusing to reach destination within a fixed time. This defeats the very essence of trekking. Are n’t you somewhere blowing off the spirit of trekking by fixing a time limit to reach camp? If at all you are fixing, you should provide a broader range. I remember how I waited for 30 mins to get a bird photograph during Sandakphu trek.
    3. Many people have faster pulse rate even at rest and that’s normal for them. So when you consider the pulse rate you should consider the pulse rate relative to the resting pulse rate. Not the absolute.
    4. Why can’t IH provide a online assessment tool for trekkers registering?

    1. Dear Dipan

      We are checking fitness of a participant before we start the program, and not at the base camp. Proof of fitness is shown to us by sharing screenshots of their fitness app. We have given ample time for preparation before the trek starts.

      Getting to your photography needs, we have considered breaks for photography and rest when we consider the average trekking time. Long breaks for photography will not be possible though. There is another reason for that. We don’t want trekkers to arrive late at camp. We want trekkers to be well rested and acclimatised. Long breaks prevent that.

      We are aware of higher pulse rate in the mountains. Our cut off is 140 which is very dangerously high in the mountains. It shows your heart is working very hard to oxygenate your blood. This is not ok.

      Arjun

  6. Hi Arjun, Agree with all the points, its absolutely amazing that you have thought through all these points. One point I vehemently disagree against is the turnaround time, of putting an upper limit for a trekker to reach the next camp. I request you to consider taking this on a case by case basis, I remember how you were saying that too many trekkers trek like mules, i.e. head down and keep trudging to reach next camp, instead of looking around and exploring here and there. Those with serious photography interest also could take a lot longer. If you could take the max time taken to reach next camp on a case-by-case basis, in my mind, you have the perfect screening criteria. Look forward to hiking with IH again, missed last two seasons! And hope to join you on one of the treks if possible.

    1. Dear Krishna

      We have considered a fairly reasonable time for trekkers to get to camp. This includes time for looking around, enjoying the trail, resting, photographing. Given that, we also want trekkers to arrive within a reasonable time. This is for rest and acclimatisation.

      I don’t think trekkers who have prepared well will face any difficulty in maintaining the average trekking time.

      Arjun

  7. On a lighter note, if i dont find ample snow during 2-7Jan,2017 in Kedarkantha. I am doing it for free in March again 😜😜

  8. Dear Arjun
    Totally appreciate all the measures proposed by you – can’t think of anything more for a trek. All the best and hope that IH will continue to show the path to others in the industry! I’m sure that the trekkers would see the merit in the ‘rules’ and do good to themselves as well rather than just choosing a not so ‘strict’ organisation.
    Regards.

  9. Hi Arjun,

    Read your 3-part series on trek-safety with interest. In general, I do agree with the broad point that saftey on a trek is a 2-way process with responsibility lying both with the tour operator & the participant.

    I would like to provide a concrete suggestions, which IH, as a leading trek operator can implement, and provide a benchmark for others to emulate :-

    1) There should be Standard Operating Procedures that are documented & available on the IH so that all concerned (participants & employees of IH) are aware of these before & during the trek. I am not aware if IH is a registered member of the “Adventure Tour Operator Association of India” (http://www.atoai.org) though I think you should be. Even if you are not there is a basic minimum standard of trekking outlined here (http://www.atoai.org/ATOAI/basic_minimum_standards_for_trekking/) which IH would do well to follow. I am copy-pasting a section which I think
    ====================================
    2.7 All Trekking Tour Operators must maintain and update a Standard Operating Procedure for their operations and get the same vetted from IMF from time to time.
    2.8 Besides covering the methodologies that are adopted by the agency in organizing the trek, such as assessing of members qualification, medical condition and experience, procedures for obtaining of various permissions, travel to the trekking area, maintenance of camps including hygiene, avoidance of high altitude sickness, safety precautions, communication, weather reports, procedure for emergencies, casualty evacuation, incident and accident reporting, feedback mechanism the following must be included in the SOPS:
    a) The guiding and porter staff for the trek and the material supplied must be adequate for the aims of the party and stated level of service offered.
    b) Advance arrangements must be known for medical help. Advance arrangements must also be made for evacuation assistance in case of emergency.
    c) Advertising must give a true picture of all the difficulties and dangers involved, and avoid promising the impossible. If an expedition is commercially launched by an operator, then the Biographical information about the guiding team should be included.
    d) The client must truthfully reveal his experience, supported by documentation/photograph, medical history etc to the organiser so that the organiser can make an informed choice about the potential client.
    ==================================

    For eg:// there was a video on HAPE/HACE in IndiaHikes and I had given a similar feedback asking what is the SOP of Indiahikes (maybe it got lost…).

    2) There was intent from Government of India for “Use of Satellite Phones by Tour Operators for Adventure Tourism” back in 2014. See below link.
    http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=112510
    I also know that ATOAI has been following up with Government of India on Satellite phone usage
    http://atoai.org/ATOAI/why-tourism-operators-need-satellite-phones/
    and I have read in news article that Ministry of Tourism (MoT)-recognised adventure tour operators can procure, register and use satellite phones on non-restricted adventure tourism circuits in India by May 2016. See below.
    http://www.travelbizmonitor.com/Associations/motrecognised-atoai-members-can-avail-satellite-phones-by-may-atoai-president-29720

    It would be great if IH can follow-up on above and avail Satellite phones. That would be the biggest saftey measure you can take – and I dont think I need to elaborate why.

    cheers
    sathya

    1. Dear Satya

      While I like your suggestion of following a SOP like what ATOAI suggests, Indiahikes has gone much ahead of that.

      The kind of protocols that we have laid down, and the kind of staff employed by Indiahikes is much above the requirement of ATOAI.

      The Ministry of Tourism has still not given access to adventure tour operators for operating satellite phones. We met them couple of months ago on this. The day the approval is given I am sure Indiahikes will be the first organisation to avail it.

      What matters more is the safety check that you follow. Our safety check follows an old thought — prevention is better than cure. We would like to prevent any untoward incident. However, if any incident should occurs then Indiahikes is prepared for it.

      Arjun

      1. Dear Arjun,

        It is great that protocols laid down by IH are well above requirements of ATOAI & setting benchmarks. All I am requesting is that such protocols (or to use a different terminology SOP) gets documented on your website. This way it sets a benchmark for other tour operators to learn from and emulate (as not all might measure up to IH standards). That way this effort of IH is not just limited to IH, but would drive the entire “Adventure Tourism Industry” to learn from your best practices and thus improve saftey across the board (be it prevention or response) in this field of trekking. Once these protocols/Standard operating procedures are documented I foresee an increasing number of trekkers asking other operators if they have similar standards before finalising on whom to trek with. This will force other operators to improve their standards to measure upto IH OR they might have to face the situation where some trekkers will choose to go to an operator, like IH, with higher saftey standards.

        cheers
        sathya

  10. Dear Ajrun,

    Thanks for the three very informative articles.

    I must say that the IH trek leaders are all excellent – i have done three already (KGL, Kedarkantha and Roopkund), and am off on my fourth this weekend (Kedarkantha again, but more later on that). The trek leaders were knowledgeable, know how to react instantly in emergencies and extremely caring.

    I saw this in Kedarkantha, where one of the trekkers had some difficulty on the summit day, which then aggravated quickly. The trek leader reacted instantly, and finally almost carried the trekker back to Sankri and further lower. The person concerned had a close call and without the trek leader’s timely and expert intervention would probably have had more serious and long lasting medical issues.

    I also saw this in Roopkund (no medical emergencies this time). For a change I was not the oldest trekker in the group (I am 51). The care that the trek leader and assistant trek leader took to ensure that the oldest in our group reached Junargalli (all within the turn around times), while being completely aware of the situation within the whole group, is something I have not seen before.

    Hats off to the three persons. I am a fan of all of them and hope that I will run into them in a future trek again!

    Why Kedarkantha again – I was with my 10 year old and we did not finish. And we are doing it again between Christmas and New Year and not paying for it. So the philosophy that you mention you really do implement. Thank you.

    I hope for the next few years to do two treks (at least) a year, one with my son and one more difficult, and thy will all be with IH.

    Thanks again

    Indraneel

      1. Dear Arjun,

        Not, not particularly. I really believe what I said. I am happy to go on organized treks where the logistics are taken care of and I only have to carry my own backpack. You guys do a great job.

        What I did not mention in my earlier post was the Green Trails effort. During the Roopkund trek we collected 2300 kg of trash. It felt good to participate in the effort. Hope you generalize it to all treks and not just the Green Trail once.

        Indraneel

  11. Dear Arjun,

    The safety standards at IH, as you have aptly elaborated above surely have struck a chord of cordiality with us. We were part of the 13th December (not a Friday) batch of Kedarkantha trek and can relate the usefulness of each of these lines with what we have been through. KK being the first of our treks in the Himalayan highs, we were apprehensive about how it would unfold. Turns out, it was one of the most awesome experience we have had in recent past. So much so that since we returned, we keep browsing through the 2017 holiday calendar (at work) and the upcoming treks at IH. For us, this trek has been more like an indicator about our fitness curve as to where we now stand. The safety standards that IH has implemented infused a lot of confidence into us the trekkers, relaxed our nerves and made the whole trek experience a memorable one (we didn’t find snow either and I’m not saying we aren’t thinking about the Ideology #2 already :-p).

    I could not help but share a small incident that I was witness to during this trek. As you’ve already mentioned clearly in the article above – ensuring one’s safety measure is a two-way process, with one himself being the primary person responsible for ensuring his well-being. As we reached the JKT campsite, an experienced trekker recorded high BP readings (both systolic and diastolic) way above the cutoffs. (Some of us noticed how this person was lazing under the open evening sky under sub-zero temperature which might have contributed in peaking his BP further by shrinking/narrowing his arteries in that extremely freezing environment.) The trek lead asked him to take a single dose of Nifedipine post dinner and rest overnight, and that he’d monitor the trekker’s health the following morning, before deciding any further. Next morning unfortunately, his vitals still remained on the higher sides of the cutoffs and his trek had to be terminated. The person took it sportingly and proceeded back to Sankri. So far the happenings were alright. It was later at another campsite that we came to know that the said trekker had thrown all kinds of tantrums on his way down, and upon returning to the base, had gone on complaining against the safety norms of IH and had complained in front of the next batch about how the new norms might as well go against them!

    I found this behavior gross and irresponsible. As human beings, we all want to pursue our dreams and plans, and fulfill our wishes. Due to unexpected turn of events, if things do not go that well, we must switch over to the next best option available at hand. Based on our personal fitness levels or any existing medical conditions, we must not endanger our dear lives knowingly, should we see an alarm going off. A very dear friend of mine who was an avid trekker has lost his life near Chirbasa enroute Gangotri glacier by ignoring his health condition. Such untimely loss of lives must be avoided and we must be thankful to IH as a group and the leads it has along with all technical staffs, for helping us to remain safe at all times. The safety standards that IH has set forth are for the trekkers’ good and we must be supportive of these, even if they delay our dreams temporarily.

    No matter how big we individually are (or we think we are), while in a group, we must feel the vibes it resonates, and match our steps accordingly in unison. I thank IH to allow us realize our dreams, in a healthy way. Unjust stubbornness that our mind plays with us has no foothold here.

    1. Dear Sayantan

      I had heard about the trekker who threw terrible tantrums at the base camp after he was sent down by the trek leader. Your trek leader had followed the correct protocol. Sometimes trekkers don’t understand how close they come to being whisked away to another world.

      A case in point are BP readings. Trekkers often say I was perfect in my earlier high altitude trek, why are you sending me down? Or my BP consistently records high. What trekkers need to understand is that the cut off readings of Indiahikes is really a very high cut off. Anyone trekking above those margins is walking on very thin ice. The odds of something going wrong is extremely high. Trekkers must not take that chance.

      I am glad there are sensible trekkers like you, Please spread the word about responsible trekking.

      Arjun

  12. Dear Arjun Sir,

    I have not trekked in my life so far but have been following up with Indiahikes via information provided in the website and YouTube videos since 1st January 2017.

    I really appreciate every single effort you have put in individually as well as a IH team, Especially the rationale behind every safety protocol implemented. In fact, when I was referring to your website, I was looking out for the safety aspect of trekking and I’m glad to see that safety is given one of the highest priority at IH. If I get chances to trek in future, I’ll definitely select IH above all others.

    After reading the 3 Safety Posts, as an individual, I have become more motivated to prepare myself both physically & mentally so that I can enjoy trekking to the fullest. One question I have in mind presently is about the evidences that trekkers need to provide to IH.

    Is there any specific Fitness App that we can use or can we just use any Fitness Apps (there is just so many apps out there!?)? Being new to trekking, I feel a reliable Fitness App would help.

    Thank you so much for your time & looking forward to read your reply.

    -Baradhi from Singapore

    1. Hi Baradhi

      It is so nice to see your growing interest and motivation for trekking.
      I use the Nike NRC app. It is available for free on the App store and Play Store. This app can get quite cumbersome and take up too much of your devices storage. In that case, I have also used the Runtastic App which is an amazing alternative. It is very user friendly too.
      Hope to see you on a trek this year. 🙂

      Regards

  13. Hi Arjun,

    It’s great to see an Indian adventure company hold and conform to such high safety standards. I was wondering if through your articles or videos with Swathi, address specific concerns on trekking with kids. I have for long planned on taking my kids trekking and through interaction with your team, been pointed in the direction of the Kuari Pass trek as a good introduction.
    From a time standpoint, while I want this to be an enjoyable family experience, I also don’t want to hold up trekkers on our behalf. I know I wouldn’t want to be held up. How do you account for this? (My kids are 7/9). Second, a day to day challenges, or view of just trekking with kids and some of the issues you might have faced will be helpful for trekkers like me who are bringing our kids along. Thanks.

    Suneel

  14. I have just read the 3 posts and found them very reassuring. I got an impression of someone taking safety while trekking, seriously. While it’s certainly meant to be pleasure, I’m really glad IH takes it all seriously too. I will be coming from England to trek, and looking forward to it enormously.

  15. Hi Arjun,

    I would like to go on a trek with IH – but am concerned that I may be the only woman in the group. What are your safety protocols with respect to security in such a case? Will I be put in some other batch?

    Thanks
    Poulomi

    1. Hi Poulomi, at Indiahikes, around 33% of our trekkers are women. And that number is growing everyday. You can give us a call before registering for a trek, to find out how many women are there and you can register accordingly. And even without other women, you’ll be safe on a trek. 🙂

  16. Hi Arjun
    Great information. I signed up for kedarkantha in jan this year. We start our trek on coming Sunday. Believe me this was on my cards for years together since my dad served the Indian army and trained into moutaineering and was based in Siachin in late 80’s. What kept me away always was my acute asthma. I was deprived of a lot of adventure since this was the biggest fear my parents had. I am now 34 and post checking with you guys whether I shall be allowed or not I am thrilled of doing it in a couple of days. I have sincerely prepared for it since Feb though circumstancial things came in between like a root canal which went wrong and took 5 weekends away with the severe pain but I haven’t given up. My last health checkup even showed 3 kgs less improved heart beats better bmi and 97% saturation. I am yet confused of how I will fair at the trek but this prep has given my asthma life a new vision and goal to move towards a healthier life. I hope I do well and will share my experience of trekking as an acute asthma patient. But my feedback is any insites about this on your site wasn’t available. It would be nice to include some and instill more confidence in people like me.

  17. A trek in India is now like an off the shelf commodity. You buy a trek like you buy a pair of jeans. Just as you don’t need any preparation for buying a pair of jeans, people approach buying a trek in the same manner. You can click a few buttons from the comfort of your office or room and you are sorted. I am glad that IH is trying to correct this, despite itself being a departmental store of sorts for off the shelf treks 🙂
    Apart from lack of physical preparation, people don’t even do any basic research on the place they are going to. They just know nothing. I wonder why they want to even go. Just to flaunt and post a few selfies on social media?
    After coming back from Chadar I met a couple at a restaurant in Leh who were leaving for Chadar the next day. When they saw that I had a fractured hand in a cast they asked me how it happened and then said, I am sure there are hospitals on the way in Chadar !!! It seemed they had no clue about what is Chadar and what to expect there.
    So that’s the situation here in India right now. It’s good that IH is putting so much stress on safety and education of the trekkers.

  18. Hi Arjun,

    Feel glad to read such a detailed analysis and work out plan for the safety of trekkers. Although this would have a negative impact on your bottomline, you have ensured fit trekkers have their time and money worth. Such practice is very high in standard, atleast in India & I’m confident this would put you way above the rest. Keep Going 🙂

    Maulik

  19. I have done KK trek with you this year. I loved it and IH has injected Drug of trekking in my blood. I loved the way how IH handled the trek. While booking the trek we thought its costly but surprisingly when we have completed the trek we felt that amount is very cheap.
    I loved most the philosophy part of IH of this article…
    Thank you.

  20. Hi I have done a lot many treks here in New Zealand, however very keen to do one in India. Just a little worried about wild animals, as we don’t have any in our kiwi land. Are there any concern of these if yes what safety measures are taken?

    1. Hi Nitesh, we have the Himalayan bears here but they rarely come out. Especially if you are trekking in a group. If you are out solo trekking then this will be a concern. You will also find a few foxes around your camp. They usually come around looking for food and might look like dogs. For bears you need to make sure you don’t startle them with your presence. Make sure your presence is heard. Keep food away. And carry a bear spray too if you want to be extra careful. Hope this helps 🙂

  21. Having done Roopkund with India Hikes in June and having done a lot of self organised treks before that, I can say with full conviction that the safety protocols of India Hikes are of top class standards. The quality of support staff is extremely high. I have personally seen that near Roopkund when a technical support boy ran down the snowy slope at least a 100 meters to retrieve a trekker’s water bottle and trek pole which were rolling down the snow very fast. He ran after them, overtook them, stopped them and retrieved them back. I was impressed beyond words, to say the least. I thought the whole group should have saluted him, which did not happen because everyone didn’t get to see this.

    I am sure he would have run even faster if that was one of us instead of the pole or water bottle. One feels very safe in the hands of such competent people. And I must say that a few days before we reached there, a lady belonging to another Bangalore based organisation rolled down the slope and died.

    The quality of the equipment that IH uses is also of international standards. Before joining the trek I did some online research on microspikes and realised that Kahtoola of US made the best microspikes in the world. I got a friend to bring it for me from abroad for ($65) because I wasn’t sure what IH might give me. I didn’t want to risk my safety on this because last year I had slipped in Chadar and broke my wrist. If I had the microspikes I don’t’ think that would have happened.

    At Bhogwa Basa I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone was given a Kahtoola 🙂 . Incidentally Kahtoolas cost Rs 11,000 on Amazon India. Every single member of our team was given that (had to be returned back after the trek though).

    The only problem with walking with IH is that there is no time or space given to follow your personal pursuits like photography or birding on the trail and the team marches in a very close knit group like an army battalion. This can be quite disturbing if you value your personal space and not like listening to the constant chatter of youngsters barely out of their teens.

    But I realised that not too many people were bothered about it, except me. And these are basically done to make it safe – both for the trekker and the organiser.

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