6 Options For Trek Leaders After Indiahikes

After leading treks at Indiahikes, what next? For most aspiring Trek Leaders, this is a grey area. They don’t know of the possibilities that exist. 

The truth is, there are plenty of opportunities in the outdoor world. You only need to look in the right direction.

In this article, we have put together a guide to help you plan your outdoor career. We’ve included some career paths that many of our ex-trek leaders have taken too. 

Once you join Indiahikes, our alumni of Trek Leaders can help you connect to their outdoor networks across the world. They’re always ready to mentor the next generation of Trek Leaders. 

Let’s get into the 6 categories you can consider after your career as a Trek Leader at Indiahikes.

1. Go back to the corporate world

Let’s start with what you won’t consider first. 

Every trek leader of ours has said that trek leading has been one of the most intensive learning experiences for him/her. 

Trek leading puts you out of your comfort zone. It presents you with challenges that require you to learn leadership skills hard and fast. 

These skills also make our trek leaders excellent people managers. So, for many, trek leading is a sabbatical from corporate work. After gaining the required leadership skills they return to their earlier corporate world, usually at the same level or higher. They are much appreciated for their people management skills.  

2. Managers / Trainers at Indiahikes

At any organisation, the most logical growth for a professional is to grow vertically within the organisation. The same applies at Indiahikes. Here, growing vertically would mean becoming a manager or trainer.

One of the managerial roles is slope management.  A Slope Manager is the leader of the entire slope.  He/she takes responsibility of everything that happens on their slope. Everyone on the slope reports to them.

What is a slope?

A slope is a region of work. For example, we call Manali a slope. So all treks starting out of Manali would fall under the jurisdiction of the Slope Manager assigned to Manali. 

Slope Managers are responsible for the entire gamut of trek-running. They are responsible for the quality on our treks. They ensure that our safety protocols and Green Trails policies are followed. They also ensure that training programs for Trek Leaders, Assistant Trek Leaders and mountain staff are carried out as prescribed. Sometimes, they also explore new treks. They work towards defining the future of trekking in India. 

Another role that is quickly coming into prominence is that of the Quality Manager. Quality managers at Indiahikes are different from other organisations. Here you are expected to go on the slope and ensure that Indiahikes’ high quality standards are being maintained. 

Another big role at Indiahikes is that of Trainers. Training is an integral part of Indiahikes. Indiahikes’ Trek Leaders team and mountain staff goes through continuous training programs to improve their skills. Trainers are required to come up with new training programs as well as execute the training program. 

Outside Indiahikes, there is a lot of scope for trek leaders to become outdoor trainers. This is a fast growing field. Trainers are in demand in other organisations or even as outdoor educators.  

Although the two roles of slope manager or trainer naturally lend themselves to an outdoor career in management and training, there are other roles in Indiahikes that a trek leader can jump into depending on their interest. They are varied and outside the scope of this article. 

What is required to be Slope Manager/Trainer at Indiahikes:

Hard Skills

  • Must have been a trek leader for a minimum of 18 months
  • Has mastered all 12 skills (detailed later) required to be a trek leader. 
  • Must have contributed to streamlining operations in any capacity (3-4 instances during the course of Trek Leadership)

Soft Skills

  • Able to facilitate a safe, fun, unforgettable outdoor adventure experience while fostering a respect and appreciation for nature.
  • Able to demonstrate a high level of knowledge regarding the trek, geology, flora and fauna of the region
  • Able to gain the respect of peers and seniors
  • Strong Leadership, Interpersonal and communication skills. Must be able to find common ground and connect with people of different ages, backgrounds and nationalities
  • Must develop and demonstrate excellent people management skills. 

Certifications required

  • Wilderness First Responder
  • Trip Leader Course

3. Outdoor Guides (India/abroad)

This is a role mostly available outside India. Outdoor guides usually join companies who conduct outdoor adventures for children or young adults. We have seen that most of the work opportunities are in the United States. 

Outdoor guides work in different fields — backpacking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rafting or mountaineering. To become a guide in any of these fields, you may have to acquire the respective internationally accredited certifications.  Or with sufficient work experience at Indiahikes, you may get an invite to work in one of the outdoor organisations, where you learn these skills.

Working at Indiahikes for a minimum of 2 years provides the necessary skill set and experience to be a backpacking and hiking guide. 

What is required to be an Outdoor Guide:

Hard skills

  • Minimum 2 years work experience at Indiahikes
  • Need to earn a strong recommendation letter from Indiahikes. 

Soft Skills

  • Able to assess, mitigate and navigate risk
  • Able to take calculated risks in back country travel
  • Able to live comfortably in back country for extended periods of time with enough mental and physical reserves to serve the clients and conduct evacuations when needed
  • Strong leadership, interpersonal and communication skills. Must be able to find common ground and connect with people of different ages, backgrounds and nationalities
  • Able to demonstrate some level of knowledge regarding the treks, geology, flora and fauna of the region hiking in (especially important for out of India positions)
  • Able to demonstrate commanding knowledge about the gear, it’s usage and repair
  • Able to facilitate a safe and unforgettable outdoor adventure experience while fostering a respect and appreciation for nature

Certifications required

  • Wilderness First Responder Course 

4. Outdoor educators (usually outside India)

Outdoor/Experiential education is growing at a rapid rate. There is an ever increasing need for passionate, skilled and hard working individuals in the field. Most of the openings are outside India. 

This is one of the most sought after roles for our trek leaders. Our alumni also help in guiding trek leaders to find openings.   

Being an outdoor educator can take one into many branches:

  • Corporate leadership training
  • Leadership training for schools and colleges
  • Educators/Counselors/Instructors for various world renowned outdoor schools and organisations like Outward Bound (OB), National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), etc.  

The path for success for being an outdoor educator is straightforward.  With the right certifications and skills, you can become assistant instructor and start a career in outdoor education with the best organisations in the world right after 2 years of trek leading.

What is required to be an Outdoor Educator:

Skills

  • All the skills mentioned above for Guiding
  • Able to be a role model for extended periods of time
  • Able to facilitate learning and providing a safe environment for students, both physically and emotionally
  • Able to understand the mission and vision of the school, organisation or course and communicate it to the fellow staff and students
  • Able to give and take feedback in a timely, professional and growth-oriented manner 
  • Able to resolve conflicts in group settings
  • Able to facilitate reflections and debriefs to enhance the learning experience and growth of the students

Certifications required

  • Wilderness First Responder Course 
  • Trip Leader India Course
  • Volunteering experience with kids and trek experiences with our Experiential Learning Program 

5. Mountaineers (India)

Another option is to pursue mountaineering as a full time career.  

There are two ways to pursue mountaineering. One is to procure funds and fund your own expeditions.  Another way is to become a part of an expedition team either through IMF or through organizations that organize expeditions.   

For those trek leaders who want to get into serious mountaineering, here are a few things to consider: 

  1. Making a career out of mountaineering is a long and hard process and there is no shortcut to the top.
  2. You should have expedition experience. 
  3. One has to maintain very high standards of fitness, knowledge and technical skills.
  4. Even for some of the top climbers of the country, making a career out of mountaineering is a challenge.
  5. It’s an expensive field to get into and one needs to invest a lot of time and money to reach a level where making a living out of mountaineering is sustainable.

What is required to be a Mountaineer

Skills

  • Skills we have outlined for a guide/instructor 
  • Rock climbing skills
  • Snow and ice craft skills

Certifications required

  • Wilderness first responder 
  • Rock climbing certifications
  • Basic Mountaineering Course and Advanced Mountaineering Course 
  • Mountaineering course through schools like NOLS, Outward Bound, YAMNUSKA, etc. 

6. Outdoor Entrepreneurs (India)

Some of our trek leaders have gone out and have started their own personal trek organization.  Unlike other trek organizations, these trek leaders are their own brand and lead all of their treks. 

Starting your own venture however is not easy. More than leading batches, it is about leading your own company. Hence, you must have a unique selling point to grow your organization. You also need good marketing skills to help sell your treks. 

What is required to be an Outdoor Entrepreneurs

Skills

  • Skills we have outlined for a guide/instructor 
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Marketing skills 

Certifications required

  • Wilderness first responder 
  • Basic Mountaineering Course and Advanced Mountaineering Course 
  • Trip Leader Course (optional) 

How Indiahikes prepares you for a career in the outdoors

Trek Leading at Indiahikes requires you to build the basic skill set required for a long time career in the outdoors. 

Being an excellent trek leader means you possess these following skills: 

  1. Technical skills 
  2. Safety skills 
  3. Environmental skills
  4. Facilitation skills 
  5. Instructional skills 
  6. Organizational skills 
  7. Flexible leadership style
  8. Experience based judgement
  9. Problem solving skills
  10. Decision making skills
  11. Effective communication
  12. Professional ethics

Right from the time a trek leader joins Indiahikes, they are consistently and gradually trained to develop these skills over 2 years. 

In terms of certifications, Indiahikes organizes Wilderness First Responder certification course in collaboration with NOLS every year. Trek leaders are also provided vacation once a year to complete one certification course outside. 

Most importantly, a good track record at Indiahikes, in the form of a letter of experience, opens many  doors for trek leaders. 

This article was written in collaboration with Karthik Maddineni, who was a Trek Leader with Indiahikes. He went on to pursue a career as an Outdoor Guide in the USA.

Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran is the Green Trails Lead at Indiahikes. She holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She's currently working towards making trekking a more sustainable sport by bringing in fresh innovations and ideas that leave no carbon footprint in the mountains.

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