How good or bad is trek leading as a career?
Being a trek leader is wonderful. Getting an opportunity to be on treks in some of the most wonderful mountains in India can be deeply involving. Trek Leaders at Indiahikes love this aspect about their work.
Trek leaders also like leading teams. It gives them a high. They like the fact that they are responsible for a group of people in difficult settings.
Another big takeaway is that they get to meet diverse people almost every week of their lives. Most of our trekkers are from new age modern work backgrounds. This makes for very interesting connections.
What is a trek leader’s work?
The success of a trek largely falls on the trek leader. He is the chief responsible person; the captain of the ship. He ensures the trek is run well. This is easier said than done.
Trek leading requires learning of safety protocols, evacuation techniques, medicine knowledge. It also requires you to gather knowledge about mountains, geology, history, flora, fauna and the night sky.
To run the trek smoothly trek leaders work alongside Indiahikes operations staff — our mountain staff who are locals of the region. Unlike most other organisations, our mountain staff are full time employees of Indiahikes. They are carefully chosen and trained by Indiahikes. Most of our mountain staff have worked with Indiahikes for many years. Which means they are extremely efficient. They are usually good at anything the trek leader can be. Earning the respect of our mountain staff is the first task of the trek leader. They do it by becoming as good as them — which requires a lot of hard work, dedication and gathering of skills.
How long can anyone be a trek leader?
Trek leading is hard work. It is a 24 hour job in extreme conditions. While trekking is the reason you want to become a trek leader, doing this everyday can lead to a burn out. Which is why it is important to mix the role of a trek leader by taking up responsibilities in other areas of the organisation. Operations, Trek Coordination, Content, Training or IT are some of the core areas that you can move into.
There are plenty of problems related to trekking that Indiahikes is trying to solve. Recognising a problem and then opting to solve it is also a way to take a trek leaders career forward.
Who makes a good trek leader?
While trek leading is very meaningful, it is not an escape from life’s everyday responsibilities. Trek leading is like any other profession. The romanticism and glamour associated with it is only from the outside. At the end of the day TLs want to grow themselves and the organisation they are working for. It is not a license to wander in the mountains to look for inner peace and solitude. Trek leaders are professionals just like in any other industry.
To be a good trek leader you need good trek experience. Doing one or two treks does not really count as experience. What matters most is the kind of treks that you have done. For example, if you have done a Pin Bhaba Pass trek on your own, without the support of a guide, then we would consider that as a good trek experience.
Secondly, you need to have good knowledge of the Indian Himalayas. Merely doing treks without understanding mountain ranges, geology, flora and fauna is of little use. Good reading habits about mountaineering and trekking is essential. A good trek leader also loves to pour over maps. They get a kick out of discovering places, routes and trails.
The below video will give you a fair idea of what a Trek Leader’s Career is like.
What are other benefits of being a trek leader?
For one, trek leading is an intensive leadership program. These leadership skills are applicable in any other industry. Outside leadership, key management skills picked up are operations, finance, marketing, HR, strategy and organisational behaviour. You learn them hands on and you learn quickly. You also learn very efficiently. We see dramatic changes in our trek leaders within months of working.
Unlike other professions, trek leaders are faced with difficult situations every day. Taking tough decisions all the time makes them efficient managers over time. Very soon it shows in their personality.
It is not surprising to find people from the corporate world taking a sabbatical from their work to become a trek leader with Indiahikes. For the same reason interns from IITs or IIMs try to do a stint with Indiahikes.The outdoor training and learning is of immense value in a future corporate career.
How much do trek leaders earn?
With Indiahikes trek leaders can earn decently well. However, a lot depends on the kind of responsibilities they take on. Though trek leaders start on a stipend of around Rs 25,000 per month (as long as they are PTLs). Within 6-8 months, when they become trek leaders their earning go up to around 4.0 lakhs. It is difficult to predict trek leader’s salary after a year, though it is considerably higher. Trek leaders who have spent around 2 years at Indiahikes earn around Rs 6.0 lakhs.
It is important to keep in mind that most expenses of a trek leader are borne by Indiahikes, including stay and food. This helps trek leaders save considerable amount of money. Perhaps the rate of saving would be a better indicator of a trek leader’s salary than the money earned.
How safe is trek leading?
Most parents of trek leaders have a constant worry about their safety. They wonder if their son or daughter is in a profession that is safe?
Any career in the mountains does come with some risks. Yet, with Indiahikes high safety standards, safety equipment, training, pre-existing knowledge of the trek, a lot of the risk is mitigated. So far we have not had any of our trek leaders suffer any major accidents.
However, there is always some amount of risk with any adventure sport, including trekking. This must be kept in mind before you think of applying.
Can women be trek leaders?
We get increasing number of applicants from women who would like to be trek leaders. While we encourage women to try trek leading — it is not easy on them physically.
Most of our staff are men. Unlike regular office jobs, trek leading requires you to stay in close physical proximity with the opposite sex, sometimes sharing quarters and tents. This can make some women uncomfortable.
Leaving these apprehensions aside, women make excellent trek leaders. They bring with them greater empathy, a natural ability to team work and a healthy team spirit. We haven’t seen any difference in performance between women and men trek leaders.
In a nutshell
Trek leading is a great opportunity to learn leadership skills. It is also an opportunity to work in an environment that is adventurous and meaningful. On the other hand it requires great commitment, discipline and ability to work hard. Many want to get into trek leadership because they find regular work boring and monotonous. For such people even trek leadership may turn out similar.
Trek leadership requires preparation just like any other work. Gathering trek experience and mountain knowledge takes time. Many assume they can learn these while working at Indiahikes. Unfortunately, Indiahikes cannot give you these experiences if you have not come prepared on your own.
A career in an outdoor organisation like Indiahikes is great. The perks of being in the mountains are extremely high. Yet, it requires strong commitment to learning and preparation to be successful in this career.
For anyone who wishes to work as a trek leader with Indiahikes, this page has the details.