Trek Leading in the Himalayas as a career

How good or bad is trek leading as a career? It is a difficult question but we will try to answer this as honestly as we can.

Being a trek leader is wonderful. It is one of the best job options in adventure sports in India. 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 about their work: one season they are in Kashmir the next in Himachal; sometimes in Uttarakhand and at times in Sikkim.

They 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 take away is that they get to meet diverse people almost every week of their lives. Trekkers too love our trek leaders. Our trek leaders are popular and have a big fan following.

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. It is his job to take trekkers on a trek, to bring the trek alive, to be their group manager. He shoulders the responsibility of giving trekkers the best seven days of their lives. This is not a hyperbole. We get enough emails almost everyday with this line repeated.  

It is the trek leader’s job to keep trekkers absolutely safe. Trek leaders do this by their knowledge of safety skills, management competency, training, and interpersonal skills. They know mountains very well and can carry out a rescue single handedly. Though they are not qualified doctors trek leaders know their medicines well.

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

The trek leader also needs to run the trek smoothly. For that he needs to know what goes on behind the scenes. He needs to ensure that all gears, safety equipment, food and ration are in place. He needs to know his fellow colleagues well — which is easier said than done, considering every week he may have a new team to work with.

Usually, a trek leader works along with 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. Which means they are usually better in the mountains, can manage things efficiently, multi-task, and be good at anything the trek leader can. Earning the respect of our mountain operations staff is the first task of the trek leader. They do it by becoming as good as them — which is a lot of hard work.

The difference between our mountain operation staff and trek leaders is that TLs come with better communication skills, education background and work experience. In the long run, TLs (short for Trek Leaders) can bring this combination together to grow themselves and the organisation.

The below video will give you a fair idea of what a Trek Leader’s Career is like.

For how long can anyone be a trek leader?

A career in trekking as an adventure sport might sound enticing, but it 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. Pure trek leading is not something that anyone can do for more than 1½ to 2 years. Which is why it is important to mix the role of a trek leader by taking up responsibilities in management. There are plenty of problems related to trekking that Indiahikes is trying to solve. Recognising a problem and then opting to solve it would be the best way to take a trek leaders career forward. Eventually TLs become part of Indiahikes management, leading one of its functions

Who makes a good trek leader?

Trek leading is not life’s calling. We get far too many emails about how sick people are of their corporate jobs. That they would love to do work that is more meaningful. That they would rather follow their passion than the regime of a corporate life. Unfortunately, such folks get disillusioned very quickly.

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 is only from the outside. At the end of the day TLs want to grow and grow the organisation that 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 and they want to grow professionally.

Indiahikes Trek Leader Indrajit Picture by Satyajit Burman

What are other benefits of being a trek leader?

For one, trek leading is an intensive MBA course. You learn every aspect of management that is there to learn. From operations, finance, marketing, HR and management. You learn them hands on and you learn quickly. You also learn very efficiently. We see dramatic changes in our trek leaders within few months of working.

Trek leaders are usually more confident and able to manage situations better than most people. Unlike other professions, trek leaders are faced with difficult situations every day. There aren’t any office or managers to back them. Taking tough decisions all the time makes them efficient managers over time. Very soon it shows in their personality. They are extremely confident yet humble, more humble than most humans. Living with mountain people and absorbing their culture over an extended period of time makes them so.

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 IIT or IIM try to do a stint with Indiahikes.The 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 similar salary platform, around 3.0 lakhs per annum, they don’t end that way. Within 6-8 months trek leaders who are taking on more responsibilities are usually earning more than 4.0 lakhs. Within a year they could be earning around 5.0 lakhs. It is difficult to predict trek leader’s salary after a year, though it is usually more.

It is important to keep in mind that most expenses of a trek leader are borne by Indiahikes, including stay and food. TL’s save considerable amount of money. Perhaps the rate of saving would be a better indicator of a TLs salary than the money earned. A TL’s rate of saving is higher than most salaried professionals.

How safe is trek leading?

Most parents of trek leaders have a constant worry about them. They wonder if their child is in a profession that is safe? Constant news about landslides and earthquakes worry them. There is some truth in their worry. Any career in the mountains does come with some risks. An awkward fall can result in a bad sprain or a fracture. Yet, with safety equipment, training, pre hand 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. Yet, there is always a certain amount of risk and that must be kept in mind.

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, without sounding sexist we would ask women to think twice about this. A trek leader’s life is physically challenging. It is not easy for women to manage the hardship of the mountains. 24 hours on duty can drain out women faster. A better option for women would be try other job openings at Indiahikes. Every employee of Indiahikes get opportunities to be in the mountains. This way women can progress their career forward without losing out on their love for the mountains. If, however, you would still like to try trek leading as a career, feel free to apply.

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Anuja Gupta, a woman trek leader, leads her trekkers at Hampta Pass.

For anyone who wishes to work as a trek leader with Indiahikes, this page has the details.

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.

8 thoughts on “Trek Leading in the Himalayas as a career

  1. sir i want to join india hike .i am 21 year old ,and my qualification i have done basic mountaineering course from jwahar insitute of mountaineering with A GREAD

      1. Hello Ma’am I am 22 years old and I have recently completed my MBA in 2016 from Mangalayatan University Aligarh and for last 8 months I have been working with Ceasefire industries Ltd. Although I am getting a handsome salary but here I am getting paid for something I have to do but I would like to get paid for something I love to do, I want to live my passion professionally I want to work with “indiahikes” kindly please tell me what should I do.

  2. Hellow, I’m 18 years old and i have recently completed my school and now all i want is to travel, which i love the most . Wandering on mountains , can you please suggest what should i do ?

    1. Hi Sanjeevani
      We all want to travel. But you need to think about why you want to do it. What drives you to travel. Being in such a career looks glamourous but is a lot of hardwork. We can help if you are specifically looking at trek leading as a career.

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