A trifecta of Himalayan adventures- India: Markha Valley Trek, Nepal: The Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang, and Bhutan: Thimpu, Linshi, Laya Trek. All three of these treks share a few characteristics that make them epic adventures to put on your bucket list, including stunning views, high-altitude hikes, and itineraries that last over two weeks. They all skirt the flanks of the Himalaya, the highest mountains on earth, thus much of the hiking is at a substantially higher altitude than our other treks.
The most important part of preparing to embark on a trek through the Himalayas is simply giving your body time to adjust to the high altitude. In these areas we often work extra days into the treks at lower altitudes in the local cities and villages, such as the hike to the Tiger’s Nest Temple in Paro at the start of the Bhutan trek. Spend a day hiking a precipitous path to the Tiger’s Nest, one of the most famous Buddhist temples. Once completing the daring first hike, take a moment in the temple to bless your journey onward into the Himalayas, as is traditionally done by local Sherpas and visiting alpinists.
Food, Altitude, and Culture
We recommend in general that you schedule some extra time in the cities at the start of these trips to get used to the food, altitude, and culture.
One of the incredible things about a multi-week hiking trip is that you will feel your body becoming stronger as you progress through it! The reward for braving the heights of the Himalayas is unparalleled.
In Bhutan, you will get to visit the village of Laya, the remote home of the Laya people, a place only inhabited by a few hundred indigenous Layans and seen by even fewer tourists due to its remoteness! In Markha, India you will get to hike below the Siachen, the largest glacier outside of the polar circles. Exploring Nepal, we get to hike past Annapurna, a mountain steeped in climbing legend and lore! Another good way to prepare for this trek is to read Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna. Although we won’t be ascending Annapurna, it’s a fascinating read that talks of the trials of conquering the first of the Himalayan giants. Herzog’s ascent so impressed the world that he was named France’s Minister of Sport and the Mayor of Chamonix.
In the northern climes, Norway: The Islands of Lofoten and Iceland: The Remote Westfjords and are both challenging in a particularly unique way. In these subarctic climates, the ground is often too pliable to support traditional trails. Hiking across boggy moss or sweeping rock outcroppings, the route follows trails marked by stone pillars or cairns, over ground that looks otherwise untraveled.
The reward for this style of hiking is that it truly feels as though you are traveling in places that humans have never traveled before. In Norway, the trails often lead you through the craggy fjords to secluded arctic beaches, where all sorts of interesting sea life frolic, such as puffins and walruses. In Iceland, you get to hike across the Hornstrandir, a peninsula that is only accessible by boat and will probably never have a road of any kind constructed either to or across it!
To prepare for this unique and challenging style of hiking, we recommend that you step outside of your comfort zone. As long as you don’t get lost, take a walk off the trail in the woods. Let yourself get used to covering uneven and varied terrain. You will find that it takes much more work to cover ground when you don’t have the assistance of a trail. If that’s not possible in your area, focus on your endurance at the gym— building up the strength of your lungs and legs makes hiking across these Nordic moonscapes an ever more approachable goal!
The Eiger Trail and the Matterhorn Trek, are the two most challenging hikes in the Swiss and Italian Alps. Both treks borrow their names from the world-famous mountains you hike under. These treks are particularly demanding because of their long ascents. On either trip, you can expect to hike for up to seven hours a day with ascents up to 5,000 feet. These days are demanding but popular and the rewards are huge.
On the Eiger Trail in the Swiss Alps ascend to the Hohturli, the highest pass on the Via Alpina. On this hike you also pass by the Oeschinensee, one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the world, and just beneath the glaciated summit of the Blumlisalp. We even get to look down on the Blumlisalp itself, a glaciated field of ice that sits just outside of the hut at the pass, where you stop for a hard-earned lunch. On the Matterhorn Trek, hike over the Turlo Pass in the Italian Alps to the village of Macugnaga, which sits directly beneath the staggering 10,000-foot relief of the east face of the Monte Rosa!
To prepare for these adventures, we recommend that you focus on your stamina. These challenging treks do require training beforehand, so practice hiking uphill, whether outside or in the gym, and prepare yourself for the long ascents and descents. Getting ready to conquer these magnificent mountain passes should be your new fitness goal, best achieved by running or hiking as regularly as you are able in the months before the trip.