To Trek with a Group or Solo in the Himalayas?
My trekking group’s youngest member, a rugby player from Wales, bounced back down the uneven stone stairs to the other group members as we leaned hard on our trekking poles. “Guys, there’s a whole group of monkeys up here! Come on!”
Guide Ramesh was fast on his heels, eager to introduce us to the wildlife. The entire group picked up the pace, despite having climbed over 5000 stairs so far that day. And there they were, a large group of monkeys swinging over our heads. They moved so stealthily that I would have missed them had I been hiking alone. Ramesh identified them and told us about their habits. These are just two benefits of traveling with a group: motivation and education.
I hiked the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek with a Canadian company in a small, internationally diverse group with accompanying porters and Ramesh. Six months prior, a friend had hiked it alone, carrying his own gear. There are benefits to both to weigh before deciding how to travel: solo, or with a group and guide.
Hiking in Nepal is affordable. A frugal spender could hike for 10 days for roughly $600, including a porter, the $3-5 per night cost of a bed, $3 for wifi, a shower and a phone charge, and around $20 per day for food and safe water. Most tour companies charge $1200-$1500 for the same trek with assistants, but this cost does not include food or extras. Overall, a guided trek is significantly more expensive, at roughly $1600.
Safety is always a concern when hiking alone. The Himalayan treks can accommodate solo female trekkers by offering all-female porter and guide services. Contact information can be found in many teahouses. However, the quality and language skills of your companions may not be guaranteed as they would be if you booked with a company beforehand. There is risk in hiking alone, as the trails cross avalanches and other difficult terrain. A guided group ensures that you stop regularly for food, water, and sunscreen application, which can be surprisingly easy to forget when hiking alone. A guide will warn you of hidden dangers, which sometimes arise.
Keeping on Track
Parts of these treks are difficult, and keeping up your motivation while carrying a pack can be daunting. Going with a group will challenge you to keep up the pace while offering the distraction of trail conversation with like-minded travelers. The guide will also time your starts so as to avoid rain and to make sure that you arrive in a village with food and drink when it is needed. Since villages are often far apart, this can be hard when hiking alone.
Going with a group precludes the need for extensive planning, which can be hard solo. Thought must go into which teahouse you will arrive at when, and upon arrival it may be full. However, solo trekking allows the flexibility to stop and eat where you want and select your own teahouse.
If you go alone, you will likely cross paths with groups laughing and chatting along the way. It’s up to you to decide whether a social hike is for you!
Article by Dani Bailey.
Top image: Ali Sabbagh/Flickr