Fitness and Travel

When contemplating or preparing for a Himalayan trek one of the main concerns most people have is whether they are fit enough for the demands of the trail and how to improve their conditioning. In my experience, almost everyone who arrives in Nepal has adequate fitness to complete their chosen trek (aside from possible altitude-related problems).

But many do not have adequate fitness to enjoy the trek. Many trekkers make it to their destination but are so exhausted by the effort that the only reward is being able to boast about their accomplishment. It should also be noted that there are some people who are so concerned about not having adequate fitness that they overtrain and injure themselves before getting to Nepal.

A well-planned physical fitness program ideally started at least six months before starting the trek. It is essential to having a successful, enjoyable trek.

In an earlier post, I outlined a recommended training program to prepare for a trek. The emphasis of the course was on aerobic conditioning and building leg strength, both with gym exercises and hiking. Another aspect that is too often overlooked is having overall fitness and strength in all parts of the body to reduce the risk of injury in any area.

This is especially important since you will need to move a lot of gear around in a variety of situations (airport baggage claim, hotel rooms, mountain lodges, etc). It can put an abnormal strain on the back and neck. It is all too easy to pull a back or neck muscle trying to lift a heavy bag from an awkward position.

The resulting pain can ruin a trekking vacation. It is also important to exercise caution while you’re traveling to lift and carry your bags carefully, always lifting with your legs as much as possible with a straight back.

So be sure to include core and upper body exercises into your fitness program for optimum trek preparation. You’ll look good, feel good, and have a wonderful, unspoiled trekking vacation.


iTrekNepal team and Family

The mission of iTrekNepal since its inception has been to provide a higher level of quality and care than has ever been available to trekkers in Nepal. These high standards are reflected in the quality and dedication of our employees and the quality of accommodations, transportation, food, and all the other services that we provide on every trek.

Our local office and experienced guiding staff in Nepal insures that you will have a genuine, Nepali-style, full-service trek. You also have immediate access by e-mail or phone to our staff of Nepal trekking experts who can answer any question about trekking in Nepal and help you plan your trip.

ITrekNepal is the only Nepal trekking company based in Bhaktapur, a beautiful World Heritage city just outside Kathmandu. Guests staying with us in Bhaktapur will find a peaceful refuge from the clamor of Kathmandu, with easy access to both the Nepal countryside and central Kathmandu.

iTrekNepal Office Staff

Office team of iTrekNepal
Office team of iTrekNepal

Top left to right:Jyoti Pradhan, Urmila Jadhari, Sabina Joshi, Narendra Malla, Andrew Leonard, Shree Prasad Koju, Nani (Rondi Leonard)

iTrekNepal Guide Staff

Our guides are dedicated to iTrekNepal and are the most important members of our company. All ITrekNepal guides are specially trained by the Nepal Academy of Tourism Management (NATM) and licensed by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism. More importantly, they are a lot of fun to be with and are devoted to ensuring that you have a fantastic trekking experience.

iTrekNepal Guides
iTrekNepal Guides

Top row left to right: Phurtiman Tamang (PM), Santa Gale, Kumar Magar, Ranjan Jyakhow, Sanjay Shrestha

Bottom row left to right: Yudhaa Magar, Sonam Sherpa, Bir Magar, Suman Koju, Rajesh Prajapati

Read more about our individual guides on the links below:

Phurtiman Tamang
Santa Bahadur Ghale
Dilman Ghale
Dev Kumar Dangi
Sonam Sherpa
Tika Magar
Ranjan Jyakhwo
Suman Koju


Trekking in Nepal 2016

The monsoon in Nepal has ended, the days are mostly sunny, and mountain trekking is as good as ever in those areas spared from earthquake damage, especially in the Everest and Annapurna regions. In the Kathmandu valley, things look quite normal though a second look will reveal some demolished buildings. Bhaktapur was a harder hit than most parts of the valley and whole neighborhoods are still digging out of the rubble. Although half of the residents have left the city, most return each day to rebuild and work in the shops.

Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur
Taumadhi Square, Bhaktapur

Though dozens of major World Heritage sites have fallen, most are still intact. It’s not the same here as before the quake but it is still a vibrant, fascinating place. While is now possible to enjoy trekking again in most regions of Nepal, there is a fuel shortage that has made transportation difficult, especially around the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara.

Ironically this problem was brought on by one of the greatest triumphs in modern Nepali history. After eight years of failed efforts to deliver a new constitution, the earthquake spurred a spirit of cooperation and the Nepal parliament approved one of the world’s most progressive democratic constitutions.

Unfortunately, a large constituency along the Indian border has disputed some of the constitution’s provisions and has blocked the Indian border in protest. The restriction of fuels and other critical supplies has been a major problem for most Nepalese and an annoyance for many tourists. It should also be noted that while there have been some violent protests along the border this area is very far from Kathmandu which remains very safe.

Trekking in October 2015 EBC
iTrekNepal guests at Everest Base Camp-October 2015

Fortunately, the Bhaktapur Paradise Hotel where most ITrekNepal guests are staying has an ample supply of cooking gas and our drivers have a good stock of fuel so it is still a pleasant environment here.

With the inauguration of the new government intent on remedying these political problems, the shortages are expected to ease in the next couple of weeks and life should be back to normal for everyone fairly soon. In the meantime, the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara are exceptionally peaceful. Similarly, the relative lack of tourists has made the popular treks even more enjoyable since there are no crowds to contend with.


Lodging and Transportation in Nepal 2016

Most of the hotels in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Pokhara were not seriously damaged by the earthquakes. When the fuel shortage abates the level of comfort and services in these areas should return to the previous standards. The major roads in the Kathmandu valley and to Pokhara and Chitwan are also in good shape with buses running on limited schedules.

All domestic flights are on their regular schedules. If you are planning to arrive in Nepal this year you can check with us on the current fuel and transportation situation.

view from Bhaktapur Paradise
View from Bhaktapur Paradise

Our guests who have already completed treks with us this fall have enjoyed the traffic-free cities and peaceful solitude in the mountains. In many ways, this is the best time ever to visit Nepal.

Please feel free to contact Andrew or Shree by email, skype: iTrekNepal or andrew-iTrekNepal or phone any time if you have any questions or would like to have us arrange a Nepal trek, volunteer assignment, or tour.

Mustang Crew
Mustang Crew



Trekking Outlook 2015/2016

The April earthquake in central Nepal had a devastating impact on two of the most popular trekking regions in Nepal. The Langtang Valley trek was the victim of a massive landslide that has closed that trekking route, at least for tea house trekking. A new trail has been cut through the landslide area which will make it possible to do camping treks there until the lodges are rebuilt sometime next year.

iTrekNepal trekkers near Mt. Everest-October 2015
iTrekNepal trekkers near Mt. Everest-October 2015

The Manaslu region was also severely affected although not as badly as Langtang. The Manaslu Circuit and Tsum valley treks are closed for now for regular trekking but should reopen for organized tea house treks in the spring. The Everest region had some quake damage but reconstruction of the trails and lodges was very quick and the region is back to normal.

We have already had several groups enjoy successful treks to Everest Base Camp and crossing some of the high passes. The Annapurna region was minimally affected by the earthquakes and all the major routes including the Circuit and Base Camp treks are in good shape. We have already had several groups complete treks to Annapurna Base Camp this season. All other parts of Nepal are open for trekking, including the Kathmandu Valley, Makalu, and Rara Lake.

iTrekNepal guest from Denmark on Annapurna Ccircuit Trek-October 2015
iTrekNepal guest from Denmark on Annapurna Ccircuit Trek-October 2015

ITrekNepal guest from Denmark on Annapurna Circuit Trek – October 2015
With the help of the New Hope Society and donations from many of our friends around the world, the ITrekNepal has helped the families of our guides and porters to build shelters in their villages where they will reside while their homes are being rebuilt. The ITrekNepal guides and porters are now safe and secure and are looking forward to the opportunity to start trekking again.


Future of Nepal after April 25

Nepal’s FutureAbout every 70 – 80 years Nepal has been hit by a major earthquake. The great earthquake in 1934 resulted in many deaths and widespread destruction on the same scale as the current quake. After the 1934 quake, most of the damaged cultural sites were restored and Nepal soon returned to normal daily life.

Much has changed here in 81 years, but the strength, and resiliency of the Nepalese people and the enduring support of their friends from around the world are still the same. We are confident that Nepal will find the international and external resources to recover and prosper.

Bhaktapur World Heritage city

For the short term, we have canceled all of the scheduled group treks through May. We expect to resume operations in June and to be fully operational by the fall trekking season in September. We are also checking on the access roads, trails, and lodges for the Annapurna, Langtang, and Everest regions to insure that these are safe for travel and trekking.

As you might have heard there was major damage in the Langtang Valley. There has also been some lesser damage to the trails and lodges in the Everest and Annapurna regions. In addition to direct support for the recovery and Hope for the future in the faces of Nepal’s children rebuilding effort, one of the best ways to help Nepal will be to travel and trek there, either as already planned or with a different perspective.

Children in barley field Mustang

You can visit areas affected by the earthquake, hear the stories of those who have been directly affected, and bring them items from your country that they cannot easily get. Although you might find some inconvenience from damaged roads and facilities, you will mostly find a country and its people on the rise again, and happy to share with you the beauty of this remarkable country.


Takru Internet Project (legacy)

I have now completed my last visit to Takru and have come away with many thoughts. I went with Nick Clayton and Andy Leonard to see the project’s progress. It was pleasing to see that the physical infrastructure is working and that the Internet speed was surprisingly good.

The greatest challenge now left is the legacy side. The villagers were clearly pleased and happy about the whole project as shown in a fabulous evening of thanks to us. We were adorned with paint, scarves, traditional Tamang dress, and many signs of thanks. I’m sure a night none of us shall forget. But it did make me realize that the challenge has shifted away from the physical side of the project.

We need to make sure that the villagers are trained in how to use computers to make sure that they can make good use of the full capabilities of the Internet. At the moment my impression is that they are a little afraid and intimidated by the technology. If we can not only train them but display to them the wonders of such technology then it is our belief that they will be captured and become desperate to make full use of it.

Nick believes that the best way to do this is through Skype. Many of the men of the village are currently working abroad in Malaysia and if their families were to be able to see their father/husband/son on their screen through Skype technology then their communication with these family members would be revolutionized. Just this display would lead to a greater curiosity about the capabilities that would be enabled.

This curiosity can lead to exploration and self-learning. It is my aim to give especially the children a certain level of knowledge and know-how so that they can begin to explore for themselves. I think a lot of training can be done by the village itself.

If we can identify 3/4 of villagers who have an aptitude for learning, they can pass on their knowledge. Much can be picked up from simply observing others on the computer over their shoulders too, something which should happen once the computers are set up in their community room.

I genuinely believe that this technology and the Internet could hugely expand the horizons of the children of the village and give them opportunities for careers that perhaps would not have been possible before. This is the reason that getting the legacy correct is perhaps the most important part of the project.

From now we are sending a technician once a month to the village to ensure that all of the infrastructures are working as well as helping to train the villagers. Therefore my role now becomes a sideline one, receiving updates and advising as to any decisions that will be made. But it is my hope that after some time the village will begin to self-police, self-regulate and progress by themselves. This would be the ultimate ideal outcome of the entire project and has been since its inception.


Holi – Festival of Colour

I was very happy to hear that my stay in Nepal coincided with Holi, better known as the Festival of Colour. I geared up and headed out.

Certainly, the festival brings smiles to everyone. After all, there is nothing like acting as a child again, drenching whosoever dares to pass near enough to you. Being on the back of a motorbike, racing through the alleys of Bhaktapur receiving water from all directions was something that I won’t forget soon. Women pouring buckets from windows, gangs of kids on rooftops squirting down on you with water guns, not to mention the ground assault of water balloons.

I think it’s fair to say are one of the only Westerners there, our motorbike was targeted more than others, but this was something I relished. The color as well was great. It was the norm to see people walking past you with faces that looked like they had face-planted into a pool of color. Reds, blues, yellows, and purples were everywhere you looked.

I was told a little about the reasons for the festival. Firstly it is seen as the coming of spring (hence the colors) and better weather. Secondly, it represents good overcoming evil and this was most definitely indicated in the smiles, laughs, and joy of everyone involved. Ages from toddlers to the elderly all joined the fun.

The only downside, and something which I was stupid to do, was that in the midst of it all my phone and camera broke. Quite simply, do not take your electronics with you, and if you must ensure they are safely sealed in a Ziploc bag. Luckily this did not detract from the fun I had during the day!


Kaligandaki Rafting

I had been looking forward to rafting on the Kaligandaki for a long time. I had had a taster of Nepal river rafting on the Lower Bhote Koshi, but this was something else.

It is very special to snake your way through Nepal on a raft often being faced with some unfriendly-looking rapids. The views you get from rafting are very different from those whilst trekking, the cliff faces seem so much closer and taller as they plunge down towards the water. Not only are the views different from trekking, but the exercise forces you to exert just as much energy, only using different muscles.

We were given a comprehensive safety briefing beforehand for our 8-man raft and practiced the various paddling commands. It was certainly very important to do so as two of the biggest rapids of the whole three days came soon after launching. Appropriately named little brother and big brother they immediately threw us (literally and metaphorically) into the spirit of rafting. I never felt in real danger due to the precaution of having two safety kayaks in case of a capsize or man overboard.

Contrary to the adrenaline-fuelled bashing of rapids, there were some sections to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and observe some of the wildlife. There were countless eagles and we also saw Langur monkeys and some kind of large rodents too.

The camping was great too. The spots they chose for the campsites were very special and an enterprising local villager would come to sell beer which was very welcome. The nights would wind down by sitting around the campfire and staring at the incredible star-lit sky. The food was plentiful and very good considering it all had to be rafted down with us too. All of the guides were terrific, friendly, helpful, and most importantly up for having a laugh with you.

Overall I would say that rafting on the Kaligandaki river was one of the highlights of my 3 months in Nepal. There are gentler rivers just as there are more extreme rivers. But for me, there was more than enough excitement on the Kaligandaki.



Should I do Everest Base Camp or Annapurna Base Camp when I go to Nepal?

Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp are two of the most popular treks in Nepal. I concurred with Everest Base Camp towards the beginning of my trip and I recently returned from Annapurna Base Camp, and now have a solid grip on the pros and cons, and similarities and differences between both treks.

If you are only in Nepal for two weeks and planning on doing either EBC or ABC I would recommend ABC because of the diversity in landscape. The Everest Base Camp Trek begins and ends at such a high elevation that the scenery stays relatively consistent throughout the trek.

The soaring peaks of the Himalayas surround the path, and the altitude and cold temperature become a factor as you rise above the tree line. The Annapurna Base Camp trek begins outside of Pokhara where it is dry and hot. The path follows a river and at the beginning, my friend and I were able to swim in waterfalls and swimming holes because of the blazing sun.

We walked through canopies of trees and Rhododendron forests surrounded the path. But this warm and scenic landscape instantly changed once we got close to base camp. The day before we reached base camp we got caught in a snowstorm.

The next morning we walked to ABC from Machhapuchhare Base Camp during sunrise where we had to trek through the snow. Although in some ways Everest was more epic because of the harsh conditions and the excitement of being able to see the highest mountain in the world, Annapurna showed the diversity and wonder of the Himalayas.

Another big difference between the two treks was during EBC I had a guide and porter, and for ABC I went with a friend and we carried our own bags and had no guide. For the Everest trek, I would definitely recommend having a porter. Because of the altitude, I felt relieved to have someone carrying my bag.

It made the whole experience much more enjoyable. But not having a porter or guide for ABC created a sense of adventure and a feeling of doing something on my own. The trail was decently straightforward except for when it went through the villages, so we always made sure to ask if we were heading down the right path before leaving a village.

Even though we came close to taking wrong turns a couple of times, we always managed to find the right path.

Another difference between the two treks is that ABC is less touristy than EBC. I personally did not experience this as prominently because I went to EBC at the beginning of the trekking season and it was not that crowded, but I heard that in the middle of the season it can be pretty crazy.

If you plan on trekking to EBC, I would recommend going at the beginning of the season in order to stay away from crowds. Annapurna Base Camp is also definitely a popular trek, and I did see a lot of tourists. I talked to people who had done the Annapurna Circuit and were finishing with ABC, and they said that the circuit was a lot less crowded and that the villages had more of an authentic feel.

If that is something that you’re interested in, it might worthwhile to check it out.

Although the Annapurna trek has its perks, one of my favorite parts of the Everest trek was the sense of accomplishing something great. There were many people I met on the trek who were carrying out a lifelong goal to make it to Everest Base Camp. Everyone seemed to be in it together and excited about pushing themselves to make it to their goal.

Other than the factor of altitude, I thought that the two hikes were pretty equal in difficulty. Both had a lot of really steep and long uphill, and really steep and long downhill. Both were very demanding hikes that asked a lot from you physically but had really great rewards in the end.

All in all, I would say that both of the hikes are incredible, but they are definitely different experiences and it just depends on what you are looking for. If you want an epic and exhausting trip where you are fighting through the thin air and altitude head to EBC, and if you are looking for a diverse landscape where in a single day you will be in the snow surrounded by high peaks and swimming in a waterfall head to ABC.


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