Trekking is very often confused with mountaineering. Whilst mountaineering is very much technical in nature and entails many preparations by way of equipments, provisions, technical data, weather reports etc., trekking does not require anywhere near as much preparations and can be taken up as a sport. Mountaineering at times can become hazardous, but this is normally not the case with trekking.
The goal of the mountaineer is generally the conquest of a peak, whilst the aim of the trekker is to take an interesting walk which in the Himalayas would mean reaching certain heights and reaching religious shrines , glaciers, snow-belts, meadows and other high-altitude attractions. During the summer months, treks can be organised up to heights of around 4000 mtr and during winter months around 1800mtr. Attempts beyond these heights should be made only when properly equipped.
In ancient times, people were forced to trek from place to place in the absence of transport facilities. From times immemorial, the mountain folks have been trekking over the hills for their day to day affairs. The great Adiguru Shankaracharya trekked deep into Uttarakhand in the eighth century A.D. and first opened up the trekking routes to Himalayan shrines. Later a zealous philanthropic organisation called ‘Kali Kamli Wale’ set up a large number of dharamshalas at carefully chosen distances. What the trekking huts on some routes are for the trekkers of today, dharamshalas were to the religious trekkers of those days. Lord Curzon, E.T. Atkinson, Dr. T. Longstaff were among some of the keen British trekkers who opened up new trekking routes in high altitude areas. Thus trekking as a necessity to reach certain purposeful destinations has a hoary past but by the first quarter of the twentieth century, it developed into a popular sport and an organised adventure. Today trekking has become very popular among not only the young but the able bodied men and women alike.
The Central Himalayas in Uttarakhand have some popular trekking routes. This area has numerous temples, rich forests of deodar, cypress, pine, lush verdant valleys, green meadows, which in summer are carpetted with alpine flowers. A large variety of flora and fauna make these trekking routes ideal for nature study. The best time for organising these treks is in May, June and September, October. A few places, such as the Valley of Flowers and the (bugyals) meadows are at their best during the rains of July and August.
Trekking should always be organised in groups. Barring the pilgrim trails, most of the trekking routes do not have accommodation facilities. On such routes, temporary huts of the nomadic gujars and caves can be used, but it is always advisable to carry a high-altitude tent .
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