Nepal - responsible trekking         December 2011

2011 was the officially proclaimed "Tourist Year" in Nepal. The government hoped for one million visitors. Even though the target was far from met, there was a large increase in visitors, most of them coming for beautiful trekking among the Himalayan mountains.

Renjo pass viewThamserku view

View from Renjo pass, Everest in background                  Thamserku Mountain behind clouds

The trekking is for the most organized in groups by companies in Kathmandu. The guests carry a small backpack with just what they need during the day, the rest by porters.


One danger affecting the trekkers is the altitude. Normal acclimatization requires one day for each 300 meters height increase above 2500 meters and with the popular trekking spots at 5300 m that means around 10 days of slow ascent. If you go faster up, acute mountain sickness can follow, which, if not attended to, can lead to death.

Khunde hospital

There are other problems too. Sudden snowstorms, freezing temperatures at night, slippery paths and falls, broken legs, stomach problems etc. But no problems, an insurance and a helicopter can pick you up within a few hours and bring you down for hospital care.

But what about the ones who are working for you, guiding you, cooking your dinner or carrying your belongings?

Few guests think about this. Maybe they have noticed that the porters don't eat in the guesthouse dining room or stay in the rooms, they are not paying so their standard is somewhat lower, one can say.

Himalauan hotel

Guesthouse dining room

Porters preparing dinner on petrol stoves in their outhouse. Seven persons will sleep here on the dirt floor. Thame

The last years things improved. Wages are higher and there is a recommendation among trekking companies to insure their personell against accidents and porters should not carry more than 40 kgs. This is followed by most trekking companies. But for those carrying supplies to the guest-houses, no regulation is applied.

Sandesh Rai carrying 90 kgSandesh Rai

Sandesh Rai, 19 years. 90 kg on his back. Between Lukla and Namche Bazaar, Khumbu.

It is common among trekkers to think that all those Nepalis working in the mountains are "super-humans", accustomed to the altitude, able to cope with sub-zero degrees and heavy loads. But the increase in tourism has ment that many Nepalis from the low-lands are coming up to the mountain areas for work. They are as vulnerable as the trekkers but badly equipped with clothing, with far lesser means to cope with altitude sickness or accidents.

Cho pass porters

Porters in the fog at Cho pass.

Responsible trekking means choosing a trekking company that takes care of not just it's clients but also the staff. At least make sure all have insurance and good clothing. They are all eager to help you get the best experience of this beautiful country, they deserve that you give them a little bit of consideration.

© Lennart Berggren / Axiom Film     January 2012


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