You might not be familiar with Island Peak, a 20,000-foot mountain in the Himalayas, but it overlooks two of the tallest mountains in the world, Lhotse and Makalu. It’s also more technical to climb than Everest, so preparation is absolutely crucial for not only enjoying your trek but also staying alive. Here are some mistakes I made my first time mountaineering in the Himalayas (read all about the trek here.)
Mountaineering Mistakes That Could Spell Disaster in the Himalayas
1. Not Packing a First-Aid Kit
Whether you’ve got access to modern civilization or not, it’s always a good idea to have a small medical kit with you at all times. Pack it with medication such as Diamox, a diuretic that helps the effects of altitude sickness; ibuprofen to relieve everything from headaches to acute injuries; Imodium/fiber, since things can run fast or slow given the environment and food; and antibiotics such as Azithromycin, which can stop bacterial infections.
2. Eating Meat
I learned the hard way on my first visit to Nepal that meat, mountains, and third world countries don’t mix well. I strongly recommend eating vegetarian (as much as you can) while mountaineering. Dal bhat, the national dish, is a lentil soup with curry and rice; it’s a safer bet gastrointestinal and nutritious enough to help you power through your journey. Bring some pre-packaged items you know your body handles well during peak physical exertion, like protein bars and nuts. I wish I’d brought energy gels, which are easy to access and quickly absorbed by the body.
3. Neglecting Your Life Support: Water
I made the rookie mistake of bringing water in a plastic reservoir with a hose. It was convenient for the first couple of hours but the hose froze halfway up the climb. I recommend bringing insulated water bottles, which the camp chef can fill with boiling water before setting out from basecamp. Consider investing in the LifeStraw Flex, a collapsible water bottle. The straw’s inner filtration system protects against 99.99 percent of parasites and bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, in addition to lead, chlorine, and dirt.
4. Underestimating the Elements
Hand warmers seems like an obvious essential to pack when trekking in the Himalayas. Unfortunately, I bought a pair in Nepal and did’t realize they’d expired three years prior. Big surprise when they didn’t get warm. Pack some from home that are brand new; it’ll also save you money. Make sure you have an appropriate packing list too. Here’s what you need:
- Base layers (merino)
- Mid layers (insulated)
- Outer layers (down and Gore-Tex/waterproof for both jacket and pants)
- Warm socks, gloves/mittens, buff, and hat are essential
- 30L hiking or expedition pack
- External battery
- Zinc oxide/sunscreen
- Lip protection
- Polarized sunglasses
- Trekking poles
- Camp pillow
- Toiletries (including toilet paper, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer)
- Water in an insulated reservoir (minimum 3L capacity)
- Snack foods (bars, gels, etc.—quick options for the climb)
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