North Indian states like Jammu and Kashmir, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh and North-East India states like Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam etc. are a part of the lower Himalayas ranges. Trekking in the Himalayas has its own advantages as being one of the most beautiful treks in the world however, they pose their own trekking risk and problems also.
So before going on for a Himalayan trek, it is advisable that you get well aware of the trekking risk in the Himalayas.
High altitude risk and Terrain:
Most of the base camps are situated at an altitude of around 9,000 to 10,000 feet which is already a high altitude. Some of the high altitude sickness symptoms are:
- A mild headache
- general uneasiness etc.
These symptoms are the signs of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. That’s why acclimatization is necessary before beginning the trek.
Some of the trekking organizations also recommend the doses of Acetazolamide (Diamox) a week before arriving at the base camp. This article on uses and side effects of Diamox can be very helpful for you. However, you should if you allergic to the same or not and take the medical advice from the doctors as well.
Most of the base camps are equipped with stretcher, fully equipped first aid kit, oxygen cylinders to address the situation.
You should be well aware of the rain pattern in the Himalayan part where you are going for the trek. Somewhere it rains early and somewhere it rains late. So look out for the weather on Google for next two to three weeks before setting out on the trek.
Also, be aware of the cold and temperature at the higher altitude, they are something to be watched out for. However, on a high altitude trek, the weather is not predictable. A slight change in atmospheric pressure or a shift in the winds can bring rainfall in the Himalayan mountains.
It is advisable to carry bag rain cover and Poncho for all the treks, in case it rains. Some of the Himalayan treks are also designed to take a break like in Great Kashmir lakes trek. This buffer day helps in risking out the weather in case the weather turns bad.
The most common Himalayan trek risks include developing a sprain in the legs, accidental falls and ankle twists on the rocky or slippery snow sections. Sprains, cuts, and bruises are, though, easier.
Even though fractures and dislocations are rare but are very difficult to tackle. The trekker needs to be immobilized and brought down to the base camp as soon as possible. Most of the trek leaders in the Himalayan treks are trained to handle emergencies like these but they are not doctors.
Sometimes, when you are trekking in valleys or passes, retracing the path to the nearest medical aid could even take one to two days. As a participant on the trek, you must be aware of these risks before starting on the trek.
Evacuation, Emergency, and communication
Evacuation of an affected trekker is not a quick process; it takes time. Depending upon the terrain condition, an affected trekker is carried on a stretcher sometimes and the other times, he must be carried down with the help of porters.
Also, it requires a team of 4-6 porters to bring down a victim. Most of the trails which do not pass through the open lands are narrow and steep providing not ample space and room for carrying the affected trekker which further makes the evacuation process, a slow process.
Also, emergency evacuation by helicopter is not a practical possibility. Helicopters need to fly from the nearest base at Srinagar or Jammu. This is time-consuming. It could take 7-8 hours before a helicopter reaches you. Helicopters also need a flat area of 20X30 meters to land and a clear sky. Usually in the regions we trek, there is a cloud cover by 2-3 pm in the afternoon. Even in a life threatening situation the common rule applied is to move down and not wait for a helicopter to reach the victim. This rule is applied universally across the globe.
Communication on the trek is limited to the use of walkie-talkies and runners to send information between the camp sites and base camps. In India, uses of the satellite phones is banned, especially in Kashmir. Mobile phones do not work. Once the trek is commenced, you are cut off from the rest of the world until you complete the trek. The implication is that even in an emergency communication is difficult. In an emergency, it takes time for help to reach you.