Sandy writes about ten hiking lessons learned during the treks we have completed. Part 2 presents the second set of five lessons learned. Read Part 1 of this story here.
During the past 11 months we have finished nine treks on four continents, totaling 378 miles (605 kilometers). Here are the second set of things I have learned while hiking in all different conditions and environments around the world:
6. Watch your tent
We stayed in tents during many of our treks. In Australia, Sweden and Jordan we used our own tent which meant we needed to put it up and take it down ourselves. To save space and weight we did not bring stakes but used rocks to hold the tent down. This worked in most cases but we encountered extreme weather conditions in Sweden’s Arctic Circle. It was very windy almost the entire time we trekked the Kungsleden trail. We had challenges each night in finding a place to pitch our tent that would shield us from the wind blasts.
A couple of nights we had no choice but to set up our tent in open areas with constant wind. One night we thought that the tent would rip apart because the wind was blowing so hard. The next morning we began to pack up and take down the tent. I had just removed the rocks and turned my back when the tent went airborne and began to blow away! Darren and I ran after it and caught the tent at the bottom of a hill, right before it would have gone into a river. Needless to say we kept a much closer eye on the tent after that!
7. You cannot control the weather
We have encountered a variety of weather conditions during our treks, ranging from snow flurries in Kyrgyzstan to scorching heat in Kenya. It has rained at some time on eight of the nine treks we have completed. Being prepared with rain gear and plastic pack liners has kept things dry.
Because we are on a schedule we have to continue to hike, even in the pouring rain. The only exception to this rule was when thunder and lightning accompanied the rainstorm that took place during our first day of trekking in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. Since we were scheduled to hike up an exposed mountain ridge that day, we had to make other plans and, instead, found a nearby hut to stay in that night.
The next day we completed the previous day’s planned hike and then continued on to the hut where we originally planned to stay that night, completing two days of trekking in one day. It made for a long day of hiking but felt good to be back on schedule after the weather setback.
8. Mountains will leave you breathless
A few of our treks have been at altitude. In Kyrgyzstan we hiked above 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), as we climbed to several saddles at elevations over 12,000 feet (3,659 meters). Trekking in Nepal provided the greatest attitude challenges. During our 12 day journey we climbed over 15 mountain passes of at least 11,811 feet (3,600 meters) in elevation. While hiking up to and down from these passes we gained and lost hundreds of feet in the process so it seemed like we were never on level ground while in Nepal.
Even as we were breathless while we hiked, we were treated to the most incredible views of the Himalayan Mountains. It definitely made the trek much more fulfilling.
The Swahili word pole-pole means slow. When we were in Kenya, we heard our guide use the term “pole-pole”, meaning “slowly, slowly”. This was not just good advice for this trek but something to remember no matter the hiking situation.
By taking it slowly, assessing the circumstances and determining the best plan of action, “pole-pole” turned out to be the right approach for situations ranging from sketchy trails to bad weather.
10. Trekking takes you to places you cannot otherwise visit
There are places you can only get to by hiking, so even though the day was long or trail was tough there was nothing better than arriving in a remote place of cultural significance or natural beauty and realizing that you made it there on your own two feet.
We have three more treks scheduled so I am actively using what I have learned on these nine completed hikes as I look forward to these future expeditions. Perhaps I will have more to add to this list when these three hikes are completed.