Tibet, the highest land on earth, is a trekker’s dream. Its towering mountains, deep valleys and verdant forests offer unbounded opportunities for walking. On foot the joys of the Tibetan landscape are highlighted and immediate, and all other modes of transport pale in comparison. The wonder of Tibet’s natural environment are enhanced by the people meet along the trail, heirs to an ancient and fascinating way of life. By plying the highland paths one can enter into the same solemn relationship with nature that has sustained Tibetans through the ages.
When to Trek in Tibet
The best time to trek in Tibet is during the warmer half of the year —
*May & June are excellent months without much rain or snowfall
*July & August are the warmest months of the year, but they tend to be rainy and this can make walking messy and trails harder to find
*September & October are excellent months for trekking, but in high areas the nights are cold and early snows is always a possibility
Planning Tibet Trek
For all its attractions, Tibet is a formidable place where even day walks involve survival skills and generous portions of determination. The remoteness of Tibet combined with its extreme climate poses special challenges for walkers – and unique rewards. As it’s situated on the highest plateau on earth and crisscrossed by the world’s loftiest mountains, nothing comes easily and careful preparation is all the more important. Even on the most popular and regular trek in Tibet high passes up to 5600m.
Cities such as Lhasa and Shigatse provide bases for which to equip and launch treks. Walking the classic treks presented here will serve you well. Should you decide to venture further field, there are certainly many more frontiers beckoning the experienced, well-equipped trekker.
It’s good idea to budget an extra day for your trek in case you get on the road more slowly than intended. Your travel guide might also need additional time hiring local help and beasts of burden.
Trekkers must be prepared for extremes in climate, even in the middle of summer. A hot sunny day can turn cold and miserable in a matter of minutes, especially at higher elevations. Night temperatures above 4700m routinely fall below freezing, even in July & August. At other time of year it gets even colder. In midwinter in northwestern Tibet, minimum temperatures reach minus 40℃. Yet Tibet is a study in contrasts, and in summer a scorching sun and hot, blustery winds can make even the hardiest walker scurry for any available shade. Between the two extremes, the Tibetan climate – cool and dry – is ideal for walking, but always be prepared for the worst.
Before embarking on a trek in Tibet, make sure you’re up to the challenge of high-altitude walking through rugged country. Test your capabilities by going on walks in the hills near home as much as you can, and work out. Stay fit and trained.
What to Bring for Tibet Trek
There is a great deal to see while trekking in Tibet and you will be revitalized by the natural surroundings, but you must be prepared for extremes in weather and terrain. The time of year and the places where you choose to walk in Tibet will be dictate the equipment you need.
Clothing & Footwear
As a minimum, you will need basic warm clothing, including a hat, scarf, gloves, down jackets, long underwear, warm absorbent socks, all-weather shell and sun hats, as well as comfortable and well-made pants and shirts. Bring loose-fitting clothes that cover your arms. Legs and necks, and a wide-brimmed hat like the ones Tibetans wear.
If you attempt winter trekking in Tibet, you will certainly need more substantial mountaineering clothing. Many people opt for synthetic clothing, but also consider traditional wool or sheep fleece, which have proven themselves in the mountains of Tibet for centuries.
One of your most important assets will be a pair of strong, well-fitting hiking boots. And remember to break them in before starting your trekking in Tibet.
Equipment for Tibet Treks
Three essential items are a tent, sleeping bags and portable stove. There are few restaurants in the remote areas of Tibet and provisions are hard to come by, so you or your guide (or cook when it’s a large group) will end up preparing your meals during trek in Tibet. Except to camp most nights – except in certain villages on the main trekking routes, it can be difficult to find places to sleep. Any experience travel agencies such as Tibet4Fun will provide your with tent & sleeping bags.
You will also need a strong, comfortable backpack or duffel bag large enough to carry all of your gear and supplies. To save a lot of misery, test the backpack on short hikes to be certain it fits and is properly adjusted. When trekking with animal transport a small backpack is essential for your immediate daily needs.
Other basic items includes water containers with ar least 2L capacity, a torch, pocketknife, first-aid kit, and walking stick. A walking stick not only acts as a walking aid, but also as a defence against dog attacks. Tibetan dogs can be particularly large and wild, and they roam at will in nearly every village and herder’s camp.
Safety Guidelines for Trek Tibet
Before embarking on a walking trip in Tibet, consider the following points to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
*Be aware you are healthy and feel comfortable walking for a sustained period
*Only undertake treks that are will within your physical capacity and level of experience
*Obtain reliable information about the terrain and current conditions along your intended route from local inhabitants
*Be aware of local laws, regulations and customs about wildlife and the environment
Responsible Trek in Tibet
With average temperatures increasing more rapidly than almost any other place on earth, the environment of Tibet is under unprecedented pressure. It is imperative that trekkers make their way lightly and leave nothing behind but your proverbial footprints. Tibet’s beautiful but venerable landscape deserves the utmost respect. A fire, for instance, can scar the landscape for centuries. Stay off fragile slopes and do not tread on delicate plants or sensitive breeding grounds. Follow the Tibetan ethos, killing not even the smallest of insects. This approach guarantees that later visitors get to enjoy the same pristine environment as you.
*Carry out every piece of your rubbish including toilet paper, sanitary napkins, tampons, and condoms
*Have a dedicated rubbish bag and minimize packaging materials
*Do not burn plastic and other garbage as this is believed to irritate the Tibetan divinities
Human Waste Disposal
*Where there is a toilet, use it
*Where there is none, human waste should be left on the surface of the ground away from trails, water and habitations to decompose. If you are in a large trekking group, dig a privy pit. Be sure to build it far from any water source or marshy ground and carefully rehabilitate the area when you leave camp. Ensure it’s not near shrines or any other sacred structures
*Don’t use detergents or toothpaste in or near watercourses, even if they are biodegradable
*For all washing use biodegradable soap and a lightweight, portable basin at least 50m away from the water source
*Try using a scourer, sand or snow instead of detergent. Widely disperse the waste water to allow the soil to filter it
Guide & Pack Animals
The rugged terrain, long distance and high elevations of Tibet make most people think twice about carrying their own gear. In villages and nomad camps along the main trekking routes it’s often possible to hire yaks, horses, trucks or porters to do the heavy work for you.
You guide will hire them from locals. The herder of yaks or horses, trucker drivers and porters will also serve as local guide; they are an important asset on the unmarked trails of Tibet. They can also share history and culture of the place, greatly adding to your experience.
The rate of paced animals vary widely according to the time of the year and location. Remember that your hired help are also paid for the time it takes them to return home.
You should be self-sufficient with food since there isn’t much to eat along the trail. Bring anything you cant live without from home, such as high-energy bars and your favourite chocolates. In Lhasa there are thousands of stalls and shops selling a huge variety of foodstuffs, making well-balanced, tasty meals possible on the trail. Even in Shigatse and other smaller cities there are many foods suitable for trekking.
Of 1~4Pax group, guide usually double takes the job to cook meals for you during trek in Tibet, with portable stove, tableware and ingredients prepared by travel agents; but when a group is larger than 4Pax, travel agents usually arrange another stuff to act as cook from Lhasa to tag along with you on the day you leave Lhasa heading to trekking spot.
But of course, with these extra services, the tour price will be higher. If you want to save money, there are various food you can buy in Lhasa to bring along yourself: vacuum-packed red meat and poultry, packed dried meat, fish, tofu, and dried fruits. etc.
As wonderfully cold and clear as much of the water in Tibet is, do not assume they always safe to drink. Travel agents usually have packages of bottle mineral water provided and guide will arrange to have them carry along for trek. If you’re offered Tibetan yak-butter tea, have it served in your own cup as per tradition – more like a soup than tea, it helps fortify you against the cold and replenishes the body’s salts.