WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE? If the sun is out, it can be warm – temperatures can be around 28 – 30⁰ Celsius, but only for a short while. And with the wind chill factor, it could feel as cold as 10⁰ Celsius. Once the sun goes down, it can get chilly really fast. Night temperatures will be around -10 to -15⁰ with wind chill.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THIS TREK? The trekking days are long and you are constantly walking on scree and ice, so you need to be a confident walker. At times you may need crampons - but if you have never used them before don't worry, our guides will make sure you are taught how to walk with them. Even the trek on the acclimatization part of the trip are not a walk in the park, but they are necessary to get you ready for what lies ahead.
IS THIS TREK SAFE? The Indian Army uses the trekking route on a daily basis to supply and stock the higher posts along the Saltoro ridge. As such, this area is completely sanitized and is not considered to be a conflict zone.
Your biggest foe here is the thin air and the altitude. We are not passing through any avalanche prone areas either. In any case, we have chosen the safest months of the year – late summer is not avalanche season and the camps are all located in designated safe areas.
As far as temperatures are concerned, there is enough clothing to keep you warm. As Col. Kumar often says: “Cold has never been a problem in high altitude expeditions. It’s rarely the weather, it is more often your equipment that is to blame!”
WHAT IS THE TERRAIN LIKE? Be prepared for many crevasses – some wide enough to swallow you up. It's the reason everyone is require to be roped up. Steel and ladder bridges flung across deep crevasses are not an extraordinary sight and you need to keep your wits about you while you scramble across. . There is no technical ice climbing involved but be prepared for some steep and slippery ascents. Most of the time you’re walking on a clear well laid out path which could have some ice or fresh snow on it. Be prepared to camp in snow/ice at some locations – especially as you approach Kumar Base.
WILL WE BE WARM AT NIGHT? The sleeping bags provided to you are for -15⁰ Celsius. The tents you sleep in are high altitude tents which are well insulated against snow and icy winds. No bonfires are permitted and hot water bottles will be provided as far as possible. Do remember that water takes much longer to boil at high altitude and so this will be a true luxury! The dining tent laid out for dinner will keep you protected from the icy winds while you chow down before turning in for the night. Having said that, yes, the nights will be cold and you need to be prepared for that with the right clothing.
WHAT DOES A STANDARD DAY LOOK LIKE? Wake up around 6:00 AM with hot tea served to you. Wash-up and then breakfast around 7:00 AM. Leave for the day’s trek by 8:00 AM. The idea is to reach the next campsite before sunset or well in time to settle in for the night.
WHAT ABOUT MEDICINES? Take along your daily standard medicines that you normally take. Also, carry tablets for headaches, throat ache and constipation (last because you do tend to eat less).
HOW FIT DO I NEED TO BE? You will need to be fairly fit to tackle this trek. A person should be able to do 15 kilometres in 3 to 3.5 hours with a 10-minute break in between. It is imperative you pass your medicals before heading off. All your tests will be vetted by our high altitude medical specialist and only those pronounced fit will be allowed on the trek.
Along the trekking route you will be regularly tested to ensure your blood oxygen levels are up to the mark and your body is acclimatizing well, and that it is safe for you to continue. In case the medical assistant decides that you need to turn back, that decision will have to be respected. An MHE guide or an army personnel will accompany you back to Siachen Base Camp, from where you will be picked up by a vehicle and sent back to Leh. Your safety is our number one priority. ALWAYS. In Leh, our office will help you re-book your flights back home.
WHAT IF I PAID MY DEPOSIT AND THEN I’M FOUND UNFIT BY MHE’S HIGH ALTITUDE MEDICAL SPECIALIST? The deposit of ₹25,000 is to ensure your place on the team. You could choose to do your medical first and then pay the deposit, but you do run the risk of losing a place on the team if that gets delayed for any reason. Once you have paid your ₹25,000 you will be required to take a medical test. Should you not pass the test, ₹15,000 will be refunded to you. The balance covers our administrative costs.
IF I AM TURNED BACK MID-WAY, WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY I HAVE ALREADY PAID? MHE would already have incurred all the costs necessary for a safe trek. So no refunds will be given if you are turned back for any reason. In case you need to stay in a hotel in Leh/Manali for a few days before catching a flight back, we will try to adjust your accommodation costs as per the original plan. For e.g., if we have already planned for 2 night’s accommodation in Leh, those 2 nights will still be provided to you in case you have to return early. You will however, need to pay the extra for a single room if you are on your own, plus any extra transportation costs involved.
WHAT WILL THE FOOD BE LIKE? As we go higher, be prepared for simple vegetarian fare – a good combo of carbs, protein and fat. At lower altitudes you will get fresh vegetarian and non vegetarian meals but as you go higher expect more of canned foods like baked beans, meat loaf etc. Once you start the glacier trek a hot wholesome meal of soup, dal, rice and veggies is really the way to go! If you're hungry that's a great sign - it means your body is adapting well to the altitude, so don;t let that worry you. Tuck in those carbs - the energy will help you as you go higher. Tea/coffee/hot chocolate will be provided once you reach campsite every evening - water (basically a block of ice) takes a while to heat on butane gas burners at this altitude!
HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD I BE DRINKING? When our Trek Leader Dilshad Master led this trek in 2016, the army Ustads advised her to drink 8 - 9 liters of water a day! She says: "I drank about 7 - 8 liters everyday once the glacier trek started. I found that constant hydration helped me to acclimatize better and kept my blood pressure and pulse rate normal - as normal could be under the circumstances!"
WHAT DO I CARRY IN MY DAY-PACK? You will need to carry your wind-proof jacket at all times, sweets – to keep the saliva running, chocolates for instant energy (although we'd recommend dates - they don't dehydrate you), dry fruits like almonds and walnuts, water bottles or water bladders (if the latter, please ensure you’re carrying a spare one – sometimes water bladders burst if you pour hot boiling water in them).
WHERE CAN I PEE ALONG THE TREKKING ROUTE? Toilet tents will be provided once we settle in to camp for the night. During the trek, we look for an undulation in the land and take a quick pit stop as the rest of your rope waits. When you gotta go, you gotta go, so we honestly suggest you reconsider the idea of this trek if you are mortified with that thought!
WHAT DO I DO ONCE I REACH THE CAMPSITE?: Play cards, read a book, listen to music. Stepping out of your tents and taking a stroll isn't an option, so come prepared with enough reading material - a Kindle works best!
AM I ALLOWED TO TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEOS? With your mobile phone - yes. But be prepared to have your phones checked every evening by an army personnel. And be ready to delete any pictures they feel may compromise security and safety.
WHAT ABOUT CLOTHING? Layer for cold weather - master the art of layering to keep yourselves warm and comfortable. Your MHE Trek Leader will advise you on this as well, but roughly:
Stay Dry - That’s the golden rule of winter hiking for polar explorer Eric Larsen. "Your biggest problem isn’t getting cold," he says. "It’s actually getting too warm and sweaty, because once you stop moving, hypothermia can strike in less than five minutes on cold, windy days." So layering is key. If you start sweating, immediately shed layers or slow down. Here are the basics:
Layer 1: No matter how frigid the temperature, wear a light, long-sleeved base-layer next to your skin. Thinner layers wick sweat better and dry faster. Also, opt for shirts with thumb-holes, which keep drafts from sneaking in between your sleeve and glove.
Layer 2: Next comes a thin mid-layer—either wool, polyester, or a blend of the two.
Layer 3: A puffy, zippered jacket with a hood. This heat trap is your best friend in frigid temps.
Layer 4: A shell made of a waterproof/breathable fabric with taped seams. Size it big enough so it fits over everything else.
Stagger Zippers - Avoid stacking them around your neck and chin. Otherwise, you could have three to four zippers rubbing you wrong. Consider combining a crew neck base-layer with a zip-T insulating mid-layer, then topping them with a neck gaiter.
Secure Your Hood - If the wind’s whipping it, even with the cords cinched, put your goggle band over it.
Foil Fog - If your goggles steam over, most likely it’s because you’re too hot. Unzip clothes, manage your body temperature, and keep anti-fog wipes in a handy pocket. Keeping your balaclava off of your nose also helps; just don’t put your schnoz at risk for frostbite!
Wear Good-Fitting Gloves – Two layers – one thin fleece one and the outer storm protectors help to keep the chilly winds out.
Zip Up Your Pockets - If you don’t, "they can fill with spindrift when it’s really blowing," says Brian Clark, a meteorologist who works at one of the planet’s windiest spots, Mt. Washington.
Your Clothing and Footwear:
Down Jackets to -10⁰ Celsius.
Wind proof jackets – Goretex, and pants (latter to be worn over the trekking pants).
Thermals – inner dry fit ski tops, that’s your inner Layer 1.
Neck protection – a buff not a scarf.
Fleece or woolen Balaclava if you particularly feel the cold.
Fleece caps which will cover your head as well as your ears.
Two pairs of socks (if not 3). Be prepared for them to get wet.
Gloves – two pairs – one inner lining of gloves and one outer layer of mittens. Down filled not required, fleece woolen will suffice.
Boots – preferably Koflach boots for the glacier. Otherwise Climbing/Trekking boots with Vibram soles and Goretex cover. Make sure they lace at least 2 holes above your ankle and are waterproof and worn in.
Some softer warm bootees or boots for evenings can be good as you should not wear your daytime boots inside your tent, and they will keep your feet warm.
Crampons – these are anti slip ice cleats shoe boot grips and will be provided by MHE.
Walking sticks – as per your convenience but highly recommended.
Glasses – wraparounds or Glacier glasses (at least 2 pairs). They must not let ANY light in on the top, bottom or sides. Regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, will not protect you from the glare off the snow and ice.