As a natural choice for mountain lovers and hikers, I wanted to travel to Nepal for a couple of years now. As I can only take off a couple of weeks in a row from my work in either July/August or around Christmas, I always thought it’s out of reach. January 2015, a friend went hiking to the Annapurna region and posted stunning pics. After checking with him, the idea to travel there grew on me quickly. The year then evolved quite differently from what I expected … but in October I felt that I could not only handle the trip, but that I desperately needed another once in a lifetime experience.
A few weeks of preparation was enough for me – but some uncertainty remained. My family and friends worried about me hiking all by myself in winter time and snow. I was confident about hiking on my own, setting up alternative plans in case it would get to difficult or too cold. I heard about night temperatures dropping to -25°C, something I couldn’t really figure out. How would that feel? If and how can it be bearable? Even though I was laughing about it with my friends, drinking hot wine at a wood fire at 0°C – knowing I could go back into my cozy and warm flat any time to warm up.
My sleeping bag has a comfort zone of -6°C, I bought an inlay which promised up to 15°C additional warmth… but still I wasn’t expecting to get that cold, as I wouldn’t sleep in tents but in guesthouses. Even if these are not heated, they would still be providing shelter and some kind of insulation compared to the outside. And in the end, what about the Nepali living there? They are able to endure the cold, so why wouldn’t I?!
I am not used to hiking in the snow, so I googled a lot about equipment I would need. In the end I bought some lightweight micro-spikes for my hiking shoes. Combined with my hiking sticks and gaiters I was confident that this would be enough. It turned out I was overly prepared 🙂
I spent a lot of time filling out an excel file with my gear weight, but in the end I was still at close to 13kg without water… in summer I never have any problems hiking light, but winter changes everything. From my downjacket to the microspikes, gaiters, thermos or emergency biwak; all this winter equipment seemed absolutely necessary to me. I didn’t even bring any clothes to change, but still I was at 13kg. My electronic equipment seemed also nonnegotiable to me, how could I leave without my kindle to read in the evenings in case I don’t make any friends, how could I not take my iPod Nano in case the trail gets very tough and insurmountable without good music (anyway, a negligible 27g), how could I ever leave without my camera (which in addition was new and already much less weight than my usual DSLR – but still with all equipment at 670g)…
When I started buying hiking gear I wasn’t aware of ultralight options – and how important they can be if you go on real treks without any porters or mule or cars to carry your bag! The real difference to the weight would be an ultra light bag pack, at least half the weight of my current 2kg Gregory one (which I LOVE BTW because it fits perfectly). And a good ultralight down sleeping bag instead of my current 1300g + 360g Inlay. But I was confident that I could do this anyway, I had done some hiking weekends even with more weight for training purposes. I will soon realize how different a 2 day hike is compared to 19 days in the high mountains!