Trekking in Nepal - Sharing the Trail

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Trekking in Nepal - Sharing the Trail

This image captures a common site on the trail in Sagarmatha National Park. Yaks move along the trail and Ama Dablam (6856 meters) provides a dramatic background as we trek higher in the direction of Mt. Everest. These small “yak trains” move supplies up and down the mountains as there are no roads in the area. Goods, food, and construction materials must move on somebody or something’s back or via helicopter. As a photographer, more so than the regular trekkers, a greater level of awareness is required for several reasons.

When you first start on a Himalayan trail in Nepal you quickly realize that you will be sharing the trail with humans and animals alike. Add to this that the trails are generally uneven rocks and narrow considerably in the steeper sections, so learning to safely navigate your way requires that a few principals be put into practice. A photographer staying alert for photo opportunities only adds another distraction. One would assume a higher level of predictability for people than for animals. While mostly true, the mixture of people from different parts of the world, different physical abilities, different ideas on how to share space (and which side to pass on), and different levels of awareness means you can’t completely assume how they will act. Aside from twisted ankles or knees trail accidents are fairly rare, but can be fatal in certain sections of the trail if one were to get bumped in the wrong direction. So, awareness even around our fellow humans is very important.

The trails running to Everest Base Camp and other parts of Sagarmatha National Park run from congested to wide open. But no matter where you are you will encounter mules, yaks and porters. In each case they normally carry wide loads and take up a lot of space. Without judgment I can tell you that the mules and yaks don’t care who you are or where you are standing. They are doing a job and it isn’t in their nature to care a lot about your well-being. So the moral of the story is that you stand to the side and on the inside of the trail when they approach. We learned quickly that standing on the outside of a mountain trail when sharing it with a 300 pound animal with a wide load raises the odds that you’ll be taking flight over the edge. Porters, some of who are carrying ridiculous loads (weight and girth) supported by straps over their head are normally looking down at where to place their next step. They also need a wide berth when you encounter them.

So while there are things to know and a few challenges on the trail it is manageable. As a photographer you’ll have more to deal with, but it is certainly worth it.