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As unfathomable as this may sound, some outdoor enthusiasts prefer trekking in the monsoon season. They can enjoy the mountains and nature without the crowds, there’s no worrying about lodges running out of rooms, swollen riverbeds make for some adventurous river crossings and the monsoon trekker can marvel at the distinct summer fashion of the Himalayas – hills upon hills of lush emerald green hues.
If you think wet trekking could be a good fit for you, it’s wise to be prepared for the elements. Before heading into the hills for some monsoon trekking this summer pick up some pro tips on facing the rainy season in the Himalayas.
Start your trek earlier in the mornings and make your days shorter in wetter areas as it typically rains more in the afternoons than in the mornings.
Bring quick-dry socks and t-shirts and breathable waterproof gear. For heavy and long showers in the peak of monsoon, waterproof jacket and pants are essential. While not the most fashionable of solutions, we personally swear by the poncho in lighter and intermittent showers as it can easily go over yourself and your pack and be put on in a flash. Other seasoned trekkers prefer the umbrella as you avoid having to put on an additional layer to stay dry and you can use the umbrella as a handy walking stick once the rain lets up.
Keep in mind that a wet pack is a heavy pack. A waterproof backpack is the best option for keeping your gear dry, but it can be expensive. A cheaper solution is buying a cover for your backpack or simply packing your wet-sensitive gear in dry bags, garbage bags or Ziplocks. Additional bags for separating your wet clothes from the rest of your kit is a worthwhile idea too.
Factor in transportation delays in your trekking schedule, especially when taking mountain flights. The heavy rains can make the roads to the trailhead difficult to negotiate and flights can be affected by weather delays caused by strong winds, rain and cloud cover.
While fellow trekkers are scarce during monsoon time, mosquitos and leeches are not. These pesky travel companions like warm and wet environments, so come armed with insect repellents for mosquitos (in the lowlands) and a solid combat plan for leeches in the mountains.
Leeches are quite skilled at wiggling through trainers, socks and even the toughest hiking boot. To protect yourself from an attack you can spray insect repellent on your socks and avoid resting on rocks or leaning on trees that haven’t been in direct sunlight. If you do get mistaken for lunch don’t try to pull the leach off as it will bleed quite profusely and leave a little bump. Instead, you can can encourage the leech to detach by rubbing table salt on it. Or do what the locals do and sprinkle Szechuan pepper on your shoes to ward off leeches. Szechuan pepper, also known as Himalayan fireberry or Timur in Nepali, can be found in grocery stores or markets in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
There is only so much rain waterproof trekking boots and gaiters can take. If you are on a longer trek your feet will inevitably get wet sooner or later. Opting for a light and breathable trail running shoe or a Gore-Tex lightweight shoe will improve your grip on wet and slippery surfaces, dry quicker between downpours and be easier on your legs.
Heavy rains are known to cause landslides in the Himalayas so if you are trekking in unknown territory it’s recommended to hire a local guide. Generally locals will avoid being outdoors in the heaviest of downpours if they are in landslide prone areas. If you are unsure it’s best to observe and do what the locals do. If they are not out or they are taking precautions on certain trails, you should follow suit.