An Introduction to Trekking

Often my friends confuse trekking with climbing. They hear that I've gone to Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro or to Patagonia and they assume that I am climbing with an axe and rope. I don't climb, people get hurt climbing. Trekking is a non-technical hike lasting a few days to a few weeks, and for some, even a month or more. 

Though trekking may not seem like a safe family-friendly activity, I am very risk adverse. When you take the proper precautions, trekking is adventurous but relatively safe. So, whether you go alone, or take your children, consider a couple important questions.

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My Story

After giving up competitive race walking, recreational race walking kept me fit but it didn't fill my need for a challenge. After an invite to join my friends on a trek to Everest Base Camp, I was hooked on a new challenge: trekking.

Within a year, my single-minded mentality seized on this new challenge and upped the ante. My goal was to hike the ten best treks in the world. Five years later, I have completed all but one of them.

While race walks continuously repeat lackluster 2K loops, treks are hiked along stunning landscapes that may include roaring rivers, majestic mountains, or remote villages. Some treks are destination oriented, like climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and its rapidly shrinking glacier. Other treks are a circuit, like the twenty day "stroll" along the Annapurna Circuit.

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Should I Hire a Guide?

When trekking you have many choices and it's not just about choosing the destination. You can trek independently or you can hire a guide. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

This summer my wife and I hiked the Tour de Mount Blanc (TMB) and the Haute Route. While along the TMB many people trekked independently whereas almost no one on the Haute route hiked unguided. Just about everyone was part of a formal organized outing.

Our independence allowed us great flexibility in route options, pace, and lodging, but it came with a price. At times, more times than we would have liked, the trail simply vanished. Without a guide, we often went the long way around.

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About the Author

Jeff Salvage is an internationally renowned walking expert. As an accomplished race walker and coach, he has turned his focus to the world of trekking and is now on a quest to hike the world's best treks. Over the past five years, he has journeyed to Everest Base Camp, around the Torres del Paine loop, up to the summit of Kilimanjaro and more. He is the founder of www.greattreks.com and currently researching a book on the ten best treks in the world. Photos of his travels can be viewed at www.twofeetgallery.com. He is also the author of the Two Feet Travels series of photo books, which are available at www.twofeetgallery.com or www.amazon.com.

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