Malayalis lose life during Uttarakhand trip: Is Sahashtra Tal trek dangerous? Experienced trekker explains

Sahashtra Tal is a trek mostly attempted by experienced and professional trekkers, though it also has a spiritual quality to it for some. Photo: iStock/kapulya

Two Malayali women lost their lives earlier this week during the renowned 'Sahashtra Tal' trek in Uttarakhand after their journey was interrupted by a blizzard. A total of nine out of the 22 members of their trekking group were killed. This is after they lost their way reportedly due to inclement weather conditions. At a time when many from the state, regardless of gender or age, are attempting challenging treks and mountaineering activities across the world, travel buffs are wondering what could have gone wrong during the Sahashtra Tal trek. How dangerous or challenging is this expedition? Experienced trekker Sobhi Negi, who runs the 'Himalayan Dream Treks' company in Uttarakhand, explains:

Experienced trekkers attempt it
According to Sobhi, Sahashtra Tal is a trek mostly attempted by experienced and professional trekkers, though it also has a spiritual quality to it for some. "For some people, it is like a Kedarnath yatra, which is attempted once in a lifetime. Sahashtra Tal trek is done at 16,000 ft above sea level and it is around 35 to 40 km, depending on the village you start it from. It also has multiple trails. I have been on this trek around five or six times and I am going on it again in September," explains Sobhi.
As for how crucial the age of the trekker is, Sobhi says, "Age is just a number and what matters is the experience and fitness to go on such expeditions. Still, the lung capacities can be different for a 30 and 60-year-old. Therefore, I always ask for medical certificates, previous trekking experience, activity level, Body Mass Index (BMI) details, recent photographs to understand body structures and more before taking people on such challenging treks." The two Malayali women trekkers who lost their lives on the Sahashtra Tal trek were 45 and 71 years old.

Sobhi has also experienced similar blizzards during the trek. However, he explains, "Himalayan treks always have their challenges, however big or small their duration or distance are. All you can do is be mentally ready for such challenges, alongside gaining experience going on other similar treks. You should also be prepared with the proper gear, refrain from straying away from your group, listen to your experienced guides and if the weather conditions are poor, halt your journey regardless of what your aim is."

Preparing for Himalayan treks
The trekker says that if someone wants to attempt a Himalayan trek, it is important to be aware of the safety requirements and invest in it. "Weather is everything in such treks and we can't fight nature. Therefore, safety should be given the top importance. At times, people choose tour agencies based on smaller budgets offered. However, do not risk your safety for a few thousand rupees, especially while travelling to the Himalayas," says Sobhi, explaining why. "It's important to check the credibility of your tour agency by checking websites, feedback, cross-checking with others and more to ensure you are given the right guidance. Also, ensure you have good gear - proper jackets, gloves, wind and waterproof clothing, scalp caps and more. All these can help you tackle situations like hypothermia or blizzards. If you are on a tight budget at the time, it's better to postpone the trip," he says. 

Safety during a blizzard
Interestingly, trekking guides often caution tourists about the possibility of instances like a blizzard during their daily briefings. Every morning and evening of the trek, such matters are discussed with the groups, Sobhi says. "Trekkers are also briefed on how to save themselves if conditions like blizzards occur. Trekkers will have to tie themselves properly to trees, take shelter under big stones or in caves and find secure corners to save themselves. They should keep their heads down, protect their faces and not let snow enter their mouths, and noses or injure their eyes during such incidents. They should use their trekking bags to protect them and follow the instructions of their guides. Moreover, if they have proper gear, they will be safe to a big extent," he explains. 

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.