You don’t need to read this if you are an Himalayan veteran but if you are not, you should pay attention. Last year, while on a rock scramble in the Dhauladhar, I came across a young man from Mumbai, suffering from extreme dehydration and serious altitude sickness. He had set off that morning to climb to the Indrahar Pass but he had made some textbook mistakes. He hadn’t acclimatised well enough, having rushed up from McLeodganj the previous day. He had a train to catch that very night from Pathankot, a further display of his poor planning, and he wasn’t carrying enough water, food or sun-shade for his Indrahar attempt. He had been counting on the fact that his many weekend hikes in the Sahyadris had been training enough.
Well, the Himalaya ain’t the Sahyadris, simply because of the altitude, so you must prepare accordingly. Invest in two good pairs of boots that are waterproof and have excellent grip. One of these should be for light trail-walking and the other one for more difficult and colder sections. And don’t buy these just before your trek; ensure they are well broken in. Unless your trek operator is providing a tent, make sure you have a two-man tent and know how to set it up.
Whatever you do, carry your own sleeping bag, one that’s rated to at least -5 to -10 degrees Celsius. Carry two good hiking water bottles and always ensure you have packets of dry fruit and sweet lozenges handy. I have learnt from experience to carry shades (for intense sunshine and to prevent snow blindness), a hat to protect the head from the sun and a scarf to cover the neck, ears and nose.
Those are just the absolute basics. When it comes to preparation, you need to do proper strength training and cardio to ensure you have the stamina and strength to carry a 10kg backpack. Research your route thoroughly and carry maps. Learn the rudiments of navigation and carry a compass. Most importantly, give yourself enough time. Listen to your guide, don’t be foolhardy with tricky sections on the trail and learn to retreat from dangerous situations. There are no shortcuts, and you are asking for trouble if you don’t have buffer days for acclimatising to altitude. So set aside your ego, be mindful, and enjoy yourself.