IIt was 6 a.m. on a Monday in May 2019. I had written my resignation letter. All that was left was that I hit the submit button. It was a big decision for me. I was afraid of giving up a corporate life that appeared to be “safe and stable” by social standards.
On the other hand, I had applied for a role on the other end of the spectrum – to be one Trek Leader in the Himalayas with Indiahikes. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to work as a Trek Leader. something that every trek leader is asked by his trekkers from time to time.
After all, Trek Leaders lead visibly tough lives, leaving their families and social ties behind to work tirelessly in snow, rain and rough sun, away from all the conveniences of civilization.
Still I quit. I came to Indiahikes as a Trek Leader and for almost 1.5 years I have been leading people on high-altitude hikes through the Indian Himalayas.
Now that I look back on my journey, I can answer the question “What does it mean to be a hiking guide at Indiahikes?” Easily and with a lot of pride.
Be a master of outdoor skills
The first thing that comes to mind is how many survival skills I acquired at Indiahikes. With the legacy Indiahikes built to be Trekking pioneers in IndiaEvery new Trek Leader feels the pressure and responsibility to acquire many hard skills, and do it quickly. To offer trekkers a safe high altitude experience, you have to be a master of outdoor skills yourself.
I remember having to undergo one intensive training of 15 days after joining Indiahikes, curated by the Senior Trek Leaders along the lines of a Basic mountaineering course. I was taught everything from learning how to properly pack my backpack, to swinging ice axes on snow-covered slopes, to evacuating hikers. The two weeks of training gave me so much confidence that I now know that I can survive on my own almost anywhere and in any situation. A belief that helps me guide hikers with confidence.
Everyone who applies to become a trek leader at Indiahikes must have previous trekking experience and, after joining, complete an intensive technical training
Learn the art of human resource management
In addition to technical skills, many soft skills and human resource management skills are required to cope with difficult situations in the wild at high altitude. Taking on the role of a Trek Leader at Indiahikes has ensured that I develop a strong personality and can make decisions in no time and that my team has confidence in my decisions.
Along with Decision-making authorityI have improved my communication skills. After giving briefing after briefing to a team of more than 20 trekkers, I slowly got over my fear of public speaking. Now I can boldly address a room full of people without breaking a sweat.
Be a hiker caregiver
I’ve developed one in the past 1.5 years strong sense of compassion and empathy for others as a result of the strong value system that Indiahikes has. This is imprinted on every individual who works with the organization.
The time creating a clinically depressed teenage girl who had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a trek made me believe that working as a trek leader helped me develop a well-rounded personality that fits into any shape: a leader, a friend, a speaker, a motivator, a sensitive shoulder to lean on.
Trek Leaders often become the greatest caregivers on treks, whether they are motivating trekkers on the trail or taking care of those who are uncomfortable.
Understand your responsibility to the environment
Working with Indiahikes has also made me a responsible global citizen, which I am very proud of. Green Trails, a wing of Indiahikes, based on the credo “Leave the mountains better than we find them”, ensures that our trekking is sustainable. Indeed, sustainability is one of Indiahikes’ most important values and when I work here I have become more aware of my choices not only in the mountains but also in the cities.
In fact, I started my journey at Indiahikes as an intern at Green Trails, working on the Manali slope, implementing sustainable practices and running workshops for local villagers. It was my experience there that introduced me to this value system at Indiahikes and eventually led me to join them as a Trek Leader.
Taking responsibility for representing the safest trekking organization in India
Being in the leadership position at Indiahikes is not an easy task. We are the safest trekking organization in India and this position comes with a lot of responsibility. The trust and confidence that our trekkers put in us to protect them has its own weight on a trek guide’s shoulder.
For this reason, every Trek Leader receives extensive medical training not just once but several times during his career as a Trek Leader. In fact, it’s so extensive that I was able to respond to almost any medical situation in the wild, including the worst of altitude sickness.
Safety flowchart on an Indiahikes trek
I recently had a trekker on the Gaumukh Tapovan Trek that was hit by severe AMS at 14,000 feet. Her oxygen dropped to a life threatening 55. I had to support her on oxygen and give her dexamethasone to evacuate her. During this evacuation, I wasn’t nervous for even a second. I was sure exactly what to do to keep them safe because of the training and safety protocols we have at Indiahikes.
This experience reminded me of a quote from a high-ranking trek guide: “It can be that something goes wrong with only one trekker in 500, but you have to be ready for that one trekker at all times.”
Move the organization forward
When you zoom out a little and work at Indiahikes, you are never limited to just your set role. Everyone is expected to contribute directly to the growth of the company by addressing not only their role but also other areas of work – Operations, Indiahikes Trekipedia, Green Trails and Experiential Learning.
As you grow within the company, you will be expected to take on larger roles in training and mentoring younger Trek leaders, helping them understand the company’s culture, and advancing the company’s vision in a coherent manner.
I think everyone does this almost naturally given the passion and property everyone at Indiahikes has to define the future of trekking in India. You have to wear so many feathers in your hat that you are never just a hiking guide. You are a manager, innovator, explorer, organizer and planner.
Indiahikes Office Team at the annual meeting in Bekal Beach, February 2020
A chance to get closer to yourself
After all, I believe that working outdoors has its own charm. We travel to distant countries, away from civilization, closer to nature and experience the local culture. But working here at Indiahikes also gives me the opportunity to be closer to myself.
The way Indiahikes views trekking not only really coincides with my beliefs about trekking but has also enriched my experience outdoors. I had a great inner transformation and became so aware of myself.
When I help trekkers see trekking for what it is – a transformation of mind, body and soul – I find meaning and satisfaction in my work that I have not found anywhere else.
I think all of us who work here at Indiahikes, whether on the slopes or in Bangalore, really believe in the philosophy of enjoying our work. We are all very proud to work at Indiahikes.
We are almost like a band of misfits looking for meaning in their work rather than materialistic achievement, coming together to change the face of trekking, and being celebrated for our daring to think so!