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Making Career As A Trek Leader

Trek: Annapurna Base Camp

How many of you dream about being full-time in the mountains? I am sure it’s the majority of us. The allure of the mountains and being in a job that allows you to be in the lap of nature always may gleam very attractive. Who does not like to be in the peaceful mountains where one gets to experience the thrill and learn about life?

Now imagine the pleasure of earning while being in the mountains all the time. We get many queries and applications from our trekkers all the time, who want to know about the career prospects of a Trek Leader. So, it is really possible to work in the trekking field full time and if so, what does it entail?

The career prospect as a trek leader might seem very appealing but it requires a lot of skills, knowledge, and certifications, and it requires about 2 – 3 years of hard work to become a trek leader, and the job is equally as demanding. It’s not always bright and sunny in the mountains, you will also have to work in harsh weather conditions, snow, and rain and you have to be on top of your physical and mental capacity at all times. If you really want to venture into the career of Trek leading, here’s what you need to do.

Yes, before venturing into the wild, be sure you want to do it. Do not just hop on it only for pictures or a way to escape from society. Before investing in a month-long course, see if you can stand a trek first. Do a few more moderate and difficult treks and see how your body reacts, are you really enjoying it? Only if you are sure and are doing it for the right reasons, then only proceed. It’s not something that you hop into for a break from your job or as a means of escape from the mundane. Being a trek leader requires determination, qualification, and long-term commitment. If you think you can manage that then this is an option for you.

In India, Mountaineering Courses are compulsory to commence anything related to trekking or mountaineering. The primary one is the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC). It is a 28 days course conducted in the Himalayas. In this course, you will learn the basics of surviving at a high altitude and at the same time learn a lot about yourself.

Where to get Mountaineering Certification?

1. Jawaharlal Institute of Mountaineering and Water Sports (JIMWS or JIM) in Jammu and Kashmir

2. Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (ABVIMAS) in Himachal Pradesh

3. Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) in Uttarakhand

4. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling, West Bengal

5. National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (NIMAS) in Arunachal Pradesh. Youngest of all, founded in 2013.

Every Himalayan State offers Mountaineering courses. Select your favorite state and apply for the course. Every Institute reveals its yearly schedule well in advance. Each Institute runs 3-4 batches only every year. Amongst these, NIM and HMI are extremely popular and you may have a long waitlist before you get enrolled in one of these institutes. But, BMC from any Institute is good as long as you are not ready to wait that long. 

After BMC, if you are pretty sure about working in the trekking field, you can go for the  Advanced Mountaineering Course (AMC) and Method Of Instruction (MOI). These certifications are your gateway to the Mountaineering field. You are now ready to work as an Expedition Leader with enough experience. There are hundreds of applications every year, for Trek Leaders and with these certifications under your belt, you have a good chance to stand out.

If you are not ready to invest so much in the courses, then just apply as an assistant Trek Leader. Create your resume, build some experience, do First Aid courses. Start by working in local treks like the Western Ghats etc. Try to network with everyone related to trekking. After becoming Assistant Trek Leader if you manage to earn the confidence of your seniors you can directly be promoted as a Trek Leader. But it is a long shot.

Only when you are in the field can you understand its ups and downs. Being 24×7 in the mountains is really challenging. It requires a lot of physical and mental strength. It also requires a great deal of patience and good management skills to handle the trekking groups and conduct the trek safely.

Roles And Responsibilities Of A Trek Leader

Being a Trek Leader is no cakewalk, you have to be diligent in many different aspects to succeed in the profession. As a trek leader, you not only guide your team but you may also need to respond quickly and efficiently in emergencies and motivate the trekkers along the way. The following are the roles and responsibilities of a trek leader

A Trek Leader needs to be adept in the survival skills in the wilderness and at high altitudes. To make sure that your trekkers have a safe experience in the mountains, you need to be an expert in outdoor skills yourself. From using the equipment properly to giving CPR, a Trek Leader needs to have many skills under the belt. It is only when you have the necessary skills can you help others during a tough situation.

A good Trek Leader is one who is skilled in the art of people management. While technical skills are a must for any trek leader, the ability to manage is equally as important.  In high-altitude locations, there are many adversities and unforeseen challenges that you may come along and being the Leader, you have to make quick decisions as the situation demands and at the same time reassure the trekkers as well. You have to properly brief them regarding the challenges and bravely command your team through difficulties.

As a Trek Leader, your job is not only guiding people through the mountains but also taking care of them and educating people to do the same.  Sustainability should be one of the core values of a trek leader. At TTH, through our Green Trails Initiative, our trek leaders implement sustainable practices to keep the mountains litter-free and also work in collaboration with local communities to ensure that the wastes are deposited appropriately.

Often you will be required to play the role of a caregiver to your trekker and for that, a trek leader needs to be compassionate and have empathy for people. A Trek Leader should have a well-rounded personality and play the roles of a coach, a guide, a friend, a mentor, a rescuer, as the situations call for.

While the career of a Trek Leader is quite demanding, it is equally as rewarding. As a trek leader, you will not just grow within the organization that you are working in but also grow as a person.