I’ve recently returned from trekking Mount Toubkal with Adventurous Ewe for International Women’s Day. It was a truly life-enhancing experience. Beautiful views, challenging walking and the most fantastic group of women. Most of us didn’t know each other when we started out, but it feels like we’re now friends for life.
This wasn’t my first multi-day hike, but there were still a lot of firsts for me. First in winter conditions (hello ice axe), first when I was definitely one of the oldest trekkers (I’m 59), and first when I really needed some support. And that got me thinking about all the things that make these sorts of trek work for everyone. Things that maybe don’t get onto the kit list.
So here are my six extra things you need on a trek (and one surprising one that you don’t).
1. Strength and stamina
Good training will give you strong legs for all that walking. A strong back to carry your pack. But you need a strong will to succeed too. When the only way down the mountain is on foot, in the dark, you just need to keep going. And going. And going. I realised that you need to be 10% or maybe even 20% fitter than you expect, to allow for the inevitable unexpected. (In this case, slower walking because of super warm temperatures leading to super squishy snow).
Oh, how I wished I’d had two poles, not just one. At the end of a long day, two poles plus two legs are about the closest you can get to the mules who manage to traverse the path so easily. And when you’re not feeling so stable, you need …
3. Supportive team
Every single person going up and down Toubkal – Adventure Ewe leaders, local guides and fellow trekkers – was there for the rest of the group. Suggesting I follow in their snowy footsteps (thank you Jess). Pushing me to the front to follow the leader (thank you Jo and Abdul). Helping us find our happy place when the going was toughest (thank you Catherine T). Keeping me steady on the last stretch (thank you Yusef). And most of all, with everyone helping each other, such a good reminder that accepting help graciously doesn’t make you a weak or bad person, just the one who needs a hand right then.
If you can still smile after getting up at 3.30 am and walking for 14 hours, you’re doing all right. Maybe that’s partly what they mean by recovery time. How fast can you go from muttering ‘I hate this snow’ to grinning ‘I love my fellow trekkers and trekking’ when you stop?
Who knew that Coke, Pringles and Spam could be just what your body needs? Every kit list mentions bringing favourite snacks to keep you going. So for future trips ginger nuts, chocolate éclair sweets and pringles will be top of my list. Trail mix and protein bars just didn’t give me enough of an energy boost. As for the fabulous food served up by our local team? Turns out that rice, lentils and halal spam with fresh veg is perfect trekking food. And when you get the chance to buy a Coke on the trail it always tastes a million times better than at home.
6. Summit knickers
Our leader, Jo, will tell me off for this one. She’s all about ‘It’s no big deal, we’re just going for another walk today’. But for this all-woman team, choosing what to wear for summit day (and sleeping in most of it to save time) was important for warmth, comfort and celebration. Plus, you get a chance to relive your trek when you wear your summit knickers again!
And the one thing you don’t need?
We all know your body needs it.
But when you’re sharing bunks, campsites or dorms with other trekkers, there’s always a certain amount of snoring. Plus loo visits, and external noise – the desert wind in Jordan that made tents feel like crisp packets, the chorus of tent zips on the Inca Trail, or the dog that barks at 5 am. It’s amazing how far you can walk and how good you can feel on a few hours of less-than-perfect sleep.
So will I be trekking again? Try and stop me!
On every trek I learn more about myself. It’s a chance to stretch yourself mentally as well as physically, get away from normal life and discover new places and new friends.
And now I need more opportunities to wear my summit knickers.
This guest blog post was written by Jo Maslen, reposted from the original on the Adventurous Ewe website.
Adventure Queens and Adventurous Ewe are running another IWD summit in 2024- for bookings and more info click here.
Still on the fence? Check out another blog post on the 2023 trek here.