Choosing a trekking guide – local guides Vs organizing companies in the Himalayas

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This is one of the biggest dilemmas for a trekker – Selecting organized trekking companies or experienced locals for the next trek. Well, there is no easy answer but this, however, needs a discussion. Since I have used the services of YHAI, Indiahikes, Renok, Adventure Nation and many locals, I will present some hard hitting and necessary comparison in order to help you decide.

Pros of trekking companies

  • They are organized, structured and responsible. (Adventure Nation and to some extent Renok sucks as they hire locals, in turn, that too sometimes inexperienced ones and leave you at their fate)
  • They will give you alternatives in case trek gets canceled.
  • Well equipped to handle emergencies
  • better infrastructure in terms of tents, sleeping bags, crampons, sanitation facilities, etc

Cons of trekking companies

  • Group activity: I just hate it. I don’t go on a trek for team building or networking. I have a job for that. They will force you to be part of such random shits (I am sorry if have offended someone). I go on a trek to speak less and contemplate more. Trekking is my meditation. I want to sit in some beautiful spot and appreciate nature and weather around.
  • Group size: Again some companies take as many as 40 folks. It is humanly impossible to manage a group this big which by the way also has a higher probability of having some jerk for whom social media is the only motive to be on this trek. The bigger the group size, the slower the average group speed and in treks like KGL, being extremely slow means reaching your next camping spot is after dusk.
  • No non-veg: Well, nothing as such as a con but I am non-vegetarian and I think it is 😀

Pros of local experienced guide

  • All the cons of trekking companies are absent or optional. The group size is not more than 10-12 (if it is, then better to avoid them), no forced group activities, and choice of menu
  • A smaller group also means that the average speed of the group will be higher and you, in turn, will reaching your next campsite earlier to enjoy the sunset
  • At times locals have way more experience of the region than the guides from trekking companies. They are the expert in the area.
  • Family kind of touch: The local guides will go all the way to make you feel comfortable. You can sit in the kitchen, chit-chat, play games and even cook at times.
  • Foods varieties are much better. Jams, peanut butter, sandwiches, poha, upma, dalia, chicken, egg, omelet. EVERYTHING
  • You will not be carrying or cleaning your own utensils. You can if you want to

Cons of local experienced guide

  • You have to extra careful, do a proper research before finalizing one as most of them tend to lie a lot, about everything. One amazing example is that every one of them will boast about his experience of establishing Indiahikes in the region. EVERY ONE OF ‘EM.
  • While they are experienced, but they sometimes tend to take risks after being pushed by their customers
  • It is very difficult to find the right guide. Every one of them will seem more experience than others.
  • They are little light on medicines and other precautionary tools while trekking companies will stock everything possible in case of emergency. They will regularly monitor your pulse and blood oxygen level.
  • At times, their trekking infrastructure will be lower than their organized counterparts. Meaning no sleeping bag liner, no pooping tents with sawdust to suppress smell, and no mono-colored tents for your fancy intsa snaps. Even at times, their tents will be torn in places. Be PREPARED for such surprises

Bottom Line

  • Do not go for a local guide until you have not done at least a couple of high altitude treks. Wandering in western/eastern ghats or small hills don’t count
  • For winter trek and monsoon, I would suggest you go with organizing companies.
  • In summer, these locals are your best choice but you need to do a proper research. My blog on things to keep in mind before booking a local trekking guide will help you with that.
  • If you are going with a local, clarify everything (tent, food, guide) beforehand

Do let me know if you have a different perspective in the comments section

Happy trekking !!!


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