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Trekking in Nepal • How it began

The word trek is taken up from the Afrikaans’ word trekken, which means to haul or pull. The Dutch settlers of South Africa spoke it. It means a long, arduous journey.

Enchantment with the mountains has existed in humankind for as long as it can be remembered. Nepal’s trekking history began with mountaineers’ teams on expeditions to climb the majestic peaks. Nepal became known as a trekkers’ paradise when British adventurer Bill Tilman managed to get permission from the then King to go on several treks in 1949. He explored the Kali Gandaki, Helambu, and Everest regions. Maurice Herzog was another early visitor to Nepal. He led a successful French mountaineering expedition on Mount Annapurna (8,091m). The Americans in 1950 and the British in 1951 also led mountaineering expeditions to Mount Everest.

Colonel Jimmy Roberts, a retired Gurkha Officer and a Military Attache at the British Embassy in Kathmandu, saw great potential in trekking as a business. He had spent a great many years hiking in the hills of Nepal. He even accompanied Tilman on his first exploratory trek. As a result, Jimmy Roberts founded Mountain Travel, Nepal’s first trekking company, in 1964, giving birth to commercial adventures in Nepal’s mountains. His idea was revolutionary for that era.

The early trekking expeditions were done in a fully supported camping style. A western leader accompanied the clients and the Sherpa support team from a Sirdar (foreman), his assistants, a cook, his kitchen boys, and numerous porters to carry all the camping equipment and food.

This trekking style in Nepal made it a luxurious experience and possible for more adventurous travellers who didn’t mind paying Nepal’s price in comfort. Mountain Travel remained Nepal’s only trekking company until 1968. The first commercial trekkers were three American ladies who were ex-pats in Calcutta. These ladies were a sporting trio of enthusiasts, according to Jimmy Roberts. He was joined by Mike Cheney and Dawa Norbu Sherpa at Mountain travel.

His overseas pioneer partners were Allen Steck, Barry Bishop, and Leo LeBon from the U.S.A and Australian Warwick Deacock, the owner of “Ausventure.” They began to send clients regularly from their respective nations to trek in Nepal.

Mountain Travel inspired other tourism entrepreneurs when their business prospered; this was the beginning of more trekking and adventure companies starting in Nepal.

It was not easy in those days, but they managed to lure the rich and the famous into this mysterious and remote kingdom with vivid imagination and creativeness. Despite the disadvantages of using telegram and crackly telephones, Nepal became trendy and a sought-after destination for American and European adventurers.

We at Responsible Adventures have been working on innovative and pioneering ideas to keep this tradition alive to provide exceptional experiences to the trekkers who value their trekking vacation. For example, we started Wellness culinary trekking vacations in the Himalayas.

Some quotes from our pioneering forefathers of tourism in Nepal,
“I would rather handle half as many tourists with each spending twice as much,” was Jim Edwards’ mantra. Moreover, Jimmy Roberts used to rue: “Why are we selling our beautiful mountains so cheap?”