Hiking is a great way to improve your health, fitness and experience weight loss. Hiking can destress and detox you.

Q&A with Kirkland Shave, Program Director at Mountain Trek – Part II

Kirkland ShaveIn this sixth installment of our Q&A series we bring you part two of our interview with Kirkland Shave, Mountain Trek’s intrepid Program Director, hiking guide, and esteemed lecturer. In our last post, we left off with Kirkland discussing the reasons behind Mountain Trek’s high guest return rate (30-40%).

Kirkland: I had this expectation that once they (guests) come, they’ll get it and they’ll go home and they’ll change. I was so naïve. And then I realized we’re more like a trainer for an Olympic athlete, they still need tweaking and adjusting.

MT: And the tweaking and adjusting is better or easier done back at Mountain Trek?

It’s just so hard out there in a dominant work culture for people to be able to adjust their life to keep a regimen of fitness, nutrition and overall healthy living going all the time. People need to start by incorporating one thing and turn that one thing into a healthy habit. Through my research on will power and habit making I’ve come to realize that habits are formed and work better incrementally. Very few people are at that threshold where they’re ready to just grab onto new information, or habits, or lifestyle changes, and go.

The majority of guests will go home from Mountain Trek and change an eating habit – they’ll start eating breakfast every morning, for instance. And then they’ll return, maybe a year later and when they get back home they’ll start walking after dinner or join a yoga studio. And it’s these incremental habits that they weave into their lifestyle that then become a tipping point that changes their life.

It’s really easy for us to slip into old and sometimes unhealthy habits isn’t it?

It totally is. Up until the 1970s most of us still worked with our bodies. It’s only been a very short time that we’re not able to get our movement needs through work. And with expanded work hours and commute times, it’s almost impossible to find the time to exercise. In the meantime, Mountain Trek is here for people to come in, gain some insights learn about healthy choices.

And rebuild or reboot a healthy lifestyle from there?

Absolutely. Some returning guests come for a reboot and some come for a deeper immersion – a couple of weeks where they can really anchor certain patterns and help set up new habits.

Would you say most guests come to Mountain Trek for weight loss?

Hmm…you could say consciously most are but underneath that many guests are coming because they know that something in the big picture is not working. Weight gain is often a symptom of stress or chronic lack of movement and exercise. Everybody that’s come here has gained weight and lost weight at different times in their lives. People don’t come here and think, okay I’ve got to lose ten pounds just to fit into a wedding dress next week. It’s more to start to create a new, healthy direction for themselves, with the bonus or motivator of some significant change in their weight.

Is there an overall Mountain Trek experience, some special thing that sets you apart from other fitness and weight loss programs?

What I think sets us apart from all the other choices out there around health and weight loss retreats or spas, is our significant immersion in a complex natural world.

Kirkland Shave, Program DirectorWhat exactly do you mean by complex nature?

There’s a lot of research out there about what’s being coined, “the green brain.” This research states that when someone is out in nature there is a drop in the stress hormone cortisol and an increase in the feel-good hormones oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. They bathe the brain and help fight that edgy, depressive, vigilant state that cortisol puts us in. This happens by being in, or even just seeing nature. Even having a picture on your office wall of jungle or complex nature creates a sense of fascination, lowers cortisol and increases oxytocin.

Would you say complex nature is Mountain Trek’s secret ingredient?

Yes! At Mountain Trek we’re outside four hours a day in a complex, ever-changing natural environment. And then our gym and yoga studio and even the drives to the trailheads, all look out at beautiful, green, abundant nature. This is definitely our secret ingredient. Other retreats have gyms, they do yoga, they offer detox, calorie control or sleep health, but they don’t have as complex a natural environment that creates a high level of fascination and hormone adjustment as we do.

How many staff work at Mountain Trek and would you consider them top in their field?

We have about 30 staff and I’m definitely prejudiced when I say they’re top in their field for where we live. But the unique thing about our staff is that they’re not in their 20s or 30s and fresh out of a university health and fitness program. Our staff are mature mountain people.

What do you mean by ‘mountain people’?

People that have chosen to live in the Nelson area for long periods of time because of lifestyle. They ski, mountain bike, hike and climb. They live and breathe being in nature and living a healthy lifestyle. We all eat more plant foods than meat. Some of us are vegetarians. Some have their own yoga practices. So the staff that I’m able to pool here are all highly trained in their disciplines, they all have wilderness first aid certificates, and they all live the type of lifestyle that we try to infuse our guests with.

I know you’re a busy guy, Kirkland, so one last question. Are some guests unable to make it through the program and if so why?

No. There isn’t anybody who can’t make it through. I’ll be honest, there have been one or two that have left prematurely because they didn’t feel that they could make it through, as much as we tried. And they usually leave after the first day because it’s too much of a shock or they’re coming to stop smoking or something that they just weren’t ready to do. Why we have two staff to every one guest is to ensure that each individual person’s needs are met. Even if someone hasn’t exercised in eight years and they’re carrying an extra eighty pounds, we accommodate them.

Okay, great. Thanks for your time Kirkland and good luck with the rest of the season at Mountain Trek.

My pleasure. Thank you.

Q&A with Kirkland Shave, Program Director of Mountain Trek – Part I

Kirkland Shave Program Director Mountain TrekIn the fifth instalment of our Q&A series we veer slightly from the path and, instead of interviewing a Mountain Trek guest, we thought we’d give you a peek behind the curtain and sit down for a chat with our very own Kirkland Shave.

Kirkland is a Nelson, BC, resident and has been Program Director and Manager of Mountain Trek since 2004. Not only is he a hiker extraordinaire he also plays bass guitar in his son’s band and he’s one of Mountain Trek’s most popular, poignant and engaging lecturers.

Hi Kirkland. Thanks for taking time out of your busy Mountain Trek schedule to talk with us. Let’s start with your professional and personal background and what led you to Mountain Trek?

A culmination of a variety of work and life experiences led me here. Let me back up a bit though. As a teen I started looking at alternative ways of living. I started meditating, I became a vegetarian, and I started shifting away from team sports to outdoor recreation activities. I did martial arts, yoga, and later I became a yoga instructor. I have a teaching degree and a degree in Anthropology, and for a long time I was a local British Columbia Park Ranger. Following that I started running my own wilderness and primitive skills school. Then, about 11 years ago, the original owner at Mountain Trek hired me to come out and teach these wilderness skills one day a week for a few summers. From there, because of my ranger and yoga experience, I became a hiking guide and yoga instructor at Mountain Trek.

Soon thereafter, the owner asked a dietician, kinesiologist and myself to build a weight loss program. Back around 2000 the obesity epidemic was in the news a lot so we got rid of our recreation program at Mountain Trek and started this weight loss program. But through our own knowledge base we basically turned it into a metabolism-raising program with weight loss being a by-product. It became popular very quickly and just took off from there.


Would you say that your job with Mountain Trek has been your most fulfilling one?

Absolutely because I’ve always loved nature and working outside and now I get to take people into nature… and I get to introduce people to a healthy consciousness about their body and what it means to possess emotional well-being. I’m also trained as a life coach so this is where I can focus in on what’s stressing people and how this affects their well being.

You love working with people in the outdoors, and the Mountain Trek lodge is certainly surrounded by breath-taking nature. What would you say is the profile of the average Mountain Trek guest?

They are all primarily urban, corporate North Americans. About 75% women and 25% men. The average age for a woman would be 42 and for men about 50. Men tend to be a little bit slower in paying attention to their body or health concerns, whereas women are a bit more finely attuned that way.

Are the guests already familiar with the great outdoors?

Most of them have not hiked before. I would consider them hard working professionals and traditionalists. And by traditionalist I mean they don’t regularly eat tofu, for example, or practice yoga. In fact 90% of our guests have never done yoga before. So we’re taking these professionals and opening the door, so-to-speak, so they can see other ways of living that promote more health and longevity for them…ways of living that they can weave into their lifestyle.

Does this mean that relatively fit young men and women need not go to Mountain Trek?

Not necessarily. What happens is that through sendentarism, sitting at work, commuting in a car, etc, our bodies move into a catabolic state – we become slower and suffer chronic inflammation that affects our hormones. This domino effect on all aspects of our health starts to build as we age so that people in their 40s and 50s start to feel the cumulative effects of this sedentary work life more so.

People in their 20s and 30s still have an anabolic metabolism. But even with this age group we’re noticing that the catabolic shift is happening at a younger and younger age. People come out of university and get right into a job where they tend to sit all day. We gain weight, have chronic sleep issues, less energy and vitality and on and on to worse things like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid problems.

So, to answer your question, we could target younger people but they don’t quite see the need as acutely as someone who’s a little bit older. Nor do they typically have the money. You know, it’s a health investment and a lot of 20 or 30 year olds would rather go on a trip to Paris for a week or two…

Or Thailand…

Yeah, or Thailand.

A one or two week program at Mountain Trek is rewarding but it takes dedication. People seek out the program not only to lose weight and change their metabolism but also to kickstart an entire lifestyle makeover. That can be emotionally challenging. Do your guests ever come back, or is once enough for them?

Actually, we get a big return rate – 30% to 40% are returnees in any given week. Going back about six years though, I thought something about the program was failing. I wondered why our guests kept coming back. I had this expectation that once they came, they’ll get it and they’ll go home and they’ll change. But now I realize it’s important that people “check in” with us regularly, and get back on track. They need what I call “Mountain Trek’s magic ingredient.”

In part 2 of our Q&A with Kirkland Shave, we find out the reason for Mountain Trek’s high return rate, discover whether guests have ever left the retreat without completing the program and learn more about the retreat’s “magic ingredient.” 

Best Kootenay Hikes | Mountain Trek’s Staff Picks

Spring Hiking Health Program

One of the key features of the Mountain Trek experience is hiking in nature. Our beautiful lodge in Ainsworth, British Columbia, is surrounded by the majestic, snow-capped peaks of the Purcell and Selkirk Mountain ranges. The area is replete with ghost towns, mossy trails, and clear-flowing streams that feed the stunning, 100-kilometer long Kootenay Lake.

So as homage to the abundant nature that surrounds us, we share our favorite Kootenay hikes. These hikes are meant to challenge and motivate you, get your heart rate up, and set your spirit soaring.

Monica Meadows


There are fewer trails in the world that offer such relatively easy access for such a great pay off. Monica Meadows, located in the Purcell Mountain Range, is one of the most stunning locations in southern British Columbia. With vast meadows, shallow lakes, vibrant larches, gorgeous alpine flowers, and views of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Monica Meadows is a haven of calm beauty encircled by rocky mountains. An 8-kilometer hike from the trailhead, through cool forests, and along boulder-strewn pathways will get you there in no time so we can rest, enjoy the views and even go swimming before our return.

Idaho Peak


This is a moderate hike that takes you to some of the best views and most abundant wildflowers in southern British Columbia. We begin our hike at the ghost town of Sandon, then wind our way up along old mining trails and logging paths before reaching the viewpoint. Once there you’ll enjoy gazing down at the town of New Denver on Slocan Lake below, as well as breathtaking views of New Denver Glacier, the Valhalla Mountain range, Kokanee Glacier, and Mt. Cooper.

Evans Creek

View Of Slocan Lake

From the trailhead at Slocan City, you’ll hike on the undulating, moss-lined trail along the shoreline of Slocan Lake. On the way, you can expect spectacular rocky vantage points, special pockets of flora, and prime swimming spots. Round trip, the Evans hike is approximately 15 km (18 km if we make it to Evans Lake) and includes a lot of Ponderosa pine, juniper, white cedar, and fir trees befitting the drier climate zone. There are some fun rock ledges to clamber out onto to take in the beautiful views up and down the lake. Knowing that the surrounding Valhalla majestic peaks were named after Norse Gods makes the Evans Creek hike that much more mythic.

Galena Trail

Galena Bay Abandoned Mining Site

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Slocan Valley. The Galena Trail follows the route of a railway line that dates back to the glory days of Silvery Slocan. It once connected the silver mines of Sandon via sternwheeler service from Nakusp to the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline at Revelstoke. The rail beds were abandoned over 100 years ago and Mother Nature has reclaimed much of the existing corridors. This historic trail follows the old railway line, passed the ruins of abandoned mines and ghost towns like Alamo. Occasionally, we’ll even take the two-person cable car crossing over Carpenter Creek along the way.

Kokanee Glacier Park

Kokanee Lake in Kokanee Glacier Park

Located just west of the Mountain Trek Lodge, the beautiful Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park offers an incredible alpine experience with very little effort. The park is one of the oldest in the province and boasts no less than three glaciers, including Kokanee, Caribou, and Woodbury. These glaciers feed over 30 lakes and are the headwaters of many creeks. On a typical hike, we’ll visit two of those lakes, Gibson and Kaslo, with water so clear you’ll be able to watch rainbow and cutthroat trout swimming by. The trail is about 14 kilometers round trip and guests will enjoy views of the surrounding peaks, glaciers, and sub-alpine flower meadows. Depending on the season, we’ll also see eagles, ptarmigan, pikas, marmots, mountain goats, and feast on wild huckleberries.

Pilot Peninsula

Pilot Peninsula Park

Pilot Peninsula Provincial Park is the safest harbor on Kootenay Lake and is perfect for swimming and hiking. The trail we typically take skirts the shoreline of Kootenay Lake and offers multiple pebble beaches. In fact, Pilot Peninsula is a great start to our week as it’s very flat, with hardly any elevation gain or loss. We won’t bag any peaks on this trail but it’s still an incredible foray into some stunning BC wilderness that includes tall stands of aspen, colorful wildflowers, calm coves, and around every corner, views of the surrounding peaks.

When it comes to healthy living, our philosophies are rooted in nature as well – from our locally sourced, organic meals that nourish your body to the core content of our inspiring lectures, to the many stunning, butt-toning hikes we go on every day. We hope you can join us on some of the best Kootenay hikes.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Your votes are in – we’re going to JAPAN!

Cherry Blossoms in JapanRecently Mountain Trek asked our alumni and Facebook fans to vote on where we should go for our overseas hiking adventure in 2014: Japan or Italy?

The voting was heated at times with people making great cases for both locations. “Japan? Seriously? How could I NOT do that? You got my vote,” wrote Gina. But Penny wasn’t convinced, saying: “Italia…naturalmente!” There were even a few comments, including one by Giorgio that said, “Just do both!” Ultimately, though, the numbers began favouring one destination over the other and, finally, with just a 7% lead in votes, Japan was chosen as the location of our Spring 2014 adventure.

Thank you to everyone who voted. We’ve now started looking into various possibilities for hiking adventures in the “land of the rising sun.” For more information, please visit our Japan 2014 page.

Incidentally, for those who may not know, every Spring Mountain Trek offers off-the-beaten-path adventure treks, rich in cultural and historical significance. These hiking vacations, although not part of our regular fitness and weight loss program, involve hiking every day which will always help to increase your fitness level and boost your metabolism. With three different sessions, suited to three different fitness levels, you’ll always trek at a pace that is comfortable and perfect for your ability. After you kickstart your fitness and weight loss at Mountain Trek, treat yourself to an adventure vacation and explore some of the most celebrated regions in the world: in 2011 we hiked up to Everest Base Camp in Nepal; in 2012 we hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain; and earlier this year we explored The Peruvian Andes. For 2014, join us in the fascinating and beautiful island nation of Japan.

How to Properly Fit a Pair of Hiking Boots


hiking boots on grass with flowers

Before venturing out for a hike, it’s important to have the right footwear. There are two things you need to know to find the perfect pair of hiking boots. Firstly, get acquainted with the different types of boots, and secondly, how to ensure a proper fit. We’ve laid out the basic information necessary to fit a pair of boots that will carry you comfortably into nature.

Types of Boots

Light Hikers AKA Trail Runners

Typically made of fabric and breathable mesh with a DWR finish, these are best suited for maintained trails. They have flexible soles and come with different grip types depending on terrain. Great for walking, trail running, and hiking for shorter distances. Depending on the strength of your ankles, you may want to opt for a higher boot. 

Light Over-Ankle Hikers

With a thicker sole, these are the better option for day hikes on maintained trails. They’ll carry you nicely over rocks, roots, and up those steep grades while giving your ankles a bit more support for your way down. Commonly found made of leather and/or fabric with a DWR finish. 

Backpacking Hikers

These boots are intended for multiday hikes into the backcountry. They have high ankle supports and thick soles designed to provide support for carrying more weight over both maintained and unmaintained trails. Also made of leather and/or fabric with a DWR finish.

Water-Proofing Your Hiking Boots

Most hiking boots come with a durable water-resistant finish. Depending on the quality of the boot and frequency of use, this can wear off after a short period of time. If you notice that water does not quickly bead and roll off a boot’s surface, it’s time to add a waterproofing treatment. 

First, clean the boot and then spray on or apply a waterproofing product such as Nikwax or Granger’s. Each company makes products specific to the material of your boot, whether it’s leather, suede, nubuck, or synthetic. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product’s label and once you’ve completed the application let the boot air dry – do not use a hairdryer.

Ensuring Proper Fit

Any reputable outdoor gear store or shoe store will have trained boot fitters on hand to take you through the selection process. They will measure all aspects of your foot (from length to width to arch size) and then suggest a number of different pairs of shoes to try. Try on at least five different pairs of shoes and be sure to lace them while standing up and putting your full weight on your foot. The correct boot for you should feel comfortable right from the beginning. 

Tips to ensure the perfect fit

Take your time 

Budget the time needed to be fitted and make the proper choice. Don’t show up to buy boots near the store’s closing time and then rush a decision.

Wait until the afternoon to shop

Feet swell as the day progresses, and you want the boots to fit well when they’re at their “pudgiest.”

Bring or buy good socks 

Bring your own merino wool or similar wicking-style socks to wear while trying shoes. We can’t say enough about the necessity of wearing a quality sock when you hike. They can make the difference between all-day comfort or misery. So many people pay top dollar for good boots, and then skimp when it comes to socks. Expect to pay a minimum of $15-$25 per pair. Merino wool is highly recommended, and there are many good synthetics in the market as well. Cotton socks hold moisture and create blisters.

Consider your foot’s measurements 

Good shop attendants will measure everything about your foot before you even consider putting a shoe one. This includes length, width, volume, and arch height.  Regarding length, when the boot is unlaced and the toes are pushed to the front of the boot there should be ¼ inch of space at the back of the boot. This small amount of space is necessary for some “give” when going up and down hills.

Note how they feel  

The right boot for you should feel comfortable from the beginning. Do not purchase a boot thinking that the comfort level will rise after a break-in period. If something is “off” in the store, then time and wear could make it worse, not better. Take time in the store to put the boots through their paces, and then wear them for several days indoors to make sure that no trouble areas develop. If during this trial time, a sore area is noted, return the boots to the store and try again. The perfect boot is out there, and this initial attention to detail will reward you with happy feet on the trail. Plan your first few hikes to be short ones, so that you and your new boots can gradually become acquainted.

So whether your walking on a gravel path, running a trail, or camping on mountain tops, use this guide to help find the right footwear to take you there! 

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Caring For Your Feet – Tips and Products To Use

Foot Care at Mountain Trek

At Mountain Trek, guided hikes are a part of our daily schedule. When we are so used to being seated for most of our days, our feet can take a beating when it’s time to hit the trail. Long distances require some care for the feet, especially if the feet are kept prisoner in city shoes for the week. So we want to share a couple of our favorite products with you.

Foot Care Tips for Hiking and Walking

Friar’s Balsam

The first product is Friar’s Balsam or Tincture of Benzoin. It is a brown liquid that you dip a Q-tip into and paint on the heel of your foot as an anchor to put bandages on. You can get this at any pharmacy.

Mefix Tape

The second product is a tape called Mefix. This is a slippery thin tape that takes barely any room in your shoe. We cut this tape to a 2 ½ inch length, round the corners so your sock doesn’t peel it off, and we stick that from the sole of your foot over your heel bone, working up the Achilles, and that picks up the friction that occurs as your foot goes up and down.


Molefoam is a fuzzy foam pad that protects from pressure in our shoes. We cut little donuts out of that and place it over bone spurs, bunions, callus points, any place you’re worried about the pressure that you normally feel in any shoe. You would cut a little rectangle piece out of it, flip it over, cut a half-circle, round the corners, and voila, you have a little donut.


Remember to cut your toenails back, because if they’re too long and they slide at the end of your shoe, they’re going to hammer and you’re going to lose a nail. Make sure that the corners are filed so that your toes fit in your shoe, when they’re continually moving for balance, don’t dig in and scrape each other.

Lamb’s Wool

To that point, I also want to talk about another product, which is Lamb’s Wool. You may have used this with Mountain Trek before. We take this product for some of you that get blisters because your toes are overworking for balance, and we weave this in between the toes so the toes have something that picks up the friction and doesn’t allow moisture from sweat to cause the skin to get soft and rub and peel off. So that’s something you can also pick up at the pharmacy.

All the best to you, and happy trails and enjoy the sun as spring starts to come forward.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Hills, Hikes and Health in Baja

The Grounds at Rancho La Puerta

Mountain Trek Heads to Rancho la Puerta

When you think of boot camp, do you think about suffering for your own well-being and improved health and fitness? Well, boot camp at Rancho La Puerta á la Mountain Trek, that couldn’t be further from the truth when we head south of the border for two weeks in November.

What To Expect

Oh, you’ll still sweat, after all, that means your heart rate is performing and detox is happening. But folded into a day of vigorous hiking and workouts is the spiritual, physical and emotional renewal for which the Ranch has become world-famous. Replacing the old-growth forests and alpine ridge tops of British Columbia, are birds, rabbits, and quail scurrying about the lavender and rosemary-scented gardens that make up the Ranch’s landscape. The Ranch has been named one of the world’s top destination spas, a reputation it rightly deserves with its luxury spa amenities and accommodations.

Hiking weight lossAs the vibrant colours of fall pass into the grey skies of winter in the north, the sun is shining south of the border. Rancho is nestled in a sheltered valley only an hour’s drive from San Diego and known for it’s beautiful climate, with sunshine over 325 days a year.

When asked, Kirk Shave, Program Director at Mountain Trek, said that the biggest difference between the program in BC and the one they run in Baja is the smorgasbord of exceptional classes that the Ranch delivers. “There’s everything from feldenkrais, to sculpt and fit, to hydro-fit in ozone pools to Tibetan bowl chanting. And they’re top notch.” While Mountain Trek’s program in BC is restricted to boot camp, guests at the Ranch will have two hours each afternoon to pick and choose from the myriad of offerings. The Ranch runs six or seven classes every hour. “The quality of their programs are exceptional and add an exciting lift to our boot camp,” says Kirkland. “But when classes stop at 5pm at the Ranch, we keep going with our evening fitness activity.”

Hiking directly from the lodge means there’s no travel time. So after morning yoga at dawn and breakfast, trekkers head to the hills for three to four hours of hiking amid a labyrinth of trails in the Chaparral country.

How is the Ranch Different?

There’s almost no experience like this. All the fitness, weight loss, and nutrition of Mountain Trek at a world-famous luxury retreat. “We feel so good about taking our guests to The Ranch every year,” Kirk adds. “For one, it allows us to continue to offer our program through the winter months, for another, is the top-notch facilities and staff that the Ranch provide. It really is an oasis.”

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Hiking Tips & Techniques For Fitness

Working togetherHere are a few hiking techniques to practice in your new light hiking boots or trail runners…if you wish to prepare before joining us!

How to walk in the Woods at our hiking spa

It is said that ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, but what if that step is a steep muddy trail or crossing a moss covered log fording a melt water creek? Hiking in the woods is not always as simple as it sounds. Sure, if you want to lace up the sneakers and hike around Central Park it may be that simple, but to truly define and refine hiking you need to start with your footwork. Proper walking techniques while on the trail can increase endurance, reduce fatigue, and lessen the chance of injury which over all will make that thousand miles quite a bit easier. When we walk on the sidewalks of our hometowns we generally travel over even concrete, reasonably graded hills, uniform staircases and level walkways; all clear of dirt, sand and mud. On the trail none of these ideals exist, so we need to change the way we approach trails and use our minds as well as our feet.

Hiking Tips

Steep uphill:

The biggest mistake people make when climbing the hills is to get up on their toes. Keep your heels down, this will stretch out your calf muscles and Achilles tendons, reducing cramping and strains and it will keep all or most of your boots soles on the ground where they belong and more sole = more traction. Slow your pace by shortening your steps, don’t try to race up the hill, you’ll just tire quicker. Think of it as dropping your car into low gear, more power to climb, for the steepest hills you almost want to walk heel to toe.

Steep downhill:

As with uphill, shorten your stride, slow the pace. Bend your knees slightly to lower your center of gravity downward but not back. Too much leaning back will see your feet sliding out because your weight will be behind you, not over your boots where it should be. Done correctly you’ll find the quadriceps or upper leg muscles taking the brunt of the load, big muscles = a stable balanced descent. Sometimes it seems turning your feet at an angle to the trail will help but this will only increase your chances of rolling over on your ankle. Keep your toes pointed down for the best grip and stability. Most hiking boots are designed to have dirt and mud build up behind ridges on the soles and thus work best pointing straight ahead.

Off-angle or Traverses:

Often a trail paralleling a slope or ridgeline will angle down on one side. Usually leaning the upper body a little more over the uphill foot can help but for some awkward sections it may be easier to turn the feet sideways so the toes point down the off angle and then sidestep the trail for a short distance. This extreme is rare and only for serious odd angles, washouts or more often foot bridges and boardwalks that may have settled on one side.

Rocky (uneven) Trail/ Crossings:

When rocks and tree roots stick up out of the trail it is once again time to slow down. A little more care and focus will see you through. Keep eyes focused a few feet ahead of you and look through or past obstacles, looking at them will usually promote walking into them. The same can be said for log and bridge crossings, focus on the log a few feet ahead and walk with an even pace, don’t look down into the water as it can cause disorientation. Lastly, cross one at a time, two or more people on a log can cause it to bounce or sway.

Boot Camp Meets Base Camp – Mountain Trek in Nepal

Everest From Khumjung

For 2012 we’re upping the anté and taking the idea of “fitness vacation” to the next level…to an Everest Base Camp level!

If you’re looking for a unique physical challenge, and want to experience one of the most culturally rich places on the planet, join Kirk and iTrekNepal for the Himalayan Adventure (March 12-20, 2012), or the ultimateEverest Base Camp (March 18-April 1, 2012).

“I’m sure hiking Nepal with Kirk is like 2 weeks at Mountain Trek, except colder and with less oxygen,” commented one alumni member after receiving an e-blast about it. And yes, he signed up!

To join a Nepal trek you need to have a base level of fitness, stamina, and of course, the desire and drive for this kind of outdoor adventure. If this has peaked your interest – you can do it, it is a very reachable goal. Through conversations we’ve learned something really cool from our guests (some who’ve been sedentary for years): the fitness and bodily confidence that they gained through our program, has made tackling an experience like Everest Base Camp a worthy goal, call it a dangling carrot, to continue with their fitness regime. One guest told us that she’s “sticking a picture of Everest on her fridge, so it’s in plain view every day, to motivate her to get her sweat on!”

Click here for more information or contact the MT office at 1-800-661-5161, info@mountaintrek.com.