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.” 

Staff Picks: Mountain Trek’s Best Kootenay Hikes

Spring Hiking Health Program

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

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 everyday.

So, as homage to the abundant nature that surrounds, inspires and feeds us, we offer up the favourite hikes that our expert, certified guides love taking you on. These hikes are meant to challenge and motivate you, get your heart rate up and set your spirit soaring.

Kirkland Shave @ mountain trekKirkland’s favourite: 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 its vast meadows, shallow lakes, vibrant larches, gorgeous alpine flowers and views of the surrounding peaks and ridges. It’s a haven of calm beauty encircled by rocky mountains and an eight-kilometre hike from the trailhead, through cool forests and along boulder-strewn pathways gets you there in no time so we can rest, enjoy the views and even go swimming before our return.

Jeannie Dwyer mountain trekJeanie’s pick: 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 old mining ghost town of Sandon, then wind our way up 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 the New Denver Glacier and the entire Valhalla Mountain range to the west, Kokanee Glacier to the southeast, and Mt. Cooper to the northeast.

Allen Rollin Mountain TrekAllen’s favourite: Evans Creek

From the trailhead at Slocan City (population 300) you’ll hike on the undulating, moss-lined trail along the shoreline of Slocan Lake, treating yourself to spectacular rocky vantage points, special pockets of flora, and prime swimming spots along the way. Round trip, the Evans hike is approximately 15 km (18 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 and beautiful views up and down the lake. Knowing that the surrounding Valhalla Park and it’s majestic peaks were named after Norse Gods makes the Evans Creek hike that much more mythic.

Chris rodman @ mountain TrekChris’s choice: Galena Trail

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Slocan Valley. Dating back to the glory days of the Silvery Slocan, the Galena Trail follows the route of a railway line that once connected the silver mines of Sandon with sternwheeler service from Nakusp to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) 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 takes us along this old railway line, past the ruins of abandoned mines and ghost towns like Alamo and, occasionally, we’ll take the two-person cable car crossing over Carpenter Creek along the way.

Cathy Grierson Mountain Trek2Cathy’s best bet: 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, which feed over 30 lakes and are the headwaters of many creeks. On one of our typical hikes we’ll visit two of those lakes, Gibson and Kaslo, with water so clear you’ll be able to watch Rainbow and Cutthrout trout swimming by. The trail is, round trip, about 14 kilometres and guests will enjoy views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers, sub-alpine flower meadows and, depending on the season, we’ll see eagles, ptarmigan, pikas, marmots, mountain goats and feast on wild huckleberries.

KristaVanEe @mountain trekKrista’s Favourite: Pilot Peninsula

Pilot Peninsula Provincial Park is the safest harbour on Kootenay Lake and is perfect for swimming and hiking. The 12-kilometre trail we typically take skirts the shoreline of Kootenay Lake and offers multiple pebble beaches for relaxing and enjoying the views. In fact, Pilot Peninsula is a great start to our week as it’s very flat, with hardly any elevation gain or loss, and the woodland tracks are in excellent shape. 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, colourful wildflowers, calm coves and, around every corner, views of the surrounding peaks.



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



There are two things you need to know to find the perfect pair of hiking boots:  the different types on the market and how to ensure proper fit. Here is the basic information necessary to find a pair of boots that will carry you through many a hike safely and in comfort.

1. Types of Boots

Hiking boots come in three styles: light hikers (AKA trail runners); light “over ankle” hikers; and full backpacking boots. The latter style is not recommended for guests of Mountain Trek as the trails we’re doing do not require them. Light hikers are the better option for short day hikes on maintained trails and, depending on the strength of your ankles, you can either get the “over ankle” supportive model or the low-rise version. Typically they are made of leather or a fabric combination and most have a durable waterproof finish. (A note about waterproofing: most hiking boots come with a DWR 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, which is a very simple process. 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, weather it’s leather, suede, nubuck or a synthetic. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product’s label and once you’ve completed the application let the boot dry naturally – do not use a hair dryer.)




2. 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. (Your foot changes shape when it’s weighted and on the ground.) The right boot for you should feel comfortable right from the beginning. Here are some other tips to ensure the perfect fit:

  • Take the time you need – 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. (Don’t rely on the “loaners” provided by the store.) We can’t say enough about the necessity of wearing a quality sock whenever you hike. They can make the difference between all day comfort or misery, with the newer “hi-tech” socks offering exceptional padding and wicking capabilities. 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 brand, 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 (you can slide a finger in) 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.


Caring For Your Feet – Tips and Products To Use

Hi! I’m Kirkland from Mountain Trek. I’m here on our first Vlog on our Newsletter to share a couple things with you.

Cathy and I just got back from Rancho La Puerta, that beautiful huge 3,000 acre health spa just south of San Diego. A fantastic two weeks down there. The desert just went into bloom, beautiful flowers, and Quail running under our feet. To boot, we had a record weight loss down there in our first week; best fat loss we’ve ever had down in Rancho La Puerta in the last three years.

Next trip – well we’re doing this annual adventure trek, and last year we did Nepal, and some of you were even there last year; we did two treks in Nepal. This year we’re doing three weeks on the Camino de Santiago; the pilgrimage route through Northern Spain, and we’re offering a week for each fitness level. It’s going to be very cultural and historical, going through 13th century villages in Northern Spain, and we’ll be eating Spanish food and drinking Spanish wine. This isn’t a weight loss program. The purpose of these treks that we do in March is to help you have a target to stay fit for. We’re going to be putting out to you folks a vote as to where we should go next year, so stay tuned to that.

Foot Care at Mountain TrekI’ve been working in the office for the last couple of days, and I’ve been getting some calls from people who aren’t coming on the trek to the Spain, but are doing other adventures for themselves. There’s one of our past guests who is doing a walk for cancer, and doing 100 km which of course is a long distance. It requires some care for the feet, especially if the feet are kept prisoner in city shoes for the week. So I want to go over a couple of products for you.

The first one is Friar’s Balsam, or Tincture of Benzoin. That’s the potion that we dip a Q-tip into and put on the heel of your foot as an anchor to put bandages on. You can get that at any pharmacy.

The second thing is we’re using a tape now instead of mole skin for friction. And this tape is called Mefix, and it’s 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.

The third product that I want to talk about is something called Molefoam. It’s a fuzzy foam pad that protects from pressure in our shoe. We cut little donuts out of that and place it over bone spurs, bunions, callus points, any place you’re worried about 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 in the end of your shoe, they’re going to hammer and you’re going to lose a nail. Make sure that the corners are rounded nicely so that your toes fit in your shoe, when they’re continually moving for balance, don’t dig in and scrape each other.

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.

Hills, Hikes and Health in Baja

The Grounds at Rancho La PuertaMountain Trek Heads to Rancho la Puerta

When you think 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 worlds top destination spas, a reputation it rightly deserves with it’s 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.

Fresh ProduceHow 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.”

If this sounds like just the break your looking for, call Michelle at the Mountain Trek office to inquire about dates and rates. 1.800.661.5161. Or visit our Rancho La Puerta page.

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.