Meenakshi Gupta ( Tanhadil) at kolukkumalai  Trek
If you think trekking/hiking is not everyone’s cup of tea after the age of 40, then you are mistaken. It’s you, who have to break this myth as I did.

Just Do It!

Let’s face it, life is busiest for most women in their 40s. Kids are growing up, career is at the peak if you are working or the family commitments if you are a homemaker, the body goes through a biological change, fitness levels are sliding, mood swings, the list is endless. But should all these deter your wish to trek or hike especially when you have never done it? Well, I would definitely say NO. I started hiking/trekking after the age of 40 and did my solo trek in Himachal Pradesh last year. Trekking for women is surely a thing now.
If you are a woman over the age of 40 and want to start trekking, just do it! Trust me once you start there is no looking back. Nowadays there are lots of companies that organize treks/hikes, especially for women above 40 years. If you have any friends who are willing to join, pull them along if not then rest assured, you will make good new friends.
Tasneem Jiruwala
Rupa Pravin at Chader Trek, Zanskar

A Survey

With the awareness created by various communities, tour organizers, social groups and even amongst friends a lot more women are taking interest and scaling up to their passion or want to hike even if it is a day trek of smaller altitudes. I recently conducted a survey on women above the age of 40 who started hiking/trekking after 40 or are keen on starting one.
The survey included a lawyer, entrepreneurs, teachers, journalist,  travel designers, homemakers, Image Consultant, Digital Consultant, Financial Analyst, IT Professional etc. The questions asked were related to the personal interest and what do they look forward to in trekking. Majority of the women surveyed were from Bangalore and rest from other cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Pune.
It was encouraging to see women above the age 50 want to start trekking without any inhibitions as they say the pressure of home and work responsibilities is slighter now. Interestingly women of this age group are fitness freaks and are ready for any kind of trek or are gearing themselves up by making fitness as part of their routine. Like me, quite a few of other respondents said that they got inspired by friends and family of similar age who started trekking after the age of 40, few were inspired by friends of younger age. Social Media plays an important role in creating awareness about these adventures. Presence of various Trek Operators on social media inspires women to take that first step and bring in the confidence of doing it.   
Away from the hustle and bustle of city life and chores, the majority of the women find mountains magical and motivates them for trekking, while others believe that trekking gives them happiness and relaxes their mind and for few, they see it as a great workout. As the number of women trekkers are increasing, safety is the key issue. To be on a safer side majority of women trekkers like to trek in a group with family and friends while others want to travel with Trek Companies and make new friends. A very small percentage want to travel with only women groups or solo.
Soma Bolar flaunting her saree at Kedarkantha Trek
Sudha Mani at Everest Base Camp

Trekking For Women!!

For those who want to start trekking at this stage, it is always advisable to start their first trek with small altitudes/day treks, then move on 2-3 days of medium difficulty level treks and finally to  5-7 days of high altitude/snow treks. This is the normal pattern observed and recommended.  

Since the trekking or hiking takes you through the rough terrains and trails the majority of the women are comfortable with all kinds of washrooms available en route as well near the campsites. However, a small number of women are particular about the facilities available and restrict themselves during menstruation.
Nowadays, the trek companies are offering facilities ranging from rustic and low budget to comfortable stay with porters etc. A big number of women trekkers actually do not mind rustic and low budget treks while others opt for treks from reputed companies for the comfort and security reasons and don’t mind paying a little extra. This is totally a personal choice, as the experience of trekking will not differ in any case. The new age women trekker is well read and are very clear on the kinds of trek they want to do. They take referrals from family & friends, look out for trek companies for different levels of difficulty and do their thorough research before going even for a day trek. 
Well, for those who are still looking for some motivation, you don’t have to go too far. Every 3 out of 10 women around you are into trekking or hiking. To name a few Rupa Pravin a Town Planner recently did Chadar Trek in Zanskar at the age of 48 and Valley of Flowers at 50. Sudha, an IT professional did her Everest Base Camp along with other pilgrimages in the region at the age of 53. Monalisa Deb, a designer, 50 and Soma Bolar Manager at Multinational company, 44 together did Kedarkantha winter Trek recently. Asima Sultana, 55 a homemaker and a grandmother did Valley of Flowers last year and Tasneem Jiruwala, also a grandmother is a regular trekker.
Asima Sultana at Valley of Flowers
Monalisa Deb at Kedarkanta Trek

Treks for beginners!

There are a number of short treks from Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Chennai. Few treks of smaller heights and ideal for 2-3 days can be considered for beginners. Inputs are given by Vini Katyal of Treks Unlimited, a young girl in her 20’s who is a passionate trekker and encourage women for hiking.
Treks In Maharashtra :
  1. Kalsubai- the Highest peak in Maharashtra with an elevation of 5400 feet
  2. Lohagarh- One of the many hill forts in Maharashtra in Lonavala at a height of 3390 feet.
  3. Matheran- one of the most scenic treks is about 2600 feet above the sea level.
  4. Rajgarh- at a height of 4600 feet, this Fort Trek is situated in Sahayadris.
  5. Prabalgad- stands at an elevation of 2600 feet, this fort lies in western ghats.
  6. Rajmachi Fort- lies at a height of 2700 feet in western ghats
Treks In Karnataka:
  1. Kuntibetta – at an elevation of 2800 feet, this lies in Mandya district about 125km away from Bangalore.
  2. Makalidurga- 60 km away from Bangalore, this is at an elevation of 4430 feet.
  3. Nandi Hills- at 4800 feet Nandi Hills is just 60 km away from Bangalore
  4. Hulukudi Betta- a short day trek 70 km away from Bangalore.
  5. Gokarna Beach Hike- easy to moderate difficulty level, this is a day and night trek.

Rajmachi Fort, near Lonavala, Pune

High Altitude Treks

There are few Himalayan treks which can be done even after the age of 40 with the preparation of course. Basically, any trek within 10000- 12000 feet can be done provided you maintain your fitness level really high. The list mentioned is comprehensive and not exhaustive.  Few Himalayan Treks are listed below based on the experiences of fellow 40 plus women trekkers.
  1. Kedarkantha Trek – In Uttarakhand with an altitude of 12500 ft
  2. Valley of Flowers- Uttarakhand with an altitude of 12000 feet
  3. Har ki Dun- Uttarakhand with an altitude of 11675 feet.
  4. Kuari Pass- Uttarakhand with an altitude of 12516 feet.
  5. Sandakphu Trek- West Bengal with an altitude of 11940 feet.
  6. Chopta Trek- Uttarakhand with an altitude of 11150 feet.
Things to remember before you start trekking after the age of 40:
  • Don’t let your spirits go down. Just say ‘You can do it’! J
  • Start or build your endurance and strength. Get physically fit.
  • Check your altitude sickness level.
  • Start with a day trek or treks with smaller heights.
  • Look for a  trusted and knowledgeable trail buddy.
  • Get all the information about the place you plan to hike/trek well in advance.
  • You can shorten the learning curve and inspire other aspiring women.
Trekking after the age of 40 may seem a little daunting to many, but it is nothing that a proper workout routine can’t do away with. There is endless beauty stretched across the country, lurking in the remotest forest, underneath sheets of snow and leaves.

Kheerganga Trek, Himachal Pradesh

This article was also published in Deccan Herald Deccan Herald- Going Solo to scale new heights