A reinvigorated affection for the Great Outdoors, and a host of exciting new adventure films, is seeing bookings of trekking, hiking and mountaineering holidays soar to new peaks

River deep, mountain high

Straddling the border of Nepal and Tibet, Chomolungma – or Goddess Mother of the Earth,as Mount Everest is known to the Tibetan people – rises a (literally) breathtaking 8,848 metres (29,029 feet) above sea level. 

This mightiest of mountains has long captivated adventurers, and fascinated kids like my younger self, marvelling at pictures of frost-bitten explorers on the pages of National Geographic. 

After years of dreaming, I finally find myself following in their Himalayan footsteps on a 15-day round trip with G Adventures, and am discovering just how tough – and how intoxicating – trekking at altitude could be. 

Higher than most of the world’s mountains, Everest Base Camp sits at 5,364 metres, and to reach it is both a physical and mental challenge. “Believe you can do it, or you won’t,” says my Yoda-esque guide, Shanker Bhattrai, as we cross vertiginous suspension bridges fringed with fluttering Buddhist prayer flags, surrounded by humbling, snow-capped peaks. 

Under a bright sun, tinkling yak bells and rumbling glacial rivers buoy me along, but as we climb higher, muscles scream, the air grows thin and doubts descend after dark. Arrival at Base Camp unleashes tears of elation, pain and relief. The mountains called and, seeking freedom and adventure, I went. Somewhere down the line, I hope you’ll hear them, too.   

Journey to the top

Once, the summit of the world’s highest mountain, or even Everest Base Camp, were mythical realms reserved for super-human explorers. But fabulous travel companies, incredible porters and guides, and an avalanche of exciting new documentary films, are bringing those soaring pinnacles closer than ever. 

The Alpinist, featuring Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc; the upcoming Sir Ranulph Fiennes life-story, Explorer; and 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, which follows Nepali mountaineer Nimsdai Purja on his mission to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-metre peaks in seven months, are igniting sparks of adventure.

“I’m very proud that 14 Peaks is inspiring and motivating people to explore the world, dream big, and achieve their new possible,” the film’s protagonist, Nimsdai Purja, told Selling Travel. On the week of the documentary’s release, Intrepid saw a 115% increase on visits to the website’s Everest Base Camp tour page compared to the previous week, highlighting its influence on viewers seeking a challenge.

Nimsdai is the co-founder of Elite Exped, which runs expeditions across the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each continent. He’s also established the Nimsdai Foundation and the Big Mountain Cleanup to help promote responsible trekking and climbing. “I believe the Big Mountains are for everyone, but we must protect and restore these fragile environments,” he says. 

Mike James, Operations Director at Exodus Travels, has noted the rise in demand. “After two years with minimal travel, our customers are looking for trips that challenge, but also reward them,” he says. “They’re choosing more active holidays, such as climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, and we’re booking more walking trips than any other programme. In particular, our Europe trips are very popular.”

Trekking and mountaineering holidays are ticking many of our post-Covid travel boxes, offering the chance to escape the crowds, increase fitness levels, and get closer to nature.

“We’re now receiving strong demand for our Covid-friendly, camping-style expeditions in more remote regions of Nepal,” says Roland Hunter, Managing Director of The Mountain Company, which runs expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakoram.

For the local trekking crews who have been severely impacted by travel bans, the desire to run to the hills is welcome news. 

“Trekking in Bhutan has been badly affected by Covid-19,” explains founder of Bhutanese tour company, Blue Poppy Tours & Treks, Choki Dorji. The Himalayan Kingdom is open, but entry requires a 14-day quarantine. Choki is hopeful that the spring reopening of the Trans Bhutan Trail will encourage trekkers to return. 

“We use local horsemen on all our treks, which supports the local community.”  

What's new

The Trans Bhutan trail: This ancient pilgrimage road, one of the best trekking routes in the world, will reopen in spring 2022 after being closed for six decades. The trail will support educational, cultural and environmental projects, with one tree planted for every international visitor.  transbhutantrail.com

Exodus Travels: Exodus has a new six-day guided walking holiday, in partnership with Rewilding Europe. The Rewilding the Apennines tour visits rewilding projects in and around Italy’s Abruzzo National Park, with profits helping to create wildlife corridors and support biodiversity restoration. exodus.co.uk

Charitable Travel: With news that New Zealand could welcome back international travellers in July, Charitable Travel is offering a guided, four-day tour on the South Island, trekking the Queen Charlotte Track. The tour explores remote beaches, native forests and Maori culture. All bookings include a £40 donation to a charity of choice. charitable.travel

Seven Travel: New, positive-impact luxury travel company SevenTravel has included an exciting trek across Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier on its 13-day Journey through Southern Patagonia, Argentina and Chile trip. Starting in Buenos Aires, the adventure also takes in an expedition cruise from Ushuaia and private trekking in Torres del Paine National Park. seventravel.co.uk

Top climbs

The Lost City pilgrimage: A seven-day trek with G Adventures leads travellers from Cusco along ancient Incan trails, through the Andes Mountains of Peru, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. gadventures.com

Meet the mountain gorillas: A trek to see endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda is a true bucket-list experience. After an arduous trek through mountainous terrain in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, visitors are rewarded with a magical hour observing these great apes. windowsonthewild.com 

Walk the wilds of Scotland: The rugged Scottish island of Arran is made for a spirit-soaring, multi-day hike. Arran is considered ‘Scotland in Miniature’, and a five-day guided tour with Wilderness Scotland reveals empty beaches, dramatic mountains, and Celtic cultural treasures. wildernessscotland.com 

Where to book it

The Mountain Company

A 25-day Saribung Pass and Summit Expedition, slated for October 2022, starts in Kathmandu and visits the remote Phu valley and Saribung La pass, with the option to summit Saribung Peak. The expedition costs from £4,150pp. For every booking made, 35 trees will be planted in Nepal. themountaincompany.co.uk