Glacier Training at HMI Basecamp in Sikkim

Hey everyone, apologies for two months gap. This is my first post after this long gap and it is about my experience of the Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (or HMI Darjeeling) that I recently completed (April 2017). As it was a one-month long course, I decided to write down the experience into several parts. Here is the first part.

How I came to know about this course?

Before continuing, first I like to elaborate about Mountaineering.

What is Mountaineering and Basic Mountaineering Course?

In layman’s language, the sport or activity of climbing mountains. And to acquire this skill one needs a true passion along with a strong heart & will power.

So it all started when I went for the Bali Pass trek in 2016. My then trek leader told me about the courses and institutes in India. I did only 2 treks by that time and I was not aware of anything about Mountaineering in India. As it was a challenging trek and I completed successfully so I gave a thought about this adventure field called “Mountaineering”. The most important thing that made me urged towards this sport is the snow-capped peaks, the 7000ers, and 8000ers. I discussed about the course with my family and a few seniors from the same field and finally took a call to do this course.

Standing at Bali Pass 4950 m
Standing at Bali Pass 4950 m

There is a series of courses that one can do to become a Mountaineer and get excelled in the skills by opting for further courses, such as Basic, Advance, and Method of Instruction. The Basic Course is for beginners in which all the basic techniques of mountaineering are taught. After successfully completing the basic course, one can opt for the Advance Course. In simple terms, the Basic Course makes you a Certified Mountaineer, and the Advance Course makes you an expert in this domain or you can say, the Basic Course teaches you all the techniques and the Advance Course teaches you how to fix or build the system on which those techniques can be applied.

The Basic Course makes you a climber and the Advance Course makes you a Lead climber or a tail climber. In every expedition, the lead and tail climbers always have the most interesting and tough job to do. One must obtain the A grade in the Basic Course to be eligible for the Advance Course. There is one more course that one can opt after successfully completing the Advance Course, i.e., Methods of Instruction. One can become an Instructor in Mountaineering after doing this course.

There are 6 mountaineering institutes in India

  • Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, West Bengal
  • Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand
  • Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering in Pahalgam, Jammu & Kashmir
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali, Himachal Pradesh
  • Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering in Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir
  • National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh.

Out of all, HMI Darjeeling is the oldest one founded by legend mountaineer Tenzing Norgay Sherpa (the first man to climb Everest) in 1954 and it is considered one of the best mountaineering institutes in the world.

Registration and Reaching Darjeeling

So I completed all the formalities and submitted the form and fees, which was INR 7750. As tragedies follow me everywhere, here also one tragedy happened with me while sending the draft. When I was going to collect the demand draft from the bank, which had to be sent to HMI, I got caught by traffic police because of not wearing the helmet. Actually, I was getting late and the bank was about to close, I forgot to wear the helmet and police caught me and took my driving license. 😏 After all this, I collected the draft and sent it to HMI. In January, I got the confirmation mail and joining dates were 4 April 2017. The tenure of the course was 28 days, dated from 4th April to 1st May 2017.

Now I was left with 3 months for the preparation. I read several blogs about the BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course) and consulted some of my friends. They suggested me to start doing exercise immediately including running and gym. As the training was quite hard, they warned me that if you don’t do exercise then you will not be able to complete the training. Everyone told me that, HMI conducts one of the toughest mountaineering trainings in the world. A question arose in my mind that “Did I take a wrong decision?” I again gave a thought, made up my mind, and started doing the workout.

I began running and exercise from the next day, but it lasted for only 3 days. Due to my laziness and procrastination, I couldn’t continue it till the joining date. As the joining day was coming nearer, I was getting nervous due to my almost zero preparation. The only things that helped me during the training were my mental fitness and my continuous treks. I was mentally stable and motivated enough to do the training and that is why I successfully completed the training (which is explained in the further parts). This is the reason I always say “Mental fitness is more important than physical fitness”.

HMI is situated at Darjeeling in West Bengal state. So I booked a ticket in a 3AC coach on a train called North East Express and as usual, I got waiting list. The train was at 6:45 am on 31 March and my seat got cleared just 3 hours before the departure. I successfully boarded the train and started my first journey to Northeast India. As I had never been to this region before, I decided to reach Darjeeling 2 days before the joining day so that I could explore this scenic hill station.

Train journey from Delhi to New Jalpaiguri, West Bengal - Basic Mountaineering Course
Train journey from Delhi to New Jalpaiguri, West Bengal

The next part explains how I traveled and explored solo in Darjeeling.

Here are all the blogs regarding my HMI journey.

Hope you enjoyed reading the blog. In case of any suggestions, improvements, or any queries, please let me know in the comments. 🙂

Written by

Manu Khandelwal

An engineer and a travel blogger. Loves trekking and doing bike road trips. Burger lover (want to try every burger in the world). Clinomaniac. Sports fanatic. Likes technology but not a technology addict.