This blog explains the rock craft training at HMI Darjeeling that I did in the Basic Mountaineering Course. The major part of the Rock Craft training was done at Darjeeling itself and remaining was conducted at the HMI Base Camp. If you haven’t read the previous blogs yet, scroll down to find all the links.
Rock Craft Training at HMI
Our training started with the introduction and practice of rope knots. There was a total of 12 knots that we practiced and used for different purposes. We were given lectures on Principles of Rock Climbing and Climbing holds and finally, we went to Tenzing Rock to practice rock climbing and other related activities. Tenzing Rock is a place where we used to practice the same as there were natural rocks and boulders available. There were several different types of phases of rock that were available.
It was the first time, I was doing rock climbing. Turn by turn, we used to climb the wall. Initially, it was a bit difficult for me but after practicing, again and again, it became a usual task. Rock climbing is not as easy as it looks. The main challenge I found while climbing was recognizing the right holds when you are in the middle of the climb and maintaining the balance. Sometimes you get injured also, but its all part of the game.
After reaching the top by climbing, we used to come down by Rappelling. During the first time, I found rappelling more difficult than climbing. I also got slipped a couple of times, but soon we got used to it after practicing. We did several types of rappelling such as shoulder, stomach, long phase, etc. We were made to do rock climbing and rappelling a lot of times so that we could get excelled in both sports.
During the whole course, what I understood is that in mountaineering, there is nothing you could do with muscle strength or power. You just need the presence of mind and the right techniques. In rock climbing, you just need to identify the route and correct holds and just climb with confidence. In the case of rappelling, just lean your body perpendicular to the wall and come down in a rhythm by maintaining the balance.
Apart from rock climbing and rappelling, there is one activity that I found the easiest and it was Chimney Climbing. Chimneys are cracks or gaps in cliffs that can accommodate any human body. There are mainly two types of chimney such as body-width chimney and wide chimney. In this, we just had to climb up and down in between two cliffs by taking the support of our hands and legs.
On one day, we also did long phase rappelling in which we had to cross the overhang. The overhang is basically a horizontally extended mountain wall part that one has to negotiate while climbing or rappelling. Initially, we all were scared, but in actual it was fun. It was like doing a stunt of Spiderman.
There is one more climbing activity known as Sequence Climbing that we did at the base camp. I found sequence climbing a tough part because the boulder had no or very small holds and we had to climb that with our snow boots.
While attempting the same, I slipped a lot of times and at last, the instructor said: “This is your last chance to try”. I tried again and I was about to reach the top and I got slipped once again. The chief instructor was there and he instructed the belayer: “lose his belay, let him fall”. I kept saying: “no sir, I am climbing” and the belayer actually left the rope. I got slipped, fortunately, I didn’t fall down as I was hanging on one hand. Then I used the pressure hold and tried to pull myself up and finally I got able to reach the top. Though I got some scratches on my hands, it taught me how strong are the survival instincts.
Activities we did in Rock Craft Training
Rock Climbing, Rappelling, Chimney Climbing, Belaying, Rope Knots, Rope Coiling, sequence climbing
We also did Sports Climbing, also called as artificial wall climbing at HMI. I found sports climbing easier than natural rock climbing, but both activities have their own fun.
Trek to Tiger Hill – Basic Mountaineering Course HMI
Before leaving the HMI and moving to Sikkim, we did a 25 km long trek in Darjeeling with a backpack of around 18-20 kg. It was a test to check everyone’s stamina. The trek was from the HMI campus to Tiger Hill and back. The 70% Trek was through the road and rest was through the mountain trail.
Tiger Hill is a hilltop and the highest point situated in the vicinity of Darjeeling at an altitude of 7800 ft. One can experience the best sunrise from Tiger Hill.
I did well as I was quite used to do trekking by then. The trek was easy in terms of terrain but it was tiring due to the long-distance and heavyweight. Fortunately, I was able to complete the trek in the given time and I passed the test.
Classes and Lectures – Basic Mountaineering Course HMI
Apart from this practical training, we were given lectures and lecture cum demonstration on topics such as
Mountain Manners, Mountain terms, Introduction of Ropes, Himalayas, Mountain Hazards, Principle of Rock Climbing, Tent Pitching, Avalanche, First Aid, Introduction of Ice Axe and Crampon, Acclimatization, Map Reading, Compass Reading, Effects of high altitude, and Cold injuries.
The lectures were quite interesting. I don’t think that I have ever attended any lecture by paying this much attention that I paid during HMI lectures. From school to tuition to college, I used to sleep in each and every classroom. But during the course, I attended every lecture properly and it helped me during the training while applying the techniques.
After completing the 1st phase of training, viz, Rock Craft, we all were excited because we were going to Sikkim for our further training. Also, from now onwards, we did not have to do the morning PT and running.
The next blog explains the journey to Sikkim and trekking to the Base Camp of HMI at Chaurikhang, West Sikkim.
Here are all the blogs regarding my HMI journey.
- Part 1 – How I came to know about this course?
- Part 2 – Exploring Darjeeling
- Part 3 – Life & Training at HMI Darjeeling
- Part 4 – Rock Craft Training at HMI Darjeeling
- Part 5 – Trek to HMI Base Camp in West Sikkim
- Part 6 – Reaching Chaurikhang Base Camp
- Part 7 – Life & Training at HMI Base Camp
- Part 8 – Peak Climbing, Snow Craft & Glacier Training at HMI Base Camp
- Part 9 – Last Days and Graduation Ceremony
Hope you enjoyed reading the blog. In case of any suggestions, improvements, or any queries, please let me know in the comments. 🙂