HMI Base Camp - HMI Training

After reaching the base camp, the ice craft and snow craft training was about to start from the next day. The schedule of the HMI training at the base camp included the 4 days glacier training and a few other activities.

In case you haven’t checked out the previous blogs then scroll down to find all the links.

Life at HMI Base Camp – HMI Training

After reaching the base camp, we set up our belongings in a hut provided to us. Now the base camp was our home for the next 12 days. We were already told that these 12 days are going to be a bit tough and very unique experience.

About Base Camp – HMI Training

The name of the place where the basecamp was set up was Chaurikhang, which means “Grazing Place of Yaks”. It is situated at an altitude of 14,600 feet above the sea level and settled in the Rathong Valley. The location of the Base camp was perfect as it is girded by many 6000 m and above peaks such as Renok, Frey, Kokthang, Rathong, Kabru, Fork and etc.

Initially, we had this thing in our mind that reaching the base camp is the only tough task that we have to do because we have to carry a 25 kg backpack throughout the trek. But after reaching and spending one night at the base camp, we got to understand that living and spending 12 days at the base camp was a more tough task. Some of us (including me) had already been to this much altitude so we were not having any problem in acclimatizing but some trainees hadn’t even crossed above 3000 ft (especially trainees from Maharashtra and South India) and because of that, they took a bit more time to get acclimatized. Staying for 1 night at 14000 feet altitude was okay but staying for 12 nights was not.

Ground at HMI Base Camp
Ground at HMI Base Camp

As per our schedule, we used to wake up at 5 am daily when the temperature was around -8 degrees Celsius. Then we used to walk around 200 meters for nature’s call and the good thing at the base camp was that the bathroom was available for girls as well as boys. But after seeing the condition of the bathroom, we realized that the open area was much better than the bathroom. So it was kind of a struggle to poop in that bathroom during subzero temperatures. After all this, we used to have breakfast and got to fall-in, during which our duty instructor used to tell us about the activity that we were going to do on that particular day such as glacier training, jumaring, etc. Our evenings remained mostly free, we used to play games and do gossip.

Washrooms at HMI base camp
Washrooms at HMI base camp

Washing the mess tin was also one of the difficult tasks for us due to the extremely cold water. Every time when we washed it, the water made our fingers numbed. We were not able to feel our fingers for a couple of minutes. Most of the time, I skipped washing mess tin with water and instead of water, I used to clean it with sanitizer. Apart from this, other difficult tasks for me were to take out the snow boots from the legs. Every day my friends used to help me in pulling out the boots. Another difficult task was to go inside the sleeping bags while sleeping. The sleeping bags remained freezing cold, every day we used to have a hot water bottle to keep it warm from the inside.

Schedule at HMI Base Camp – HMI Training

  • 0500 Hours               –            Wake up
  • 0600 Hours               –             Breakfast
  • 0700 Hours               –             Fall in
  • 0700 – 1300 Hours   –             Activity
  • 1300 – 1400 Hours               –             Lunch
  • 1400 – 1600 Hours   –             Activity
  • 1600 – 1900 Hours   –             Free time
  • 1900 Hours               –             Dinner
  • 2030 Hours               –             Sleep

Meals at Base Camp

Meals were really good at the base camp and were better than the meals at the Darjeeling campus. Daily, we used to get high calory food as we needed more energy to do activities at high altitudes. Our meal schedule was decided in a way so that we could have more fluids intake. At higher altitudes, it is necessary to keep the body hydrated, so fluids are a must.

Meal Plan:

  • Breakfast: Cornflakes, Oats, Boiled Egg, Bread Jam, Omelet, Chickpeas
  • Lunch: Dal, Rice, Sabji (mostly Paneer), Chicken or Mutton, Roti
  • Evening: Tea and Soup
  • Dinner: Dal, Rice, Sabji, Roti, and dessert (Gulab Jamun/Custard/kheer/halwa).
  • After Dinner: Hot Drinks (Bournvita or Horlicks)

Weather at HMI Base Camp:

Normally, the temperature varied from 5 degrees during the day to -5 during the night. On some days while snowing, the temperature dipped around -5 during the day. The weather was really unpredictable at the base camp. The weather could change from clear and sunny weather into snowy and stormy weather in no time. I had seen snowfall several times but for the first time, I experienced snowfall during the clear weather. Yes, there were no clouds and it was snowing. It was due to the low temperature and moisture present in the atmosphere, and the water droplets were getting converted into snowflakes and it seemed to us like snowfall.

HMI Base Camp during snowfall
HMI Base Camp during snowfall
Snowing at the base camp
Snowing at the base camp

Due to cold weather and less oxygen presence, many trainees got ill. It was not at all a problem because the base camp had a medical room and an experienced doctor. There were 2 trainees, who were sent back to Darjeeling. Due to less oxygen in their blood, they were having a problem in breathing.

For HMI, the weather was just the weather. No matter how worst it was, our training never stopped. During our 3rd day of glacier training, it was snowing heavily and the temperature was around -10 degrees. We all were expecting that our instructors will skip the training on that day. When the fall-in happened, our chief instructor asked “Is there anyone who doesn’t want to go to the glacier?” and not even a single hand was raised. In the end, the instructor said “we know the weather is too bad to go…(he took the pause and then continued) but we will still go to the glacier and do our training” and we were like “okay sir” (with our sad faces).

Glacier training during snowfall
Glacier training during snowfall

After completing all the training, we were given a day to rest at the base camp before returning to Darjeeling. On that day we played cricket and did other activities. We had a ball that day.

Playing cricket at the HMI Base Camp
Playing cricket at the HMI Base Camp

The next part explains the Ice Craft and Rock Craft training at HMI

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.