Have you been deeply inspired by mountaineers all roped up and stomping through the thick snow with crampons and ice-ax? I have and would often dream to climb a summit and scream out my name like in the movies. But, this was long ago; now I understand the utmost difficulty and scrutiny one needs to go under to climb the rock walls and snow slopes. But to make such dreams like mine turn into a reality, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling comes to the rescue.
A brief history of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
After one of the historic expeditions to Mount Everest was successfully completed by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, the institute opened its doors the following year in 1954. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 4th November, and since then it has become a premier organisation that promotes mountaineering not only as an adventure sport but also for education. Under the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, you will learn about wilderness navigation, outdoor survival skills, pitching a tent/camping, the study of herbs, the study of glaciers and rocks, mountaineering awareness, search and rescue operations, mountaineering techniques, and many other skills. Today, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is supervised by the state government of West Bengal and the Central Government of India.
6 Great Courses Offered by the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has come up with several learning programmes and basic mountaineering training. For kids, the Institute has rock climbing and mountaineering courses. These courses encourage them to partake in activities and also boost confidence. It provides both short-term and long-term courses.
A class in session at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
(1) Adventure Course (Duration - 15 days)
This course is specially designed for young energetic children, although it is suitable for adults as well. It is a 15-day course that gives you a stimulating experience in tackling challenges such as trekking, camping, and water sport activities.
(2) Basic Mountaineering Course (Duration - 28 days)
Best Time - March through May, September through November
There is always a first-time to everything, and with the basic course, you will get a firsthand experience in mountaineering. Here, an individual will develop skills to climb steep mountain slopes to a height of 4450 m. The training is carried out in the wilderness of West Sikkim from the Institute’s base camp at Chaurikhang. You will be guided by experienced trainees of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute throughout the expedition.
(3) Advanced Course (Duration - 28 days)
Best Time - March through May and September
The advanced training course is only for those who have passed the beginners course. This course offers various techniques of mountaineering amid varied mountainous terrain and also teaches search and rescue operations. This course is supervised by highly trained instructors.
(4) Search and Rescue Course
The advanced course lightly touches on the search and rescue course during the training; however, the Search and Rescue Course teaches in-depth about rescue techniques, first-aid, navigating through mountains, radiotelephony, and communicating between various organizations that will be involved during the rescue operations. This course also teaches you evacuation methods and the use of helicopters.
(5) Course for the Handicapped and Underprivileged
Best Time - April through October
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute also provides special courses for the underprivileged. The course teaches basic rock climbing for enthusiasts. The trainees are also taken for expeditions to high-altitude mountains. This course is basically to boost an individual's inner spirit and confidence.
(6) Refresher Course
For those who wish to hone their skills, the refresher course enables you to do just that. The trainers at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute will not give you a theoretical course but take you directly for practical training. You can revise the previously acquired knowledge and techniques of mountain climbing and stay in touch with your skills.
5 Reasons to Take a Mountaineering Course
Mountaineering as a sport is like taking a breath of fresh air—completely cut off from all communication and cacophony. This is one of the most common reasons to take up mountaineering and also to get lost in the wilderness, just you and the pristine nature. But there are many other factors for which one should take up mountaineering, which I’ve mentioned below:
(1) Get out of your comfort zone
While we crave lofty beds and warm cups of tea, there is nothing as exciting to wake up to than misty mountains and rolling clouds. While some of you may take baby steps by getting into backpacking, the next logical step is actually getting out of your comfort zone by going a notch higher. You can get yourself enrolled in a mountaineering course and see the translation from carrying backpacks to handling technical and unfamiliar tools.
(2) Unplug for the weekend
Life can become monotonous, thus, we visit nearby places and hike as a recreation. But why not get in touch with travel companies that provide you a thrilling experience like camping and mountaineering? You can go forest bathing—bathing in the forest atmosphere by latching onto earthy grounds and century trees and sleeping under the stars. Come Monday and you’ll wonder, “why do I feel so refreshed?”
A participant learning basic techniques
(3) Learn basic survival skills
It is unlikely you will be stranded on a group tour, but if you wander on your own, chances are you will. So it is important to educate yourself by learning how to use a map and a compass. And by that, not referring to GPS devices found on your phone. Enrolling in a course that covers survival topics is a great advantage before mountaineering on your own.
(4) Enhance your senses
Mountaineering is a life skill and can be used in any situation. It is not only about climbing rocks but using your senses during difficult situations. However, it is different in the mountains where you will be surrounded by big rocks, ice, and faced with natural disasters like landslides or avalanches. Your senses should also be able to detect wind direction. If you are aware of your surroundings, any expedition will be an exciting one.
(5) Discover your inner self
What truly benefits you is by staying tuned with yourself. Before taking up a mountaineering course and shoving through the snow up the steep mountains, you might have never thought that you could pull yourself to do something like that. Peering down the abyss and coordinating your hand and eye while hammering the crampons into thick ice would be a dream. Either way, taking a leap towards adventure will make you stay alert; besides, high altitude mountains are infamous for their harsh environment. They have a tendency of teaching you something new in a hard yet exciting way.
Note: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is open all day from 9 am to 5 pm. Tuesdays are closed for maintenance. Entrance fee: Rs. 40