Mountaineering Courses in India

HMI Base camp at Chowrikhang, Kanchendzonga National Park, West Sikkim

The genesis of mountaineering courses in India can possibly be traced back to the initial forays made by The Doon Scool, Dehradun. The school was founded in 1935, and among its first set of teachers and staff were a niche group of alpinists. Arthur Foot, the headmaster was a member of the Alpine Club. House masters John Martyn, Jack Gibson and R.L. Holdsworth were experienced alpinists too. Holdsworth had climbed Mt.Kamet in 1931 as part of the Frank Smythe expedition team.
It was this trio of house masters who played a crucial role in encouraging their students to explore the outdoors and start venturing into the hills nearby and eventually take steps towards exploring the greater Himalayas in the Kumaon/Garwhal region.
The very first such expedition was in 1942 when Martyn and Holdsworth along with 2 sherpas took 3 boys, Narendra Dhar Jayal (Nandu Jayal), Ravi Matthai and Balram Singh to the Arwa Valley Glacier. The boys, all but 16yrs then, ascended up to 19000ft having learnt the fundamental skills, and were perhaps the first on record to do so.
That ‘first step’, pretty much set the ball rolling to what has now evolved as structured and graded courses in mountaineering and other adventure sports offered by various institutes in the country.

Across the board, mountaineering courses in India are categorized as under:
1. BMC or Basic Mountaineering Course
2. AMC or Advanced Mountaineering Course
3. MOI or Methods of Instruction Course
4. SAR or Search and Rescue Course

The Basic Mountaineering Course is more of an orientation course and introduces one to the basic skills of mountaineering, rock craft, ice craft, equipment, outdoor ethics and emergency protocols. The course is usually spread across 4weeks or 28days. In the 1st week at the institute, trainees spend time between morning exercises, indoor classes, outdoor classes and day hikes with full load. The following 2weeks are spent trekking up to a glacier base camp and back, where trainees learn hands on skills of the craft and are usually taken either to a summit point or a high point for altitude gain. The last week more or less is spent back at the institute and consists of theory and practical exams, which are further used to grade and evaluate the overall performance of the trainee. The course is physically and mentally challenging and demands a good level of fitness. The general age group is 18-35yrs, while relaxations are given for special cases.

The Advanced Mountaineering Course is a step above the BMC with a focus on empowering trainees to be more independent in their mountain excursions. It emphasizes more on a practical approach and imparts advanced techniques of skills with a key focus on expedition planning, execution and emergency management. Spread across 4weeks/28days, in the advanced course, trainees revisit the skills of mountaineering in the first week and additionally plan and execute their expedition during the 2week sojourn to a high altitude peak. The final week is spent similar to the basic course with a focus on theory and practical exams for the overall grading and evaluation of the trainee. To qualify for AMC, one must have Grade ‘A’ in their BMC. The general age group for the course is 18-40yrs and demands good level of physical fitness.

The Methods of Instruction course was primarily established to create career opportunities based on the skill set of mountaineering. The objective of the course is to improve the instructional capabilities of the trainees, to enable them to impart mountaineering lessons confidently and also act as a guide. The target audience for the course is typically individuals who wish to become climbing or mountaineering instructors at various institutes, club, schools or the adventure industry. Course may vary between 21-28days as per schedule of the institute. To qualify for the MOI, one must have a Grade ‘A’ in their AMC. The general age group considered for the course is 18-45yrs, with a strong emphasis on physical fitness.

The Search And Rescue course is designed specifically for those seriously wanting to pursue expeditions in the Indian Himalayas. Further, in the wake of natural calamities, the course also intends to empower hill district authorities and other organizations to establish their own SAR cells as part of immediate disaster response teams. The course focuses on rescue techniques across different terrains of rock, snow and ice. It also includes detailed elements of first-aid, outdoor navigation, radio communication, liaison with various organizations (their involvement during rescue operations), audio and visual communication signals and evacuation methods including use of helicopters. Course duration may vary between 21-28days as per schedule of the institute. General age groups considered for the course is 18-45yrs and requirement of extremely fit individuals.

List of Indian institutes offering mountaineering courses for civilians:
1. NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering), Uttarkashi
2. HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute), Darjeeling
3. ABVIMAS (Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering & Allied Sports), Manali
4. JIM (Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering), Pahalgam
5. IHCAE (Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure & Eco-Tourism), Chemchey
6. IISM (Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering), Gulmarg
7. NIMAS (National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports), Dirang

Published by thewanderingindian

Soul of the mountains lost in the cities. Take every chance I get to head up into the Great Himalayas and soak in elements of this refreshing, beautiful, inspiring and challenging ecosystem.

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