HMI Darjeeling

HMI Darjeeling is one of the best mountaineering institutes in India. I got an opportunity to join Basic Mountaineering Course at the Institute where legendary Indian mountaineers have either instructed here or trained themselves. Mountaineers from HMI Darjeeling have challenged the mountains all over the world including the eight-thousanders.

This page is dedicated to the great institute when I got an opportunity to spend some time.  I will share my experience at HMI Darjeeling and the latest information about the institute.

Application for Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI Darjeeling

HMI Darjeeling conducts wide variety of courses to suit the needs of different age groups and varying difficulty levels. The courses preferred by beginners, amateurs and professionals alike are:

  1. Basic Mountaineering Course
  2. Advance Mountaineering Course
  3. Methods of Instruction Course.

It is necessary to complete the former to apply for the later.

Other courses like Adventure Course, Course for the Visually Challenged Person and Special Courses are also conducted which are more of an introduction to the world of adventure and mountaineering.

Read my experience of applying for the Basic Mountaineering Course.

Transfer of Vacancy at HMI Darjeeling

Though every applicant must try to attend the allotted course, in case of unavoidable circumstances or emergency, HMI can be requested to change the allotted course. Due to work pressure at my office, I requested HMI to transfer me into another Basic Mountaineering Course. I am thankful to HMI for considering the request and allotting another course. Though with an instruction to attend the course and such accommodation will not be possible the second time.

Read my experience of Transfer of Vacancy.

My Experience of Basic Mountaineering Course

I attended the course in September 2014. The blog posts given below share day to day experience with information which I found useful to share with readers.

Part-1: Inspiration, Preparation and Travel to New Jalpaiguri from Khandwa

Part-2: Transportation from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, HMI Darjeeling, Paper Formalities, Exploring the HMI Campus and HMI Hostel

Part-3: First Day, First Class, Introduction to Instructors, Division in Ropes, Mountaineering Equipment, Mountaineering Manners and Customs and Medical Inspection

Part-4: Second Day, Principal’s Address, Classes on Ropes and Knots, Avalanches and Himalayas

Part-5: Third Day, Classes on Rock Climbing, Mountaineering Terminology, Mountain Hazards

Part-6: Fourth Day, Meeting with Principal over Medical Reports, Practice on Tenzing Rock, Cheema Indoor Wall, Lecture on Ice Axe and Crampons

Part-7: Fifth Day, Tiger Hill Trek, Lecture on Map Reading

Part-8: Sixth Day, Rappelling Practice at Tenzing Rock, Introduction to my Roommates 

Part-9: Seventh Day, Outdoor Artificial Wall Climbing, Outing, Plan-B

Contact Details of HMI Darjeeling

Website: http://www.hmidarjeeling.com/

Address: The Principal, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Jawahar Parvat , Darjeeling-734 101 (WB), India

E-mail ID: 

[email protected]

[email protected]

Important Telephone Numbers:

Training Office —  0354 2254087
Principal — 91 354 2254083
FAX No — 91 354 2253760

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-9

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Click here to read Part-08 at http://yadavmanoj.com/hmi-darjeeling-basic-mountaineering-course-part-8

Last Day at HMI

19.09.2014, today would be the last day at HMI Darjeeling for us in two ways: If we get selected, I will go for the trek with all students. If not, then also I will have to leave HMI due to medical reasons. Today, the weather seems fine after last night’s rains. Khilap sir took us for the PT session and we enjoyed it. He introduced lot of stretching exercises.

After breakfast I talked with Rasheed.  He shared his travelling experience and tips. He and his friend are avid travelers. They have this peculiar style of travelling with a destination in mind but with no plan on how to reach there. They try to use free and cheap services. In one of such travels, they decided to go to Kathmandu. They started from Hyderabad and reached Nepal via Howrah, New Jalpaigudi, Darjeeling, Indo-Nepal border. Their story was quite interesting and inspiring. I also thought of going for similar adventures in future.

Outdoor Artificial Wall Climbing Session

Today forenoon there was an outdoor artificial wall climbing session. HMI wall is 45 meters high. I gave a try to the wall but could not climb more than 15 meters of that giant. Only one student could cover the whole height of the wall. He was a NCC boy with speed and technique. Most of the students failed to cover even half of the wall. Few could cross 30 meters mark and my roommate Sagar was one of them.

From the way we were given the training, I realized that Basic Course just introduces one to all the aspects of mountaineering while Advance Course looks in the finer aspects of mountaineering. Advance course students were seen planning their own expeditions in library referring books on the subject.

After the wall climbing session, we assemble outside the Equipment Room with our instructors. Tenjing Sir, our rope instructor asked us to double check our equipments as this would be the last chance to do the same. He suggested me to change my crampons.

Outing — Fun and Shopping

At 10:30 hours all the students were allowed to go for outing so that students can purchase the things they need for coming days in mountains. We were reminded by the instructors to have personal items such as:

  1. Woolen gloves
  2. Balaclava/cap
  3. Woolen socks
  4. Sunglasses
  5. Thermals
  6. Toilet papers
  7. Sunscreen cream
  8. Raincoat/cover
  9. Polythene (for covering backpack)

With strict warning, we were asked to reach back to HMI by 1730 hours.

Since I had all the things with me already except for the woolen socks, I did not go for the outing. Sagar would bring them for me. Instead, I preferred taking rest for the final medical checkup due at 1600 hours. I came early in the canteen and seated myself till lunch was ready thinking and writing. At this stage I did not even know if I would be going to home or for the trek, but I had already packed my backpack properly to go for the trek.

After lunch, I slept for two hours in the hostel room. We, the unfit group, assembled in the Medical Inspection room at the given time. Unfortunately this time also I failed the test. The BP did not come down even a single point. I had been declared unfit for the trek but still as a formality and a last hope we were asked to come the next morning at 0600 hours, if we were able to get the blood pressure lower we would be allowed to go for the trek.

By this time I have lost all the hopes and this seemed stupid to be able to manipulate readings which are not in anyone’s control. Along with me, Kalypso, Mukul and Prabhu were also declared unfit. Since we already had Plan-B we decided to go for it.

Plan-B

At 1740 hours we assembled in the Quadrangle. The chief instructor was informing us about the trek in detail. Tomorrow i.e. on 20.09.2014, we were asked to take tea at 05:30 am, have breakfast by 06:30 am and assemble at 07:30 am for the trek. All valuables should be deposited at HMI Warden Office before leaving for the trek else no one will be responsible if they get lost or stolen. Other luggage which is to be left at the hostel must be kept in cupboards and properly locked. In Kanchenjunga National Park, cameras will be chargeable at Rs 20/day. Ration for kitchens had already left for the camps ahead of us. At campsites, huts are available but may not be open yet after the monsoon season.

In the evening we discussed our options with Tenzing Sir who was most friendly and supportive to us. We discussed both the options with him i.e. Goecha La and Sendakhpu treks to go for as a small group on our own. Tenzing Sir was most cooperative and gave us good guidance with all aspects involved.

In Goecha La trek, we will have to take ration and kitchen with us. We would be able to cover the distance easily if we hire a trekking company. He said that huts are available but the problem is they may not be open yet.

Instead if we go for Sendakhpu, tea-houses are available en route where we can get food and shelter. After further discussion within our group, we decided to go for Sendakhphu. Prabhu has already done Sendakhphu and would prove a good guide to us. He promised the views of Kanchenjunga and Everest if the weather is clear on one of the days of our treks. He even made a five day itinerary in case in tomorrow’s final medical checkup he is cleared. We would be leaving shortly after other students have left from HMI.

Since only 10 days of my 30 days leave has passed yet, I had planned to travel the whole time available with me. Me and Prabhu will explored the possibility of Bhutan after we return from Sendakhpu. Although a Passport or Voter ID Card is required to cross the border, I have my company ID and I hope this would be sufficient to cross the border without any problems.

I came back to the room after the discussions. Since, I had already packed, I watched my roommates packing their bags and getting excited about the coming days. Since, I had given up all hopes that I would be cleared for the trek, I shared my plan of Sendakhphu and Bhutan with them. But everything was bleak as compared to HMI trek and Mountaineering training in the lap of Mount Kanchenjunga. This was not the ending I had expected.

20.09.2014

I woke up early at 04:15 hours got ready and waited for 06:00 hours to go for medical checkup. My roommate Sameer gave me a small scaly fruit to consume, which looks like Litchi from inside. He had purchased it from a vendor near Tenzing Rock. He said that this has the property to alleviate Blood Pressure temporarily. I did not eat it because, in case it worked, I did not want to influence my Blood Pressure readings. I believed that if high Blood Pressure is something which is taken quite seriously by these institutes then I better not go to avoid facing problems at higher elevations.

I went to the MI room with others. Mukul got lucky and his readings had come down to normal. All others were handed over a slip and asked to go home. I dearly wished I had been selected but was happy at last this tumult will end and I can now move on to other adventures. Two of the rejected students were from Sikkim Scouts. They were admitted for the course on the insistence of their captain who is also a student in the course.

The institute tried their best to take us in. They gave advise on lowering the blood pressure, gave us multiple opportunities and all the moral support. I said goodbye to all my friends and left HMI Darjeeling for a new adventure.

To the beginning of the HMI adventure:

Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI Darjeeling

 

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course — Part -8

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Click here to read Part-07 at http://yadavmanoj.com/hmi-darjeeling-basic-mountaineering-course-part-7

Rappelling Classes at HMI Darjeeling

This is 18.09.2014 and I woke up in the morning fresh and fine. Last night was a good sleep and my body had recovered its lost strength. Today, Indronil Chatterjee Sir, the one who taught us about the tectonic divisions of Himalayas, took us for PT. The exercise was mostly stretching limbs. Taking long steps and walking fast.

After return, we were asked to leave for the rocks for rappelling classes. The instructors demonstrated different types of rappelling techniques which are classified broadly as direct rappelling and indirect rappelling. Indirect rappelling was more difficult. In shoulder rappelling, two rappelling jackets are used while in side rappelling only one is used. They also demonstrated stomach rappelling.

I also tried indirect rappelling and shoulder rappelling. It was fun but I tried it only once. Others including my roommate Pranav tried it multiple times.

After lunch we took some rest in the hostel room. I wanted to sleep but there would be next class at 1400 hours and sleeping in day can affect my sleep in night. So, I avoided it.

My Roommates

Rasheed requested that I should write something about us roommates. So, I spent this time writing about my room-mates and I will start with Rasheed himself.

Rasheed is a good boy with polite manners. In the morning he sleeps till everyone is ready. He loves to remain clean even in the cold of Himalayas which is evident from his practice of taking bath regularly. He tried his best at all the activities and remains excited about new things. He trusts his friends as I have never seen him locking his cupboard. An easy going person, he has come here after completion his Bachelor in Technology. He will search a job after finishing the course.

Pranav, 19 years, is the most energetic and the youngest of my roommates. He is a student of Bachelor in Computer Science (BCS). He has a well built physique. He is deep in adventure and is aware of the intricacies of adventure sports. Even before this course, he was aware of map reading. He is also easy going but to the extreme limits. But, may be, since he is aware of himself he loves to try his limits time and again. Questions on his impatience and free spirit are answered by a simple statement that he is too young to care for anything. His dressing sense is awkward but practical like his pants are worn out and his fancy colorful shoes without laces which he wears everywhere, literally. His way of packing is intelligent. I see him loving the company of people engaged in adventurous activities.

Rituraj (Sameer): He is studying in the final year of Engineering from VTU (Karnataka). He is a dedicated NCC student and is proud of the same. I have never in my life seen such a dedication to ones organization. I believe he must be well respected and popular in his NCC Unit because of his dedication, courage, politeness and bravery which he shows in everything he does. Right now after the yesterday’s trek he is treating his ailing arm which seriously got hurt. He had carried the maximum weight possible in his rucksack for better practice. His shoulder is showing signs of improvement after spending last day and today applying mustard oil, hot mustard oil, garlic mustard oil and so on. He too faced some problem with his blood pressure initially but after his extreme efforts of taking bath in cold water, drinking three liters of water just before check up, wearing t-shirt and sandals in the cold evening outside the medical room — I guess he cleared the test.

Sagar, a civil police person of West Bengal, posted in Asansol area under some police station. He is a likable person but quick to talk about his posting place, coal thefts, bribery and the loopholes in the system. A very kind-hearted person he loves to listen old Hindi movie songs. He is a very social person and lover to talk to everyone in the group. He always calls all of us together for classes and mess. He waits until he is sure that all roommates have come for supper.

Buddhabed Bajpayee is a very lean boy, talks real fast and most of the time attentive of every detail. He is also a reservoir of energy and loves to show off his athletic ability irrespective of time. Both Buddhadeb and Sagar are cool with each other as they are from YSIT and had talked on phone when their organization introduced them to each other as batch-mates of the Basic course at HMI. They had come together from Burdwan to New Jalpaiguri together in train for the course.

Pemba Sherpa is a sanguine persona with bright eyes, smiling face, fit physique, smart wardrobe, curly hair and handsome looks. He is generally very silent but when spoken to, speaks in quick and small sentences with a tone quite common to this area. He home is about four hours bus ride from Darjeeling. He is working with a trekking company and has been to treks in Jammu and Kashmir, Garhwal and Sikkim Himalayas. He is here for learning the traits for professional development.

These were my roommates, there are other friends too. Mukul is a banker who also shared high BP case with me and was as frequent to medical room as me. He is a cool, polite and keeps his head shaved.  Another is Manpreet, he had read my blog post on HMI and contacted me. We had been talking even before coming to this course. Subho was a banker who left his job couple of months back and is now travelling. This course at HMI is also a part of his travels. I found that all students are interesting in a way or other.

Broadly I classify the students in three groups:

  1. NCC and Defense Forces: There students are sponsored by their departments and there is a compulsion for them to complete the course and return to their departments. But, looking at most of them, it feels that how easy this course is for them.
  2. Adventure Sports Professionals: People who are working in the business of trekking/adventure/mountaineering etc. They come here to acquire an additional certificate and skills for their professional development.
  3. People like me, Mukul, Rasheed etc. Who have come here out of interest, zeal, fun etc. They are self motivated and want something different, challenging and adventurous in their lives.

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-9

 

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part -7

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Click here to read Part-06 at http://yadavmanoj.com/hmi-darjeeling-basic-mountaineering-course-part-6

Assembly for Tiger Hill Trek

It was 17.09.2014, 06:00 AM, when we assemble for Tiger Hill Trek.

Last night after the amazing movie, we (the under observation group) were called to medical check up again. This time my BP came down to 130/90. We are still in observation. We have been once again called back today just after the Tiger Hill trek.

We were informed that Tiger hill trek is to-and-fro 22 Kilometers trek from HMI Darjeeling.  We have to complete this trek between 6 am to 12 noon with a weight of approximately 20 kilograms in our rucksack. This will be a bit tough. Let us see how it goes. The route is basically civil area and roads. It will be beautiful. In between for 10-15 minutes at Jorbangla market we will be given a break. Tiger Hill is 8000 feet with an increasing altitude from Jorbangla.

There were 70 students in our course. The trek started at 06:15 am.

Notes entry just before reaching Jorbangla at 07:36 am:

We have been walking since 06:15 am and it has been a moderate steep uphill trek. I was able to do it not easy not tough. No major issues observed. We have been informed that the trek between Jorbangla to Tiger Hill will be quite steep. Let us see. Her everyone is taking rest, clicking pictures. Although sky is clear blue and sun shining bright. It seems like we have reached the top of Darjeeling or will reach shortly. About the cough and breathing aspect. It is becoming subsided and me more stable. Traces remain in days and night both.  I just have to be more careful.

We reached Jorbangla at 10:00 AM. Jorebangla is 9 kilometers from Darjeeling., a small town from where goes the way to Kalimpong and further. One of its uphill road goes to Tiger Hill. We took a shortcut route/trail to Tiger Hill which is a forest like area of bamboo trees and plants along with other diverse flora.

After about 2 kilometers walking, the trail joins the main road leading to the Tiger Hill. At this junction, we all take rest for some time. Here is a welcome gate for the Durga temple. This is a view point from here whole Kanchenjunga range is visible.

On this junction of trail and road, there is this sacred place where sacred hymns are printed on flags and the flags are hosted here. When wind blows the hymns makes the nearby area sacred.

From here we could spot a peak which is Kabru Dome just above HMI base camp. On its right stands tall, the great Kangchenjunga and on left Mt Everest.  But we could not see both due to clouds.

Tiger hill is 8400 feet. From here we have to return back. All are clicking pictures, enjoying the view though little is visible as valley clouds have come up.

On return, at 10:30 am enroute I saw the beautiful ghostly forests with short bamboos and long trees in Senchal wildlife Sanctuary. We came down following the road this time.

We reached Jorebunglow at 11:00 am.

At 11:41 am we passed through Jalapahar Army Cantonement before taking New Cooch Bihar Road to Darjeeling.

The trek was difficult for almost all of us because of the distance, the weight on our backs. Instructors told us that this was a trailer and preparation for the coming trek in Sikkim. We were asked to come to Doctor for medical checkup later in the evening.

Lecture: Map Reading

I was fed up of not taking bath since 13th when I came here and today is was 17th.  My body must have started smelling and my shortly cropped hair were filled with dandruff and today morning I saw a pimple on my face.  So after this back breaking trek and sweat drenched day, at 02:00 PM suddenly I decided to take bath which I did and am feeling great now in this class of map reading. Also, since last two days, I had stopped wearing fleece at all except for evening time.

Map reading was an interesting subject. The lecturer informed us that the maps in India are prepared by the Survey of India. Information was given about the type of compass, type of maps,  how to read maps, using compass and map to know the ones position, tracing a route from map to ground, tracing a route from ground to map etc.

After the class of Map Reading there was a tea-break. I have completely avoided having tea since last 2-3 days so as to control the elevated Blood Pressure. Once they pass me, I can again start the same again or may be I won’t need it. But, a hot liquid is one of the most desirable thing in cold mountains because they re-hydrate body and the hotness helps feel good.

Since I did not take tea, I utilized the break for washing socks and hanging the clothes to dry which were kept as such since before last class as I was getting late.

Side effects of Tiger Hill Trek

But, one thing is sure that many were feeling pain in joints due to the trek. Two students willfully dropped out because they found today’s trek toO tough to bear. Others like me were bearing the pain and excited to go for the Himalayas.

Lecture on Mountain Hazards

At 1650 hours we were asked to come to the lecture hall for class on Mountain Hazards. Powell Sir had already taken the class but due to the medical checkups the class was shortened that day. Moreover his stories of mountains which are most inspiring take much of their lecture time. He is teaching us the importance of empathy and taking all team mates together. He insisted that these are basic mountain manners which are to be followed by everyone. He appreciated our trek timing as all students were back to HMI by 1300 hours.

He further continued on Mountain Hazards:

Objective Hazards:

  1. Rock Group
  2. Scree: Loose rocks on a slope of a mountain hill, Injury can be caused by slipping.
  3. Verglas: Thin layer of ice on rock in early morning or early evening. Since it is also slippery, it is better to put sand on it while passing through or break it using ice axe/walking stick.
  4. Loose Rocks: Never step on loose rocks, in case they fall shout ‘Rock’ and warn climbers below.
  5. Snow Group
  6. Avalances
  7. Blue-black colored hard snow causes slippery conditions
  8. Cornices
  9. Snow on trees: Heavy mass of snow. While resting or passing by the snow can fall thus be careful during camping.
  10. Weather Group
  11. Temperature: Better wear clothes as per the changing temperatures in day/night or walking/resting. A useful tip to keep water warm and prevent from freezing is to put the water bottle in sleeping bag. This can be used to wash face, brush teeth etc. Be careful it must not leak. At night whenever one needs to go out, wear all necessary clothes or it may cause shock as the temperatures are generally below freezing point.
  12. Windchill factor: Windchill factor is determined by wind speed and temperature. Naked skin will burn in cold air. So always use mask, apply sunscreen but keep ears open. He was very specific about keeping the ears uncovered as it may delay acclimatization.
  13. Lightning: While walking never keep ice-axe above head/shoulder level. Never stand under a lone shade/tower/tree. Always walk in a group and cover ice axe with plastic.

Subjective Hazards:

  1. Hypothermia: To protect from hypothermia, body temperature should be maintained constant. Do not wear a jacket or wind proof jacket while walking as the body may get overheated. Cover your body with a jacket during rest.
  2. Chilblain: It is the beginning of a frost bite. Never leave the skin uncovered and do not allow water to touch skin.
  3. Psychological Imbalance

The lecture was amazing as ever. Powell Sir has hands on experience on many peaks including Mt Makalu and Mt Everest. His classes are learning as well as fun. The great thing about him is his experience and he loves sharing it with others. He informed us about Mountain Hazards in quite practical way and preventive and corrective measures. We, the under observation group, had to leave the class for medical checkup at 06:00 PM. My body was in pain due to the trek and when they measured the readings it came to 146/110 which was higher than last time and above the allowed limits. The medical assistant joked on this that he is trying to send me to the trek and I am trying to go back home. Anyway, he called me back for medical checkup on 19.09.2015, a day before trek.

As the chances of us clearing the medical test looked bleak with every passing day, the under observation group thought of Plan-B.  A trek to Sendakhphu or Goecha-La on our own won’t be bad. We decided to discuss this on the evening of 19th after the final medical checkup.

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course — Part -8