Basic Mountaineering Course is Government sponsered course in Mountaineering. Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Manali offers this course starting from May, with course duration of 26 days. Similar course are available at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi.
IIT Bombay, Mountaineering club encourages students doing this course. We a group of twelve students were part of the IIT team going for the course. With our endsem ending late, and due to unavailability of reservation we joined the course two days late. We were accommodated in the dormitories of the institute. We were 28 in all and were divided in a group of 4(four ropes). It was the first time I was subjected to army like disciplines, getting up at 5 am everyday, frequent “fall-in”, punishments of pushups, front roll. I was getting used to all of them.
In the first two days that we missed, we were given instructions about mountaineering in general, what all skills a good mountaineer needs to acquire and later started off with rock climbing. Hadn’t done rock climbing previously, it was a bit difficult for me to gain confidence of my holds, I was bit scared on most of the occasion. It left bad impression on my instructor. The instructor used to be very strict at times. In few days of practice, seeing others climb easily I gained some confidence. Rockclimbing session was followed by rappelling and jumaring session. We were taught various techniques in rappelling, and jumaring. Along with these training there used to be physical excercises, in the morning and in the evening. Not a single second was wasted. Lectures accompanied the training. Movies were showed to us at night. In about a week we got training of techniques in rockclimbing, jumaring, rappelling, jumaring, river crossing, wood craft. At the end of the week we were given a holiday to do some shopping in the Manali market, before we left for base camp. Also had bath after a long week in the Vashistha hot water spring J
We then left for our next base camp to Dhundi about 20 kms from the institute, carrying our rucksacks weighing some 15-20 kgs we trekked our way to Dhundi, via Solang. Dhundi is a small place along the river Beas. We pitched our tents at this place. From next day our snow craft training started. It was the first time in my life I saw snow, walked on snow, felt the snow. We were given techniques in walking on snow, climbing on snow slopes, coming down, use of various instruments specially ice axe. The training used to be quite exhaustive, one used to sweat in presence of snow. I lost my spectacles during the course adding to my troubles. Seeing no other alternative I decided to continue the course without my specs. In next we days we were given further practice in snow craft.
We then shifted our base camp to Bakharthaj, at the base of Hanuman Tibba, highest peak of that range. Next part of training included glassiding, self rescue, group rescue, ice craft, crevices rescue. It was now I started gathering interest in the course. Our tent days were the most memorable part of the camp. Sleeping in our sleeping bags was great experience. Chilling nights, bed tea, mess tins were all new and exciting for me. In last few days of our stay we were taken to place near Beas kund for height gain, the most thrilling part of the course. Starting at some 4 in the morning we traveled some 3 kms from our camp to Beas Kund and started climbing the peak. Starting from base height of 10000 ft we gained height of 16000 ft when heavy snowfall and whiteout let us down, but our spirits still high. We were feeling as if we climbed the Everest. In high spirits we came down sliding, and jumping on the snow. We had checkup regarding any high altitude sickness, most of us had minute headache due to height gained and lack of oxygen, but our high spirits made us feel well.
Returned back to Solang after few days, thanks to PM Vajpayee who had come to Manali, that made us stay in the valley for few more days. Now most of the training was over we used to spend a lot of time roaming in the hill, playing cricket, football, and also did some paragliding( for which Solang is famous for). Last part of training was survival night and final examination. Camp ended with a campfire.
Lots of things this course taught me. It was the first time I tested my stamina to extremities. Made many friends, were from all corners of the countries some from Canada, got to know about there tradition and culture. Got experience of working as a team. Apart from all that got opportunity to stay in the beauty of nature for whole month. Taught me to respect nature, the mountains. This was more important for me than the ‘B’ grade which I got!