Mountaineering Courses and Institutes in India: A Definitive Guide.
I was fortunate enough to go for my Basic and Advance mountaineering Courses back in 2014. To date, the courses have been a life-changing experience. During the courses, I learnt so much about myself and the mountains. A mountaineering course will teach you the skills required to summit mountains and be a part of expeditions. Personally, my courses really pushed me to the limit and in the process changed my outlook on life so I thought I’d write this blog talking about how you can also learn mountaineering and shed some light on how India has some of the best mountaineering institutes in the world.
How do I get into mountaineering in India?
Mountaineering is a vast field and getting into it may seem like a daunting task. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. If you are a beginner and don’t have any experience, I would recommend going for a trek. Trekking in the mountain is a good place to begin and is a good litmus test to see if the mountains are something that calls to you. I hear you, why would you be searching for mountaineering courses if you haven’t been for a trek; valid point. A mountaineering Course is definitely the place to learn about the skills required and to be a part of expeditions to mountains in the Himalayas. Additionally, by joining the courses, you get to meet like-minded people who share the same passion for the mountains.
Most courses also have an age limit that ranges from 17-45. (Each institute has a different range). For young adolescents, an adventure course is the best way to introduce them to the sport.
What are the different Mountaineering Courses available in India?
The shortest of all the courses, an Adventure Course is the best courses for individuals looking to get into mountaineering and rock climbing and are pressed with time. Adventure Courses are usually designed for children and school groups and is the best way to introduce adolescents to mountaineering. They usually cost close to Rs. 10,000 and are spaced out throughout the year. Most Adventure Courses are usually mixed for Girls and Boys. The Girls & Boys courses are for ages 12-17 and above 17 are part of the men-woman categories.
Over the course of 15 days, you will learn the basics of trekking, rock climbing, river crossing and navigation.
Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC)
The Basic Mountaineering Course is the most popular mountaineering course and is the best way to get into mountaineering. The 28-day course takes you through all the skills required to climb a mountain. Most institutes will make you trek up to ‘Basecamp’, which is where you’ll learn about ice climbing, traversing glaciers rock climbing and everything you need to know to be a part of an expedition to a 7000-metre peak such as Satopanth. The course will involve a climb to a 5000 metres peak where you’ll be tested on how you perform and can use the skills learnt.
Most institutes have over 7 courses spaced throughout the year and are usually mixed courses. There is a specific age range that you must fulfil and is around 18-40 years. The average waiting period to get into a BMC course is upwards of a year and a half.
Advance Mountaineering Course (AMC)
The Advance Mountaineering Course is the next progression of the Basic Mountaineering Course and a high grade will give you the ability to lead expeditions. Only individuals who have an “A- ALPHA” Grade on their BMC qualify to participate for an AMC. Like BMC, you’ll trek up to Basecamp and stay there for a couple of days revising what you learnt on your BMC. From Basecamp you’ll trek to Advance Base Camp, where you’ll learn advanced mountaineering skills, how to plan an expedition and more. You will also be expected to plan and execute an expedition to a peak 5500 metres in altitude. The average waiting period for an AMC is a year.
If you’re looking for a career in mountaineering, a BMC and AMC are the certifications most organizations will require that you have. The cost of both courses is around Rs. 15,000-17,000 each, depending on which institute to opt to go through. Like a BMC, an AMC is 28 days long.
Method of Instruction
The Method of Instruction Course is for people looking to become instructors in mountaineering and allied sports. Most institutes offer a single MOI course in the year. These courses focus on making you an instructor qualified to teach someone. To qualify for an MOI course you need an ‘A-Alpha’ or higher grade from any of the recognized institutes.
Here the focus is more on nurturing leaders and to prepare you for a career in mountaineering. As part of the training, institutes include mock briefings to build confidence. Most MOI courses are shorter than the Basic and Advance Mountaineering Courses and average at around 21 days and cost pretty much the same as a BMC and AMC.
The idea behind the MOI courses are to build a pool of talented mountain instructors and guides that can promote mountaineering and allied sports.
Search and Rescue
As the name suggests, Search and Rescue Courses are designed to teach individuals how to rescue people lost in the mountains. This is one of the more technical courses as it covers everything from ice craft to helicopter evacuations.
Similar to the MOI courses, Search and Rescue courses require an ‘A -Alpha’ grade in an AMC. The courses take place once a year. As you will be trained to rescue people lost in the mountains, the Search and Rescue Course can be one of the more strenuous courses that mountaineering institutes have to offer.
What are the best mountaineering schools in India?
India has several Mountaineering Institutes that are present all over the Himalayas. One of the most frequent questions that we get asked is which institute is best. Honestly, it is difficult to choose one over the other. Here are the most popular mountaineering institutes in India:
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling (HMI)
Located at the heart of Darjeeling, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was founded back in 1954 after the successful ascent of Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. As Darjeeling is the hometown of Tenzing Norgay, it was selected to be the location for the institute. The courses they offer are Adventure Courses, BMC, AMC, MOI, Search and Rescue and Special Courses.
HMI’s Basecamp is located in the heart of West Sikkim, near Goecha La. Trekking to HMI Basecamp is one of the most beautiful treks in the Himalayas. You can get to HMI, by either catching a train to New Jalpaiguri or flying to Bagdogra.
Personally, I have completed my Mountaineering Courses from HMI and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi (NIM)
As popular as HMI is the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi. It is one of the few institutes in the world certified by the UIAA. Located around 130 kilometres from Dehradun, you can easily reach NIM from Dellhi. It was founded in 1965 and stands today as one of the most prestigious mountaineering institutes. They offer a range of courses such as Adventure Courses, BMC, AMC, MOI, Search and Rescue, Skiing Courses and Special Courses.
Our founders Samir and Sauraj have both completed their courses from NIM, Uttarakashi.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali (ABVIMAS)
Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali or ABVIMAS is one the largest Adventure Sports Training Centre in the country. It is located on the banks of the Beas River. They have a large catalogue of courses that range from Rock climbing to mountaineering to Rafting. The courses they offer are: Adventure Courses, BMC, AMC, MOI, Search and Rescue, Nordic Skiing, Paragliding, River Rafting and Skiing.
The easiest way to get to Manali is to fly from Delhi. Overnight buses are also available from Delhi and Chandigarh.
National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Dirang (NIMAS)
Located near the border with Bhutan, NIMAS is the newest mountaineering institute in India. Founded in 2012, it is the first mountaineering and adventure sports institute in Arunachal Pradesh. The courses they conduct are Adventure Courses, BMC, AMC, MOI, Search and Rescue, MTB Courses, Scuba Diving Courses, White Water Rafting Courses, Paragliding Courses and Para Motor Courses.
The Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports, Pahalgam (JIM&WS).
Established in 1983 at Aru, JIM&WS is the most renowned Mountaineering Institute in Jammu and Kashmir. Like ABVIMAS, they offer a large number of courses: Basic Mountaineering Courses, Advanced Mountaineering Courses, Method of Instruction, Adventure Courses, Rescue Courses, Basic Skiing Courses, Intermediate Skiing Courses and Advanced Sking Courses.
How do I enroll to these schools?
The institutes mentioned above have websites that support both online applications and offline applications. By filling up an online form and paying the amount for the course will block your seat for the course of your choice.
The offline method is a little tedious and involves downloading the said form and posting it along with the payment details to the institute.
It’s important to remember that most institutes having a waiting for close to 6 months for their courses. i.e. their courses are fully booked at least 6 months in advance and for institutes like NIM, you would have to book your courses a year in advance.
How difficult are these courses?
Apart from the Adventure Course, all the mountaineering courses are difficult. They push you beyond your limits day in and out. Once you complete the course, you feel a level of accomplishment that is tough to put into words. The courses are the opposite of a vacation and the staying arrangements are far from luxurious. You will be expected to rough it out daily and you might go many days without having a bath and a proper bed.
Physically, you would need to prepare for a good couple of months before your course. Cardiovascular exercises are important and regular running or swimming will help prepare your body for the long hours of trekking. For your Basic and Advance Course, you’ll be carrying upwards of 20 Kgs as you make your way to the various camps. While on the course, with regular treks to glaciers, rock climbing and theory sessions, the course will drain your strength. It is important to train and prepare well before a course.