This is the age of a new generation that wants to explore every tiny bit of everything possible in this world. And with the advent of Instagram, there is one more reason to start exploring. The winner of the favorite explorations is traveling. Trekking has provided a new dimension of thrill to only traveling.
The Himalayas is no more a summer chill destination. There is a whole new definition to it thanks to trekking. Now more people want to get out of luxuries and live the raw life. After a few treks, we get so intrigued we just want more and dive deeper into the field of mountains. That is when we stumble on the term Mountaineering Courses. I am sure the addiction of mountains has driven many like me. I realized this recently when I started getting more queries about these courses. So, I think it is the need of the hour to answer the question, what next?
1. Before taking any courses discover yourself
There is this craze of hiking, climbing, and Instagram-ing. But before you invest in a 28 days course, ask yourself why you want to do this. Are you really ready? For that go for frequent one-day hikes and Himalayan treks. Also, try some adventure activities for that matter. Try to do a trek of difficult level or lengthy one. By difficult I do not mean to directly jump into a risky trek. Take it slow. Learn about your body. Know how it adjusts. Find out what is really your interest. Is it rock climbing, hiking, skiing, camping, mountaineering, adventure activities like rafting, paragliding, slacklining, snowboarding, etc. Once you know that only then enroll for a course. Directly cut-short to, For each kind of interest, which course is best.
2. Where to find a course
Each Himalayan State of India has a government-run Mountaineering Institute ie. total 5 institutes to our service. All the institutes offer all the courses. They are run by Army personnel and founded long back before the 1970s. Here are they, 1. Jawaharlal Institute of Mountaineering and Water Sports(JIMWS or JIM) in Jammu and Kashmir 2. Atal Bihari Vajpai Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (ABVIMAS) in Himachal Pradesh 3. Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) in Uttarakhand 4. Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling, West Bengal 5. National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (NIMAS) in Arunachal Pradesh. Youngest of all, founded in 2013.
Well, get used to the short names now!
3. Which course to select
All the Institutes offer the same courses divided into Categories namely,
Mountaineering Courses 1. Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) 2. Advanced Mountaineering Course (AMC) 3. Method of Instruction (MOI) 4. Search and Rescue (SnR)
Adventure Courses Courses based on number of days
Skiing Courses Basic, Advanced and Intermediate Skiing courses (Offered only by JIMWS)
Water Sports Courses Basic and Advanced Rafting, Kayaking (Offered only by ABVIMAS)
Other Courses Paragliding, Para Motor, Mountain biking, Scuba diving (Offered only by NIMAS)
Let’s start with Adventure courses
Adventure courses are preferably for those who want a glimpse of mountaineering course and want a little time spent on adventures. They are also suitable for kids.
Let’s talk about the most talked Mountaineering Courses
If you are looking for technical hiking and peak climbing, these are the best. Even for Rock Climbing and Ice Climbing enthusiasts, BMC is a good start where basics of knots, rappelling, river crossing, map reading, survival, traditional climbing, glacier techniques are taught. The hierarchy of courses goes this way,
BMC –> AMC –> MOI/SnR
‘A’ grade is a must for the next level. There are no restrictions for applying for BMC, except age restrictions ( between 18-40, this depends on every Institute, confirm this). Good physical preparation before the course is always preferable.
For just mountain-lovers or high altitude trekking
BMC is enough. Reasonable knowledge about high altitude problems like AMS and basic survival methods are good to go.
Jobs: Trek Leader/Assistant TL (with prior trekking experience), Mountain Guide, Safety Consultant or any position in Adventure Activities company, Outdoor Expert.
For those getting into mountaineering career/expeditions
AMC adds value. Once AMC is done, a door to Mountaineering expeditions open. Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) funded expeditions are applicable only to AMC certified. Many peak climbing expeditions require at least a BMC and any 6000er meter peak experience. Therefore, after AMC you can officially start your Peak Climbing dream. AMC + SnR is always suggested for advanced rescue techniques.
Jobs: Apart from jobs with BMC, Expedition Leader (with prior expedition experience), Operations/Base Camp Manager for trekking and expeditions (after 5+ years experience).
For becoming an Instructor in these Institutes
AMC + MOI is necessary. Eligible for working with any Mountaineering Insitute.
Here is another option for Mountaineering career. After AMC a small course of Liasioning from IMF is required to become a Liason officer. The Liaison Officer is a person who goes along as an Indian authority in foreign expeditions. Yes, a free chance to go on foreign mountaineering projects (with a big responsibility).
Additionally, courses from NOLS are also acclaimed in India. They offer a variety of courses to enhance Mountaineering/Mountain Guiding knowledge.
Rest of the courses are specific to their names. So if you have selected your passion, choose the relative course.
Now that you know which course to do, let’s which Institute will serve you better,
4. Which Institute to select
All the institutes are good. All of them provide an epic chance to explore the typical Himalayas belonging to each state. Apart from relishing the local culture, one gets to train under unique geographical rock and glacier.
Having said that, just like other degree colleges, some Institutes are popular. NIM and HMI being all-time famous and NIM being the number one. Take precautions while talking about NIM, fans of this Institute are everywhere. That is the reason why NIM admissions have a years-long waiting list.
Here is what I have learned about all the Institutes(correct me if I am wrong). These assumptions are only based on Mountaineering Courses. NIM: Best technical knowledge, really strict and disciplined. Involve intense training with heavy load carrying. HMI: Good technical knowledge. Good height gain training. ABVIMAS: Additional focus on survival training. Less theory more practical sessions. JIM: The best rock area that is used by HAWS (High Altitude Warfare School) training also. A friendly environment, so less strict. The best Ski area in Gulmarg. NIMAS: Best glacier area. Since it is new, hopes of new equipment and techniques. Chance to witness less explored Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh.
What do they have in common?
As I mentioned all the courses are run by Army Personal so they are disciplined and strict. They expect the same from us. All the Institutes do not look for the best-skilled student but a student who is willing to learn. They judge based on the improvement one has done during the course. One may be the best climber but if not polite and disciplined, no grades are given. Surprisingly, the teachers conducting courses keep rolling, so they have eventually served for all the institutes. All the Instructors have amazing experiences to share about their mountaineering expedition and Army service. All release annual course schedule on their website so you can plan your course. Active office staff for immediate call and email response. The website may look old but is updated frequently.
Fees for courses
All the Institutes have posted a Course fees chart on their website, that looks something like this.
Course Fee chart and schedule of NIMAS
In conclusion, whichever institute you choose, lifetime memories and friends are guaranteed. In fact, if possible one should take a course from every Institute to get experience of every part of the Himalayas. Try not to never repeat courses in one Institute. Select a different Institute for every course, that way you get to taste the variety.
For creating a career no rule is defined. Making a career in any field totally depends on how you want to pursue it based on options available to you. One can plan it as and when opportunities pop up. I have seen many giving up their default careers to build a new one in the Adventure. Adventure is an addiction. Before jumping into anything, always think through. I like to keep a plan B at hand. Also, remember that practical experience and passion can always overrule any certifications. But these courses are a good start. While planning a future in the mountains, keep in mind that, there will a lot of hurdles of the uncertainty of nature, money, professionalism. Only because it is still a developing field in India. Plus it is an Adventure Industry if everything is certain, it won’t be adventurous anymore!
Be adventurous, be Nutan!