Himalayan Mountaineering Institute - Darjeeling
The motto reads in bold typeface - 'May (You) Climb From Peak To Peak'. Noteworthy is the 'You' in brackets. HMI, as it is widely called, has earned for itself, the arguable reputation of being the most respected mountaineering institute in the world.
IIt took the events of 29th May, 1953, when Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary scaled Mt Everest, to propel mountaineering as a formal discipline in India. And like many other visionary initiatives in India, this one came from Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and a great mountain lover. HMI was established on 4th November, 1954 at Darjeeling, the hub of all mountaineering activity in India.
Major Jayal was the first Principal of the institute and Tenzing Norgay the first Director of Field Training.
Today the Principal is Colonel H S Chauhan and the Director Field Training is Padmabhushan Nawang Gombu, the first man in the world to have scaled Mt Everest twice. The Deputy Director Field Training is the highly respected Dorje Lahtoo, another Everester and a recipient of the prestigious Tenzing Norgay award for contribution to mountaineering.
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Today, HMI boasts four instructors, who have scaled Mt Everest.
HMI is an autonomous institution, governed by an executive council headed by the Defence Minister as President of the Council. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, is the Vice President. Other members include eminent mountaineers and representatives of the governments of Nepal and Bhutan.
The institute has three wings. A training wing which includes a medical officer. The museum wing with two museums - the mountaineering museum and the Everest museum, which often screen films on mountaineering. The administrative wing responsible for administration, hostel, records and accounts.
The courses are all conducted in the Kangchenjunga region.
(a) Basic Mountaineering Course - 28 days - Rathong Glacier. This involves five daysat Darjeeling with rock climbing practice and short treks with easy climbs with loads and map reading etc., six days of trekking to the HMI Base camp at Chaurikhang (altitude 14,600 feet) in Sikkim (a 60 km trek) with 20 kgs load; field training at Base camp, with rock climbing, snow, glacier, ice craft and crevasse rescue and a climb to 18,000 feet.
(b) Advance Mountaineering Course - 28 days - Rathong / Frey / Jopuno Glacier. This entails 4 days at Darjeeling, trek of 3 days to the base camp of the area selected, more advanced training for a longer duration and a climb of 19,000 feet plus.
(c) Method of Instruction Course - 28 days - Rathong / Frey / Jopuno Glacier. This attempts to make instructors out of mountaineers.
(d) Adventure Course - 15 days - Darjeeling / Sandakphu / Singalila for adults as well.
(e) Sports Climbing Course - 5 days - At Institute campus
To qualify for the Advance Course, one is required to have achieved 'Grade A' in the Basic Course and for the Method of Instruction course, a Grade A in the Advance course is required. The adventure course covers a bit of trekking, camping, rock climbing, jungle survival, canoeing and similar water sports, cross country running, obstacle courses and map reading. All courses are separate for men and women.
The age eligibility for the Basic, Advance mountaineering and Method ofinstruction courses is from 17 to 40 years. For the Adventure course of boys and girls, it is 14 to 18 years and for the adventure course for adults, itis 18 to 30 years. The sports climbing course has an age criteria between 12 to 18 years. There is also an adventure course for the visually handicapped, for which the age eligibility is 18 to 35 years. Besides these, HMI also conducts special courses on request for mountaineering clubs, corporate organisations and para - military forces.
The fees which includes boarding, lodging training etc., is Rs 2,000 for the Basic, Advance and Method of Instruction courses and for the adventure courses, it is Rs 1,000. This highly subsidized fee structure applies toIndian nationals. For foreign nationals, the charges are different. For example an adventure course would cost $100.
Request for prospectus and application form should be sent to Principal, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute with a Bank Draft in favour of Principal, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute along with a self addressed envelope (14cm X 20 cm) with a postage stamp of Rs 6/-
There telephone numbers are ISD / STD CODE - 00 - 91 - 354
There are other recognised mountaineering institutes in India, imparting the same training. They are at Uttarkashi (Garhwal Himalayas), Manali (Himachal Pradesh), Auli (Uttarakhand Himalayas), Yoksum (Sikkim) and Batote (Kashmir).
Training at the Kanchenjunga region is by HMI instructors. An appealing idea for interested people. Try it out.
Photo Credit: Ashish Kaul
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.