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Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 8

Training at Rathong Glacier

Training at base camp

I have already described the life at HMI base camp in my previous post. This account will showcase the complete Training at HMI base camp.

I already described that the training was divided into three parts, rock craft, snow craft and ice craft Training. Rock craft training was completed at the HMI campus Darjeeling. Now we were left with snow craft and ice craft training which we were going to do at the base camp. 

Our training was scheduled to start from the second day at base camp. On the first day, we just trekked up to the midway to the Rathong Glacier. There we had a class of surroundings in which our instructor told us about the mountain peaks situated around the Rathong Valley. Then we were given crampons and we were taught how to fix it on snow boots and walk with it. 

Rathong Glacier and surrounding peaks

Lecture on surroundings
Next day was the very first day of our glacier Training. I was very excited because for the first time I was going on a Glacier. I had never seen any glacier before.

Our training schedule included 4 days of Glacier training in which we had to do so many activities. 

The training area was Rathong Glacier, the source of Rathong river. To reach the glacier, we had to do a trek of 3 hours. The trek to the glacier from the base camp was moderate but after wearing snow boots, it was difficult. During the trek, we walked on big boulders, frozen river, Scree, Moraine and almost on every kind of terrain. The most unique experience was when we walked on the frozen river. Sometimes during the sunny day, the upper ice layer of the frozen river used to get soft and it seemed us as we are walking on a soft ice mattress. At that time, our instructor advised us to walk only 3-4 persons at a time on the river. It scared us but really a thrilling experience. 

Rathong Glacier

Practice of front points on the glacier

Climbing the ice wall

While coming back from the glacier

Frozen river

Trek over boulders 

me at the Rathong Glacier

Reaching the glacier

Lecture cum Demonstration on anchor base

While trekking to the glacier
We used to take the route just from the back of the base camp. We started with a steep Climb over a mountain followed by a flat walk over the big boulders. It usually took us around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the glacier. After reaching the glacier, we were asked to put on the harness seat and crampons without any rest and then we used to start with the training. 

getting down through a steep descent

Our glacier Training included

1. Coordination of ice ax and crampons
2. Pick and toe method
3. Side traversing
4. Ice wall climbing up and down with the help of ice ax and crampons
5. Jumaring
6. Rappelling on ice wall
7. Crevasse rescue ( Z-pulley system and single pulley system)
8. Making anchor base (linear, triangular and rectangular)

Our training duration was around 4 hours in which we used to do continuous training. The most tiring was climbing up the ice wall. We used to get completely drained out after climbing up. We literally craved for water. It was really hard to do that tough training at 15,600 feet in the cold weather with less oxygen presence.

Apart from glacier training, one day we also went to Advance Base Camp for activities such as long phase rappelling and self-arrest techniques. The advance base camp was situated at an altitude of 15,500 feet. The trek from base camp to advance base camp was 3 hours long. When we reached there, it started snowing there but still, our activities did not pause. The long phase rappelling was a real thrill. We had to rappel down 200 feet from a rocky cliff and that too in the snowfall. Some trainees got scared and refused to do it. During my turn, I just set the half descender and started rappelling without seeing below. The main challenge in the rappelling was the overhang that we had to find and negotiate the same. I did it in a correct way and successfully reached down.

reaching Advance Base Camp

Doing long phase rappelling

Dudhpokhri - a sacred lake
After doing the rappelling, we had tea and Britannia cake and then we started with the self-arrest technique. Initially, we were wondering that how we would do it in the snowfall. When we attempted, it was really fun. In layman’s language, self-arrest is a technique used to stop or block your body while falling on a slope or snowy mountain. Later we trekked back to our base camp.

Height Gain Activity:

After completing all the training at the base camp, we were left with our last task that was height gain. In this activity, we had to climb a mountain peak. Initially, it was not declared that which peak we were going to climb. There are mainly two peaks for basic trainees, Renok (16500 feet) and BC Roy (18,200 feet). Our chief instructor announced in the morning that we will climb BC Roy peak. The day before the climb, we were given toffees, juice, dry fruits, cake, biscuits so that we could feed ourselves during the climb.

Our food for the BC Roy peak climb
The timings were 4, 5 & 6 and at 6 AM we started our climb. We took the route and started moving. We crossed a river stream by making a chain and continued our walk over a ridge. The ridge was quite steep. We were continuously trying to maintain the rhythm. After crossing the ridge, we came across a wall on which there were fixed ropes. From this point, our technical climb was to be started. I was tired, so I decided to take some rest and then put on the harness seat. Our chief instructor Lakpa Sir was continuously shouting on us and saying “hurry! Walk fast otherwise I will leave you and you will not climb the peak”. I was suffering from a severe cough that is why I was walking slowly. 

Route for BC Roy peak climb

When I reached the wall, I set the self-anchor with the carabiner and started the technical climb. There were four breakpoints where we had to change the ropes. After around 40 minutes of climb, ropes ended and steep climb started on a route full of snow and boulders. Everyone was ahead of me, except 11 trainees. We 12 were walking slowly. When we reached the base of BC Roy peak, we got a news from a Norbu that the chief instructor asked us to stop there. Due to our slow speed, our instructors took this decision. We did not argue because we knew that we were not in that condition to summit the peak. We were feeling bad but we did our mind makeup and took out the flag for the photo shoot. This was the first time I reached 17,200 feet. 

resting before the summit

At the base of BC Roy peak
After all this, we started descending without any permission. While climbing down from the base of BC Roy (18,200) peak we were 12 and no instructor was with us at that time. We crossed the trekking part by normal downhill walk. Although it was not at all easy for us to climb down. The snow on the trail made the descent quite risky. I got fallen several times, but by somehow we came down. When fixed rope came, we started wondering that what technique we should use to climb down. After thinking for a couple of minutes, we set the half descender and rappel down. The technique we applied was not suggested but we did it and came down safely. Later we came to know that, other trainees climbed down through that part by doing reverse jumaring. At the base camp, we congratulated all the trainees who summited the peak. 

coming down by rappelling

Other activities we did at the base camp:

Sequence climbing
Double jumaring
Suspension traverse
Tyroline traverse

Tyroline Traverse

Suspension Traverse

Double Jumaring

Trek back to Yuksom

We were given a rest day before leaving the base camp. The next day morning, we started our trek to Tshoka. We skipped the campsite Dzongri and directly trekked down to Tshoka. We did a night stay at Tshoka and next day we departed for Yuksom in the early morning. We reached Yuksom by noon and after having lunch, we boarded the car and started our journey back to Darjeeling. We reached Darjeeling by late evening.

The next and last part would describe the last days at HMI. Stay Tuned 😄

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

This post first appeared on HARSTUFF - TRAVEL, please read the originial post: here

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Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 8


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