Now you can Subscribe using RSS

Submit your Email
Snow Trek To Nag Tibba
Whenever I hear the word “winter”, the first word that strikes my mind is “Snow”.
Feb 2017
Kodaikanal Munnar Winter Trekking Expedition
As we all know that North India is famous for trekking. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand provides best and tough trekking routes
June 2015
Har Ki Dun Trekking Expedition
The state Uttarakhand has a long list of trekking trails. Some are easy, some are moderate, some are difficult and some are strenuous.
August 2015
Ilaqa Pass Trekking Expedition
We were planning this trip since February 2016 and every time our plan got cancelled due to reasons such as college placements, project presentations, sessionals, etc.
August 2016

Monday, June 19, 2017

Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 4

Manu Khandelwal

Rock Craft Training

Sequence Climbing at HMI Base Camp
Sequence Climbing at HMI Base Camp
Our training started with introduction and practice of rope knots. There were total 12 knots that we practiced and used for different purposes. We were given lectures on Principles of Rock Climbing and Climbing holds. And finally, we went to Tenzing Rock for our practice. Tenzing Rock is a place at Darjeeling where one can attempt rock climbing or bouldering on natural rocks. There were 7 phases on which we climbed.

It was the first time, I was doing rock climbing. Turn by turn, we used to climb the rock. Initially, it was a little bit difficult for me to maintain the balance on the rock, but we were made to climb the rock several times and then the activity became a normal task. Rock climbing is not as easy as it looks. When you are in the learning phase of this thrilling activity, there comes a moment when you start climbing the rock and after reaching the midpoint, you don’t find space to put your foot or you don’t find holds which result in losing your grip and you tend to fall and then you shout “I am falling, belay check”. Sometimes you get hurt also. Rock climbing needs a quite good practice.

After reaching the top by climbing, we used to come down by Rappelling. During the first time, I found rappelling more difficult than climbing. I also got slipped, but then came down safely. We practiced several types of rappelling such as shoulder, stomach, long phase, etc. Daily we used to do a lot of practice and then we started doing well.

trainees at Tenzing Rock, Darjeeling
Tenzing Rock, Darjeeling

trainees doing rappelling at tenzing rock, darjeeling
Rock Climbing at Tenzing Rock

trainees doing rock climbing at tenzing rock, darjeeling
Rappelling at Tenzing Rock

me doing Rock Climbing
During the whole course, what I understood is that in mountaineering, there is nothing you could do with muscle strength or power. You just need the presence of mind and right techniques. Like in rock climbing, you just need to identify the route and correct holds and just climb with confidence. In case of rappelling, just lean your body perpendicular to the wall and come down in a rhythm by using your flat foot.

Apart from rock climbing and rappelling, there is one activity that I found the easiest and it was Chimney Climbing. Chimneys are cracks or gaps in cliffs that can accommodate any human body. Chimneys range in width from body-width chimneys, which are just wide enough for you to squeeze into, to wide gaping chimneys that you climb by bridging and stretching your arms and legs on opposite walls. In this, we had to climb up and down in between two cliffs by using some techniques.

trainees doing chimney climbing at tenzing rock, darjeeling
Chimney Climbing

trainees while morning fall in
During Morning Fall in

Rope 7
On one day, we also did long phase rappelling in which we had to cross the overhang. Initially, we all were scared, but it was fun. It was like we were doing a stunt of Spiderman.

I found sequence climbing a tough part because the boulder had no holds and we had to climb that with our snow boots. During my turn, I tried a lot, but I slipped every time. At last, the instructor said : “this is your last chance” and I tried again. During my last time, I was just about to reach the top and I got slipped again. At that time, the chief instructor and instructor, both were there and Sir said: “loose his belay, let him fall”. I was like “no no sir, I am climbing”. The belayer actually left the rope, but I didn’t come down. Though I got some scratches, but somehow I climbed that part without any safety.

Activities we did in Rock Craft Training

Rock Climbing, Rappelling, Chimney Climbing, Belaying, Rope Knots, Rope Coiling, sequence climbing
We also did Sports Climbing, also called as artificial wall climbing at HMI. I found sports climbing easy than natural rock climbing, but both the activities have its own fun.

Trainees doing Sports Climbing or Artificial Wall Climbing at HMI
Sports Climbing or Artificial Wall Climbing at HMI

Trek to Tiger Hill

Before leaving the HMI and moving to Sikkim, we did a 25 km long trek in Darjeeling with a backpack of around 18-20 kg. It was like a test to check everyone’s stamina. The trek was from HMI campus to Tiger Hill and back. The 70% Trek was on the uphill road and rest was on the hilly trail.
Tiger Hill is a hill top and the highest point situated in the vicinity of Darjeeling at an altitude of 7800 ft.

This was the only activity that was known to me. I was quite confident in this one and I also did well. The trek was nothing but due to that much weight which we were carrying on our back, it became difficult. Still, I did not get tired except during the last km and completed the trek in given time.

While trekking to Tiger Hill
While trekking to Tiger Hill

Kanchenjunga and other peaks

Apart from this practical training, we were given lectures and lecture cum demonstration on topics such as

Mountain Manners, Mountain terms, Introduction of Ropes, Himalayas, Mountain Hazards, Principle of Rock Climbing, Tent Pitching, Avalanche, First Aid, Introduction of Ice Axe and Crampon, Acclimatization, Map Reading and Effects of high altitude and Cold and head injuries.

Lectures were quite interesting. I don’t think that I have ever attended any lecture by paying this much attention that I paid during HMI lectures. From school to tuition to college, I used to sleep in each and every classroom. This time, I attended every lecture properly and it helped me during the whole course.

After completing 1st phase of training, Rock Craft, we all were happy because we were going to Sikkim and from that day onwards we did not have to do morning PT and running.

Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 3

Manu Khandelwal

Training at HMI Campus Darjeeling

After coming back to HMI from Zoo, I met my roommates. There were total 8 trainees in my room including me, Manas (Maharashtra), Kaushal (Gujrat), Prakash (West Bengal), Sonu (West Bengal), Aashiq (West Bengal), Somu (West Bengal) and Paul (Hong Kong). We had an introduction and here also engineers were in majority 😜 At 5 pm, we all went to the main hall and assembled there. There were other trainees also waiting for the instructors.

fall in area, hmi
Fall in area, HMI
Then our instructors came and welcomed us with the greetings. We were total 70 at that time and other 10 trainees came 1 day late. So we were total 80 in the batch including trainees from almost all the states of India, 2 from USA, 2 from Australia, 1 from Norway and 1 from Hong Kong. There were trainees who were 12th class students, college students, NCC Cadets, Private jobs, travel jobs (like me), Army personnel, officers from Army, Airforce and Indian Forest Services.

Our Chief Instructor Mr. Lakpa Norbu Sherpa Sir came and introduced himself and all other instructors. He warned all of us to be in discipline. There were total 10 instructors including Soumendu Sir, Pawel Sharma Sir, Sonam Sir, Zubin Sir, Lekhraj Sir, Abhinay Sir, Pankaj Sir, Nandan Sir, Nima Mam and Rozie Mam. From next day, our training was to be started, so we all slept just after having dinner.

Boys Hostel, HMI
Boys Hostel, HMI

View of Kanchenjunga from HMI Campus
View of Kanchenjunga from HMI Campus

hostel mess, hmi
Hostel Mess

while having dinner at hmi
while having dinner at HMI

Schedule at HMI Campus, Darjeeling.

  • 0500 hrs                                     – Tea
  • 0555 hrs                                     – Fall in
  • 0600 – 0700 hrs                         – Physical Training/Yoga
  • 0700 – 0800 hrs                         – Breakfast
  • 0800 – 1230 hrs                         – Activity/Classes
  • 1230 – 1330 hrs                         – Lunch
  • 1400 – 1730 hrs                         – Activity/Classes
  • 1730 – 1800 hrs                         – Tea Break
  • 1800 – 1900 hrs                         – Training Film
  • 1900 – 2000 hrs                         – Dinner
  • 2130 hrs                                     – Lights off

Before going further, let me tell you some terms that we used during training in HMI.

Fall In – 
It means wherever you are and whatever you are doing, if this word is announcing then just leave everything and assemble into your ropes at the respective place, i.e., open ground or fall in area.

during fall in
During Fall In
Ropes – 
It is nothing, just another word for groups. All the activities we had to perform in our respective ropes. We were divided into 10 ropes each having 8 trainees and each rope has been assigned a rope instructor. I got rope 7. There were total 8 in my rope including me, Paul, Akhil, Renu, Anoushka, Prakash, Krushna and Rahul. 

Mess Tin – 
It is a kind of lunch box in which we used to carry our packed lunch during trekking. At basecamp, we used to eat all the meals in the mess tin.

mess tin
Mess Tin
PT – 
PT means Physical Training. Every morning, we used to start with a 5 minutes warm up then running for 5 km on an inclined road followed by hardcore exercises and yoga. PT was to increase our stamina and strength of muscles and Yoga was to enhance our breathing power so that it would help us in high altitude.

Daily we used to wake up at 0430 hrs and after freshening up, we got to fall in at 0555 hrs. On the first day, I was little nervous and very much excited. Nervous because of my zero preparation and excited because I had never been into such training.

After fall in, we used to start with warm up. In warm, we did simple exercise, jumping and a little stretching. Then we moved out of the campus for running. We were made to run 5 km daily on an inclined road. After running, without any rest we used to do exercises such as pushups, squats, planks, crunches, etc. and then come back to HMI campus by run. Apart from this, we also did running by carrying our partner on our shoulders. This was our daily morning schedule till the day we were in Darjeeling. We also did yoga on alternate days.

We had a medical test to check our physical fitness and I was declared fit. In HMI campus, we did several activities, had lectures on various topics and also we were shown documentary movies.

Our whole training was divided into three parts, Rock Craft, Snow Craft and Ice Craft training. Rock Craft training was to be conducted at Darjeeling itself and the rest two was to be done at HMI Base Camp (14,600 feet) at Chaurikhang in West Sikkim. According to HMI schedule, our rock craft training was scheduled from 4 April to 11 April and then we had to move Sikkim for our further training.

Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 2

Manu Khandelwal

Darjeeling Excursion

I boarded the train on 31 March at 6:45 AM from Anand Vihar Terminal. After getting into the train, I met my train-mates. They all were going to Guwahati. One person was from Army and one from CISF. As usual, my train got late by 6 hours, but I did not get bored due to good company of those people. It was indeed a good journey. We had a discussion on so many things related to defense and all. They all wished me luck while deboarding. I reached New Jalpaiguri Railway Station at 2 PM instead of 8 AM. I took the exit and hired a shared taxi to Darjeeling.

The journey time from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station to Darjeeling is around 3 hours. On that day it took around 4 hours to reach Darjeeling due to rain and dense fog. As we crossed Siliguri, the weather got pleasant and soon it turned bad when we entered into hills. There were so much of dense fog on the road due to which driver was not able to see a single thing. The drive was getting scary as we were moving towards Darjeeling. In spite of all this, our driver was using his phone while driving. I asked him several times that "what do you want to do?", but he was not responding anything at all. Several times, our taxi got off-roaded and even sometimes the driver took the car on the track of toy train by mistake. At last, I reached Darjeeling at 8 PM and it was raining like cats and dogs. So I told the driver to drop me at the cheap and good hotel. Finally, I did check-in into hotel lemon tree situated near the Darjeeling Railway Station. I bargained and booked a room for 2 days for INR 1500. The room was okay at that price. I had my dinner and booked the taxi for my next day tour of Darjeeling.

Darjeeling is home to many attractions such as tiger hill, monasteries, temples, rock garden, tea estates, etc. The tour is differentiated into 3 point, 5 point, 7 point and mixed point

3 point tour – Tiger Hill, Ghum Monastery and Batasia Loop & War Memorial.
5 point tour – Peace Pagoda and Japanese Temple, Lalkothi, Dhirdham Temple, Ava Art Gallery & Bengal Natural History Museum
7 point tour – Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Darjeeling Zoo, Darjeeling Ropeway, Tenzing & Gombu Rock, Happy Valley tea estate, Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, Lebong Race Course and Gorkha Football Stadium.
Mixed point tour - Japanese Temple & Peace Pagoda, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the Zoo, Darjeeling Ropeway, Tenzing & Gombu Rock, Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center, Rangeet Valley Tea Garden, and Happy Valley Tea Estate and Rock Garden & Ganga Maya Park can also be combined at an additional charge.

I was not at all interested in visiting temples, museums, and so many monasteries. So I opted for 3 point tour in the morning and rock garden in the evening. It cost me INR 250 each for a shared taxi.

Next day I woke up early at 0345 hrs, got ready and went for my first tour of Tiger Hill. Tiger Hill is situated at a height of 7780 feet and is the highest point of Darjeeling. The hill is famous for clear and majestic views of Kanchenjunga (3rd highest mountain peak in the world and highest in India) and mesmerizing sunrise that takes place from behind the hills. People from all over the world come here in the early morning during sunrise when the first ray of sunlight incident on the peak. The peak looks magnificent at this time. I took several shots there and left for my second Destination which was Ghum Monastery. 

people capturing sunrise at tiger hill
People capturing sunrise at Tiger Hill

Sunrise at Tiger Hill
View from Tiger Hill
When I reached there, prayers were going on. Several tiny lamas were doing prayers in their way. I did not stay there for more time and after all this, I reached Batasia loop and war memorial, which was the last destination of the 3 point tour. I liked this place because of views and the interesting loop of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. I spent a good time here and then reached my hotel back. Then I did my breakfast of aloo parantha and explored the market by walk. I went to Darjeeling Railway Station where I saw Darjeeling toy train for the first time. At that time, the train was getting ready for its first ride of the day. I did not take a ride on that train because I did not have the reservation and it was also quite costly.

Ghum Monastery in Darjeeling
Ghum Monastery

Inner view of Ghum Monastery
Ghum Monastery

view of Kanchenjunga from Batasia Loop in Darjeeling
View of Kanchenjunga from Batasia Loop

Me posing at Batasia Loop
At Batasia Loop

At Batasia Loop
At Batasia Loop

Track of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway at Batasia Loop
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Track at Batasia Loop

Steret Market at Batasia Loop in Darjeeling
Street Market at Batasia Loop

war memorial
War Memorial

Toy Train getting ready for its first ride
Darjeeling Railway Station

Toy Train taking a trial run
Trial run of Toy Train

People waiting to get on the train
People waiting to get on the train

View from Darjeeling Railway Station
View from Darjeeling Railway Station

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Engine starts

Darjeeling Toy Train
Darjeeling Toy Train

Later I had my lunch at Hasty Tasty restaurant located at the mall road. After having lunch, I spent some time at Chowrasta. Chowrasta is a big circular ground having a statue of Bhanubhakt Acharya in the middle. Then I started walking towards HMI and found a park called Nightingale Park amidst the way. I bought a ticket and went inside the park. I found Park a good place to spend some time in silence watching mountains and hearing chirping of birds. There were several varieties of flowers that made the park more beautiful.

Statue of Nawang Gombu Sherpa near Governor House, Darjeeling
Statue of Nawang Gombu Sherpa near Governor House

View of Darjeeling from Nightingale Park
View of Darjeeling from Nightingale Park

Nightingale Park
Nightingale Park

Chowrasta, Darjeeling

Statue of Bhanubhakt Acharya at Chowrasta
Statue of Bhanubhakt Acharya at Chowrasta

Mall Road, Darjeeling
Mall Road, Darjeeling
In the evening, I went to rock garden. The rock garden is situated in the Rangeet Valley. The route to rock garden is scenic as it passes through Happy Valley tea estate. The rock garden was an average place according to me. The place was nothing just a little isolated from the main city. Later, I got back to my hotel and after having dinner, I took a stroll at the mall road. I bought some gifts for my family members. Clothes were not very expensive there. Also, I bought the famous Darjeeling tea, but before buying, I did a small research there and found some interesting information about the tea. Locals told me that during the season, the tea gets sold at the auction and prices can hike up to INR 5 lakhs per kilogram. They told me that if you want to buy tea of good quality then Golden Tips is a good brand but it is expensive and if you want to buy tea of good quality with cheaper rates then Apoorva tea from Makaibari Tea Estate is a good option. I decided to buy 250-gram tea of Golden Tips and the cost was INR 2200 per kg. After all this, I came back to my room and slept.

Rock Garden, Darjeeling
Rock Garden, Darjeeling

Now the day came, on which I had to report at HMI. I got ready, had breakfast and reached HMI at around 11 am. HMI and Padmaja Himalayan zoological park are situated in the same vicinity. To reach the HMI campus, one has to cross the Zoo first and then HMI comes. While entering through the main entrance, the guard asked me ticket and I just said that I am a trainee of HMI and he let me come. For visitors, there was an entrance fees of INR 40. There is another gate inside the premise which is called the main gate of HMI. As we enter into that gate, a statue of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and a Shanti Stupa can be seen. Then there comes an open space, which has Jayal hall on the right, a class room and library on the left and office in the front. The institute building was old but good. The walls of the Institute have photos of legend climbers, various knots, ice axes, etc.

Entrance of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
HMI Entrance

When I entered into the campus, there were some people standing in front of the office and several visitors. I went to see the notice board at which it was written that “all the trainees have to report here at 5 PM”. I was left with quite good time. I quickly got inside the office, completed all the formalities and went into the hostel. There I met with the quartermaster. He allotted me room no. 6. I was the first one in that room. I put my rucksack into the cupboard, locked it and went to explore the Zoo.

I saw all the animals including royal bengal tiger, snow leopard, leopard, Himalayan bear, jackal and in the last I went to see my favorite animal, which is Red Panda. Panda was the reason I was excited to see the zoo. When I visit there, Panda was sleeping on a branch of a tree. As panda is one of the laziest animals in the world, it took me around 2 hours to capture this cute animal. Also saw several different species of birds there. I wanted to see reptiles but they were in hibernate mode, so the reptile zone was closed at that time. Later I came back to the HMI hostel and waited there.

Padmaja Himalayan Zoological Park
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park

Red Panda at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Red Panda at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park

This was the first time that I traveled solo to any place and the experience was completely different. Sometimes it was fun and sometimes it was kind of boring. Boring because I do not like places with so much of crowd and in India, hill stations remain filled with visitors. The overall experience was good. Tiger Hill, Batasia Loop, and Darjeeling Zoo are the places that I liked the most. If someone wants to spend time doing nothing then Nightingale Park is a good place. From park one can get a nice view of Darjeeling. Tea estate is also a must visit place. During my Darjeeling visit, all the meals I had in one restaurant, which is Hasty Tasty. The food was good as well as cheaper, but it is for only vegetarians. I tried Burger, Masala Dosa, Paneer Dosa, Cheese Utpam, Chole Bhature, Aloo Parantha, Paneer Parantha, Chinese Thali and some more dishes (I don’t remember). All the dishes were delicious. I went to one café also, which is Glenary’s. Its pastries and cookies were awesome and the cost was also nominal. Glenary’s is the place that one should try in Darjeeling.

Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Copyright 2017, Harstuff Travel Powered By Harstuff