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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, August 7, 2017

Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 9

Manu Khandelwal

Last days at HMI

We came back to HMI campus in Darjeeling on 28 April. While coming back we all were quite happy because everyone did good training. When we reached the campus, everyone welcomed and congratulated us. Now we were left with some tasks such as written test, cross country competition, sports climbing competition and a personal interview. Before all this, we were given a day for an outing and we had fun on that day.

There were two competitions that I already knew that they are out of my league but still I gave my best. Both the competitions were new for me and I was participating for the first time. However, it was a nice experience. Now written test left. I was not at all worried about the test because I attended all the classes so I knew almost everything which is going to be asked in the test. The test was gone well. I answered all the questions. The interview was taken by the HMI Principal. He just asked simple questions like how was your experience, how was the food and training, and etc.


Graduation ceremony:

Initially, we were given a demonstration of the graduation ceremony and then we did the practice of the same. We were quite excited for this day as this was the main day for all of us. We were about to receive a badge (a small ice ax) and the badge was the sign of a Mountaineer 😎

After the graduation practice, we all came back to our room and got ready for the ceremony. Then we were given HMI pullovers and monograms to wear in the ceremony. After all the setup, HMI Principal came and started giving the badges and simultaneously we started doing swiss claps. Then the time came when my name was announced "Manu Khandelwal, private candidate from Agra". Woah! That moment cannot be described in words. I was literally on cloud nine. Seriously, when I received the badge, it was one of the best moments of my life.




After all this, all the competition winners were awarded by the medals and HMI Principal Capt. Rahul Goyal gave an ending speech. Firstly he congratulated all of us and told incidents related to Mountaineering.

He said "a Mountaineer should always be cautious and courageous. In 1952, when Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was trying to attempt the summit of Mount Everest, he was just 830 feet below the summit. Unfortunately, the weather turned bad and he decided to come down. He could have taken a risk and reached the summit to set the world record, but he did not make hurry and that is why now he is called a 'legend'. In 1953, he summited Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary and became the first man to climb Everest and then he climbed many other peaks and made so many records. To climb a peak, caution and courage are two most important things that one should have. All the best. May you climb from peak to peak." and he ended.

Later we had a photo shoot and refreshment and then we started leaving the campus as we were going back to our home. I met with all my friends and instructors and then started my journey back to home with lots of memories.



So this was the whole experience of my basic Mountaineering Course at HMI. Hope you liked it. For any query related to HMI, comment below.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

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

Manu Khandelwal
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 😄

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Lovely Yet Unknown Varkala

Manu Khandelwal


Situated on the coast of Kerala, Varkala is one of those places that you go to enjoy the beach life as well as to not be burdened by overcrowded areas. Filled with beautiful beaches and amazing sceneries, it’s a surprise that this place isn’t overcrowded all the time. 

Getting There

Getting there is hardly an issue. As it is just around 43 km from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala and the nearest international airport is also located there in the capital. People willing to go by flights or train could head over to the Thiruvananthapuram and from there take a bus or train to Varkala. People interested in sparking their adventurous side and traveling by road with their bikes from Bangalore and/or Chennai will have nothing to lose because there are tons of great sites to see on the way which will make the trip even better before you reach Varkala. Around 680 km away, the trip from Bangalore to Varkala will cost you around 12 to 13, very well spent, hours. Those without a bike, but that are enthusiastic about riding there, have no worries, as there are popular websites like Wheelstreet.com that provide you to rent a Royal Enfield in Chennai, Bangalore and other metro cities.

Weather

During summers, Varkala gets quite hot and humid, and so it isn’t recommended that people visit the place during the summer months. The monsoons in Varkala begin with the start of June, and it usually ends with the month of September. The winter is where the magic is at and is considered the best time to visit this beautiful place, as temperatures drop and the whole place remains steadily cool, it just adds to the whole mix of a fruitful vacation.


Places To See

Varkala offers many amazing places to see and spend time in. Ranging from cool beaches to awesome temples, this place is full of fun stuff and places to do and explore. The few must-see places in and around Varkala that you just got to visit are the Janardanaswami Temple, the Varkala Tunnel, Sivagiri Mutt, the Sarkara Devi Temple, the Kaduvayil Juma Masjid, of course, the Varkala Beach, to name a few. For those with enough time on their hands can visit the various other amazing sites Varkala has to offer and check them out to one’s content.


Accommodation

This amazing boon of Kerala provides lots of affordable and medium budget accommodation options as well as expensive ones. For those who want to stay and chill out at Varkala for a little longer than usual will have no problem finding a decent place to rent a room or two and hang out there.

All in all, Varkala is just one of those places that have to be on your next list for trips to take. This is one place that no matter what kind of person you are, it will definitely not disappoint. So get out there, explore the world, and make every moment count!

Contributed by: Shanaya Mehta

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Basic Mountaineering Course at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling - Part 7

Manu Khandelwal


Life at HMI Base Camp

After reaching the base camp, we setup our belongings at the space provided to us. Now the base camp was our home for 12 days. We already knew that these 12 days are going to be tough and a very unique experience.

About Base Camp

The name of the basecamp is Chaurikhang, which means “Grazing Place of Yaks”. It is situated at an altitude of 14,600 feet above the sea level and settled in the Rathong Valley. The location of the Base camp is perfect. It is girded by many 6000 m and above peaks such as Renok, Frey, Kokthang, Rathong, Kabru, Fork and etc.

HMI Base camp


Initially, we had this thing in our mind that reaching the base camp is the only tough task that we have to do because we had to carry 25 kg backpack. After reaching and spending one night at the base camp, we got to understand that living at base camp is a tougher task than reaching it. Some of us (including me) had already been to this much altitude and some trainees hadn’t even crossed above 3000 ft. Staying for 1 night at this altitude was okay but staying for 12 nights were not.

Daily we used to wake up at 5 and the temperature remained around -4 or -8 degree Celsius. We used to walk around 200 meters for our nature’s call. The good thing was that the bathroom was available for girls as well as boys. After seeing the condition of the bathroom, we realized that open area was much better than that one. So our struggle started from the morning because outside there were strong and extremely cold winds. After all this, we used to do breakfast and got fall in. In the fall in, our duty instructor used to tell us about the activity that we were going to do on that particular day such as glacier training, jumaring, etc. Our evenings remained mostly free, we used to do just gossips and interactions.

Bathroom at HMI base camp
The most difficult task of the day was when we had to wash our mess tin. Due to extremely cold weather, the water became like hell for us. It was like that you just dip your fingers in the water for a couple of seconds and you won’t feel that you have fingers. It was really difficult for me. Most of the time, I skipped washing mess tin with water. Instead of water, I used sanitizer and tissue paper. Apart from this, other difficult tasks for me were to take out snow boots from my legs and going inside sleeping bags during the night. Every day my buddy used to help me to pull out boots from my legs and while going to sleep, sleeping bag felt us like ice. It remained so cold that sometimes we had to use the hot water bottle to keep it warm.

Schedule at HMI Base Camp
0500 Hours               –            Wake up
0600 Hours               –             Breakfast
0700 Hours               –             Fall in
0700 – 1300 Hours   –             Activity
1300 Hours               –             Lunch
1300 – 1600 Hours   –             Activity
1600 – 1900 Hours   –             Free time
1900 Hours               –             Dinner
2030 Hours               –             Sleep

Meals at Base Camp

Meals were really good at the base camp and were better than the meals at Darjeeling. Daily, we used to get high calories food because we needed more energy to do activities at high altitude. Our meals schedule were decided in a way so that we could have more fluids intake. At higher altitude, it is necessary to keep the body hydrated, so fluids intake is a must.

Trainees waiting for lunch outside the kitchen
Meals Schedule:

Breakfast: Cornflakes, Oats, Boiled Egg, Bread Jam, Omlete, Chickpeas
Lunch: Dal, Rice, Sabji (mostly Paneer), Chicken or Mutton, Roti
Evening: Tea and Soup
Dinner: Dal, Rice, Sabji, Roti and dessert (Gulab Jamun/Custard/kheer/halwa). 
After Dinner: Hot Drinks (Bournvita or Horlicks)

Weather:

Normally, the temperature varied from 5 degrees during the day to -5 during the night. On some days while snowfall, the temperature dipped around -11 during the day. The weather was really unpredictable at the base camp. It happened most of the time that the sky was clear, the sun was strong and suddenly clouds came and it started snowing in less than 5 minutes. I have seen snowfall for several times but for the first time I experienced snowfall with the clear sky. Yes, there were no clouds and it was snowing. Actually, due to low temperature and moisture present in the atmosphere, water droplets were getting converted into snowflakes and it seemed us like snowfall.

Due to cold weather and less oxygen presence, many trainees got ill. It was not at all a problem because the base camp had a medical room with an experienced doctor. There were 2 trainees, who were sent back to Darjeeling. Due to less oxygen in their blood, they were having a problem in breathing.

For HMI, the weather was just a weather. No matter how worst it was, training never stopped. During our 3rd day of glacier training, it was snowing heavily and the temperature was around -10 degree. We all were expecting that our instructors will skip the training on that day. When we got fall in, our chief instructor asked “is there anyone who doesn’t want to go glacier?” and not even a single hand was raised. In the end, the instructor said “we know the weather is too bad to go…(he took the pause and then continued) but we still go to the glacier and do our training” and we were like “okay sir” (with our down faces).




After completing all the training, we were given a day for rest at the base camp before returning to Darjeeling. On that day we played cricket and did other activities. We had a ball that day.



Part 8: In this part, I will tell about the training at HMI Base Camp.

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