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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.

Manu Khandelwal / Author

I call myself a traveller more than a travel blogger. Started this blog in 2013. Apart from this I am an Electrical Engineer. Love trekking and doing bike road trips. Like using technology but not addicted to it. A true foodie and love eating burgers.

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