India

Basic Mountaineering Course – NIMAS

Are you a Trekker/hiker? Planning to upscale that to Mountaineering? Planning for a Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) in India? This post is about my experience in NIMAS. I finished my course in Aug – Sept 2018. As several people asked me to write down the details, I’m jotting down my experience here. 

Topics Covered 

  • Institutes in India 
  • How to register for a course 
  • Physical preparation for BMC 
  • Course details, duration and Certificate importance 
  • Assessment during the course 
  • Things to carry 
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) & How to Reach Dirang   
  • Course Details —- Below topics in different page 
    • NIMAS Campus (1st Week) 
    • Campus to New Melling trek and details on rock climbing practices 
    • Trek to Mago –Jithang – Meerathang 
    • Meerathang to Ice wall trek, Ice wall climbing practice and back to New Melling 
    • River crossing & Back to NIMAS Campus 
  • Summary of how a day looks like 
  • Conclusion 

Institute’s in India 

There are 5 popular Institute’s in India 

1) Himalayan Mountaineering Institute – HMI – Located in Darjeeling, West Bengal 

2) Nehru Institute of Mountaineering – NIM – Located in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand 

3) Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering – JIM – Located in Pahalgam, Kashmir 

4) National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports – NIMAS – Located in Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh 

5) Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports – ABIMAS – Located in Manali – Himachal Pradesh 

 The first 4 are National institute and the last one is popular state-run Institute. All Institutes cover the basics of Rock & Ice climbing, however teaching methodology and focus may vary. Eg- NIMAS focus on endurance and other institutes focus on Technique and Skills. 

I cannot tell you which is the best institute among 5. I can tell you, how I chose NIMAS. I chose the one which had the least waiting time with an option to register online. Wait time in other institutes is 2-3 years. NIMAS had a wait time of 8 months. Cost of the course varies in each institute but still its subsidized greatly, since they are supported by the Ministry of Defense. As I last saw NIMAS fee was higher in comparison with all being 16500 + GST (I paid 14500+ GST). 

How to register for the course 

  • Go to your preferred institute website. Select Admission or Course Tab 
  • Go to BMC and see the available and suitable batch for you (This course won’t run throughout the year. Average 4-5 batches a year) 
  • Go through eligibility criteria and application procedure 
  • Fill in online application form & submit (You need medical certificates to apply online in NIMAS) 
  • If online is not available, download the form, take a print out, fill in the form and take all necessary documents print and post the application form along with the course fee in the form of a DD/Cheque (whichever is mentioned in the application procedure). 

You will get the confirmation of your booked seat to mentioned email id in application or through post or phone call. You can contact to Institute through call and ask for details if you need any. 

Physical preparation for BMC 

This is not a weight loss program. You need to have a decent level of fitness to finish this program. If you don’t have a minimum required fitness, the instructors may ask you to leave the program. But several times, applicants voluntarily back out on their own.  Medical officer will check your vitals frequently to make sure your healthy, fit and acclimatizing. So, don’t take physical preparations lightly. 

I will post a detailed plan at the end of this. Here are the highlights 

1) Run– Approx. 10 –12 kms in a stretch for minimum 3-4 days a week (You should be able to do this 6 weeks before the course. Last few weeks focus on timings and running with weights). If you can’t run, do equivalent amount of Cycle or Swim or something to improve your Cardio. I suggest you do run as you will have to do an endurance run in course period.  

2) Make sure to walk up to 12-15 kms in a stretch on an unpaved road with minimum 12 kgs weight (yes, weigh your bag, don’t assume) 

3) Climb ~1800 stairs up and down with 12 kg backpack at least 3 times a week (in approx- 25mins)

4) At least 4-5 hours a week work on strengthening your legs, shoulders and back. 

Note: This is my personal schedule and it works for me, important thing is keep moving and do something we enjoy. 

Start of endurance run

Course details, duration and Certificate importance 

You get to learn various techniques a mountaineer must know. This course trains you to make out different features of the incredibly vibrant mountain settings, how you must act while in mountains, and how you have to work in concert with them. This course will help you become an independent person along with independent mountaineer. In this course you will be exposed to high altitude and you will learn the basics of Rock and Ice climbing. 

This course duration varies from institute to institute from 26 to 30 days. In NIMAS its 28 days program. At the end of this course, you get a certificate. Only when you attain ‘A’ Grade in your certificate, you will meet the criteria of taking admission in Advance Mountaineering Course in any institute. If not, then you’ll need to do this course again.  

if climbing a mountain is your passion or hobby, then it is advised to first embark on a mountaineering course before the hard climbs. 

Assessment during the course 

I’m not sure how exactly assessment is done in other institutes, however the base assessment will be on same (rock climbing, Ice climbing and written test). Note that, instructors will always be keeping an eye. They will observe your fitness as well as performance, and you’ll get your scores based on that. If you have done well during practice and if you couldn’t perform on test day, then its ok. Test day is not the only one which matters, bit it’s the key. 

In NIMAS assessment is done on 4 parameters. 

1) Ice Climbing – In this, you need to climb Ice wall with max 3 fall attempts. Not sure of wall height and time, as it varied for everyone in our batch due to bad weather(snowing). I guess they checked technique in our assessment time. I took 2 attempts, I failed my first attempt as the strap of the ice axe broke during my mid climb and I fell back, I had to climb the same way second time. 

2) Rock climbing – In this test, you need to climb certain rock faces in 3 mins duration with max fall of 3.  You need to climb 2-3 rock faces 

First 3 Climbers who have taken the least amount of time with less fall attempts, will have to undergo another around for best student award. 

3) Endurance Test – You need to run in an unpaved path for 8 kms (4kms one way – same way back) with 12kg backpack for women and 15 kg backpack for men in 56 mins. Every 4 mins late post that will reduce 2 points. 

4) Survival Test – This will be for lower marks and will be assessed on your entire group. You need to survive the night in the forest, by creating your own shelter (Not tent) and cook food with the minimum ration given to you and survive the cold and other threats on your own. 

5) Written test – This will be the last and final test on the theoretical aspects explained during the course time. 

There is no need to specifically prepare for all these beforehand, but timing your run with weights in unpaved uphill run and doing artificial wall climb before course beings will give you added advantage. 

Type Marks 
Written test 50 
Rock climb 20 
Ice craft  20 
Endurance  20 
Trek 10 
Survival 10 
Mountain manners 
Team work 
Director Asessment 10 
Total 150 
Break up of assesment

Things to carry 

Several essential things required to do this course will be provided by institute itself. However, you still need to carry some items. I have made a list below of the items given by institute and things I suggest you carry. The decision on which item to borrow from institute is solely on you. You need to carry equipment’s provided by NIMAS along with your personal ones, so pack Sensibly. 

Equipment’s & other items provided by Institute

  1. Single compartment 80-90lts backpack (Ruksook) & backpack cover 
  2. Sleeping bag & mat 
  3. Inner liner for sleep hygiene 
  4. Padded Jacket (I had a better jacket I still used NIMAS one) 
  5. Rock climbing shoe 
  6. Snow boots (inner and outer layer) 
  7. Ice axe 
  8. Carabiners, Descender & 1 Jumar 
  9. Helmet 
  10. Sling rope 
  11. Crampons 
  12. Windcheater 
  13. Tiffen box/spoon/Tea tumbler/ Water bottle for packed lunch (I suggest carry your own, all box looks similar and hygiene will be on toss after few days, as it gets exchanged and it wouldn’t be washed properly) 
  14. Tent (carried on rotational basis in a group) 
  15. 1.5 kgs of dry fruits after trek starts 

Equipment’s you need to carry 

  1. A good sturdy Trek shoe 
  2. Light Rain jacket /pant or Poncho 
  3. Good 50lts backpack to carry your items 
  4. Cloths – 1 pair of thermals 
  5. 4 full arm shirt and full-length pant 
  6. Few extra pairs on Inner garments 
  7. Hand gloves (both inner and outer – Inner – Woolen, Outer – water/snow resistance) 
  8. Hand/head Torch with extra pair of batteries 
  9. Cap Balaclava (woolen) 
  10. Socks – 5 pairs (don’t carry ankle length ones, ice shoe will be till the mid-way of your shin bone – it will avoid chaffing if you wear full length socks) 
  11. Goggles with side cover 
  12. Toiletries (Paste, Brush, Sunscreen, Moisturizer, Toilet paper, Sanitizer, facewash, Comb, cloth washing powder, mustard oil small bottle) 
  13. Basic medicinal kit (Dolo, combi flam, Cetirizine, Stepsil, Loperamide, Avomine, Band-Aid 
  14. Eatables (suggest you finish everything in NIMAS Campus, don’t carry during trek) 
  15. Big Plastic Cover for inner layer of bag to protect bag from being wet ( if you don’t have buy in Dirang) 
  16. Sun cap  
  17. Balaclava or neck warmer 
  18. Book/ Pen – to make notes of theory classes 
  19. Documents – four passport size pics (2 for ILP if your obtaining after arrival), Id& address proof, cash paid receipts& medical certificate 

Optional 

  1. Knee cap (I carried and it helped me a lot) 
  2. Hydration pack (I prefer this over water bottle) 
  3. Trek Pole (I suggest not to carry, Instructors didn’t allow me to use trek pole almost 90% of times) 
  4. Tent lamp (I carried; it was useful) 
  5. Camera (I suggest small go-pro, big ones are tough to carry) 
  6. Novel to read (You will be tired and won’t have patience to read, I carried Kindle throughout) 
  7. Slippers (Will be handy during initial campus days – I carried it even during trek) 

Inner Line Permit (ILP) & How to Reach Dirang 

Inner Line Permit  – It is necessary to get entry in Arunachal Pradesh. Do plan to get the ILP done in time.  

Documents required for ILP: 

Two passport size photos and ID proof preferably passport or AADHAR card. 

How to get ILP:

1) Online ILP – https://arunachalilp.com/onlineApp.do – max 28 days

2) You can get ILP in Guwahati airport and railway station. In airport before exit you can see Arunachal tourism stalls. It takes 15-20 mins to get ILP here. Note that office in airport is closed on Saturday & Sunday. Office hours 9-5. If you reach Guwahati on weekday between office hours, you can obtain ILP in airport. Same is applicable in Railway station. I suggest obtaining online ILP.  

E- ILP Sample copy

How to Reach Dirang: 

Dirang is about 350 kms from Guwahati, 190 from Tezpur & ~130 km from Bhalukpong 

Nearby Airport: Guwahati   

Nearby Railway station: Bhalukpong, Guwahati & Tezpur 

By Road:

1)If you are in a bigger group you can take a private sumo from Guwahati or Tezpur all the way till Dirang. If you hire a full Private sumo’s you can travel even during night. We left Guwahati at evening 7 and reached Dirang in the morning around 3. Driver allowed us to sleep in cab till early hours of morning.

2) For the people travelling alone there are shared sumo’s available from Guwahati and Tezpur. There are bus services available. Most transport starts between 6 to 9 am only as driving through these roads are risky. Be sure to book a seat a day prior for convenience and be prepared for solid 8-hour bumpy ride. 

3) Don’t plan to take ILP on the way, as drivers change route often based on climate, road risk and convenience.  

4) Entire Sumo hire will cost around 7000- 8000Rs as of Aug 2018. Individual chargers will be approx 600 Rs one way.

At Dirang: 

The NIMAS center is perched atop a hill. Once you reach Dirang, call NIMAS center and check when is the next NIMAS bus due. Timings of bus vary based on several things.  We boarded 7 AM bus, which came to Dirang to pick essentials. Another way is to hike. It can take 45-60 minutes. 

Dirang Main road

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