So many things were running inside my head when I first walked up the road in the zoo leading to HMI. The instructions, the anticipations, the curiosity.. It was only after the zoo the second time (and quite a few times after that) that i finally saw the well bred and kept animals and birds. The day we reached the institute, we were given a blanket, a bed sheet, a spoon and a glass each (mine was soon replaced by a milkmaid tin :P). We were introduced to the quarter master first, and later the instructors one by one on the following days, as they conducted certain lectures on various aspects of mountaineering.
We were eight in a room (but unfortunately not in the one with the view of the Kanchenjunga ranges) talk about a room with a view!
The day would start with PT and there we were, running down the slope of the zoo to the beautiful VIP road leading to Chourasta (one we took once too often even after that), and struggling our way back uphill to the institute again, crossing the Himalayan Bear, a lazy witness to our animated efforts. (and quite honestly, the only thought I slept on, on the second night was “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” ;)) But in a day or two, you get used to that too..
Classes on equipments, backpacking, Himalaya, topographical divisions, 8 thousanders, mountain manners, environmental protection, ropes, knots and hitches, mountain terms, mountain hazards, first aid, high altitude illnesses, principals of rock climbing followed in days to come at the institute and on field. And we had begun picking our favourite instructors among all of them 😉
Rock craft was taught at Tenzing Rock, about a 15 minute walk from the institute. Ah! The 120 ft. rappelling, has to be the coolest part of the training at Tenzing rock..but the walk back up, umm.. not so much. That was where we got practical training in techniques of rappelling and climbing and later rewarded ourselves to, what I think was, a well deserved cup of chai and pakoras or maggi or the staple momos!
Food at HMI was simple and quite appetising (especially after a backbreaking day on field).. Non veg was served at dinner which we sometimes shuffled for the delicious soya-mutter-paneer! But the favourite sessions for me had to be the evenings spent in the HMI Zoo Cafe, with more than half of the hostel there and an abundant supply of food and laughter and chatter in the small cafe! how I miss the momo and coffee!
However, I think it was only during the trek to Tiger Hill that I finally began to really interact and bond with my fellow participants. And what better than homemade laddos to do the trick? 🙂
Friendships were beginning to form and laughter now reverberated across the corridors of the hostel (with more than 40 girls from 17 different States, that was to be expected!), our spirit was hovering between confidence and anxiety..
Yet one feeling lingered since I first visited the HMI museum. The walls are lined with photographs of expeditions and legendary mountaineers right from Mallory and Irvine, Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay to our very own field director! There are equipments used during expeditions and newspaper reports announcing the brilliant feat. Being there, being a part of HMI for whatever short we were there, made me feel that i was more than just a part of a basic course, it made me feel like I was a part of a legacy!
I was walking down the same corridors, learning the same things, practicing in the same institute from which some of the best mountaineers also started their journey.. And who’s foundation was initiated of course under the of the ‘Tiger of the Snows’..
*To Do Or Not To Do:
*Umm.. You definitely don’t want to have a falling-out with the QM during your tenure at HMI.
*Don’t miss out on the PT! Regardless of the first day goes.
*Just soak in as much as you can about the place.
Due to a change in schedule, we were supposed to leave the institute earlier than planned. After equipping us with all the necessary information and basic skills we would need during the trek, we made a move from the institute on 14th May. What followed was an incredibly interesting adventure through the mountains and valleys of West Sikkim.. but another interesting journey was one I took within. And i can’t wait to share them both! 😀 Stay tuned!