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Is adventure in your blood?
Arindam Bandyopadhyay |
August 22, 2005
At a time when youthful adventures are often misdirected, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute of Darjeeling, one of the reputed mountaineering schools in the world, has launched a drive to popularise mountaineering as an adventure sport.
"Over the years, the number of mountaineering trainees has dropped significantly. We have therefore launched a drive to attract the youth to the mountains where they can get the taste of real adventure," said Col J S Dhillon, principal, HMI.
Decades after former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru founded the institute in Tenzing Norgay's hometown (after Norgay conquered the Everest in 1953), HMI is taking up the challenge of popularising mountaineering and helping it regain its lost glory both inside and outside the country.
Even as it continues to offer its regular, basic and advanced courses in mountaineering, HMI will popularise its 15-day adventure courses for the youth and open its doors to trainees from the SAARC countries.
The institute, which celebrating its golden jubilee, has resumed training the visually handicapped for rock-climbing from April this year.
"We are offering customised special courses on sports climbing, special adventure, special basic and advanced courses on demand," said HMI Vice-Principal Major K S Dhami.
As a result, the number of trainees attending courses at HMI has increased from 754 in 2003 to 2,003 last year.
A number of public schools have made it compulsory for their students to undergo an adventure course at the institute.
HMI, which has trained over 24,000 students including 1,000 foreigners during the 50 years of its existence, offers subsidised packages on all its courses to make them affordable to students and the youth.
"All the courses are highly subsidised. The institute charges a very nominal fee which includes cost of training, equipment, boarding and lodging," said an HMI representative.
A typical 15-day adventure course costs only Rs 2,000 while the 28-day basic and advance mountaineering courses are offered at Rs 4,000.
The adventure courses provide a stimulating experience of physical outdoor pursuits such as trekking, camping, rock craft and water sports.
Field training for basic mountaineering courses are carried out at an altitude of 14,600 ft at Chaurikhang, the base camp in West Sikkim, where the students learn the tactics of surviving on rock, ice and snow.
To sign up for a HMI course, you have to be less than 40 years old.
Besides the drive to popularise mountaineering among the youth, the institute, which has the defence minister and state chief minister as its president and vice-president, has also initiated measures for overhauling its organisational structure and management.
The HMI executive council, which recently held its annual general meeting in Kolkata, has decided to form a small group to amend the constitution of the institute, which was drafted 51 years ago.
They also plan to open a new mountaineering museum and hostel facilities for trainees shortly.
At the same time, Dhillon admitted HMI was facing serious financial problems. He was satisfied with the defence ministry's assurance that grants would be provided by the Centre and the state to help HMI meet its financial requirements and scale new heights.