Mountaineering as a sport has a history as old as the history of the evolution of human race itself. Mountaineering started when the need was felt for people who could climb difficult heights and terrains to meet people across the border, to trade, or to conquer new territories. In the course of time, man developed new modes of transportation and communication and venturing out on these difficult routes were not needed. Nevertheless, what remained was his nature to take risks and getting pleasure in conquering something totally unknown and unexplored. This inner urge to take up challenges has led man to do things that are quite daring.
In India, mountaineering as a sport came with the Europeans in the 18th century. That was a time when entire Europe was experiencing a new phase. New regions were being explored, won, and native peoples were being made to become civilized. This zeal of adventurism found its ultimate fruition in the Himalayas-lofty, extremely difficult to conquer, and challenging enough to send a man back to his mother’s womb. But, being men, these challenges were accepted and there began a tussle between men’s ambitions and nature’s reluctance. New heights were conquered, new routes were discovered, many lives lost, but the mission was accomplished. Today, almost all the major peaks are conquered and even general people have started taking mountaineering as a serious hobby.
For starters, India offers a wide spectrum of options for mountaineering as well as other related sports. Peaks and trekking routes are classified and maps are available for the interested travelers. Many institutes provide basic and advanced level courses in mountaineering and other related sports. All the equipment is locally available and other support resources can be found here.
Mountaineering is a high-altitude sport
Levels of Difficulty
There are different levels of difficulty based on altitude, geographical features, and availability of facilities. Any expedition of altitude of 3,000-5,000 m is classified as moderate; 5,000-6,500 m is difficult; and above the altitude of 6,500 m is classified as advanced. For moderate level, basic adventure courses from any mountaineering institute and some high-altitude trekking experience is all that is required. For mountaineering in the difficult and advanced level, one is required to have done advanced programs in mountaineering and a good experience of trekking and climbing at the moderate level.
Persons with high/low blood pressure and are overweight are advised not to participate in high-altitude games and sports. Some of the institutes like the Directorate of Mountaineering & Allied Sports, Himachal Pradesh do not allow people of ages below 18 and above 48 years to participate in their basic and advanced level adventure programs.
The summer months are ideal for the mountains. Trekking in the lower Himalayas and climbing in the higher ranges are possible through May to mid-October. The month of July is avoidable in Himachal and Uttar Pradesh as there is heavy rain and landslides during this month.
Some basic equipments are needed when mountaineering expeditions are organized. The equipments are the lifelines of a mountaineer in those hazardous conditions and a thorough knowledge and familiarization of these are extremely important.
All the equipments imported by the expedition teams into India are exempted from any tax, depending on the authorization given by Indian Mountaineering Foundation. All the items except the ones that are consumable or lost or left behind in the hills should be re-exported back to the country of origin.
The list of the equipments that may be required during the course of an expedition are ropes, crampon (ice-climbing spikes), gaiter, head lamp, snow goggles, chock (a metal device inserted into rock as anchor; also, nut), butane gas, twin sling, shoes, carabiners (oblong metal rings), harness seat, ice axe, ascender, descender (a device used for rappelling), hammer, tent, sleeping pad, rucksack, sleeping bag, jummar (device with handles and is used in pairs to ascend a rope), pulley, and helmet.
Most of the equipments can be hired or purchased from Indian Mountaineering Foundation in Delhi or from the departments of tourism offices of state governments. If you have hired the services of any adventure tour operator, then providing necessary equipments is the responsibility of the operator. There are more than 300 mountaineering clubs in India and you can also contact them for your requirements
Himachal Pradesh, Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttar Pradesh, Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast India, and Sikkim are the most important mountaineering destinations in India. The summits that are quite popular with the mountaineers are Num and Kun and the Zanskar range in Jammu and Kashmir.
In Kishtawar, there are numerous peaks with altitudes up to 6,500 m that require technical climbing skills. In Himachal Pradesh, the areas of Lahaul and Spiti as well as the Kullu valley have several challenging peaks.
The peaks in India have been classified as ‘open’, ‘virgin’, ‘border’, ‘trekking’, and ‘other peaks’. Each category offers a number of choices
Mountaineering is self-confidence, a bit of adventurism, and a will to do something more than required. If you have all these traits, then you are ready to go places.
To start with, one needs to have proper training to participate in mountaineering and climbing. The training can be taken from any of the good mountaineering institutes, located in India or abroad. The next stage is deciding on the target destination, depending on the altitude, difficulty level, and availability of the destination during the period. After choosing the destination, you need to get all the permissions and licenses from the authorities responsible for this. Then comes one of the most important steps-making an itinerary. Give enough time for acclimatization according to the altitudes. Do not hurry up the trips; give time for any eventuality that may occur during the trip. Finally, prepare the itinerary keeping in mind the physical capacity of the group members.
After getting all these things done, you may need to acquire all the instruments. Check from a doctor whether you are fit for the trip, and take all the necessary items with you in your rucksack. At this point, remember to distribute the items equally to every member of the group. It is also taken for granted that all necessary contact addresses and telephone numbers have been distributed among the group members and they have been also counseled about what they are going to face during the course of their trip.
If all these preparations are in place, it is unlikely that you would face any problem later on. In the first place, if you are intending to climb anything above 6,500 m, make your base camp at an altitude of around 4,000 m. Give sufficient time for acclimatization with gradual increase in altitude beyond 2,500 m. Standard acclimatization period is two days for each gain of 600 m. Beyond 5,000 m, “climb high and sleep low” should be the policy.
Care should be taken not disturb the natural environment of the region. Maintain proper and standard hygiene and do not leave anything back in the mountains.