What is Mountaineering
Nothing better sums up the outdoors than the centuries-old human endeavor to scale mighty peaks. Mountaineering involves hiking, climbing, or just simply walking, on hilly or mountainous ground, with the help of technical equipment and support. It is regarded as a sport in its own right, though is entirely different from the discipline of rock climbing. In mountaineering, you’ll come across different types of terrain – mainly snow, glaciers, ice or just naked rock.
The feats of the likes of Edmund Hilary and George Mallory, to mention just two legendary mountaineers, have contributed to making this activity a popular one all around the world, one that has also been known to build a person’s character. But it is also a sport that asks a lot of you, and can also take plenty out of you. One has to be physically robust, very fit and display a decent level of athleticism and suppleness of body to climb mountains; training, conditioning and preparation are essential if you are looking to attempt an ascent on a particularly challenging peak. In addition, the mountaineer, often having to withstand extreme climatic conditions, has to display a good degree of mental fortitude to survive and succeed.
But in the end, all of this is worth your while – there is no better feeling than being out in the open, in high nature’s playground, breathing in the pristine mountain air, as close to the sky as it’s humanly possible to be.
History of Mountaineering
Mountaineering is as old as the earth, as old as human life. When it became a passion of the outdoorsy and of the adventurous-minded, in the 19th century, many people would climb just for pleasure, for the sheer thrill of conquering peaks near and far. But over time, the sport has split into separate disciplines, each of them calling for varying degrees of skills and preparation. Today, climbers have the comfort of having the most advanced equipment and gear at their disposal. In contrast, men in ancient times had to rely on their feet, their legs, their arms and their hands – and their wits – to climb mountains. Most of these resilient fellows, living and subsisting on high ground, had no option but to learn to ascend peaks of differing heights and varying difficulties, for their very survival depended on mastering the mountains. Those old climbing techniques are still very much relevant today (as well as being utterly reliable and safe) but the 21st-century mountaineer has the added advantage of depending on hi-tech safety equipment.
Closer home, the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has played a big part in the conquest of the Greater Himalayas. Many of the planet’s mountaineering greats have tested their skills, and earned their name, in the Himalayan theatre of dreams, considered the ultimate arena for climbing enthusiasts.
Mountaineering in India
The first record of Indians being initiated into mountaineering dates to 1942, when teachers from Doon School took their students into the Arwa Valley, above Badrinath. Later, encouragement from the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, saw the birth of mountaineering in Independent India. In 1950, an ascent of Bandarpoonch (Garhwal) was attempted, and this was followed in 1951 by an attempt on Trishul – the first time any Indian team had successfully scaled a 7000m peak. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling was established in 1954, a year after the ascent of Everest, and soon after, in 1955, Indian teams climbed Kamet, in the Garhwal Himalayas. Cho Oyu (on the Tibet-Nepal border) was the first 8000m peak to be climbed by Indians (1958), followed by Nanda Kot (Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand) and Chaukhamba (a massif in the Gangotri group of the Garhwal Himalayas), both in 1959. The sixties saw mountaineering in the country take firm roots. Mountaineering institutes in Sikkim and Manali were established in 1960 and 1961 respectively. Meanwhile, Annapurna II, III and IV were attempted by Indians in 1960 as part of joint expeditions. In addition, there were a couple of remarkable Indian expeditions to Everest in 1960 and 1962, both reaching very close to the summit. The first scaling of Everest by an Indian took place in 1965, when nine mountaineers conquered the mighty mountain – a record which held for 17 long years.
The Indian Mountaineering Foundation came into existence in 1961, while the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering was established in Uttarkashi, in the Garhwal Himalayas, in 1965.
Know more about popular Mountaineering Expeditions in India.
Backpack:4500+ cubic inches with ice axe loops, Mountaineering boots, plastic doubles with inner liner, Hiking boots, Crampons,12 point step-in or strap-on, Anti-balling plates for crampons, Ice Axe, Alpine climbing harness to fit over all cloths and have adjustable leg loops, Helmet sized to fit over a hat, Carabineers at least 2 locking and 2 regular, Trekking Poles optional, Gaiters, Need to fit over plastic boots
Hardshell pants and jacket, Windproof & waterproof, Softshell pants & jacket, in place of hardshell as applicable, Insulated Down Parka large enough to fit over all other layers, Wind shirt/jacket Middle layer or around town, Fleece/wool hat should cover the ears, Balaclava/Neck warmer, Modular glove system, shell and insulated layers, Mittens, Liner/fleece gloves, Glacier glasses, 100% UV with sideshield/noseshield, Goggles, 100% UV, Bandanas
Light/midweight underwear, Expedition weight underwear, Fleece Jacket, Fleece Pants, Liner socks, Heavyweight socks
Waterbottles, Closed cell foam pad full length, Therma-rest type pad 3/4 or full length, Sleeping bag -20to 0 degree as needed, Compression/Stuff Sacks for sleeping bag and other uses, Headlamp extra bulbs & 2 sets of fresh batteries, Mug, bowl, utensils (Mug & bowl with lids are best), Baby wipes for personal hygiene, Ear plugs foam type for sleeping, Knife/Multi tool, Matches/lighter, Large duffel bag to pack everything in. Sunblock/Lip balm, Camera/Film, Toiletry Kit and Personal Medicine. F/A Kit as needed.
Best season in India
For mountaineers keen on testing their skills in the higher altitudes, the summer months offer a big window. In some areas higher up, one can also indulge in a spot of climbing in late spring and early autumn. Winters leave much of Himalayas snowbound – only the hardiest (or craziest!) of mountaineers will attempt ascents during these months.
Mountaineering destinations in India
The Indian Himalayas, which includes the Karakoram range, take in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Much of the Himalayas fall in India (as does the eastern part of the Karakoram range). Kanchenjunga is India’s only 8000m peak, though there are a number of 7000m peaks, quite a few of them yet to be attempted. Indeed, many peaks between 6000m and 7000m also remain to be scaled, making India an exciting and challenging destination for mountaineers. Friendship Peak in Himachal Pradesh (17200ft, 5289m) is recommended for first-time climbers in the Himalayas (or otherwise). Meanwhile, Ladakhi Peak, also in Himachal Pradesh (17,536ft, 5345m), is a mountain of moderate difficulty. It requires a little bit of climbing experience but is not recommended for beginners. The climber should be familiar with the use of mountaineering equipment and, also, know how to walk on snow and ice. Stok Kangri (20,187ft, 6153m), in Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), is another peak that challenges the climber. Uttarakhand: Kumaon, Garhwal (Western Garhwal, Nanda Devi Sanctuary) Himachal Pradesh: Kullu, Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti Jammu and Kashmir: Kishtwar, Ladakh, Zanskar, Kashmir, Eastern Karakoram
The biggest concern today for environmentalists and mountaineers are the receding glaciers. Glaciers – renewable snow and natural reservoirs of fresh water, in the form of glacier ice – are fast receding as a result of global warming and the greenhouse effect. The mountaineer has an enormous responsibility towards helping maintain an ecological balance, and ensuring that the mountain environment is not further destroyed. While trekking, rock climbing and mountaineering, his actions must have no impact, or minimum impact, on the environment – especially with regard to travelling, camping, washing and disposing of waste.
1. Remove all your litter from the mountain and bring it down to civilization (to the extentpossible) for recycling.
2. Don’t burn anything on the mountain.
3. Don’t leave anything on the mountain – not even your footprints.
4. Don’t leave any trace of your campsite.
5. Do not destroy flora and fauna in any form.
6. Do not chip, break, damage or deface rock or any natural climbing surface, while climbing.
7. Remove all equipment, including protection (to the extent possible), on faces, glaciers and ice falls. Endeavour to clear the mountain completely.
8. Remove medical debris.
9. Use blue bags for disposal of human waste, especially on glaciers and ice bodies.
10. Be careful to not contaminate any water source.
11. Carry adequate fuel, even for porters.
12. Ensure no free grazing by the expedition’s load-carrying animals.
13. Ensure no undue trampling in the countryside so as to protect, conserve and encourage the growth of rare species of flowers. Therefore, walk in a single file, wherever possible.
14. Respect local customs and cultural sentiments.
15. Contribute your bit to any afforestation efforts being undertaken.
Mountaineering demands a lot of your physical fitness, and attempts on the highest peaks can push your body to the limit. Before attempting any climb, make sure you are fit enough to endure anything and everything that nature and the elements may throw at you. Remember that mountaineering may be a very exhilarating activity – but it is far from being an easy sport! At high altitudes, it is important to give enough time for acclimatization. And make sure you get a clean bill of health from your doctor before embarking on an expedition.