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Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Basic Training Course Phase 3 – Basic Training at Base Camp

Updated: January 28, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci

In the Himalayan Mountaineering Institutes basic course base camp is where the real mountaineering training begins. In phase three I describe the training regiment at 14, 600 ft above sea level.


Me and my rope team posing for a pic on Rathong Glacer in West Sikkim, India

Base camp is what the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute’s basic course is all about. After an arduous six day trek, when you finally arrive at base camp, its go time. Here is where the technical training truly begins. While at base camp mountaineering skills are developed in the field on Rathong glacier 5000m above sea level and among the peaks in West Sikkim’s Himalayan range.


Food at basecamp is very similar to that on the HMI campus with some minor changes. For every meal you have to use mess tins to collect your food and there is a small mess hall where you can sit and eat on benches that line the walls. To wash your dishes you have to use water from drums, which are filled with glacial river water.

HMI lunch

HMI’s standard lunch of roti, dal, and sabji

Drinking water – Drinking water is boiled using water from the glacial river and is provided at every meal. You have to bring your water bottle to have it refilled each time and for each day’s activities.

Breakfast – Roti with butter and jam, omelet/scrambled eggs (contains onion and hot peppers (mild)), tea, oatmeal and vegetarian option. Sometimes you get puri (chickpeas)

Lunch – roti (flat bread), dal (lentils in a sort of broth), sabji (curried vegetables either cauliflower, potatoes or legumes. Sometimes these are mixed.), curried chicken or mutton and fruit salad

Dinner – roti (flat bread), dal (lentils in a sort of broth), sabji (curried vegetables either cauliflower, potatoes or legumes. Sometimes these are mixed.), and rice or semolina desserts.

Chai – Chai or tea is served throughout the day. The best tea break is the early afternoon break on the glacier where you a served the hot drink and sometimes coffee with your cookies.

Daily Schedule

5:00 – Wake up and tea
6:00 – Breakfast
7:00 – Depart for glacier
10:00 – Glacier training
12::00 – Tea break then depart to base camp
14:00 – Lunch
15:00 – Lectures
19:00 – Dinner

HMI trekking

Daily trek to Rathong Glacier or a lesson! West Sikkim, India


On an expedition most people live in tents and life is not easy. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institutes base camps accommodation prepares you for that. Thankfully, for the basic course, students do not have to live in tents during their time at base camp.

HMI Barracks

Base camp barracks – Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: West Sikkim, India

Instead students live in a barracks lined with two wooden bunks that span the entire building. Privacy is limited but the environment is filled with singing, cards and laughter. Students have to sleep side by side along the bunk boards and there’s no heat so it’s important to find a spot somewhere in the middle where the cold from the door opening and shutting won’t get to you.

Toilets and Showers :

There is no running water at base camp so it’s important to bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer in order to keep yourself clean. Luckily, base camp has outhouses so you don’t have to go outside although, if you prefer, that is an option.

Himalayan Mountaineering Institutes toilets!  What a view of Rathong Pass...where you come from to get to base camp

Himalayan Mountaineering Institutes toilets! What a view of Rathong Pass…where you come from to get to base camp

Mountaineering Training

Mountaineering in the Himalayas is something unique that few people get to experience, and its here that the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute delivers. While at base camp students are not only trekking but developing basic mountaineering skills as well.

Located in this part of the Himalayas is Rathong glacier where students get to practice ice craft, which includes rescue techniques as well as ice climbing, and expedition climbing. There are also several mountains used for high altitude gain during the basic course and 18,000 ft+ peaks for the advanced.

HMI lesson

One of many outdoor lessons at base camp during basic training at HMI

Training out on the mountains is the best way to learn and the instructors allow you to get as much experience as you can. Not only are you trekking and learning a variety of ice climbing techniques on the glacier right away, you also get to learn rescue techniques, rock climb at high altitude, and trekking to very high altitudes above 16, 000 ft.

The hands on basic course, is designed to get students experiencing sport of mountaineering while teaching them the basics of the craft with a focus on safety. It is also intended to wet an individual’s palate for the advanced course and prepare them for the excitement of an expedition.

HMI ice climbing

Practicing ice climbing at Rathong Glacier- Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: West Sikkim, India

You won’t become a mountaineer overnight here and even though you train for a month, as far as learning the craft of mountaineering, it’s just the tip of the glacier. But if you like what you’ve read and visiting the Himalayas is something you’ve always wanted to do then why not test your boundaries, push yourself, and learn how to mountaineer with the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.

Well, that’s it from me! If you have further questions about my experience please feel free to leave a comment or email me.

For more information on the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute check out:


Happy Climbing!



Ian Yacobucci

Traveling the Trans-Siberian, mountaineering the Himalayas, or teaching in Tokyo I'm always trying something new. As a someone who's worked, studied, and traveled to 40+ countries around the world I'm here to share my experiences so you can do the same!

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39 thoughts on “Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Basic Training Course Phase 3 – Basic Training at Base Camp

  1. Agness

    I have never participated in Himalaya trekking or anything similar, but I always wanted to do it. Sounds like an awesome adventure. I would not have any problems with sleeping in a tent or hiking in such freezing weather conditions, so maybe I will do it next winter :-). Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hi Agness,

      I hope you get the opportunity. You’ll definitely learn a lot and its a great way to experience Indian culture as well as the beauty of the Himalayas! If you plan on going let me know :)


    2. Shabbir

      Hey ian I want to go for basic mountaineering course and tried to contact the numbers given on the website of HIM but the call is not getting connected, tried many a times. Can you help me with any contact @ian

      1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

        Hi Shabbir,

        Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, I don’t have any connection with HMI I just wrote about my experience in the program. I had heard that they have a Facebook Page where you can get current information. Most of my correspondance was done through email.



    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      No 5 star but it worked. Plus, with how cold it got on some nights the too close for comfort kept everyone warm..lol

  2. Sudipto Das

    Hi, thanks for your posts. am hopefully getting in (subject to clearing the med/physical fitness test, plus other factors) for Oct-Nov session this year. have heard a lot about NIM, like, the first-hand experience and heard all nice things about NIM but this is the first where I got to know about HMI like this.

    The only comment about HMI that I came across was something not very exciting…that it is unhygienic and instructors are not up to the mark. Unfortunately, all the people (the climbers)I read about/knew underwent training at NIM..this makes me think what is there that these guys chose NIM and not HMI? I am from India (that too, from the state of West Bengal) yet strangely I somehow happened to know less about HMI.
    Could you throw some further light?

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hey there! Congrats on trying the program out and hopefully you’ll get in. I’ve heard a lot about NIM and have considered taking their advanced course to try it out. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to them since I’ve only done the HMI Basic course. Based on my experience, HMI provides highly experienced mountaineers as instructors and for the most part they are experts in their field who teach from their experience.

      HMI is the oldest mountaineering school in Asia and it must be for a good reason. As far as hygiene goes you have to remember that you’re mountaineering and preparing for future expeditions, not to mention the fact that you have to trek for 6 days to get to a base camp without running water. In my opinion, I would certainly recommend HMI because the courses have been running since 1947. Along with this, the instructors are military trained, and although their teaching practices might not be up to date (lecture wise) the training is very thorough. Hygienically you have to make the best of what you get and you’re right, its not the cleanest, but the course is designed to give you hands on experience to prepare individuals for an expedition. With this in mind there isn’t running water etc. just like at 18 000 ft and higher.

      I didn’t hear much about HMI or NIM until I arrived in India but now that I’ve done the course I’m thinking of taking the advanced at HMI again (several of my peers already have). In the end I thought a great place with an experienced staff and thorough curriculum. I guess you’ll just have to try it out and see how it goes. Let us know what you think when you’re done and good luck!!!

      Happy Climbing,


  3. pruthvi

    Hey . . .
    I was gathering information on different Mountaineering institutes in India and blogs written on it. came across your blog and i found it out to be informative and motivational. will bookmark this for future reference. Was there any tests at the end of this course ? You would have been certified with grade. right?

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hey! Thanks for reading. When I was looking for information online I found it difficult to find anything that described the HMI Basic course in detail, so I made this. There are tests at the end of the course but they are experience based and focus on learned skills. From what I remember there are no written tests. When you get certified you are given a grade. You must attain an “A” grade in order to pursue the advanced course. Hope you get the chance to do it :D Best of luck, Yak

  4. AC

    Hi Ian,

    I was shown your blog enties on HMI by a friend.

    I did the basic, advanced and rock courses at HMI in the 80’s. The more things change, the more they’re still the same! Except our ages of course…I’m pushing 50 now.

    Hey, if you’re in the States in September, join us for our kinda-annual HMI-US alumni technicals. We pick two weeks, then pick a peak and go climb! We’ve grown to seventeen guys now, mostly Indian, but from other countries as well (Canada, US, France, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Belgium & Ukraine). Mostly our reunion trips are either High Sierra or Washington Cascades, but we’ve climbed McKinley and a couple others down South as well (Chile/Argentina).

    Drop me a line if you’re in the area!

    Thanks for the blog!


    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author


      Thanks for getting in touch AC. It’s great to hear from alumni and that you’ve done so much at HMI. This groups sounds like something I’d love to join and will certainly get in touch with you about it. Unfortunately, I won’t be back in North America for September, but I’d love to join you sometime in the future. I would love to use my skills to do an expedition and have been thinking of doing the advanced course.

      Thanks so much,


    2. Prasad

      Ian / AC,
      What is the best to get in touch with HMI US alumni. I am in California and would like to hike few peaks. I recently graduated from HMI.

      1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

        Hi Prasad!

        I’m not sure what’s the best way to get in touch with people. I know there’s an HMI Facebook page so perhaps thats a good start :D

        Best of luck,


  5. Ketan Kanojia

    Hi Ian,

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful blog.
    This has pretty much all the information that I was looking for before I head for the course in October this year.

    I was getting goosebumps while going through the blog and felt as if I was already there.

    M very excited about this course but a little worried already about the physical fitness.(Currently suffering from Hypothyroidism and have not been doing too well lately). :-(

    Keen to get an “A” grade though. :)

    Thank you again for such a lovely Blog.
    Keep posting!!


    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hi Ketan,

      You’re so welcome!! I’m glad I could be of help, and thanks for all the kind words. Good luck in the course, you’re going to have an amazing time! Don’t worry about the physical fitness just do some training before hand and I’m sure you’ll be fine. Hopefully the information I gave you will give you an idea of what to prepare for. Best of luck in the course, I know you’ll get an A, and with your health.

      Happy Climbing,


  6. Chris

    Hi Ian,
    Fantastic blog. Very informative and spoken in a positive way. This may sound like an odd question to ask, but as an English speaking westerner, did you find any issues integrating into the course? I am sure that this is a silly question but your response would put my mind at ease! Travelling to HMI on my own for a month is a little daunting but your blog has reassured me a lot and I do intend to book on!

    My other question is about the best time of year to go. When did you go and was there any discussion about whether this was the best month?

    Thanks again,


    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hey Chris!

      I was actually one of two North Americans in the program and it was amazing. Everyone was super awesome and we had the opportunity to learn so much about India through the friends we met. Pretty much everyone speaks English, although some of the classes are in Hindi. Luckily, I was able to sit beside someone who translated, so there was no problem there.

      I found the best time to go was March. It was great because you get to see this transition from winter to spring conditions. My instructors commented that March was the best time too.

      Good luck on your course!


  7. Nailesh Jacob

    Hi Ian,

    The only detailed,first hand account of the basic mountaineering course at HMI. I have read your posts a couple of times and they make interesting reading. I thought i should drop in a mail to let you know you are doing great job , mate !!!

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hey Nailesh!

      Thanks man! I’m glad you like them. Maybe one day there’ll be some posts on the advanced course too ;)

  8. Saikat

    Hey there

    I’m thinking of having a go when i finish my current course … that’s an year to go. But i wonder wheteher i’ll be up to the mrk, physically. Could you give me an idea of any fitness criteria or a workout regimen that might get me up there?


    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hi Saikat!

      That’s awesome to hear. As far as physically preparing check out my info on physical training http://borderlesstravels.com/?p=2279. If you’re moderately active you should be fine, some people came without training and completed the course. However, I’d be able to run 5km with ease and be generally in good physical condition.

  9. aditya

    Thanks a lot for the information Ian.. I would like to know what is the total strength of a batch? And Mishal when did you book for March 2015?

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author


      I’m not sure what you mean about a batch?? Good luck with the course! You’re going to have an amazing but challenging experience.

  10. Prasad Saka

    Amazing!!! I wish I had found this blog little earlier. I am starting to India tomorrow morning from west coast and time now is 12 in the midnight :)
    This is so informative and has all the needed info. Like I said I should have researched a bit. I didn’t cos I didn’t expect anyone to write any of this stuff.
    I am going to Basic Training for March 2015 batch. I have been training for last two months. A friend of mine did Basic in NIM two years back. Hopefully I will be fit enough to endure the training. Did a 13 mile hike to Mt Diablo last week.
    I have mixed feelings about my fitness as I am nearing 40s.
    Hopefully I will reach your response when I come back from training with A grade :)

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Amazing Prasad! So glad this was helpful I’m sure you’ll do great. Enjoy the course, it truly is an adventure of a lifetime. Best of luck!


  11. Sonia

    I am joining the HMI May 2015 session. I tried to find more information before going there, but sadly all I couldn’t find much until I came across your blog. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am more excited about the curse now.
    Before going there I want to get in touch with the people who will be joining me. So are you aware of any group or anyone joining this May session?
    Thanks again. :-)

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hi Sonia!!

      That’s amazing :D I wish you the best of luck. As far as the experience goes you’ll just have to show up and meet people when you get there. Other than that perhaps emailing the institute.

      Enjoy the adventure!


      1. bipasha mukherjea

        I am joining this session at HMI…see you at Darjeeling…if you want drop a line at my mailbox with your contact details

  12. aneri

    It was a really really helpful post. I have applied for the basic mountaineering course and am going this april for the same, but i always wondered how exactly it is going to.be so that i can go prepared for everything to come. Half the questions i had in my mind are questioned through this post. Thank you.