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Mountaineering in the Himalayas

Updated: November 14, 2012
By: Ian Yacobucci
Mountaineering pose

Top of Rathong Glacier 5000m – West Siikim, India

Trekking in the Himalayas is an experience of a lifetime but I looked for a bigger challenge and decided to join the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in India for a mountaineering course instead.

If you’re thinking of trekking in the Himalayas, learning how to mountaineer, or just plain want to challenge yourself than a course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is a sure bet.

HMI is run by the Indian Ministry of Defense and its instructors  not only have tons of domestic and international experience going above 8000 metres, but a few also hold world records (my group instructor was the only person to have climbed Everest from all three faces, one of which is so dangerous it’s been closed).

The educational value of a course at the Institute is priceless – but don’t be under any illusions: its programs are extremely difficult. As the oldest mountaineering institute in Asia, established by the first successful Everest summiteer Tenzing Norgay, its courses are designed to prepare you for the most hardcore of mountains.

Ice climbing

Practicing ice climbing on Rathong glacier

I first heard about the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute while completing my teaching practicum in Cape Town, South Africa. About two weeks into our practicum some of our group took a weekend break from a busy week of teaching for a hiking trip into the mountains in the outskirts of the city.

Organized by one of our instructors, a local guide trained as mountaineer took us into the hills for a wonderful afternoon exploring Cape Town’s natural beauty. Not thinking much of it at the time I asked him where he had learned his skills. He enthusiastically told me that he had trained with the Indian military at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and that the program was a great way to learn mountaineering skills.


Daily lesson with Sengay Sherpa – HMI base camp

A natural athlete who looked like a professional rugby player, he informed me that the course was quite demanding and was based on a military style training regiment. Although it sounded quite difficult, the course sparked my interest as a way to develop and learn the skills to properly climb mountains – something I’d wanted to do for a while.

For three years the Institute’s name was written on a small piece of paper stuck to a bulletin board in my room. I went to the Institute’s website many times over those three years to read about the history and the courses on offer. However, the course dates never corresponded with my time off from teaching.


My rope (team) @ the summit on our very high altitude climb

But then, after several years out of university and working in the real world, I decided to leave everything behind and embark on some new adventures (in other words, I morphed into the Travelling Yak… the rest is history). I decided immediately to enroll at the Institute.

And so, in March 2012, soon after a teaching gig in South Korea followed by a few weeks scuba diving and surfing in South East Asia, I arrived in Darjeeling, a.k.a. the Queen of Hills.

Read on…


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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4 thoughts on “Mountaineering in the Himalayas

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  3. Bex

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for this series of posts on your experience at HMI, they have made for a really interesting read! I was wondering if you were on a mixed or all male course and if mixed how many women took part? I am working in West Bengal for the next six months and would love to do something like this but don’t know whether this particular course may be a bit physically intense for a petite female like myself if it consists primarily of military men!

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    1. Ian Yacobucci Post author

      Hi Bex!

      It was physically intense but definitely possible. I was in in all male course so I can’t speak about the mixed courses. Good luck with your decision.