Every year several mountaineers graduate from the mountaineering institutes in India, some with considerable waiting times. We recently covered a detail of all these institutes, courses they offer and info that would shorten your application process in the previous article (Click on the Mountaineering Courses in India to read in detail about such courses). Fitness is crucial and would determine how well you perform during such courses. This post will help you in your preparation for the basic mountaineering course.
”The fitness level required by the institute is not superhuman. You should be fit like any normal person. On the BMI scale, I was overweight, but still completed the course with flying colours.” – Simran Chanda
Long waiting times at these institutes shows how more and more people are determined to take up these courses. And of course, everyone wants to excel as it is a prerequisite to get an ‘A’ grade to proceed for the further courses. We interviewed Ms. Simran Chanda, who has completed both her basic and advanced mountaineering courses (BMC and AMC from HMI Darjeeling), who breaks some myths and let’s us know what it actually takes to complete the course successfully.
What is the day like during a BMC course? What is the structure of the course?
There are weekly training schedules. First week is for trekking, second week for rock climbing, third week for ice climbing and finally you climb a peak in the fourth week. There are a few resting days included in between. The instructors can however assimilate your fitness within first 2 days of the course. On the first day they will run you down to the village which is about 5 km. Running downwards on slope might sound easy, but they stop you at a point and make you do push-ups and stuff. Later they do a medical examination and you are issued your equipment.
From the second day the main drilling starts. The second day starts by a mundane task of “Hill walk”(as I think it to be). It is a tough trek to a nearby hill with all of your equipment stuffed in your rucksack, which can weigh anywhere between 15-25 Kg. Generally, these everyday treks whittle you down into shape as you carry loads of 25 kg and they strengthen your legs and lungs for the next arduous parts of course.
How important is physical fitness for the daily training? Is there any direct evaluation based on that?
The course takes you out of the comfort zone;yes; but not to the point of breaking you completely if you have been serious enough. There are rumours of men crying and even army men finding it tough but I quite enjoyed my time there. The fitness level required by the institute is not superhuman. You should be fit like any normal person. I was overweight, but still completed the course with flying colours. The key is to maintain adequate fitness beforehand and enjoy the training process.
”Most of the treks are for more than 12 Km and on a fully loaded rucksack. Anyone showing a lack of fitness consistently would definitely have a negative impression. You should maintain enough fitness to not be the last person to reach the final destination and resting points in between.”
How should one prepare physically for this course?
I faced similar doubts when I first enrolled for a BMC back in 2013. The waiting period is huge and so I got a seat in March 2015(Batch 238). So first thing would be to get enrolled and if you’ve done that, then start preparing. One must start at least 6 months before the course date. Here are few things that might help the aspiring mountaineers.
Power and Endurance exercises (cardio+core):
My advice would be to run for 5 km within 25 min and try to strengthen your leg muscles. Core strength and stamina is really important for mountaineering courses and most of all keep yourself strong mentally. Your body will co-operate even if you push it beyond its capacity. I would advise you to join a Crossfit or similar class and do that for about 6 months regularly, before attempting this.
Irrespective of your gender, you should be strong enough to carry 15KG on your back for 30 KM if you live on plains. If you live on hilly areas, 15 KG for 10 KM.In short, you should be as fit as NCC cadets and if required you should be able to carry a man on your back for a Kilometer.
Pull-ups (for climbing walls), calf-raises (for the walk -in), lunges (for the walk-out and climbing/walking) and dead-lifts (for lifting packs, people and equipment). Pull-ups are performed by pulling your body upwards using your arms and back muscles.
”Moving your body by pulling on an ice axe and shifting your entire body to a higher ledge or handhold are examples of movements that are replicated by the simple pull up exercise. Pull ups hit the lats, forearms, biceps, and core. It’s an excellent exercise for building overall strength and a very important movement for mountain climbers.”
Walking up hills, climbing rock walls with a bagpack, ice-climbing, and rope work demands the use of strength (anaerobic) and endurance (aerobic) systems. Sustained capacity for strength over long periods is the key to climbing efficiently.
That sounds quite detailed for a beginner. What would be your final advice for someone aspiring to do a BMC?
Mountaineering is challenging physically as well as mentally. One has to be very strong mentally as well. On a mental level, mountaineers require unwavering focus, determination and the ability to overcome failure. People who lose focus are unable to complete the course because fatigue will break you physically. You should be mentally strong and I have seen physically not so strong people come back as good mountaineers. So while doing preparation for the basic mountaineering course from any institute, mentally prepare yourself for the challenge because in the mountains you’re on your own.