iconimg Saturday, July 04, 2015

Ayesha Banerjee, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, July 09, 2013
“I am an OBC boy,” Parveen Rangar tells you proudly, talking about the remarkable life he leads. Work for him means touching the skies, plodding on snow, and gliding effortlessly over gushing river waters…
A white water rafting instructor now with a private tourism company, Snow Leopard Adventures, in Rishikesh, Rangar is also a mountaineer who has trained in paragliding, kayaking, waterskiing and a whole lot of things that you can’t quite remember.

He belongs to Gaichawan village in Uttarkashi, in the state of Uttarakhand, which saw disastrous floods and landslides recently. He has been involved in rescue operations and talks about the treacherous terrain he has had to encounter – and it has been something he has  trained for at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling. “They prepare you for any eventuality,” Rangar says about his initial stint at the institute.

“HMI offers basic, advance mountaineering courses for age group of 17 to 35,” says Col Neeraj Rana, former principal of the institute. Trainees who get A grade in the basic course can come back to do their advance course. The duration of each course is 28 days and they are trained in rock craft, snow craft and ice craft. Trainees getting A grade in advance course are recommended to take/be part of any expedition as members and they can then also come back to do their method of instruction (MOI) course in which they are trained to become instructors.

Rangar was spotted by Col Rana when he was vice-principal of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) in Uttarkashi and encouraged to do a mountaineering course. An avid mountaineer himself, Rana has done 19 expeditions, climbing the Everest twice, Kanchenjuga, the third highest, once and Makalu the fifth highest - the first in India to achieve the feat. He also holds the world record as the only person to paraglide from 6850 mtrs to the base camp of Makalu at 5300 mtrs.

Darjeeling is an ideal place for mountaineering, especially rock training, “for which the institute has its own area. Students go to an area in west Sikkim, the Rathong glacier, for ice and snow training,” he adds.

“HMI is considered to be the best training institutes for mountaineering, with excellent facilities and equipment,” says Rangar. His daily routine there included an early-morning wake up call, physical training sessions and then lessons in rock, ice or snow craft.

 HMI has a campus in a sprawling area of five acres. Facilities available are a hostel with bunk beds which can accommodate 155 students at a time. The library has over 3000 books. Other features include a high-tech state-of-the-art teaching room, an artificial climbing wall, an indoor climbing wall and a multi-trainer gym.

 “You are also made familiar with Himalayan terminology, map reading, GPS navigation (started a few years ago). The rock area and topography of Darjeeling is excellent, says the man who has summited Gangotri-1 at 6672 metres  and the Chandrashila at a height of about 4,000 metres above sea level.

 The scope for adventure sports is good. “Trainees can apply to any resort or institute as and when any vacancy comes up for recruitment, or start their own business,” says Col Rana, who runs his own adventure company Ocean to Sky.

Money in the business at the moment is not too good, but “I am here for the adventure,” Rangar adds.

5 things one must do when in the city

* Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering institute. It has a fabulous museum too
* Visit the Peace Pagoda. Built by a Japanese Buddhist monk, it is meant for people of all religions and creed 
* Clamber on to the Toy train, which is part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a narrow gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal. Built between 1879 and 1881, the track is about 78 kilometres long
* Try out Darjeeling tea. One of the best brews on this planet, the taste is to die for. You can also visit a number of tea plantations and see how tea is produced
* Go on treks. Darjeeling has perhaps the best treks, with the ‘Singalila Trek’ being very popular