Darjeeling, Sept. 29: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute has become a member of the Union Internationale Des Association D’Alpinisme (UIAA), paving the way for the Darjeeling-based institution to play a global role in framing rules and policies on climbing.
The UIAA, headquartered at Berne in Switzerland, is also known as the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation and is the global body that governs mountaineering. The Indian Mountaineering Federation, based in Delhi, is already a member of the UIAA.
“The HMI has been made a member after its track record was reviewed by the UIAA. It is the only institution which has been granted membership apart from the IMF,” Col. Neeraj Rana, the principal of the HMI, told The Telegraph.
Every aspect of the HMI was scrutinised by the UIAA after the principal had applied for the membership one-and-a-half years ago.
The HMI has also been given voting rights, which essentially means that it can play a pivotal role in framing international rules and policies on mountaineering.
The UIAA lays down training standards to be followed world-wide and recommends or certifies a particular equipment for mountaineering as safe. It sends experts from the UIAA to check whether member federations are following basic guidelines laid down by the UIAA. Besides, any new climbing technique has to be approved by the UIAA.
Now that the HMI has become the member of the global body, the certificates issued by the institute for its basic and advance courses will be recognised across the world.
“So far, we have trained 1,600 foreigners from every corner of the world, although we were not sure whether our certificates would be accepted internationally. We no longer have to worry about the recognition as the logo of the UIAA will now be on our certificates,” said Rana.
Tenzing Norgay’s son Jamling Tenzing Norgay, an Everester based in Darjeeling, congratulated the HMI for the achievement. “It would do wonders to the brand image of the institution and bring about global acceptability of its courses. Being one of the premier institutions of the country, this should actually have been done much earlier,” said Jamling, who himself was trained at the HMI.
Tenzing was the director of the institution till his death in 1986. The HMI was set up by Jawaharlal Nehru a year after Tenzing become the first climber along with Edmund Hillary to scale Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.
The inclusion of the HMI in the UIAA was welcomed by mountaineers in Calcutta as well. Mrinal Chatterjee of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers said the development was a feather in the cap of the HMI. “We are happy about the development. As the UIAA is an internationally acclaimed body, the HMI will definitely benefit technically,” Chatterjee, who is also an HMI member, said.
Amulya Sen, mountaineering adviser to the Bengal government, said: “The present administration of the HMI is dynamic and I am happy with this. The UIAA has been trying to include sports climbing in the Olympics. The HMI stand to gain by this development.”
The HMI can now expect more international students to visit the institution.
“As part of an exchange programme with the UIAA, professionals from abroad will come and impart training at our institution and vice-versa,” said Rana, before leaving for Italy to give a presentation on the HMI at a conference organised by the UIAA. “Our revenue has reached Rs 87 lakh per annum and will easily cross the Rs 1 crore mark this financial year.”
A 17-minute film on the HMI’s expedition to Mt Makalu, To the Summit and Beyond, recently received the award for the best documentary at the International Adventure Film Festival held at Lyon, France, on September 17.
“The documentary was on the success of our climb to Mt Makalu, the fifth highest peak in the world,” said the principal.
The HMI team not only became the first Indian team to scale Mt Makalu but had also made a world record by sending five members, the most number of people to the peak at a single point of time. During the expedition, Rana had also set a world record of paragliding from the highest point, when he took 17 minutes to reach Mt Makalu’s advance base camp from Camp II, situated at 22, 473 feet.
In 2003, the HMI team had also sent a team to Mt Everest.
“The HMI is preparing to take a team from the Northeast to Mt Everest in March 2011. There will be 16 climbers and eight support members in the Northeast team,” said Rana.