India defined Basic Minimum Standards (BMS) for commercial mountaineering expeditions to peaks of 6,000 meters or comparable in 2009. The BMS are divided into the following seven categories:
4. Guides / Instructors
5. Inspections and maintenance procedures
This post focuses on three standards: guides / instructors, equipment, and inspections and maintenance procedures.
Guides / Instructors
The lead guide and instructor should have the following set of qualifications:
- A 2-day (16 hour) first aid course from a competent and recognized institute
- Advance Mountaineering Course (AMC) from one of national mountaineering institutes
- Completion of Method Instruction and Search and Rescue courses is also desired.
- Three years’ experience of working as an assistant for mountaineering expeditions to an altitude of 6,000 meters or higher.
- Ability to lead mountaineering expeditions independently and carry out rescue.
- A mountaineering experience certificate confirming the two qualifications mentioned in item numbers 4 and 5 should be obtained from a tour operator accredited by the Ministry of Tourism or a body recognized by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
- A log book that authenticates the mountaineering experience
Usage and maintenance
Both appropriate use of climbing equipment and maintenance are necessary. The operators must follow the usage and maintenance rules religiously.
The operator should use Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) or European Committee for Standardization (CE) certified safety equipment only.
Knowledge of various types of ropes and their usage is a must.
Use ropes designed as per international standards. For instance, a safe working load (SWL) limit for the rope is 2.5 tons (25KN). Avoid using ropes manufactured in India unless these ropes meet international standards.
According to International Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), the SWL (or working load limit (WLL)) means
“The maximum mass or force which a product is authorized to support in general service when the pull is applied in-line, unless noted otherwise, with respect to the centreline of the product i.e. the WLL of a component is specified by the manufacturer.”
In simple words, SWL refers to the maximum load that an item such as a crane, line, rope, or any lifting device, can lift in a particular application.
Good theoretical and practical knowledge of hardware used in mountaineering expeditions is one of the prerequisites.
The hardware should also be CE approved and meet a safe working load limit of 2.5 tons.
Instructors and operators must update themselves on changes in the standards and techniques.
Check and test the equipment before every use because wear and tear is normal. Equipment may fail due to (1) poor storage techniques, (2) bad usage, and (3) bad maintenance and mismanagement. The BMS recommends to keep an update log of the equipment to minimize failures.
Inspections and maintenance procedures
A team of qualified persons should regularly inspect and maintain the climbing equipment and systems. A qualified person means a person having at least a certificate of mountaineering guide or instructor.