One of my readers* wants to know how he can get grade A in Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC). Here are my suggestions and insider tips for him and other aspiring mountaineers.
(* I have deleted reader’s name on his request. The reader does not want unnecessary publicity.)
The first prerequisites are right attitude and excellent fitness level because mountaineering is mentally and physically demanding.
Start Preparing 6 Months before Joining the Course
To maximize enjoyment and your chances to secure grade A, start preparing at least six months before the commencement of the course.
Full body fitness is essential. But pay special attention to heart, knees, and upper body while working out.
Although mountaineering is a mélange of many and varied activities, climbing and trekking are two principal activities. Climbing requires upper body strength, whereas trekking needs a strong heart and healthy knees. There are a few suggestions for strengthening these body parts:
Build Upper Body Strength: Push-ups, Chin-ups, and Pull-ups
To build and / or improve upper body strength, do variety of
- push-ups (standard, wide, narrow, single hand, clapping, finger),
- chin-ups (standard, wide, narrow, single hand, with weight), and
- pull-ups (standard, wide, narrow, single hand, with weight)
You should be able to chase the minimum target of 50 push-ups, 50 chin-ups, and 50 pull-ups in six months. However, start with the lowest count and gradually increase the repetitions.
Strengthen Heart and Knees: Cardio with / without Rucksack Weighing 20 Kilograms
Running and skipping are good cardio exercises because they are simple. You can do these on alternate days to avoid boredom. Do cardio at least for one hour daily.
But do activity specific cardio too regularly. If your home town has a hillock, find 15-25-kilometer-long trail that features moderate and steep ascents. Fill your rucksack with 5-kilogram load and walk this trail (s) regularly. Increase the rucksack weight gradually to reach the target weight of 20 kilograms. Do not carry 20-kilogram rucksack on the first day. If you do so, you will hurt yourself badly. Increase the weight gradually that is why I suggested you to start preparation six months before the commencement of the course.
If your home town does not feature a hillock, use staircase in your multistory building. Climb the staircase up and down. Do not forget to carry your 5-kg (…20-kg) rucksack while doing staircase-based cardio.
Do not forget to stretch before and after the exercise.
Eat nutritious food daily.
You need not join any kind of fitness classes or expensive gyms. You can do all these exercises on your own. Use your own bodyweight.
Learn Fun Activities for Fire-Less Camp Fires
There will be many fire-less camp fires during the course. Learn some jokes, poetry, songs, or any other useful activity with which you can entertain your course mates. This will take you a step closer to your dream grade.
Take Preparatory Steps After Reporting at the Training Institute
Do not avoid acclimatization tasks.
Follow the acclimatization instructions given by the instructors sincerely for your own benefit. If you do not acclimatize well within the prescribed time frame, you will not be able to participate in the course activities.
Understand Evaluation Process
You will be evaluated for the following:
- Ability to grasp the techniques taught in the classroom and demonstrated in the field.
- Ability to apply these techniques in the field. You will be asked to demonstrate the techniques.
- Ability to play your role in the team.
- Ability to reach the destinations within the prescribed time frame. But that does not mean you have to race and try to be always first one to reach the day destination. But you should not trail behind the team. If the instructors and your team have to await you every now and then because you are slow, they will not like you.
- Ability to cook a meal with limited ration provided to you.
- Ability to survive camping atmosphere.
- Ability to stay away from your family happily. Do not feel homesick.
- Ability to survive on the food served by the institute. Do not be fussy.
Don’t Bunk Off Sessions
Do not bunk off any of the sessions during 28-day course. Bunking off sessions on the pretext of medical and / or lame excuses will impact your grade.
Avoid Arguments and Fights
Do not argue with instructors and pick fight with instructors.
Be Extra Careful about Theft
While sharing hostel dormitories and tents, there are always chances of theft, especially of valuables and the equipment issued by the institute. I have experienced both.
I lost my favorite watch because the battery of the watch had exhausted and I kept the watch in the pocket of my rucksack. The watch disappeared in night.
Once I carried my own mess tin, a kind of utensil used for cooking and packing food. One of my course mates stole it because she had misplaced her mess tin issued by the institute. She either had to return the mess tin issued by the institute or pay the cost of the tin to get the certificate. But she preferred stealing.
Remember, everyone has to clean the equipment issued by the institute and return them at the end of the course before the graduation day. If you do not return, you may have to pay the cost of the missing gear.
Avoid Falling Sick
Do not fall sick.
Keep yourself warm and protected to avoid cold.
Cold or any other type of sickness will impact your performance.
Do not use medicines or any other substances to acclimatize and improve performance. If you work out regularly for six months, there will be no need for these substances.
Learn the art of maintaining hygiene using small quantity of water and without using soap / any other washes. During your stay in the institute hostel, you will find shortage of water on several occasions because some of your team mates will use more than their share. So the students who use the wash room last, sometimes, do not get any water. At base camp and beyond, you will get just one mug of hot water to do the morning chores. But that does not mean be dirty.
You can keep yourself clean without using deodorants and scents. Carry a small piece of sponge and use it efficiently because sponge absorbs water quickly and dries also fast. Carry an extra pair of inner clothes instead of carrying four shirts and four pants. Carry less shirts and pants. Carry more inners and socks.
Some of the instructors will even tell you that they use their inners repeatedly. How? For example, one underwear may be used for several days by wearing on both sides. This seems funny at the first instance. But this is extremely unhygienic.
Neither stink nor get infected.
Earlier one of readers also asked whether wearing long hairs and beards is permitted during the course. Both are allowed. In fact, many instructors will not shave at and beyond the base camp because of inadequate or no supply of hot water. Another reason to keep the hairs is warmth and protection against the cold climate these natural growths provide.
Avoid Backbiting and False Allegations
Jealousy is probably human nature. In mountaineering camps / expeditions, simple or complex, you will always meet some people who always feel jealous of others, indulge in backbiting, and make false allegations. Probably because these expeditions get you some glory. Completing a mountaineering camp is after all a big achievement.
The false allegations by your course mates impact your grades, sometimes drastically, say the grade A reduced to B or even C. Try to avoid unnecessary disputes and fights because not all instructors and principals believe in natural justice. Many of these instructors simply make decisions listening just one side of the story. So, for this type of authority, the accuser is always right and the accused is labeled as the culprit without being heard.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid of mountains.