Late in February, the Uttarakhand Forest Department conducted its First Guide Certification Program in collaboration with Indiahikes.
The prime objective of the program was to train youth of the state and turn them into effective facilitators of high-altitude treks. From taking care of the logistics and navigating the route to providing basic first-aid to trekkers and handling emergencies, they learned how to execute a trek successfully.
Guides being briefed by the trainer.
How the Training Programme Came into Being
What’s surprising is that the training programme came about almost by chance.
“During a routine visit to the Forest Department, we met with the Chief Wildlife Warden Mr Parag Dhakate. We spoke to him about the regular training we have for all our staff. That's when he asked if we could collaborate and train guides who do not work with us,” says Izzat Yaganagi, head of Experiential Learning at Indiahikes.
“Such training programs will take trekking forward as a sport. It will make trekking a lot safer and make local guides a lot more employable,” she adds.
Trainings were carried out to make trekking safer and the guides more employable.
What Happened during the Guide Certification Program
Over 25 individuals from Tons, Purola, Uttarkashi and Gangotri joined the program, which was held at the Indiahikes Campus in Raithal, Uttarakhand, at the base of the Dayara Bugyal trek. They were all sponsored by the Uttarakhand Forest Department with the sole purpose of making them more skilled.
Besides those working in a similar sector, the group consisted of students, farmers and shopkeepers from all over Uttarakhand.
The training was conducted by Indiahikes Senior Trek Leaders Dushyant Sharma and Syama Krishna, who have been training Trek Leaders and Guides within Indiahikes for nearly two years.
“Most guides come with strong technical skills. However, their theoretical and practical knowledge of practising safety and environmental sustainability is weak. The certification program was designed to bridge this gap,” says Lakshmi Selvakumaran, head of the Experience Team at Indiahikes, who headed the design of the curriculum.
“The participants were trained to identify and tackle risks on a trek. They were put through a lot of real-life case studies and situational practice. They also learned how to prevent and treat medical issues.
“Similarly, they were made to understand the importance of protecting the environment while trekking. They were taught several techniques from our own Green Trails practices to trek sustainably. It provided them with the much-needed confidence to have conversations on sustainable trekking with trekkers,” she adds.
Guides were given medical training to better prepare them for emergencies.
The program brought about some visible changes in the participants.
According to Dushyant Sharma, the participants were eager to learn. He says, “They all came with an open mind and picked up on their learning easily. The success of the program can be gauged by the fact that individuals who didn’t have any clue about trekking, excelled in the program. They grasped everything we taught them rather quickly and passed with flying colours. This shows us that locals have a big appetite to learn the right way of trekking. They definitely need more such programs”.
The program was a major success with 15 participants clearing the final assessment and receiving the certification.
Those unfamiliar with the trekking world too, performed very well in the programme.
Significance of Such a Training Program
We have noticed that for a long time, the forest department of Uttarakhand has been working towards developing skills among natives. Even the Uttarakhand Skill Development Mission (UKSDM) works towards this vision.
The Guide Certification Program is another big step in that direction as it will ultimately allow more people to trek safely and with minimal impact on the environment.
“Such programs empower the guides to enable others to trek. The more we focus on skill development, the more it helps the trekking fraternity grow. That is what we want,” concludes Indiahikes founder and CEO, Arjun Majumdar.
Founder and CEO
Such programs empower the guides to enable others to trek. The more we focus on skill development, the more it helps the trekking fraternity grow. That is what we want