Himalayan Mountain Challenge Program

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Students at Chandrashila summit. PC: Milind Tambe, volunteer for Mountain Challenge.

In the mountains, lots of basic things are uncertain and resources scarce. Strategizing and competing in such an environment brings out the highest degree of individual learning and transformation. The Himalayan Mountain Challenge focuses on developing real life management skills in a non-simulated environment.  It is a tested and highly recommended program that can be included in the PGP curriculum or as an additional program. 

 Indiahikes is highly professional with amazing skills to organize the event in synchronization with nature. The entire module of program such as pre-planning, execution, sequencing of events, enthusiasm of organizing team, the briefing sessions, the arrangement, the food, the trek, the tents etc. was wonderful experience. Happy to be associated with them. – Sanjay Choudhari, IIM Faculty

The objective

The Himalayan Mountain Challenge aims to impart real life management skills from the outdoors. It is an innovative method which integrates experiential leadership training with trekking in the mountains. Students experience the process of working through real challenges with limited resources and intense teamwork.  The objective of the program is to enable students to overcome obstacles and challenges in a real-life environment. The activities laid out focus on bringing out qualities of team work, cooperation, consultation, creativity and decision-making under stressful situations.

Methodology

Students are divided into teams and given limited resources to complete the challenge at hand. Mountain money is used as a resource during the challenge. The teams compete against each other in a real life setting through a series of activities and games that focus on team work, cooperation and overall individual capacity building. The details of the challenge are given to all teams along with equal amount of ‘mountain money’. Teams need to strategise and carry out the activities in such a way that they maximise their money. Teams with a positive attitude and skills in cooperation, creativity,time management and effective communication usually emerge as winners.

Background 

Indiahikes is India’s largest trekking organisation. We have more than 10,000 trekkers every year. We know the profound changes that people experience when they trek. These changes, that affect trekkers outlook and perspectives, have been the motivating force that has channeled our efforts into creating the Himalayan Mountain Challenge Program.

This program has evolved over the last 5 years. This is the 6th year we are running it for IIM  Indore. Final year PGP students and faculty at IIM Indore rate this program very highly and have been instrumental in fine-tuning it.

What do students learn

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Upcycling activity
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Cooking activity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have noticed the program generally leaves a lasting impression on the student’s mind. A proof would be the number of them who apply to be volunteers in conducting the same program in the following years.

More importantly, students learn that teamwork in such settings require a high order of cooperative skills. They also discover that most personal limitations that they have are largely imagined. For some, it is a humbling experience.  For all, though, it is a great boost in self-confidence. Most of these lessons have direct implications in real life. Unlike a classroom setting the learning on this program is deep. Often lifelong.  

I was lucky enough to be in an IIM which had a full fledged Himalayan outbound program for the PGP program  It was not only an individual challenge but an experience I shared will my friends and batch mates. It was all teamwork whether we had to build a portable toilet or had to cook our own food with limited resources. It is a bit strange when we realise the similarities between surviving in a jungle miles away from “civilization” and in a corporate office situated in a mega city- Dhruv Shandil, Mountain Challenge 2014


How it is done

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On the way to Chandrashila Summit. PC: Milind Tambe

The trek takes students to an elevation of 12,500 feet, usually to a summit. The setting of the trek is in some of our most scenic mountains of the Himalayas. Climbing the summit over three days along with the tasks in hand is where the transformation happens. It does not require prior trekking experience to participate in this program, though we strongly advocate physical preparation.

The program also includes a 17 km white water rafting down the Ganges, which again reinforces the learning on the trek. The program duration is 6 days.

The locations for the program:

  1. Bedni Bugyal  :  The twin meadows of Ali and Bedni lie on the famed Roopkund trek route. The Bedni Bugyal trek has everything going for it. Deep virgin forests, gurgling brooks, breath-taking campsites, miles of undulating meadows and Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti towering over them
  2. Kedarkantha  A quiet, quick trek in the Eastern most fringes of Uttarakhand. Kedarkantha trek  is known for its pretty campsites, pristine forests and a thrilling summit climb
  3. Dayara Bugyal The Dayara meadows stretch out far and wide and all around the meadows are the many towering snow peaks. Dayara Bugyal is considered to be one of the pretties high altitude meadows in India. The trek also climbs to the summit of Dayara top.
  4. Deoriatal-Chandrashila An exquisite lake surrounded my tall peaks, untouched Himalayan forests and a summit climb showcasing all the major mountains of Indian Himalayas are why this trek is a must do.

For all four locations participants come to Rishikesh. They are picked up from Rishikesh and driven down to the respective base camps of the treks. All base camps are about  8-10 hours drive from Rishikesh (with breaks).

Some immediate outcomes I observed were heightened self-confidence and a better understanding of others apart from a greater appreciation of nature. When I reached the final camp, the first reaction was “Woohoo, I’ve done it.” As I settled down, I was asking myself, what is “it” that I’ve done. And then an inner voice said: “It” was not conquering the mountain; “it” was conquering myself.- Prof Srinivas Gunta, IIM Indore Faculty

Programme itinerary:

Day 1: Pick up at Rishikesh at 6.30 am and drive to the respective base camps. 8-10 hour journey. Mountain road journeys are slow and breaks are advisable. Reach camp by 6.30 pm. Room/Tent allocation followed by a briefing about the trek in hand. Instructions about the mountain challenge activity will be handed over as printed sheets for students to strategize overnight.

Day 2:  An hour of mountain challenge briefing followed by the start of the trek. Trek duration is between 4-5 hours. Trekkers expected to reach camp by 1.00 pm. There are two mountain challenge activities post trek.  Activities wind up by 6 pm.

Day 3: Mountain challenge activities followed by 3-5 hour trek. This is the highest camp on the trek (usually around 11,000 feet).  After lunch, trekkers attempt the summit and return to the camp by dusk.

Day 4: Trek down from high camp to base camp.  Trek ends by lunch time. Results of the Mountain Challenge is declared in the evening.

Day 5: Depart base camp by 7 am and reach Rishikesh by 6 pm.

Day 6: 6.30 am to 11 am – White water rafting in the Ganga. 12 pm – checkout, lunch and end of program

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Briefing session

Minimum and Maximum Participants: We need minimum 30 participants per location and a maximum of 120 participants per location.  Upto 4 locations can be organized. Students are distributed equally and teams are formed in advance. This program is exclusively for colleges. The activities can be modified in accordance with the specific objectives and learning goals of the Institution. The program is not open to individuals as yet.

Indiahikes staff:  For a team of 50 students there are 10-12 backend management staff, 2 staff in leadership role conducting the Mountain Challenge and 2 Indiahikes volunteers who help conduct the program.

Contact: Write to izzat@indiahikes.in  for details.

 Amidst all the pictures and posts and statuses of my contemporaries about the Himalayan Outbound, I would like to share an unrelated though extremely vital viewpoint. Seeing sanitary napkin advertisements would always make me cringe. “How can she do ALL that while she is menstruating? Seriously?” has been a widespread thought among women while viewing them. After trekking for the first time, river rafting and bungee jumping, all on my ‘special days’, I feel like a changed woman. There is really NOTHING that can stop a woman. It’s about time us women believed that thought. Thank you Indiahikes for an experience of a lifetime! –  Garima Sachdeva, Mountain Challenge 2016

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Aswati Anand

Aswati Anand is a journalist in love with the Himalayas. She is interested in stories of resilience from difficult terrains and sustainable living. When not mooning over the mountains, she can be seen doodling in her sketchbook.

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