Ravi Kumar, director of NOLS India, summarizes some of the experiences NOLS India students can expect on their courses.
After your orientation, ration packing, group and personal gear
organization at NOLS Pacific Northwest, prepare to land in the
ancient world of the Himalayas. This “abode of snow” swings
in a wide arc across four countries for about 2,250 kilometers
(1,355 miles) and includes Everest and K2, but reaches even higher
in imaginations. You will learn to travel lightly through this
environment, from the thick conifer and broad-leaf trees in the
valley to the higher evergreens, then birch, rhododendron and
juniper forests to the alpine zone with shrublets, sedges, grasses
and alpine plants.
While most of your time will be spent in these mountains, your
adventure begins in Delhi with the ride to Ranikhet, located
in northern India in the Kumaon region of Uttaranchal. Until
the British established a cantonment here in 1869, local Kumaoni
rulers governed the area. As local folklore tells, the town’s
beauty struck Rani Padmini, queen of Raja Sukherdev and the region.
She was so captivated that she decided to stay, and the place
came to be known as Ranikhet, literally “queen' s field.” Today,
Ranikhet serves as the Kumaon Regimental Center and provides
NOLS India students a peaceful place to prepare for their time
in the wild.
Along with a wilderness experience steeped in mountain history,
you will enjoy a course rich in culture, starting here and ending
with dinner and graduation in an Indian home in New Delhi. Since
the spring of 2001, students have enjoyed the “upper house” on
the two-acre Ranikhet property, which includes four rooms with
a bathroom facility, dining area and kitchen. Ravi Kumar,
the director of the India program, lives with his family in the “lower
house,” which sits only 100 feet away.
Courses typically spend four nights here, two on the way to
the roadhead and two on their way back out. The full preparation
day includes group gear issue, packing “porter loads,” a
pack-packing class, a tent pitching class, basic Hindi, two hours
at the Raniket bazaar and a group meeting.
The next morning, you will drive toward the snowy Pindari glacier
or majestic Johar Valley, and a wilderness and cultural education
unlike any other.
At least one Indian instructor travels
with every course, and the students usually highlight
the cultural interaction and opportunity available
in this land.
Students can expect to see foxes,
leopards, flying foxes, pine martins, khaleej
pheasants, red-billed blue magpies, scarlet minivets,
bulbuls, woodpeckers, fly catchers, treepies
and many other birds.
“High camp” on
the Himalaya Mountaineering courses is the highest
camp students experience at NOLS: 18,000 feet!
Monsoon season hits India from mid-June to
mid-September, when it can rain nonstop for days!
Luckily, courses run in pre or post-monsoon season,
although rainfall can still run high.
Himalaya boasts at least 7,500 species of seed
plants, in addition to more than 300 varieties
of butterflies and 500 species of birds.
“High camp” on
Mountaineering courses is the highest camp students
experience at NOLS: 18,000 feet!
Photo: Andy Wise