Apart from Nimas, Arunachal Pradesh already has the world record holder of the highest number of ascents by a woman on Mt Everest in the form of Anshu Jamseppa, the gutsy Monpa lady from Bomdila.
By Yambem Laba
It was the golden jubilee celebration of the first Indian ascent of Mount Everest. Organised on May 20, 2003 by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of mountaineering and allied adventure programmes in India, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also present for the function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. In that meeting, Vajpayee announced the formation of a national level-institute to provide training for adventure sports and other such activities. The seed was planted then but it finally took shape 10 years later. On 30 May 2013, the National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, or Nimas, was born in Dirang Dzong in Arunachal Pradesh. It operates under the Union ministry of defence and is the only national institute across the country mandated to conduct courses and expeditions in the fields of land, air and water. Union defence minister Rajnath Singh is the president of Nimas while Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu is the vice-president.
Nimas operates under the watchful eyes of Colonel Saffraz Singh, a seasoned paratrooper, mountaineer and adventure activist of international standing. He is also a rafting and skydiving expert. The institute has launched numerous expeditions to the Arunachal Himalayas and Mount Everest as well.
For a long time, those peaks in Arunachal Pradesh were out of bounds for civilian climbers, considering China is next door. In 1962, the Chinese had swept across the region occupying Dirang Dzong for a while before pulling back past Bum La, the area where the McMahon Line is said to exist.
The peaks in the region where the Tricolour has been hoisted require highly technical climbing and they constitute the Gori Chen Group, comprising the Main (6,448 metres), East (6,222 m), West (6,383 m) and South (6,247 m) peaks. Gori Chen is also called “Sa Nga Phu” which roughly translates into “abode of the guardian deity”, and in 2017, the institute had placed several climbers atop it. Numerous other unclimbed peaks are also in the region and they include Kangto (7,090 m), Nyegi Kangsang (7,050 m), Chomo (6,878 m) and Takpa Shiri (6,665 m). The most noteworthy feather in the cap of Nimas was the first Indian ascent of Kangto-6 (6,020 m). There was no known official record of any attempt by anyone on the Kangto massif. In September-October 2019, the institute launched with a team comprising extremely tough climbers and adequate technical knowhow. Colonel Singh himself led from the front and after a gruelling one-and-a- half-month-long ordeal, the team was able to place a record 30 climbers atop Kangto-6. The second assault came a year later in 2020 when another 41 climbers scaled the peak. The assault on Mt Everest was launched in 2018 and the team led, by Colonel Singh, put six climbers atop the highest mountain on Earth, including the leader himself.
Besides mountain climbing, Nimas organises various other expeditions including mountain terrain biking, or MTB. In 2018, the institute had flagged off such an expedition comprising 14 riders from across India who set off from Bomdila to Bum La, covering approximately 300 kilometres in areas with altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 15,000 feet above mean sea level.
Thereafter, in 2019-20, it also organised a four-nation MTB expedition starting from Manipur. It traversed the whole of Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, covering around 4,000 kms in 40 days. It culminated at the Indian National Army Marker in Singapore on 23 January 2020. On the other hand, in November-December 2020, Nimas rafted some 720 kms of riverine surface across all the major rivers of Arunachal Pradesh, namely Kameng, Dibang, Nao-Dihing, Lohit, Sunashri, Siyom and Siyang.
Apart from that, a joint Indo-Bhutan white water rafting expedition was also launched in 2018 overing a length of 131 kms. Spread across 40 acres atop a hillock, Nimas imparts training in 20 fields of mountaineering and other adventure activities. In mountaineering itself it provides basic and advanced, search and rescue, and method of instruction courses. In MTB also, Nimas has both basic and advanced courses. When it comes to water sports, the institute offers basic and intermediate courses in white water rafting; basic and advanced scuba modules alongside rescue diver and scuba combined courses.
In the air, it imparts training in basic, advanced and combined paragliding, and also paramotoring at both the basic and advanced levels. Nimas has mountaineering expedition courses where trainees learn at altitudes above 6,000 m along with MTB cum trekking training as well as a rafting expedition course.
Apart from Nimas, Arunachal Pradesh already has the world record holder of the highest number of ascents by a woman on Mt Everest in the form of Anshu Jamsenpa, the gutsy Monpa lady from Bomdila. She has scaled the tallest peak in the world five times, including a double ascent within a week. Romeo Meitei, who now teaches in Manipur University and was formerly associated with the Department of Adventure of The Arunachal Pradesh Government, had been involved with Nimas since its inception. He said that the institute needs to reserve some seats for youngsters from the North-east as courses are now booked way ahead on an all-India basis. All said and done, the dreams of Vajpayee have come true and the North-east has another destination for visitors.
(The writer is the Imphal-based Special Representative of The Statesman. This article was first published by The Statesman.)