This article is a derivative from a question, that the author answered on Quora.com.
Before I delve into answering this question, I will first provide some detail into my background. I am a business graduate, who dropped out of a masters in English and then Philosophy. I nurtured a startup for 3 years before I lost interest in the venture and the city; and thus, began my journey into the outdoors.
I was into Taekwondo throughout school and having grown in Dehradun (foothills of Himalayas) that streak of adventure was always in me. So one fine day while on a trip to Mussoorie I met this gentleman at a filling station who introduced himself as a mountaineer; which immediately caught my fancy and I asked him how to become one. He asked me to do the Basic Mountaineering Course first, and then only will he assess whether or not I was fit enough to become one. A week later I was on a bus to Manali (ABVIMAS)…6 years down the line, rest is history.
Also, along the way I strayed into rock climbing and ultra running which are activities I have been pursuing for the major part of my time; and am now pushing towards Alpinism – the kind of mountaineering I will like to pursue in the long run. That being said, I do not really consider myself a mountaineer still but, then I guess I will have a useful answer to the stated question since I think I have some insight into the Indian scene.
Since in a very Indian (or Global) sense careers need to pay; so I will try to put a figure on what can be made doing what.
- Porters: Lowest paid of the lot. Make about 5k-15k a month. All you require is muscle and endurance. No hard mountaineering skill or academic qualification required.
- Trek Guides:
- With basic mountaineering skills and knowledge of local landscape and trails; make about 1000–1500 INR a day.
- With basic mountaineering skills, knowledge of local landscape and trails, and decent communication skills (spoken English helps); make about 2000–2500 INR a day. These are seasonal earning. Very few organisations keep people on permanent pay rolls. For those who are fortunate enough, could earn between INR 15000–40000 a month depending upon skill set, experience and luck.
- Climbing Guides: This occupation is slowly fading as alpinism is picking up and also the erstwhile guides have found better paying employments in their local towns and villages. The ones that are in business earn strictly due to their reputations, skills and experience. Expect between 3000–5000 INR a day for Indian climbing guides (also, there aren’t many technical ones around).
- Climbing Agency Owners: Most people with aspirations apart from solely climbing and in expectation of a better remuneration end up setting up their own climbing/guiding businesses. Those that run fairly well can make between INR 5–15 Lacs per annum (I am speaking of averages). This again depends upon the skills of the guiding/climbing team you employ as well as your own business prowess at running the establishment.
- Government Sponsored Climbers: Few but this too deserves a mention. Most of these posts are reserved for the ‘Everesters’ or, people from within the forces or departments that showcase some exemplary skill in the sport or, people with good connections and outreach make to this post. Take homes are quite variable depending upon your rank and department. 15k-60k generally.
- Sponsored athletes: These are so few that can be literally counted on finger tips. Their careers as sponsored athletes rest upon their PR skills and collaterals that they can offer (for instance content being one major collateral, or workshops for corporate clients). However, this is a highly unstable route in the Indian context, as people with genuine skill in the domain are still lacking and the sensibilities/awareness of the corporates or the public is still not quite there when it comes to this particular sport.
Without many ‘viable’ paying careers in sight, I personally feel that innovators in this domain rake in the money. One has to innovate in order to survive with a decent standard of living and pursue this one of a kind life choice alongside. For instance, novel business ideas such as technical gear manufacturing (Check Project Rockface and GIPFEL) in India may be the answer to decent survival for their respective owners.
On my own front, I have never relied on the sport to run the household. It has always been one for the kitchen and one for the soul. I found my compromise and latent passion in content production. Freelancing as a writer in the initial years and heading an extreme and action sports content startup now has helped me survive, support and afford the sports and outdoors I so love. And I don’t regret any of it.
If this article has helped you figure out a way to fuel your passion, HERE is another interesting read that will help you take those stellar shots hanging at 14,000ft.
Author: Sukrit Gupta
An avid climber, ultrarunner and day dreamer, Sukrit is a fan of everything that is self-managed and solo. A flag bearer for self sufficiency and pushing beyond limits, he loves to spend his time slithering over rock faces and devising cruel trail running courses in his mountainous backyard in Manali.