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CLIMBING IN INDIA: A BEGINNER’S STORY

India! This beautiful country is home to some of the mesmerizing mountains of the Himalayan range. A small state in India from where I belong is Uttarakhand, a state where you can see some of these big giants. People in Uttarakhand have grown up admiring these mountains since their childhood and have a deep connection with them. I was also one of them, who always looked at these snow-capped mountains and wondered what I would witness from the top.


So, to find the answers I started going on treks in 2014 and during that first trek, I felt a peace I had never experienced in my life. And at that moment I knew this is where I feel the happiest. Ever since I started going on treks quite regularly.

But it was only in 2021 that I got to know the technical aspect of mountaineering. Before that, I naively assumed that to reach a mountain top you simply had to walk on the trail. I learned about basic mountaineering course (BMC) and slowly got to know about rock craft, snow craft, and ice craft. Soon I applied for the course and of course, I wanted to perform well. So, I started training for it beforehand. I knew I would have no lack of endurance but for the technical part, I was not confident, I knew nothing about being on the rope. Hence I started looking for rock climbing opportunities near Dehradun.


My searches led to answers, thanks to Google Baba and I got introduced to rock climbing in 2021 during a rock-climbing workshop organized by Beyond The Wall. After that initial day of climbing, I haven't stopped ever since. The pull was real, I learnt to be on the ropes and the BMC course went on beautifully after this. Their yield can be defined by the fact that I am now conducting the workshop I attended 2 years back


Now that I have become an avid climber, I would like to say that climbing helps you travel a lot!

Its a fact that will be accepted by all rock climbers that rock climbing gives you a reason to travel, and true to that, I did get a chance to travel to different climbing locations in India. And this is my 2-year climbing journey...


DEHRADUN: THE BEGINNING

Five hour’s drive from Delhi will get you to the beautiful city of Dehradun, a place where you can find a mix of city and village life. You can get almost everything from any city market while a half hour’s drive from the city will take you close to nature.

Photo by Abhijeet Singh

(Me climbing ‘punarjanam’ in Maldevta crag)


This is where I started my climbing journey. It all started with me signing up for a weekend workshop offered by Beyond the wall. Honestly, the way I was introduced had a big impact on me. During that first day of climbing, I felt something I had never felt for any person or thing - pure love. If you are a non-climber reading this, you might not understand it. But let me try to explain, have you ever experienced something for the first time and just known that you will be sticking with it for life? If yes, then you might relate to the emotion I wanted to share but if not I hope it happens to you at least once, it is a beautiful feeling. The best thing is once you feel this, you will be clear in all the aspects of life.


Back to Dehradun, it has two crags with a total of 15 routes, routes ranging from 5B to 7 B. And that is where my love story started, both with the rocks and …


DHAUJ: THE CONFIRMATION

Next, I heard about Dhauj, a place near the Delhi region, mainly known for trad climbing. So I joined the BTW gang on their way to the GritFest in Dhauj in February.


I am assuming you all might have loved something or someone and wanted to give it your all. But right before you do, your rational mind comes into the picture, asking you if you are sure, if you really want to commit, if you aren’t making a wrong decision. You look for signs of confirmation, of it being the right step. That confirmation was Dhauj for me. Here, I met climbers outside Dehradun, leaving me scared and excited at the same time. Meeting new people and listening to their stories and seeing their passion for a sport that connected all of us was the thing I needed; I was at the right place at the right time.

Dhauj has some crazy crack climbing and here was the first time I tried climbing cracks and trad. Let me tell you I failed at the cracks. Funny thing is, even though I failed, I fell even more in love.



MANALI: SEARCH FOR MY TRUE SELF

Manali is where I chose to go after I got a little independent with my climbing skills. It is a place close to my heart, surrounded by views of these majestic big mountains, making me feel at home.

I was there in Manali for almost 5 months, and that was a time of immense growth in my life.


So, a little background – I studied to be an Ayurvedic doctor for five years but was unsure about pursuing it. So, I quit my job and went to Manali to find my purpose. Somewhere, I wanted to get into the outdoor industry but I had no clue how so I gave myself 6 months to figure it out. I went to Manali just after my BMC so I was full of energy and thought of joining a trekking company but was never sure about it because I knew I had to be in touch with rock climbing. If I became a trek leader then I would never have time to climb.


In Manali, there weren’t many climbers and I was there to climb. I met Abhijeet who introduced me to a few climbers there and slowly I began climbing. But Abhijeet and the others had work to do, while I had free time that could be given to climbing. That’s when I thought that I could teach someone to climb and climb together. So, that is what I did and tadaa - started climbing more often.

And as luck would have it, by the end of the six months, I was fortunate enough to get a job opportunity with Beyond The Wall itself. Now I could climb and work outdoors, just the thing I was looking for.


Pro Tip: There are mainly 5 bolted crags in Manali with around 15 to 20 routes on a range of 5C to 7A. You can also do bouldering in nature parks and other areas. Stay in Manali is costly if you stay close to the market, I stayed in Nasogi which is a village around 2 km from the main market. You can find cheaper stays in Nasogi, Vashisht, and Jagatsukh. There are also some dhabas for cheaper food near these places or you can cook your food. If you are staying for a longer duration you can also rent out some property.


SETHAN: RECONNECTING TO THE COMMUNITY

Sethan is a place that is 14 Km from Manali, half an hour’s drive away. It sits on the base of the famous Hampta Pass trek and has a backdrop of big majestic Himalayan mountains.

This place is famous for its uncountable number of boulders while also having some bolted routes. The grade of these boulders are between the range of 5 to 8. I had tried my hand at bouldering in Dehradun and Dhauj but Sethan was the first place where I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Bouldering in Sethan due to the cold weather and the type of rock, offers a good grip on rocks. Added was the fact that Sethan is visited by climbers not only from India but also internationally. This was my first encounter seeing such a huge concentration of climbers that too in a village. Climbers from all parts of India were there and I got to learn many things from them and made some good friends there.


Pro Tip: You can stay according to your budget, I stayed in Sethan climbing hostel which was a cheap stay including breakfast and dinner. The climbing season for Sethan is the same as in Manali. Rock type is mainly a mixture of Granite and Gneiss.



BADAMI: THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

A year later, for an event, the entire Dehradun gang was heading to Karnataka. And of course being climbers, it had to be climbing first and event later. So we went to Badami. Badami was my first trip to the Southern part of India; let me tell you it was beautiful. The only thing problematic for me was the heat, you just can’t climb even an easy route without breaking a sweat in some areas of Badami, even in winter!


Badami has a beautiful red sandstone, and as my first time climbing on sandstone I have to say, the rock was super grippy. Badami has almost 200 routes which are from 5A to 8B+.

Also, as it was my first time in Southern India, I realised that the food here was delicious and cheap. There are also hotels near the crag which can be shared with other climbers. Meeting new people from not only India but all over the world was an added bonus experience . Seeing climbers pushing hard on routes gave me the motivation to try routes above my grade. Badami was not only important to help me push my grade but also helped me in connecting with people. As an introvert, I don’t have many things to talk about but the people I met while climbing was open-minded and I found something to talk about.

To conclude, climbing in India is in its growing phase with more and more climbers being added to the community every day. Rock climbing is a community-intensive sport and it will not grow if we do not create a healthy community. With India being a culturally diverse country, you will get to experience a different mix of cultures as you travel to new destinations for climbing, making the entire journey more memorable.


I am still relatively new to climbing, with so many places I want to visit and climbing dreams to fulfil. Honestly speaking, I have many unfinished projects in the above-mentioned places as well and I know I will be visiting all of these places again too.


Hope to see you there and maybe help you find your true love soon!


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