Well, Rock Climbing in India is still a very niche sport and is widely confused with trekking. But when you are spotted in the outdoors with ropes and carabiners you do get a second look with some stares and questions. So, in conclusion, you will grab a little more attention than when you are simply trekking, and that is the difference between the two!
Jokes apart, since you have come to this blog you do understand the difference and want to know more about this exhilarating sport.
To start off, when you ask the question “How to learn rock climbing in India?” you probably mean how can you get introduced to rock climbing. See, the thing with this sport is, unlike basketball or cricket where it's safe to take a ball or a bat and enjoy the game with your friends on your own, rock climbing is a sport that needs an introduction. And there is a difference between being introduced to rock climbing and starting to rock climb independently. The latter is the one which will probably give you the best time of your life. But you have to do the former to get to the latter. Getting introduced in a safe and healthy way is very important as rock climbing has an inherent risk to it all the time.
There are many different styles and exciting ways you can rock climb like Sport climbing, Bouldering, Top rope climbing, Trad climbing, Indoor climbing, Aid climbing, Big wall climbing, Deep water solo, etc. Usually, as a beginner your first rock climbing day, you will either be Top-roping i.e climbing 5 - 30 meter long rock walls with the rope passing through top anchors as safety or Bouldering i.e climbing up boulders two to four-meter high with a crash pad below you as safety.
So, here are some ways you can introduce yourself to climbing in India.
1. Climber friend
One of the best ways to learn is to find a friend or a friend of a friend who has been climbing for a while and most importantly is trustable. A day trip with him/her or their group to a rock climbing location might be just enough to get you high on the rocks! :D. Edcel a climber from the Philippines taught me a lot and became one of our closest friends. Once you have been introduced to the equipment and have climbed some routes, you will most probably be psyched and will chase the group every other weekend to the crag. Once an experienced climber sees that you belay well, he/she is most likely to take you along to belay them. And no, this won't feel this exploitation, you will probably do it yourself to rookie climbers eventually. And soon you might see yourself buying a pair of climbing shoes, which probably might be the most expensive shoes you might have ever bought. (Fair warning -you can't even walk with them on). Beware other gear will follow soon.
2. Adventure company/clubs
If you are lucky to live in a town or a city where there is a climbing club or adventure company like us (wink), who conduct outdoor climbing lessons or workshops, then there could be nothing better than to go on a one day trip with them. As rock climbing involves an inherent risk all the time, getting introduced in a safe and organised way is important. They will take you through all the climbing equipment step by step, educate you on all the safety protocols, and make sure you get on climbing routes that, are within your capability by ensuring you have fun climbing. Overall it will be a day filled with a lot of climbing, and chatter from their personal experiences. Post this you can always stay in touch with them and show up at the crag with your own gear (at least climbing shoes and harness).
In Bangalore, there is Bangalore Climbing Initiatives (BCI), a club I would recommend, also letsplayclimbing conducts climbing workshops. In Delhi NCR, there is Delhiclimbs who conduct climbing workshop and climbing sessions at Dhauj. So in short, become a part of the rock climbing community in your town and stay safe on the rocks with their help!
3. Climbing courses
Getting enrolled in a multi-day rock climbing institute or a mountaineering course. I believe there is only one rock climbing specific institute in India and that is SVIM in Mt. Abu, Rajasthan. Here the way rock climbing is understood and taught is fairly different from the new age rock climbing ideology. The rope skills you are taught are pretty ancient by my standards. But if you spend those ten days in SVIM doing a Basic rock climb course, you will have an enjoyable time. You will get to rock climb every morning, rappel down every evening, spend a day exploring caves and maybe walk the night in those bear-infested jungles.
A Himalayan mountaineering Institute in Sikkim called IHCAE has specialised rock climbing courses as well. I don't have much information about how they conduct their course but certainly, they have a well built modern artificial climbing wall.
In other Himalayan mountaineering institutes, you will have a good rock climbing set up but you most probably will not get to practice all the rope skills like belaying, anchoring, setting up ropes etc. every day on the rock climbing scheduled days. Climbing on an artificial wall is something you are most likely to do, but that depends on which institute you enrol in. So these places don't really try to make you an independent rock climber. They don't teach you all the latest safety techniques & climbing protocols, nor do they let you enjoy it as an activity. But they do make sure you learn it as a way of reaching the top of a mountain!
4. Indoor climbing gyms
If you happen to live in a big city then you probably will have a few climbing gyms around. These gyms have plastic holds on specially designed walls with which you can climb to the top. They create a very safe and controlled environment to learn all the basics of rock climbing. They are very effective in teaching climbing techniques too. Climbing gyms usually have programs to take you outdoors to climbing locations. If by any chance they don't, you definitely will meet climbers who climb outdoors there and you can simply tag along with them to the outdoor climbing locations. And yes if you like indoor climbing, it in itself is quite an addiction.
If you are in Mumbai then head over to Arun Samant climbing wall at Goregaon. Pune has its famous Rock Alien bouldering gym. In Bangalore, I would recommend Letsplayclimbing gym and Equilibrium climbing gym. New Delhi has some high-quality gyms I have been to like Boulderbox for bouldering and Climb central for top-roping/ lead climbing. And of course one of the first and the most iconic climbing wall in our country at India Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) , New Delhi.
Head out to some of the famous tourist locations where rock climbing has been developed. Many people don't know about the world-class Bouldering scene in Hampi, though they might have visited it multiple times. So to ensure that it doesn't happen again, here is a list of places you can go to and find a local guide or climbing shop which can offer climbing lessons/take you on a climbing day trip.
It is the granddaddy of Indian bouldering. There are hills of endless granite boulders set between paddy farms and villages. Also, Hampi is a cultural UNESCO world heritage site. A lot of old temples were built out of these stones by dynasties long ago during the Vijayanagara period. In February of
2020, after a devastating flood, the government decided to shut Hampi Island which was the spot for backpacker and climber tourists. So the locals have shifted their campsites to a nearby village called Sanapur.
Hampi adventures is one of the campsites in Sanapur. They rent gears and take you on bouldering trips. It's run by one of the local climbers and my close friend, Tom. You can contact Tom on +91 8277792588 , Instagram
Experiencing rock climbing in a high altitude Himalayan desert would be epic, isn't it? It's on my bucket list too. If you are heading to Ladhak then check out Gravi-T bouldering gym, they organise bouldering and Top rope climbing trips to Shey rock or nearby areas. You can contact them through Facebook, Instagram
Our home ground, Dehradun is situated close to Mussoorie, Rishikesh, Haridwar and is at the foothills of the great Himalaya. Since 2020 we have been developing a local crag near Maldevta, Dehradun City, Uttarakhand. So if you are passing through or visiting a nearby place, do give us a call, we will be happy to take you on a day of rock climbing. Contact us through: Website, Instagram Call us on +917498163805 or +919368902524
It is a hill station in southern Rajasthan almost touching the Gujarat border. It is a part of the Aravali range and has solid slabs of submerged Granite. It also has a lot of caving spots. The above-mentioned Gujarat government-run rock climbing institute -SVIM is located here. There are local climbers who have set up campsites in Abu and who also take you on treks, cavings and climbing trips. You can contact local climber and instructor Shiva Sir on +91 80940 30708. He runs a campsite too.
Again a hill station in the Kumaon part of Uttarakhand. Here a well-known climber called Anil Belwal a.k.a Tony Da has set up his own Rock climbing school and conducts multi day climbing courses. He has developed many climbing locations around Nainital, but personally never got a chance to visit him there. He also has erected an artificial climbing wall in his institute.
This famous hill station has some bolted routes for sport climbing and bouldering as well. As a very popular tourist destination, and it is well connected to the upper reaches of Himalaya in Himachal Pradesh. It also serves as a base for a lot of popular multi-day treks. Around 15 km from Manali there is a place called Sethan which is getting a lot of international attention for bouldering in the past few years. Abhijeet Singh an avid Alpinist and a Rock climber based in Manali who conducts a mountaineering course called the 'Mountain Strong' that includes rock climbing too. Do check out his profile, he has shared some interesting stories through his photographs. You can get in touch with him through his Instagram
Located five hours from Hampi, Badami is one of the top sport climbing locations in India. The red sandstone here is a treat to climb. This place also has a lot of carved Temples, though I have got to admit, that in the three climbing trips I have taken there I have never visited them.
You can contact Local climber Ganesha through his website climbingbadami.in
Also, my friend Manju, a local climber, takes you on day hikes and climbing trips. You can contact him on +91 94494 16059
6. Attend a climbing festival
Rock climbing is all about its community which serves as its backbone. The community has developed it and made the sport a lifestyle. Picture all these climbers and outdoors enthusiasts from India and other countries coming and climbing together. Wouldn't it be super fun? In India, there are three-day festivals that happen once a year (with stay and food). They usually have beginner climbing courses as well with a lot of other cool activities. I believe attending one such festival, meeting the community and climbing with them will definitely make your first climbing experience super special.
Every year there is a Trad climbing festival in Delhi called Gritfest.
A Bouldering festival in Ladakh called Suru fest.
And a Bouldering festival in Hampi called Golden boulders.
And that's about all the ways I can think of. If you got into climbing in a way not mentioned here then please write to us, or comment below. We surely will add it to the blog. Cheers!