Have you ever thought how it would feel to defy gravity and suspend yourself solely on the strength of your arms and shoulders, with nothing but a steep vertical below you? If you’re the kind who loves challenges and are an adrenaline junkie, we just might have the perfect recommendation for you. Rock climbing is one sport that extensively challenges your strength, endurance and agility. Depending on interest and availability, climbing involves maneuvering up, down and across natural or artificial rock wall formations. Climbing as a sport demands extreme physical fitness as well as mental endurance.
To experience the thrill of completing an elaborate ‘boulder problem’ or conquering a rock wall formation is exhilarating and something a true sports enthusiast would not want to miss. With some basic training and practice, climbing is fairly convenient to take up as a sport. Apart from some basic bouldering and climbing techniques for beginners, rock climbing is majorly a free style sport where you climb solely backed by your own body strength, with minimal equipment being used mostly for safety and not support. Artificial climbing walls are generally made out of concrete and have footholds and handgrips bolted into them to manoeuver your way to the top.
Although climbing has been a part of mountaineering for the longest time, evidence of rock climbing as a common sport can be traced back to what is now known as China, all the way to 200 B.C. along with early European communities. Rock climbing techniques were used by mountaineers to perform difficult alpine climbs and summit expeditions. It was only in the late nineteenth century in Europe that rock climbing became a separate sport and was no longer limited to alpine climbing. The sport has gradually evolved since then from an alpine activity to a full-fledged athletic sport with the advent of harness and pitons.
Rock Climbing in India
Rock climbing in India gained substantial pace and momentum only from the 1980s onwards. The diverse topography of the country provides for numerous natural rock formations all over the country and the ever-growing popularity of the sport has encouraged quality indigenous climbers to take up the sport unlike the early days of the sport in India when the accessibility was limited to a handful of people and foreign nationals owing to the lack of awareness and formal training centres.
Popular Rock Climbing Destinations in India
Be it artificial walls or natural boulder formations, India has been blessed with rock climbing destinations since time immemorial. It is now, with the advent of adventure sports and tourism that these spots are finally being tapped for their resources. Here are a few popular and world-class natural and artificial climbing spots all over the country for you to take up the sport.
• Ramjas Rocks – Located in West Patel Nagar – 20 feet to 60 feet.
• Lado Sarai – Situated in a park (under the control of the Delhi Development Authority) between the Qutab Minar and Saket colony – 10 meters (approx.)
• PBG Rocks – Located on forest land on the Delhi Ridge – 10 feet to 30 feet Around Delhi (best season, October to March)
• Dhauj (Haryana)– Located about 55 kilometres from Delhi – over 250 routes of varying grades of difficulty – 10 meters to 40 meters.
• Damdama (Haryana) – 20 feet to 120 feet.
• Manikaran – Spires with rock towers going up to 15,000 feet.
• Manali – Areas in and around Manali town, especially Old Manali offer many opportunities for climbing, while the Kullu Valley boasts exciting rock-climbing potential.
• The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering rock climbing area at Tekla is ideal for bouldering and climbing with a range of options for beginners as well.
• Gangotri – The Gangotri gorge from Bhaironghati (9000 feet) to Chirbas (12,500 feet), a distance of around 20 kilometres, offers great potential for big-wall routes on granite walls. With a spectacular view of some of the greatest Himalayan peaks, this area is a popular spot for professional Indian and international climbers.
THE WESTERN GHATS
• Kanheri Caves, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai – The boulders in the park offer some interesting climbs. There are a couple of sections where climbing is especially popular with beginners, while the other sections include a cliff and a 70 feet slab with good climbs.
• Parsik Hills, Mumbra – With challenging boulders ideal for beginners, these hills have some classic long routes.
• Manori Rocks, Malad – Located on the seafront, between the Manori and Gorai beaches, climbing on the cliffs here is only possible during low tide. The main stack is called the ‘Camel’, with rocks between 4 and 10 meters. The rocks are of good quality, and offer something for every level of climber.
• Mount Abu – The area has some great volcanic rock formations. The state mountaineering institute here (started, ironically, by the Gujarat government in the late 1960s) offers courses for beginners.
• Brahma Kumari Ashram – This is the training area for the state mountaineering institute adjacent to the famous tourist attraction, Nakki Lake.
• Adhar Devi Slabs – The slabs above the temple are perfect for beginners and have six routes approximately 150 meters high. Climbing on the slabs is fun, and you’re rewarded with great views of Nakki Lake and the old summer homes of the erstwhile maharajas of Rajasthan.
• Hampi – This destination remains an unsaid mecca for rock climbers in India. The magnificent natural granite-rock formations here offer numerous opportunities for rock climbing and some amazing possibilities for bouldering. Boulders, between 4 and 100 meters high, dotted amid ruins, are spread out over an area of 14 sq.km around Hampi.
• Badami – From steep overhanging boulders to large sandstone cliffs, this area offers generous opportunities for climbing. There’s also potential aplenty for new routes.
• Bangalore – An area around Bangalore, of a radius of 60 kilometres, boasts possibly the biggest concentration of granite in India. The rocks here range from 3 kilometre-long boulder fields to rock domes rising 300 meters. Some of the excellent climbing areas around the Garden City include Ramanagram, Savandurga (with a host of multi-pitch climbs), Thuralli and Raogodlu (great for bouldering).
• Kambakkam – Lying approximately 100 kilometres north of Chennai, this area is ideal for camping, hiking and rock climbing. This area also boasts of immense scope for a range of new climbs.
Apart from these magnificent natural rock formations, there are numerous artificial climbing walls run by different adventure clubs and climbing groups or organizations in most major cities and are ideal for beginners. It then goes without saying that you also get the advantage of climbing throughout the year irrespective of the weather at most indoor rock climbing walls.
Apex Body and Certification
The Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) is the apex body that provides training and certification for rock climbing through their certified institutes within their mountaineering courses. Some of the IMF certified institutes are:
• Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (Uttarkashi)
• Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (Darjeeling)
• Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (Manali)
The state-run mountaineering and rock climbing institute at Mount Abu in Rajasthan, and various other private operators also run rock climbing courses across the country.
Career in Rock Climbing
Taking up rock climbing professionally is a decision that might take some thinking, but will one you will never regret. It is a well-acclaimed sport internationally and there are opportunities for climbers in private and public sectors as part of expeditions or professional rescue groups. Apart from this, one can also take up photography or videography along the lines of ace climber and photographer, Jimmy Chin.