Monday, October 27, 2008

Hands on rock

Note: Lin generously supplied photos due to a mis-match of my technology. I promise to put more up next week on returning to Delhi...

There are times when it seems like the whole world has been discovered, mapped, tapped, and been-there-done-that, looking for the next thing. But if there has been one overriding theme here for me, it's that the natural places of India haven't been tapped at all. Toni, Japanese, living in Hyderabad, has been developing boulder problems in the large rocks just four minute's walk from his apartment. He's working to map climbing problems, meet and encourage new climbers, and help protect the park from development, a serious threat in this rapidly expanding tech-boom city. Solang sees an incredibly small amount of mountaineering traffic, and has tons of potential for un-skied backcountry terrain. The climbing in Hampi is practically limitless, and there is rock in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore...

I forgot how fun it is to climb when you've actually been practicing! Two days in H'bad, four days on the sharpstone in Hampi - this might be more rock than I've been on all year! My (and Lin's and Nishit's) fingertips got hashed for a few days, but now they're starting to toughen into the callouses I used to know. I'd better get out onto the artifical wall here in Bangalore tomorrow, just to use them.

Hampi was a really neat place - I'd heard lots of serious climbers talking about it, read about epic trips there, but didn't really know what to expect in terms of terrain, people, climbing, etc. The town itself is based around ruins from about 1350-1550 AD (I think), with tourists of all nationalities coming to see temples, carvings, etc scattered from the main center on the river to sites many kilometers away. But on the other side of the river there are still rice fields and water buffalo, graceful white birds and bananas and papaya being sold by the road. The climbers all stay here, where it is peaceful and quiet and less than half an hour's walk from the clean-enough (maybe) tin-roofed room you've paid just two to ten dollars for, mosquitos and all. So what that the power is off daily until noon, and again from 6-7pm? Food is cheap, you can avoid the stoned Israeli population with a little work, and there's really not a lot else you have to do. A local rock guide (the only one!) showed me and Lin some easier problems, then we hooked up with bike-race friend Nishit and his mentor friend for some problems that made me remember how good it is to finish a challenging line. My fingers are a little torn up from the sharp granite, but it feels great.

The funny thing? The guide and our two friends (from Pune) were the only Indian climbers in the whole place. The season is just starting, so things aren't crowded yet, but of the 20-25 climbers I met and saw, they were the only ones! There are plenty of historical and social and economic reasons for this that I could ramble about for a while, but here I'll just say that I look forward to an expanding national climbing community growing from the work and encouragement of those who are out there. Keep climbing.

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