My early days of Rock climbing
Some times people ask me how I got into rock climbing. I try to answer that question through this post.
I have been climbing for a bit more than 2 years now. Rock climbing is still a pretty new outdoor activity in India. People hardly know about it. Even I had no idea about how it would be, before I did my internet research about it.
How did I get the Idea?
I got into climbing, after frequent intensive scrambling through boulders, during my CTC (Chennai trekking Club) treks. I loved the feeling of moving my body on a rock. Thus the search began, to know more about rock climbing.
I Downloaded some climbing movies. Progression was one of the first climbing movie I watched. I was totally psyched seeing the crazy things people could do . I knew I had to get into it as soon as possible.
There was no one to guide me at that point. I was living in Chennai at that time and literally there was zero climbing scene there. But I had to start off somewhere.
After some internet research I decided to do a 10 day basic rock climbing course at Swami Vivekanda Institute Of Mountaineering(SVIM) at Mount Abu. It was my first experience going by myself that far. I loved the new experience and felt proud to have taken such a decision myself.
The course was designed just for getting a taste of rock climbing. Frankly, the way we used to climb during that course, I have never done it outside in the last two years.
Climbing is a physically demanding activity where becoming an expert needs, may be, dedication over a decade. You need to be regular and get stronger slowly. There is no safe short cut.
Chennai Climbing scene:
Simply doing the course was not enough for me. I wanted to climb every day. It was very different compared to trekking. Trekking was a weekend activity while climbing was more like a daily routine. The more climbing videos I saw, the more I got psyched. As I mentioned before, there was no climbing scene in Chennai at that time. 5-6 months passed like this after my course in June 2011.
Finally some time in Jan 2012, I met a guy named Shashank who was basically a mountaineer with interest in rock climbing. He too wanted to climb and was looking for partners. We formed a group called Chennai rock climbers in facebook hoping to connect to more people. It wasn’t a huge success. People wanted to climb. But their busy schedules didn’t let them to, or their minds found other excuses.
Shashank was a better climber than me, he had a crash pad, special climbing shoes, chalk powder etc. I learned basics of bouldering from him. The nearest location for natural bouldering was Mahabalipuram(around 45 km away from Chennai, which didn’t make things any easier). Due to the lack of interested people, I considered myself lucky, if I went climbing atleast once in a week.
After 3-4 months in Chennai trying to climb, I realized that if I have to pursue climbing seriously I need to change the location. I was a member of Bangalore climbers group in facebook. It was an active group, especially one guy named Gujju Razak climbed on a daily basis and updated the group with pictures and videos. He got me really psyched and I decided to move to Bangalore. It was one of the best decisions I had taken.
I generally consider myself a lazy person. After I decide to do a thing, I don’t execute it immediately. I wait around finding excuses not to feel guilty. But some times you have to just do it. Leaving Chennai was not easy for me. 3 years I have been living there. But I had to say bye to all my trekking friends and get out of my comfort zone to pursue a more important part in my life.
Bangalore Climbing scene:
After moving to Bangalore, I started climbing with Gujju and Ananta, two really strong and passionate climbers. They were like my mentors. They taught me different sides of climbing in their own way. I am very grateful to them for that.
There were lot of active climbers in Bangalore, but I noticed that most of them climbed only at artificial climbing walls. Personally I feel climbing at artificial walls is less fun but gets you stronger much faster. But I didn’t understand why people climb only on plastic holds and forget about rocks altogether. After all, you want to get stronger, to finally be able to do harder routes on real rocks.
I learned that for some people, there was more to climbing than just having fun. I met people who considered climbing as a sport. Still its a puzzle for me, how people take up climbing for competition. I don’t like the concept of considering Climbing as a sport. For me its a life style. I love it for the the freedom of it. You do it for the pure joy of it. Its not about comparing yourself to others, but about reaching your personal best every day.
Moving to Bangalore had another advantage. Hampi – one of the biggest International bouldering destination – was just overnight journey from Bangalore. The sharp granite rocks over there were painful, but I loved it.
The rocks wasn’t the only thing, special about Hampi. Climbers from all over the world used to come there. During 2012-13 season I spend there totally two and half months. I met lot of interesting travelers, made some friends. It was a total new experience for me.
The time I spend in Hampi, changed me internally. When I came back to Bangalore and started working, I realized that I can no longer be at home for months and work normally. I felt the restlessness rising, my mind kept asking for a change. This restlessness is what motivated me to do my first back packing trip across north India over one and half months. I spend two weeks each in Manali, Leh and Dharamsala with my climber friend Luke, whom I met I in Hampi.