INDIAN ROCK TOUR
Rock climbing in India can be a culturally
enriching experience quite apart from the exhilarating experience
of climbing on virgin solid granite.
The climber moves up, the run out is now ten meters, pinching
tiny quartz crystal while the belayer pays out the rope. Nearby
a shepherd passes by with his sheep. The climber is now almost
near the top. A few more hard moves and then its all over
as another new route is completed.
Rock climbing in India, as in the other parts the world, started
off as training for mountaineering. As a sport it took off
only about 15 years ago. As the climbing standards reached
greater heights in the rest of the world.
India too was introduced to sticky rubber, chalk, lycra modern
protection and redpointing and higher climbing standards and
development of many superb climbing areas by local climbers.
Some of the areas are superb and can easily be compared to
some world class climbing areas. The climbing areas usually
being close to interesting historical sites and unique monuments
can provide a pleasant distraction.
Bangalore is situated in South India. Within a radius of 60
Kilometers there is possibly the biggest concentration of
granite in the country. The rocks range from two kilometer
long boulder fields to rock domes rising 300 meters.
The bigger domes are similar to the slab climbs of Tuolomne
meadows, steep slab climbs with sparse protection. There are
smaller towers 60 meters to 100 meters which perfect cracklines
from finger to off width. The granite can at times have loose
flakes and cleaning the rock on new routes becomes essential.
Savandurga is the biggest dome near Bangalore which has been
developed. The main dome is 300 metres high and has eight
routes on it. The routes generally follow cracklines with
some long run out slab sections. The most exciting classic
climb is "Bangalore Bill" which sports a 90 meter crux pitch
on thin protection but the moves never get harder than French
There have been some exciting climbs added recently which
are primarily face climbs with protection from bolts plced
while leading. Double ropes are highly recommended while attempting
these routes. The descent is usually made down the less steep
side of the dome. Apart from the main dome there are numerous
smaller pillars ranging from 60 meters to 90 meters with good
crack and face routes on them and are ideal for dodging the
sun on a hot day.
Ramanagram is another very popular climbing area situated
50 kilometers from Bangalore on the road to the historical
city of Mysore. The concentration of rock here is amazing.
There are two main climbing areas here, the Ibraham farm area
and the Ramgiri pillar area. The Ibrahim farm area lies on
the west side of the railway station and is very extensive.
The farmhouse canbe a useful and convenient base to climb
from. The climbs range four pitch French 4b (504) to French
The massive face of Handi Gundi (Elephant's head) is still
unclimbed though the first pitch has eight bolts and is a
popular climb. The Ramgiri pillar area has seven 100 meter
high pillars leaning against each other, seven routes exists
to the top of the pillar. The climbs follow cracklines some
of which are horrendous offwidths. There are two good face
climbs protected by bolts at 6b (French grade) 5.10-5.11 The
main attraction of climbing in Bangalore, apart from the big
domes, is the excellent boulders. The awesome boulder fields
are two kilometers to three kilometers long, with boulders
ranging from five to 20 meters in height and requiring a lot
of time to explore. Turalli, 10 kilometers south of Bangalore,
and Raogudlu - 20 kilometers on the same road - are good places
to work on problems. The granite is perfect though the rock
can be rough and the skin doen not last more than a couple
of hours. The problems usually involve hard crystal pinching
and balancing moves on sharp flakes.
Hampi "City of Rocks" 350 kilometers north of Bangalore is
another very interesting place. The capital of the 14th Century
Vijayanagar empire it is now a paradise for climbers. There
are an endless number of boulders strewn ranging from four
meters to 60 meters as far as the eye can see. The interesting
ruins of this ancient capital city are spread over an area
of 14 sq. km. One can spend days exploring this labyrinth
of rocks. Amazing boulder problems can be attempted, on sharp
aretes and thin crimping horros seem to be the hall mark of
a true problem in Hampi. The landings can be difficult and
lot of the interesting problems are top roped. There are some
good crack lines which have been done and also bolt protected
hard overhanging face climbs at french 6a to 8a + (5.8 to
5.13b). The flakes are sharp and positive on very steep faces.
There is an endless potential for new routes at all grades.
There are some other interesting areas to climb in India such
as Dhauj, situated 50 kilometers South west of Delhi. The
rock is steep quartzite with 250 routes from 4a (French grade)
5.3 to 7b 5.12). It's a worthwhile stop for visiting climbers.
The Climbs at Dhauj are generally one pitch and take good
protection. Few of the climbs have fixed protection apart
from a few pegs on the harder routes. This is strictly a traditional
climbing area with the no bolt ethics strictly adhered to.
Other areas with great climbs are at Mt. Abu (Rajasthan),
Pachmarhi in Central India. Th Gangotri Gorge 400 km. north
of Delhi has immense possibilities of big wall climbing on
walls ranging from 200 meters to 1,000 meters in a mountain
environment. The town of Badami and its environs north of
Hampi is another beautiful area with potential for new routing
on the overhanging sandstone.
The climbing ethics are very traditional in some areas such
as Dhauj, but in one sense are not very rigid. While using
bolts especially, this should be kept in mind. There are no
access restrictions nor any restrictions on the use of bolts
(apart from Dhauj) other than that they should not be placed
on existing climbs (please consult locals whenever possible).
Indiscriminate use of bolts might create a problem in the
future. It will be appreciated that the bolts are placed in
a proper manner and should be reasonably safe and long lasting.
There is no problem regarding the access to the rock in the
proximity to temples and buildings but it is recommended that
climbers keep a low profile in the proximity of the temples.
It is advisable to carry all technical climbing equipment
with you, as the quality of the gear available in India is
not up to the established U.I.A.A. standards. Travel guides
such as lonely planet are very helpful in traveling around
and finding places.
FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION
Bangalore and the climbing areas in the south can be approached
by air, bus or train from the nearest international airports
which are located at Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. The distance
from Mumbai to Bangalore is 1,000 kilometers and involves
a full days travel. It is advisable to stay longer periods
of time at each crag before travelling to next area; though
the distance of 60 kilometers especially in the Bangalore
area. The best time to visit the Bangalore area is from September
to January and June can also be a pleasant month. The ideal
time to visit areas in the rest of the country is between
October and February the temperature can go down to 3 degrees
Celsius at night in the winter months. Normally there are
only short spells of rain during the winter months. It must
be noted that it still can be very warm during the day time,
and dodging the sun on the climbs will have to be perfected
of an art to avoid sunburns and heat strokes!!
The food is generally cheap and good. Most of the climbing
areas have a chai (tea) shop which provides snacks and tea.
The small restaurants in the villages closest to the rocks
have good South Indian dishes. Arrack (local liquor) is strong
and cheap and can destroy the mind faster that you think.
In case you want to cook yourself, most things are available
at the shop in town. The accommodation is generally in the
village nearest to the rocks or at a bungalow in the nearest
town. Camping is another good possibility. There are a wide
range of hotels in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, in addition
to Youth Hostels.
It is useful to have a contact to guide you to the various
climbing areas and show the climbs since the climbing areas
are difficult to get to on your own. The absence of guide
books makes it even more exciting and adventurous though it
could also mean spending more time. Local climbers are helpful
and friendly and enjoy showing the climbs. There are two agencies
offering their services to guide and arrange the travel of
visiting climbers. Both have very experienced climbers who
have extensive knowledge of the various areas and the best
routes also provide climbing equipment. They can be contacted
for their itineraries.
| The addresses are as given below.
OUTDOOR SCHOOL F-6,
NARAINA VIHAR NEW DELHI - 110028
EASY RIDER TOURS H-35
JANGPURA EXTN. NEW DELHI - 110014
WILDCRAFT 121 8TH MAIN
3RD BLOCK, JAYANAGAR BANGALORE - 560011.