Mention Vertical Limit (2000), the first pop culture reference that comes to mind that’s even remotely related to bouldering (though the film is about mountain climbing), and Kilian Fischhuber will immediately tell you that the film “has a very illusionary approach towards climbing”.
“It is a common joke to refer to that movie when someone wants to exaggerate the unlikely,” says the renowned free-climber from Austria, who has conquered the Bouldering World Cup five times.
Bouldering, incidentally, is a form of rock climbing, but without the equipment traditionally associated with the sport. Since it usually involves mounting small rocks or boulders, the idea is to allow climbers to worry about technique and movements instead of risks and safety. Till a few years ago, it was practiced by those preparing for major climbs. However, in recent years, the advent of indoor climbing centres has helped the sport, with people from all walks of life taking it up to boost fitness.
Though still not on par with its popularity abroad, the free-climbing sport is slowing finding a niche in India. While Hampi in Karnataka is the undisputed bouldering capital of the country with conducive landscape, there are also routes in Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. Karan Vijayan, an amateur climber, says that he has attempted the sport at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. “However, I am still learning the nuances of climbing,” says Vijayan.
On the other hand, Fischhuber, who took to the sport at the young age of 11, is in India right now to open (read attempt) a new route at the red sandstone cliffs of Badami in Karnataka. The event, organised by Red Bull, is on till February 8.
He will be accompanied by Tuhin Satarkar, who is the first Indian to free-climb Ganesh, India’s toughest sport route. Unlike most parents in the country, who ask their children to prioritise academics, Satarkar’s encouraged him to take to the sport. He says, “My parents, who are both climbers, introduced me to it. So you can imagine that being adventurous runs in my blood. As far as looking for other career options goes, I have made my choice….this is it,” he says.
In terms of the mount, there is a lot of variety. Enthusiasts have the option of climbing obstacles indoors (on specially designed walls at centres) or in the lap of nature. Once in the great outdoors, routes can go around small boulders or you could climb, with a rope, on big rock walls. “Usually I combine climbing with travelling and I get to see the world and meet people. I can also compete at professional competitions and earn some money that way,” says Fischhuber, adding that he has no specific routine prior to a climb. And though there is no standard diet plan, climbers need to maintain their weight since one tends to burn a lot of calories during the mount.
And there is a push expected in the future. In recent years, state governments have been looking to boost adventure travel in India. Enthusiasts can scuba-dive and skydive in Maharashtra, go heli-skiing in the Himalayas, indulge in some caving in Cherrapunjee or try dune-bashing in Rajasthan. Can one expect something similar when it comes to bouldering? Satarkar says, “The push you might say is in the pipeline, things are in process and you may get to hear about it soon.”
The best way to begin bouldering would be:
Firstly, think and decide do you really want to do this. Get inspired and motivated
Find a gym or a rock nursery where you can climb and train in the beginning
Check out people, the who’s who of rock climbing, so you can watch them climb. A lot is achieved even by observing someone climb
Train with other climbers and get to know their techniques
Google climbing videos and climbers. Watch, observe, get inspired and learn
— By Satarkar
Action Directe: It is a historical and impressive route in Germany.
Realization: It has stunning line and perfect climb, located in France.
Livin' Large: Offers a perfect line and is very high for a hard boulder. It lies in South Africa.
Dreamcatcher: This route in Canada is an awesome combination of climbing styles.
The Nose: It’s in the US.
— By Fischhuber
Dhakoba: My first ever multi-pitch traditional route, it is also the biggest rock face in Maharashtra (2700 ft).
Ganesh: Graded as the toughest sports route in India (Badami, Karnataka), I am proud to be the first Indian to redpoint (free-climb) it.
Jackpot: This is a very technical route in Pune at the Sinhgad fort.
Bhumi: My first traditional route in the Tahmini Valley in Pune.
Badami Deluxe: A beautiful climb in Badami, Karnataka.
­— By Satarkar
All in the route
Finding new climbs depends on the potential of available rock.
Some places are full of new unclimbed lines and some have already been developed.
If you find a new boulder, clean it first (loose rock or moss etc.) and then climb it.
A sport climbing route (climbing with rope) requires that you drill bolts for protection.
Hard climbs require that you try them a lot before you can climb them free (means without resting on the rope).
— By Fischhuber