It is not quite easy to define rock climbing, but it is not difficult too. Anyone who claims to be a rock climber has his own version of the game. Rock climbing for some is to challenge their spirits and explore new heights, to give a fillip to their unbounded imaginations; for others, it is a way telling the world that he/she has finally arrived. For many of the professional rock climbers, it is not a sport.
Can you call a mission to moon a sport or pastime? If not, then why should rock climbing be called a sports is the argument. For them, rock climbing is an adventure of the greatest magnitude; it is a fight against self, against the elements, and the ultimate goal is to reach the summit and return back alive.
Rock climbing is a test of strength, concentration and coordination as well as skill and technique. A climber learns from experience that the mountain must not be taken for granted. It can be rough and antagonistic to those who venture to come to grips with it. Nevertheless, as a sport, climbing continues to offer a thrill and challenge that is compulsive.
In India, rock climbing, as most other adventure sports, is a relatively new sport. However, in a short span of time, it has become the most popular adventure sport. Because of the good distribution of great climbing rocks throughout India, coupled the element of excitement involved, rock climbing has become the sport to participate in for the young and the old alike.
Rock climbing is a mountain-based adventure sports.
Modern rock climbers generally use three different styles of climbing: free climbing, aid climbing and a combination of free and aid climbing. There is yet another type of climbing called face climbing, which involves climbing against the face of a rock.
A free climber depends totally on his skills, self-confidence, and footwork to accomplish his target. He does not need the help of any technical instrument except for safety.
Levels of Difficulty
Aid climbing involves the use of instrument to reach the summit. Aid climbing was started when the need was felt to use equipments for climbing rocks that were too difficult to climb without any external help
Free and Aid Climbing
Most of the modern climbing revolves around this method. Pre-placing bolts and other protection is a part of this type of climbing process.
Basic free climbing techniques are the precondition to advance climbing, and it is imperative for the beginners to have expertise in both free as well as aid climbing techniques
Levels of difficulty in rock climbing have been graded by professional climbers who have scaled some of the toughest rocks in the world. When they climb a rock, which is relatively tougher than a previous rock, they grade it at a higher point. This is also to inform the next set of climbers about the difficulties involved in this rock. However, it is to be noted that all the grades are interweaving and, in most cases, do not apply for everybody. Also, two rocks of same grade at different altitude levels can have two different difficulty levels. Professionals world over have also used different grading systems and sometimes it become quite difficult to rationalize them. Therefore, there are two types of grading systems in the USA: one shows 5.15 as the toughest grade rock while for the other it is X.
Major grading systems in the world are UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme), Germany; YDS (Yosemite Grading System), United States; Alpine (Europe), and many nation-based climbing grades like South African, French, Aussie, British, Saxon, Czech, Norwegian, and Swedish. Most of the experts in India prefer UIAA grading which starts at 1 for the easiest rocks to 11 for the toughest ones. Corresponding grades of YDS are also widely used beginning from Grade 5.2 to 5.15. As mentioned earlier, the grading systems are subjective and not absolute: they keep changing with each new climb.
A different set of grading is accepted for aid climbing due to changes in the methods of climbing and associated process.
A1: All placements are rock solid and easy.
A2: Most of the placements are rock solid and easy, but some of them can prove to be difficult to place
A3: Many placements are difficult, but there is the occasional bomber piece.
A4: There are several placements in a row that will hold nothing more than body weight.
A5: 20 meters (60 ft) or more of body placements in a row.
This should be kept in mind that there can as much types interpretations for this rating as much there are climbers
Physical requirements for rock climbing can differ from person to person. In fact, it is your state of mind that decides your physical capabilities more than anything else. Increasing levels of difficulty may require greater level of physical fitness and greater flexibility in your body than under a lesser difficulty level. Nevertheless, there are some minimum health requirements that must be met before you set out for rock climbing. A few of these are: 1) you should not be an expectant mother; 2) you should not have high blood pressure or any heart problems; and 3) if you have permanent physical disabilities, you will have to work harder
The major equipments that are required for climbing are ascenders (devices that help in ascending, like jummars), climbing rope, helmets, karabiner, chalk, chest harness, harness seat, nut, cliffhanger, climbing shoes, tape slings, and friends.
The best thing about this sport is the almost equal distribution of rock climbing destinations in India. The availability of the good climbing rocks not too far from the city gives greater access and participation from the professionals as well as from the amateurs alike. Given below are the names of some of the major destinations for rock climbing in India to give you a better idea for the places where you can engage in this game
Badami, a five-hour drive from Bangalore, is a good place for rock climbing. Bangalore is in the center of a number of rock-climbing destinations like Ramanagaram (the setting for the Hindi blockbuster Sholay), Savandurga, Thuralli, Kabbal, Raogodhu, and others. Kambakkam at a distance of around 100 km from Chennai provides good climbing in many grades while Hampi in Karnataka has some of the best granite rocks in India providing the climbers ample opportunities to test their skills
In a 300-km radius adjoining Calcutta, there are some good rock-climbing destinations like Purulia, Matha Bura, Jai Chandi, and Susunia Hills. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute provides some courses in Mountaineering at Gobu and Tenzing Norgay Rocks
There are several good rock-climbing destinations near Mumbai like Kanheri Caves in the Borivili National Park, Mumbra Boulders, and Manori Rocks. In Gujarat, Pavagadh is a favorite rock-climbing destination. In Rajasthan, the region around Mount Abu like State Mountaineering Institute’s training area, Golden Horn Spire, and Adhar Devi Slabs are the best rock-climbing destinations.
North India offers some of the best and toughest challenges in rock climbing both for amateurs as well as for the professionals. The might of Himalayan rocks have always been the inspiration for many professional climbers. New Delhi and the region around it provide some very good options in rock-climbing arena. Lado Sarai in Delhi, Dhauj (55 km from Delhi), and Dam Dama Lake (around 65 km off Delhi) are some of the best-known rock-climbing destinations in this part of the country. In Himachal Pradesh, Manali and Dharamshala and the adjoining region provide some of the toughest and most exciting rock climbing options in the world. Professional climbers from all over the world come here to negotiate the rocks and to find new challenges.
Besides these, there are many artificial climbing walls in Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Bangalore, Darjeeling, Manali, Uttarkashi, Bikaner, and at Mathura Road near Badarpur border in Haryana.
Rock climbing can be undertaken throughout the year. India is a vast country and different parts of the country have different climatic conditions. Although you can practice rock climbing in most parts of the country, the fact remains that the Himalayan region provides the best rock-climbing challenges to the professional. The ideal months to practice this sport in the Himalayas are from April to June. In Delhi, however, the winter months are better than the rest of the year because this is the time when you can combine rock climbing with the pleasure of sightseeing. The weather in South India is ideal for rock climbing throughout the year
Once you have decided to go for rock climbing, the first thing to do is to identify the level you can climb. If rock climbing is a passion for you and you have already participated in this sport, then you have nothing to worry-you just need to choose your destination. However, for the amateurs, it is better to let some professional teach you the basics. You also need to decide whether you want to go for high- or low-altitude rock climbing. High-altitude rock climbing may need more efforts than low-altitude rock climbing. An instructor will teach you all about the nature of the rocks, the holds (like foothold, toehold), ropes and rope knots, how to use different instruments, and several other techniques. Remember that your first climbing may end in a disaster and that you are not be the first person to do this nor would you be the last. First, you will be required to be roped with a climbing rope. There would be one belayer at the top trying to give you as much safety as possible. Finding the first hold and taking the first step up is the most important part of the rock-climbing process. If you can do that in the first or second instance, you have already won half the challenge. Try to look for the climbing routes in the rock (route in a rock denotes a gradually increasing series of holds that goes up to the summit). A professional will look for challenging and more difficult routes, but for a beginner it is good to follow the easier routes.
Do not extend your foot too high to go up. The thumb rule is to find the foothold for your right leg and toehold for your right hand in the beginning. Put pressure on your toehold and move your body weight up. Try to find a new foothold for your left foot and push up. Never stretch your leg too much and never put your body weight on your back. The best way to go up is to be straight and move up. As modern climbing revolve around sophisticated equipments, giving you enough aid to cross even the toughest of rocks, you will need to know how to use the nuts, jummars, and many more such gadgets.
When you reach the final hold, push up yourself by putting pressure on your hands as you do on a parallel bar.
The process described above is just a briefing and gives you a basic idea of what you are going to encounter. Strategies change according to the nature of the rock though standard technicalities remain the same
1. Decide what type of rock do you want to negotiate. It will depend on you skills, your status as a climber, and your physical fitness.
2. Consult the doctor to determine your physical condition and take proper medical precautions as per the doctor’s advice.
3. High-altitude sickness or high-altitude madness is a common phenomenon among the trekkers and mountaineers. If you are participating in the high-altitude rock climbing, make yourself aware of the symptoms and methods to deal with this problem. Proper mountaineering guidelines, high-altitude survival techniques, and first-aid techniques should be known to most of the members.