Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tr[i]ad Wars on Chanderi

It's becoming more and more apparent that climbing in the Sahyadris is not necessarily just about the rock climb, but that the whole trip becomes a full-on adventure from start to finish.  This trip report ups the ante a bit as we tackled non-existent villages, uncooperative rickshaw drivers, barking dogs, nocturnal mice, hot days, and to top it all off,  goondas (goons) posing as cops on our way out!  Read on...

Here's a link to ALL the pictures on Picasa; only some are included here. Make sure to read the captions:

I had determined from my last trip to Bhatoba that the local climbers were indeed lacking some nice big gear to free climb most of these cracks (better known to us in the west: off-widths).  A friend was coming from the USA, so Black Diamond Camalots 4, 5 and 6 were on their way.  She arrived on Wed night and a friend was taking her directly to Pune.  She did not want to haul the stuff around, so I had to get it from her in the airport parking lot!  This meant a forty-minute train and fifteen-minute rickshaw (aka auto) ride each way, plus an hour waiting for her to come out.  It must’ve looked very suspicious as we opened a duffel bag and removed these fantastically huge, shiny pieces of metal along with ten carabiners.  It was a long night as I got home and went to sleep near 2 AM and was up to teach yoga class by 7:30 AM.  To add to this I was already feeling very weak from catching a cold with the changing weather; yes, that’s a whole 10 degree difference in temperature here in Mumbai!  I ate only fruit for three days and was feeling tired from the lack of sleep; I couldn’t sleep, because I was just too damn tired from the recent lack of it!

By Thursday, I was still too tired, but we had a plan and Ajit and Richard were ready to go to Chanderi, a buttress just outside Panvel, which is at the end of the Harbour Line in Navi Mumbai.  On Wednesday, Ajit had also caught a cold, and did not sound very good at all.  By Thursday, he was sure he wasn’t going.  I was a little apprehensive, as I looked to him for all the information we were getting as well as his experience as a strong off-width climber kept me from committing.  It was Friday morning.  Richie was ready, while I wasn’t.  If we were to get up there, it would be nice to have a third person to help carry the gear.  Fortunately, Chanderi had a water source, so we would not need to haul the water up.  It was noon before I had made up my mind to go.  Richie had gotten more information from one of the first ascensionists Walwekar.  He also said we had a third person Lama, who would go along with us for support.  I had no option, but to say yes.  I didn’t get home till 3 PM and didn’t catch a cab till after four.  We were going to hit the middle of Mumbai working-day rush hour ... again!  The domestic help at home had made my chapattis (Indian flat-bread) and I added nuts, dried fruit, apples, oranges, and water for the two days we would be out.  The game was on.

Getting There

I told Richie that we would have to forget about meeting at Podar College and meet at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) from where the train would depart.  The gear we had used before would suffice.  We would be short a couple of items, but not from the free climbing end of things.  CST was packed.  I stood in line to get our tickets, while Richie and Lama made their way from Podar.  I called my friend Prashant who worked a few minutes away and used the Harbour Line to get home.  He said he would join us and was there in a few of minutes.  While I was waiting for him to use the toilet, I got a frantic call from Richie telling me they had already made their way to the train.  I couldn’t figure out how they could have walked past me with their huge backpacks.  They later told me they had actually hopped through several trains, from one platform to the other, instead of actually walking around the head of the train, where they would’ve seen me waiting.  They told me to hop on the train NOW, and as I turned around to do so the train started to move.  My pack was probably over 60 lbs as I jumped 18” up onto the moving train, only to learn that they had not gotten on it themselves!  And, Prashant was left behind as well ... damn!  I always tell people not to separate themselves from their partners in the mountains and here I was separated from mine on a a Mumbai local!  Not a good start.  Is this going to be another epic?!  I called Prashant, who could not find Richie.  They all ended up getting on the next train to Panvel and I got off two stations down, so I could switch to theirs.  Now, I know that mobile phones do have a use on climbing trips as we were to find out the rest of the evening!  Prashant got out of his first class compartment as I located Richie waving with one hand while he hung out of a second-class bogie with the other; crazy!  We had thirty seconds to shuffle ourselves back on and there we were all together again.  Phew!

We chitchatted all the way in the Friday-night rush.  I pulled out some grapes for everyone, but since we had gotten on at a later station, there would be no seats for us, with our backpacks on the floor.  We thought we needed some more aid gear and called Sir Bong at Girivihar.  He said he would have it out and waiting for us to pick up in Belapur.  At some point, we decided it was getting late to make more side trips; my four and two-foot slings would work just as well as aiders and an Easy Daisy, and most importantly, the plan was to climb it clean.  Prashant got off at Nerul and Sir Bong was informed that we would not need his gear.  The train got into Panvel nearly two hours later.  We were unable to get hold of the guide that would tell us exactly which village he lived in.  Many sketchy-information phone calls later, we were told where we should begin the next leg of our adventure.

We started looking for an auto that would take us to the village of Tamsai (like Tonsai in Thailand).  Only thing was no one we asked had heard of it.  Not the auto drivers.  Not the tumtum (like tuktuk in Thailand) drivers.  Not the state transport bus drivers.  Not the guards at the dam.  No one, except the first ascensionists knew of Tamsai!  More phone calls to no avail.  It was getting late.  We were getting hungry and it was time to eat.  Several idlis, vadas, and masala dosas (south Indian delicacies) later, we again started querying more auto drivers about this village; still no luck.  We did have the name of a dam, and one of the auto drivers said he could take us to what he thought we were talking about, but the names weren’t matching and we were skeptical.  Also, he would not go any further as this was close to 20 km out in the boonies and he was afraid of encountering goondas (goons) on his way back.  Typical Indian negotiations; he doesn’t really know where he is going, but the price keeps getting higher!  We didn’t want to be left at the end of the road, with no way of knowing where we were going, or any means of getting back so late in the night.  We got out of the auto and eventually back in again.  It was nearly 9 PM when we headed out.  Forty minutes later we came to a sign that said Dehrung Dam.  Not what we were looking for as far as we were concerned, but in the faded light of the night we could definitely see a huge buttress in the distance with other pinnacles nearby.  We decided to check it out.  Richie walked across the 300m earth dam in the dark, and when he returned, we decided this was where we wanted to be.  We got the auto driver’s mobile number for the return trip and he was on his way with thirty rupees more than he had asked for!

We hiked across the dam and up the hill into the village.  It was already past 10 PM, and very quiet and deserted, until we walked through.  Suddenly, all the village dogs started barking; pandemonium!  We quickly headed for the temple as it is a place that anyone can rest overnight at.  It was a small 20’ x 20’ building with a bright light bulb outside.  A one-eyed drunk joined us, rambling on as we unpacked our sleeping gear.  With all the noise, the neighbours came out and invited us to sleep in their yard twenty feet away.  Richie and Lama accepted.  I thought I was good where I was under the light in my flannel sleeping bag liner.  Not!  The light was on all night and I froze as the temperature dropped.  There wasn’t much I could do the whole night as I tossed and turned through villagers screaming on cell phones, dogs barking, babies crying, cattle trundling, cats in heat, crickets, the one-eyed drunk, and the incessant crowing of roosters from 4 AM onwards!  Needless to say, it was a long night for all of us.

The plan was to get up early on Saturday, hook up with the guide, finish our approach before sunrise, have breakfast, take a rest, take the whole day to climb the route, sleep the night in the cave, leisurely hike out on Sunday morning, take the bus to Panvel, and then the train home.  All well and good, except it didn’t quite happen that way!  First of all, we didn’t know if we were in the right village.  The locals had not heard of our guide’s name.  We didn’t know where to start our approach in the dark.  I was up and had eaten my breakfast by 5 AM thanks to the cocks crowing.  Richie and Lama took another hour to get up as first light appeared.  Our hosts didn’t rise till 7 AM, after which they served us a leisurely tea and chatted.  A local guide was secured, but it was nearly 8 AM before we left.  Damn, we were supposed to be up there resting by now!  The adventure was dragging on slowly.

The Chanderi massif with the dark gash of our route clearly visible in the first [left] quarter of the buttress. The Shivaji monument and flag can also be seen on the summit to the left of the route.
The approach with our guide Sitaram was uneventful as we made our way to the base of the buttress.  Three hours later, we were settled in the cave, with plenty of water.  The effects of the heat, long hike, lack of sleep, and a general not-so-good feeling left us sleeping away the afternoon.  It was 3 PM before we stirred.  We decided to gear up and climb the first two pitches before dark, fix a rope, jumar up the next day, and climb the rest of the route.  That’s basically what we ended up doing.

Trad Wars - Day 1

Richie wanted to lead the first pitch.  It looked like a bare, water streak with nary a hold on it, or so it seemed.  He did it in excellent style, finding a three-cam-lobe placement, a ring bolt under some grass, and a bolt anchor before making it into the gash.  He set up a two-cam belay.

Richard Kher bravely taking the first, slabby and thinly-protected pitch. An anchor behind a boulder uses the first placements of our newly acquired Black Diamond #5 and #6 Camalots!
I followed gingerly.  I was feeling weak, tired and scared.  Stories about loose and falling rock, aiding, following-head versus lead-head, as well as not having Ajit along ping-ponged through my mind.  I got to Richie and we switched.  There was a blank headwall with a small roof in front of us with no bolts or gear placements.  There appeared to be climbing about 20-30’ to the right, but this seemed implausible as there were what looked like, huge detachable blocks.  I was basically pooping as I traversed on pebbles, grass and slab with no protection.  Richie kept saying “I’ve got you, man.”  And I’m thinking, “Got me?!  Where?!”  I realized he was still new to this multi-pitch stuff and had no idea what a swing from a 30’ pendulum with lots of rope out and loose rock all over would do on his two point anchor!  I got a piece in and started moving up, but there were no footholds to speak of.  I would have to smear with high tension, pulling hard on the loose blocks and I was just not willing to commit to that.  Also, I had no idea if this was the actual route or whether I was supposed to make my way through the headwall straight above Richie.  I down-cleaned and made my way back to the gash.  After much inspection and Richie’s urging, I thought I had better go back to the right and reluctantly aid my way up.

Richie was all for aid as he said this could be one at least two aid sections on the route.  I started by putting in a finger size piece behind the first loose block.  It held.  I stepped into a sling and clipped in directly.  I could only figure out that I needed a piton next as none of the cams would fit.  I hammered my first ever piton in with instructions from Richie below; “To the neck!  To the neck!” Definitely, the blind leading the even blinder here!  The piton was still moving, but at 120 lbs, I didn’t think my weight posed a problem.  I again looked for a cam placement, and since the size I needed was in the anchor, I gingerly sat on the piton and asked Richie to give one up!  He sent it up on the rope and I put it in, stepping onto it.  The loose blocks were still holding, but it was getting dark.  The next moves looked a little scary as I gained my confidence.  This was the largest detached block and it looked like the ones below were just holding it in place.  Don’t move, I say!  I got off the slings and onto the face.  Placed a piece and moved past the huge block, finger-locking and laying it back to a four-inch ledge.  After pitching several loose rocks off my soon-to-be perch, I came face to face with a ring bolt.  It was not visible from below in the low light, but was I glad to see it!  I gingerly clipped it and stood up on the thin ledge, making my way back to the left, where I came upon a single drilled descent hanger with webbing.  I cut the webbing, clipped in, built an anchor, and put Richie on belay.  He had already gotten on his headlamp and was bringing up mine.  After much aiding and beating on the piton he was up beside me.  It was nearly pitch dark, with a sliver of moon above us.  We fixed the second rope and descended to the base.  Another split day, damn!

Panorama of the cave we stayed in under the Chanderi massif. There was a temple to the god Shiva, complete with a lingam, bells, flags, ceramic floor tiles, graffitti, garbage, firewood, clothesline, and a mouse that ran over and kept us awake all night! Rahul Lama on the right prepares our next meal while Richard Kher walks between our gear and sleeping areas.
Lama and Richie had noodle soup for dinner, while I ate dried fruit, nuts and chapattis.  We could see the lights in the valley below us, but we were focused on getting a good night’s sleep as we wanted an early start.  We were in bed before 10 PM, but the night was spent battling the little mouse that was after our food.  It was hung on a clothesline above Richie, but Ratatouille incessantly ran all over us as he made his way around the huge cave.  Apparently, we were on the most obvious path home!  Every few minutes one of us would be sitting up swearing at the little bugger.  Richie left his headlamp on all night, while I zipped the net of my bivy sack.  Neither of these seemed to help.  Richie smoked half a bidi (local tobacco cigarette) to calm himself down and left the other half beside him only to find it gone in the morning.  He mentioned it to us saying Ratatouille obviously liked bidis, until Lama confessed he had smoked the other half as he was also at his wit’s end!  Anyway, we were pretty tired when we got up, ate breakfast, and racked up; late again at 8 AM!

Trad Wars - Day 2

The sun was already upon us as we jumared the first two [short] pitches.  I was having a lot of trouble getting off the ground  I had never actually jumared before and I decided that I was not going to start learning today!  I climbed the route using the jumar as a self belay.  I was feeling much better, and did the route clean until the overhanging headwall.  Richie had cleaned the traversing aid section the night before.  Lacking technique and with two left-handed jumars, I literally had to climb the rope.   On the other hand, Richie was up in no time.  Again, the game was on as we made our way up pitch three.

Richard Kher jumaring his way up to the P2 anchor on Day 2.
It was a longer pitch with two off-width sections, where I ended up using the BD Camalot 6 and switching it out both times so as to keep it in reserve lest I come upon another large section requiring it.  At the second crux, I encountered another ring bolt on the right.  After clipping this, I was unable to chimney through the section in the left-facing orientation I was in.  I was ready to use Richie’s suggestion of stepping on a sling and aiding my way out, but was determined to work this section through.  I’m not sure what was in me today, but I definitely had my lead hat on.  I was making moves on broken rock without thinking three times, although I’m sure I was thinking twice about it first!  I felt pretty confident.  I downclimbed the section and stemmed the gash with tension moves and made my way out of this crux, much to Richie’s amazement.  The next section was a cave formed by what looked like a section of rock and an enormous chockstone with a sling around it.  This must’ve been a rappel anchor like the one on pitch two.  Some nice hand jams, stemming (aka bridging) and cam placements brought me out of the hole and onto a fine sitting deck.  I built a full trad gear anchor and got comfortable taking off my protective fleece layer in the extremely hot sun.  It had swung around and it was like an oven now.

It was Richie’s turn.  He still had not gotten his off-width technique down and had to jumar through at least one of the two offwidth sections.  I pulled the backpack up ahead of him on the tag line, which was actually an old, heavy 10mm Mammut Galaxy.   There was a lot of grunting on both our parts as he made his way up.  He really enjoyed stemming in the cave as you can see in the pictures.  Actually, this chap never stops smiling, and I’m glad for that!

Richard Kher stemming (aka bridging in India) his way through the cave up to the hole between the chockstone belay station.
We exchanged gear, took pictures, drank water, and chatted.  I started up the fourth and last pitch.  The crux moves were between 20’ and 30’ above the chockstone belay.  There is a ring bolt along with at least one peg driven into the dirt, and a few hand jams with at least one cam placement.  It was definitely in the 5.10 range free and I was able to successfully execute it with a combination of grass-grabbing and jittery foot work!  Phew!

This was also the longest pitch with low-angled, sloped, grassy sections without much protection.  Another rappel bolt was found in this section.  At some point about 150 feet up, the rope drag from both ropes was getting dangerous.  I pulled the tag line up and placed it in a pile, which made the last 50’ a breeze.  Now, only Richie was pulling on me as he couldn’t see me!  I saw two ways to the summit in the last 30’ or so.  The right looked direct, while the left topped out on a huge boulder with a large crack in the middle.  I opted for the left and more aesthetic exit through and over the boulders.  While setting up the anchor, I used two cams and a distant ringed peg driven into the summit dirt by the first ascensionists.

Three-point anchor made from two cam placements on the right and a peg driven into the ground on the left that was the first ascensionists single anchor. Our exit was obviously different from the first ascent.
It was Richie’s turn now.  He climbed up to the crux and after trying a couple of times to free it, he opted to jumar his way out.  The combination of backpack, crumbly rock, heat and lack of hand-jamming technique must have gotten .  He took a bit of a rest as he worked a small cam that had walked into its crack.  He signaled to me that some trekkers (aka hikers) were watching us from below.  I took a gander over the boulders and they waved back with much excitement.

Richard Kher exiting the boulder, which seemed a far better way to summit than the full on clawing of grass that would've been required to exit as the first ascensionist might have; speculation, of course!

Soon he was up and we were prematurely congratulating each other.  We still had to descend; I’ve been trying to impress upon my partners to stay on until they are completely down.

Richard Kher and Sunny Jamshedj in a selfie on Chanderi's summit with several pinnacles and buttreses in the background between Badlapur (visible in the distance on the right) and Panvel, which would be directly to our left.

After a photo op at the top with Shivaji statue, we started our descent.  The first part was not too bad, but the second half was crazy!  We were descending on pebbly slab on the face of the buttress!  Richie has on chappals (aka flip-flops) and is waiting to pass me while I am seriously nervous reverse climbing ahead of him.  He passes me once I can’t see where the path is.  Why?!  Because, it is full-on face climbing with steps and handholds chopped into the rock.  Holy-shmoly!  Last 60 feet are easy-peasy as I have something to hold onto and I’m not skating on the footholds.  Phew, down again!

Another selfie of Sunny Jamshedji and Richard Kher from near our waterhole, which we unfortunately did not get a picture of. This guy is always smiling!

We decided we would fill some water at the tank before returning to the cave as the back and forth was not exactly a pleasant trail which involved traversing pebbly slab.  Lama was asleep when we got there; a little too much Old Monk (local rum), if you ask me!  We collected garbage, packed, ate, and rested for a few minutes as it was already getting late.  The longer we stayed here, the later it would be catching the train home.
It was 5 PM before we slung our backpacks on our shoulders.  Lama graciously took most of the rack and we made our way down to the village in two hours.  It was getting dark, when we reached the village.  Our newly-made friends came out of their house as we cleaned up at their wash basin.  There was much discussion with various opinions about whether the state transport bus would be available till 8 PM.  Several said “Yes!” for sure and others said “No way!”  Another man wanted us to walk to the neighboring village where there may be an auto available for rent.  To be on the safer side, we opted to call our earlier auto driver.  After all he knew where to pick us up and would just charge us the same amount to get back.  We were just too tired to argue anymore.  He’d be there in an hour.  Our hosts had already served us tea and told us that we could eat dinner with them.  Actually, they had rice and dal (soup of lentils and vegetables) for us in a about twenty minutes.  When we were ready to leave, they would not under any circumstances take any money from us.  They said they always fed the trekkers and never took any money.  We were welcome to give their mobile numbers to our friends for future reference as well as feel free to visit any time.  Wow, this is the real India for you, not the rabid, slime bags we were just about to meet.

Triad Wars

The auto driver had arrived and called us a couple of times to come down.  Little did we know what we were in for!  We bid our hosts farewell and headed down and across the damn.  All was quiet until we reached the entrance guardhouse.  The two old men were there from a couple of days ago and waved us in.  We walked innocently towards the building where a loud voice asked us what we were doing here, where we were coming from and going.  We explained Chanderi, trekking and climbing.  We were told this was not the way to Chanderi.  We said, funny thing was we had just climbed it, so it was obviously a good way to get there!  They asked how we would be leaving.  We said an auto.  They told us they were policemen and ordered the auto driver to come down from the road.  We asked why.  If there was a problem, it was with us, not the driver.  We were told that this was government property and that it was dangerous for people to walk across the dam.  We said, we had come through quite late two nights ago without a problem; the old men could verify this.  They were getting irate with our quick and bold responses.  Then they told us we were not allowed to be in the area between 9 PM and 5 AM.  I looked at my watch and said it was 8:53 PM, so it wasn’t a problem.  They got even angrier and the shorter of the two came up into my face shouting, saying I was speaking disrespectfully.  I said how that could be.  This even got him more inflamed.  Maybe, it was because Richie said that I was an American citizen and they did not want to stir things up unnecessarily

These chaps were drunk and had at least two others goondas along with the two guards backing them up.  Actually, the old guards were completely terrified themselves!  As Lama and I walked away, urging Richie to follow, we met the auto driver making his way down.  He intimated to us that while he had been waiting these two “policemen” had harassed him for money and he had told them off with his own threat of pain and mayhem from his buddies who he had, by now, summoned by mobile phone.  It only took me a minute to realize that their beef was really with him and we were just caught in between.

I quickly walked back to find Richie in an apologizing tone, being asked for money.  He was trying to remain friendly, but was just getting screwed!  I urged him to walk away repeatedly.  In the middle of this, both he and the goonda introduced themselves to each other; a name was known!  We walked away quickly to the auto.  The driver was livid, making calls to his buddies.  We took off thinking that was the end of it.

About ten minutes down the road, a motorbike overtook us and whaddyaknow, it was the two goondas.  They stopped us in the middle of nowhere; pitch black with no lights or cars in sight.  They told us that they had orders from headquarters to check our bags.  For what?!  RDX!  Do these fellows know what RDX is?!  We asked them to call their superior, so we would talk to him.  They refused and told us to get out of the auto.  No way!  We asked for their superior’s number, so we could call him.  No way, who did we think we were.  We said we were not getting out and if they wanted to search our bags, we would do at the police station.  I think, they were flummoxed by all our responses at this point.  They got on their bike and asked us to follow.  Fifty meters down the road, they slowed down, blocking us to animatedly take the auto’s license plate number.  In the meantime, Richie memorized his plate number as well.  Now, we had a name and a license plate.  These chaps were just not very bright!  Then, they took off and were gone in a jiffy.  What the @$*?!
Again, more phone calls from our driver and another ten minutes later a car flashes us and stops.  It is his backup from the town ahead.  They escorted us in and alighted.  Whoa!  These guys were big and ready to bust some chops, but of course, our two imposters were nowhere to be seen.  After much discussion with the head honcho, giving them his name and license plate, they determined he was a local drunk who harassed people for money regularly.  These guys themselves appeared to be the town’s enforcer’s, with no actual connection to a security apparatus.  Wow, what had we just gotten ourselves in the middle of?!

As we made our way to Panvel station, we discussed whether we should report this to the police.  All of us were quite determined to do so as other hikers would have the same problem.  We later learned from older members of the club that indeed, people were being mugged around Chanderi.  We were quite confused at this behaviour though.  We had two complete opposite experiences within a matter of an hour and hardly a kilometre distance from each other.  A family with nothing fed us and wouldn’t take any more, while two goondas asked us for money with nothing but harassment and intimidation in return.  Again, we got to experience the extreme contrasts within India.  Now, we were flummoxed!  Eventually, we decided that we would not report it, as it would only hassle us to have to make a three-hour roundtrip to Panvel each time the police needed us on site.  In India, it is common for thugs to get away, while victims are harassed, so the police look like they are doing something; it’s all about image here.

At Panvel, the ticket lines were long at 10 PM.  We separated the gear while we waited.  My pack was heavy again.  Our train was delayed by thirty minutes and by the time we got on we were definitely exhausted, but not enough to prevent us from chatting the whole way back!  I opted to stay on the Harbour Line all the way to CST as I didn’t want to switch trains twice and wait for a cab for thirty minutes before getting home.  It was just past midnight.  I was tired and filthy.  Another Sahyadri adventure successfully completed.  Many more lessons learned!  Wow!

Until next time...

PS:  Here's a link to ALL the pictures on Picasa; only some are included here. Make sure to read the captions:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bhatoba Pinnacle in a Day (PIAD)

I'm coining a new term for Indian climbing: Pinnacle in a Day (PIAD).  Reason:  It appears that most climbs in the region like those of yore (yes, probably only 30 years ago in western climbing history) are done over several days with multiple people through clubs using lots of gear and support.  I like to sleep in my tent at night, so multi-day, assault-style expeditions are just not my thing!  Light and fast are the way to go; ask Alex!  So, this may end up being not just another successful adventure story, but maybe even a comparison of climbing styles in India.  It’ll probably create some heated discussion on this end as it has already started to fester, but I’m hoping it can be more of a dialog between old school thinking and new school innovation that will eventually help the local Indian trad climbing scene get a 21st century kick-start!  Wish me luck.

Here's a link to ALL the pictures on Picasa; only some are included here. Make sure to read the captions:

Discussions of our next trip at the local Podar College climbing wall usually start with, “How can we scare the sh*t out of Sunny, this time?!”  Although climbed nearly every season, Bhatoba Pinnacle is considered one of the more difficult targets.  Here, they call it crack climbing. I call it full-on off-width with nary a hand jam!  The climbers trying to scare me, again: Ajit and Richie.  Ajit had climbed some part of the route about eighteen months earlier, but had retreated due to time constraints.  His recollection of the route and estimations of height are sketchy at best.  Richie is mostly a sport climber and has been up in the mountains, but his trad leading experience was minimal.  Then, there was me, with no experience of local pinnacles, so not much use either!  Finding me a partner was left to them.

Ajit and Richie were going to bring most of the aid-climbing gear like hammers, pitons, and pegs/stakes, which are cheap alternatives to bolts on these routes.  I was providing all of the free climbing gear, including cams, biners, slings, ropes, helmets, ascenders, étriers (aiders) and a Metolius Easy Daisy, which I thought was essential for aid-climbing.  I had donated one to the Girivihar club back in 2006 and it was in CBD Belapur, a good 1.5 hour train ride each way.  For me, the adventure had already begun!  I had to switch trains twice, and at both stations the midday crowds were crazy, with me actually jumping on moving trains both times to get on!  Not easy with a backpack.  My climbing buddy Prashant met me at the station and we walked to his house.  His wife Shami had prepared one of my favourite southern dishes, neer dosa (rice crepes) with coconut chutney (relish).  I think, I must have eaten ten of them!  After some playtime with his kids Manu and Guddu, we drove to Sir Bong’s house in the Artists’ Village, where they were holding the weeklong 42th Annual Girivihar Rock Climbing Camp.  The club is nearly sixty years old and this has developed into a full-fledged, five-day beginner’s course.

While Sir Bong looked for gear, I was roped into showing the newbies some bouldering moves on his house along with a small pep talk on how unforgiving gravity can be.  From the looks on their faces, I’m pretty sure, I either made a complete fool of myself, or they didn't understand a word I’d said!  I’m thinking it was the former, as they were smiling and shaking their heads; Indian-style!  On the way back, I realized I needed to drop the gear off with my partners, as my backpack would be full the next day with my overnight gear as well, with a couple of trains to catch.  I made my way to the climbing wall.

We discussed our strategy at Podar, soon realizing we might have a few problems.  Although Ajit has done some trad climbs in the Sahyadris and even Bhatoba, his understanding of descents, etc. is as good as mine was in the first few years of climbing; very limited and scary.  It appeared nearly virgin to us, as there was no information on how parties had retreated.  This was of our greatest concern; don’t they have decent descent anchors around here?!  A four hundred foot static rope was mentioned; this was used by past teams and it kept being brought up.  I was against this as we would need to first find one, then we would have to carry it all the way to the top; not a good plan for fast and light.  Ajit recalled a need to traverse on ascent/descent, but was not sure how far up/down/sideways we had to move.  We were going to be two teams of two.  We only had two 60m ropes and a 70 foot static line and no bolting equipment.  This, coupled with the leave-no-gear-behind mentality, caused me much confusion and trepidation.  If we were going to use these ropes, then to descend, both teams would have to make it to the top with no room for error!    

Richie said that Taklu (baldy!) would be my partner.  A good belay is pretty much my only criteria for safe climbing in India.  Taklu had done Duke’s Nose and was still alive, so I felt safe with their choice!  Either way, it was a short, sleepless night.  I still had a yoga class to teach, buy my food, take a shower, shave, pack up and head to the station for the next leg of my journey.  The bag definitely felt heavy as it had been eighteen months since my last multi-day trip in the North Cascades.  The step up into the trains here can be a good 18” or more, and with my spindly legs, this is definitely a disadvantage!  Fortunately, I got to Podar early with no mishaps.  The boys were delayed due to slow trains and late supply runs.

While I waited, in walked Taklu.  I already knew Ketan from climbing at Podar, but I had no idea this was the Taklu referred to!  I asked him if he was just there to climb or was going to Bhatoba; after all he was bald!  Eventually, we determined that Richie was a little tired when he told me who my partner was and couldn't recall Ketan’s name.  He only pictured his shaven head, hence Taklu!  We laughed several times about this on our weekend out!

Getting There
Richie and Ajit arrived and after a quick supply run and hasty packing, we were ready to leave, albeit a little late.  Mumbai rush hour was upon us and any later would make it all the more difficult for our 2.5 hour ride to the town of Asangaon.  Strategy was to actually go all the way backwards to CST (Chatrapatti Shivaji Terminus previously known as Victoria Terminus or VT) and then take an Asangaon-terminating, fast train.  Going away from your destination to the origination station of your train is preferable as you might actually be able to get on the train and maybe even get a seat.  Getting on at subsequent stations is nearly impossible at this hour, and suicidal with our huge backpacks.  My friends had it all figured out as they do this every day!

Victoria Terminus during the end of the day rush hour just before boarding our train to Asangaon.

We were fortunately seated with our bags up high on the Asangaon train by 5:40pm, but it was already completely full with people between our legs as well.  About an hour into our journey, someone shouted “CST”.  I was like, “Huh?!  We've already left there.”  Actually, it was the signal from a regular traveller, letting those who had gotten on at CST know they ought to give up their seats to those who had gotten on later.  Amazing social-conscience-notice that actually works!  As the local farangi (foreigner), I was graciously told to continue sitting, but I gave up my seat as my backside was hurting from the hard, wooden benches.  Yes, they still have these on Indian trains!

The train arrived uneventfully at Asangaon at nearly 8:20pm, emptying out at each station along the way.   We waited for our late night tempo (jeep with small pickup truck bed) ride from Guru, the local climbing guide.  He doesn't actually climb, but has been the go-to man in this area for over twenty years.  He even has several pinnacles named after him!  He can be described as quiet, focused, strong, resourceful and patient, as opposed to us, who were noisy and impatient to get to our destination!  He fed us local faire of fresh rice chapattis (crepes) and a couple of different bhaajis (vegetables).  We were quite stuffed before we went to bed late on his nice ceramic floor.

Richard Kher, Sunny Jamshedji and Ajit Bobhate ating a simple village meal before going to bed. Rice chappatis (tortillas) with two typical vegetable dishes. By the time we realized we needed to take a picture, we were done!

One would think these villagers were living the highlife with well-built buildings and electricity, and I've been told, living in villages is not as expensive as the big city.  But, Guru didn't have running water.  He supplements farming with guiding during the short climbing season.  This is not a lucrative business as he makes about 150-200 rupees ($3-4) a day plus the meals we ate.

It was another hot, airless, sleepless night and an early rise in the morning.  Up at 4 AM, we peed into his fields where two calves sat watching these silly outsiders getting ready for a self-indulging, fruitless adventure.  Breakfast was light; tea and fruit.  We hit the trail at 5:15 AM and after twenty minutes of pitch-black, flat-ground-hiking, we walked into a streambed strewn with Styrofoam eating trays.

Guru pointed to a tiny, hardly two-foot square pond at the base of some rocks. This was going to be our only source of water for the weekend.  He located a couple of cups on the ground made from the bottoms of plastic bottles.  We used these to scoop the water and invariably tadpoles (no, really) into the plastic jerry cans.  Not knowing if these were clean themselves, I noted that I would filter-pump the water out of these cans into my bladder, but eventually never did and am still alive to tell the tale!  We filled three five and one ten litre jerry cans for a total of 25L between us for 2-3 days.

Filling 25L of water before heading up. Yes, that is a cup made from a plastic bottle we found on the ground. Yes, that is garbage beside our water source. No, we did not filter the water before drinking it! Sunny Jamshedji, Guru and Ajit Bobhate. (Courtesy Richie Kher)

We had already decided that we might stay an extra day if we did not summit and jug fixed lines in the not-preferred assault method.  Guru carried the ten litre can in his daypack.  I added a five litre to my load.  Ajit, Richie and Ketan switched carrying the other two cans by hand between them.  I thought my fully loaded 80 litre Arcteryx backpack was already heavy, but at some point, I landed up with the second rope on my back and another water can in my hand!  It was teamwork at its best, with Guru machete’ing his way up the trail and we shifting loads to keep up the pace.

After 2:40 hours of hiking and a couple of rest stops, we got to a bivy spot on some rocks.  We could see Bhatoba above us, but there was still a bit of a hike left.  Unfortunately, since we were the first climbers of the season, there was a lot of undergrowth that Guru had to hack through.  It was slow going, but we were at our bivy spot in under an hour and it was a good idea as this section had been the hardest and we were now right below our quarry.  We immediately started to clear the spot and set up the tent.
The crew just after we settled into our bivy spot and before Guru left us to our madness. Richie Kher, Ketan Vaidya, Sunny Jamshedji, Guru and Ajit Bobhate. (Courtesy Richie Kher)
Guru laid out lunch, which we ate greedily, followed by a short nap.  We were still quite wasted at this point.  It was hot and we were sitting in the sun.  Guru headed home as we decided what to do.  Since Ketan and I had not climbed together, and Richie did not have much trad leading experience, we decided to tackle pitch one on the first day.  We could get our systems down as well as some experience on this mostly unknown rock.  Good thing we did!

After much instruction on anchoring and belaying, Richie took the lead with a cumbersome set of gear, including cams, nuts, slings, étriers, ascenders, pitons, hammer, and pegs.  Thanks to my lack of aid experience, I saw étriers being used and a piton banged in for the first time!  More new experiences in the Sahyadris!  Ketan belayed and then followed him up.  He had not climbed outside in a couple of years and had just returned to climbing only a few months ago.  This coupled with a backpack, fear of bad anchors, and offwidth climbing really threw his mojo off.  He was just not up to finishing the pitch.  I cleaned for him and inspected the anchor.  There were two rusted ring bolts and a #3 Camalot 20 feet away.  This is why even the follower cannot fall in the Sahyadris!  Ajit followed me up.  We walked along a narrow ledge and set a rappel off a tree, leaving the rope overnight.  This whole episode took us into the evening with the sun setting and chilly evening gusts.

Richie Kher making some full-on chimney moves as he makes his way up the maw to the P1 ledge. (Courtesy Ajit Bobhate)

We decided to talk over dinner, but by the time we were eating it was quite late.  Ketan had decided that he would not go up.  This worked as we would now be a team of three with both ropes, partly easing descent concerns.  We slept the night, thinking of an early start, which of course did not happen!

The Climb
Although, we were up by 6 AM, eating breakfast, racking up, and more instructions on anchors and how we would accomplish a descent left us starting our climb around 10 AM.

Richie Kher, Ajit Bobhate, and Sunny Jamshedji, geared up and confident, yet dwarfed by Bhatoba and the gash they were just about to climb! (Courtesy Ketan Vaidya)

The 70 static rope was not required as the route followed a nearly straight line.  We top-roped the section where we had left a descent rope the night before.  We still hadn't figured out how previous climbers ascended/descended this without ropes/protection, although I was told later on that Ajit had free soloed to the ledge and so had figured out the descent as well!  We walked across the thin ledge and anchored ourselves in.  Ajit needed to aid through the first section overhanging section.  The bolt appeared high enough to require a shoulder boost to get into the off-width above.  Richie bent down and Ajit took a ride!

Alley Oop! Richie Kher gives Ajit Bobhate a shoulder lift to clip the first aid bolt. I (Sunny Jamshedji) basically fell from where Ajit's head is and although I landed flat on my back, I miraculously did not get hurt due to the rope stretching just enough to break my fall, but not to kill me!
It was a tough start as Ajit figured out what he had to do with all the gear strung around him. An additional double rack of friends (cams) to #4 Camalot was new to him.  Except for the anchors, and banging in one piton, he freed the route completely; an amazing job really, considering the grade and condition of the climb.

After a short while, Ajit said he had reached his high point from last time where there was a bolt as well as placements for a piton and peg behind a block he was sitting on.  To me, it seemed like not much rope had gone out.  He did not want to go further as he did not want to run out of rope.  I acquiesced.  Once he had settled in after a lot of banging, I stepped out from under the overhang to see him only about 50-60 feet up!  After much debate, we decided I would just go up to him and we would keep moving up, albeit slowly.

I started up the overhanging off-width.  There was a flake (see picture) in the crack which allowed me to use familiar hand-jamming to enter the off-width.  I was smiling as I freed it, and just as I was about to put my foot on a large inch-deep chip, which would have allowed me to enter the off-width safely, the edge of the flake broke and I exited upside down.  I hit the ground on a flat rock on my sacrum, like a pancake.  I lay there for a moment thinking, this is not good; Sahyadri epic about to begin!  I noticed no pain.  I had just fallen from at least eight feet, flat on my back, how could I not be hurt?  I moved, no pain.  I got up, no pain.  I moved around, no pain!  The rope was just short enough with stretch to break my fall just enough that I had gotten shaken, but not stirred!  When I looked over to Richie, he was sitting there aghast – “You, okay, man?” I said, “I think so.”  I got right back into the crack, but this time used the étrier and Easy Daisy to climb my way through.  Not my style, but better safe than sorry!  I’m sure this section can still go free.

Richie passed me the daypack with supplies as I realized this would be too much for him to handle in the off-width.  I got to Ajit’s belay to see his fantastic anchor system.  He had belayed me with the bolt as a directional and had a shaky peg and piton which I removed by hand while I was fidgeting later on while belaying him!  Again, reinforcing the fact that falling is not an option in the Sahyadris!  Sorry, Arno?!  As there was no room on the belay station for a third person, we decided that Ajit would continue to the ledge above, finishing the first pitch.  I would bring Ritchie up and he would climb through with me bringing up the rear with the bag.  All went well.  Again, a lot of banging, as we waited for the next anchor to be built. Meanwhile, I tied Ajit off and brought Richie up to a spot just below me, switched ropes and then tied him off.

Ajit Bobhate made his way up to the comfortable P2 belay ledge before Richie Kher (on P1 ledge) made his way up to Sunny Jamshedji on the cramped half ptich belay stance. (Courtesy Ketan Vaidya)

Once Ajit’s anchor was secure, Richie climbed through and attempted to go up several times.  Although, he was a strong climber and sent the first half in good style, this second half was more challenging and the full-body gymnastics got the better of him.  The crack also required helmetless travel!  He came down and we decided that he would watch me execute it and then give it a try.  It was tight and painful; again, Ajit had done a magnificent job!  I got up to the real pitch one ledge, with a bit of struggling in this first section.  He had placed a solid piton, a very marginal peg and two HB cams; yes, I’m still climbing with these antiques!  Before leaving the earlier belay, I had decided that we were going to leave the bag behind.  It was just too heavy with several cucumbers, carrots, water, lots of dried fruit, four additional pegs for descent, and our headlamps.  I had also told Ajit not to drink too much water as both of them were drinking like camels at an oasis!  Richie and I stacked up on cucumbers, carrots, and a pocketful of nuts and dried fruit.  Ajit got the trail mix when I got to him, but was already parched from a couple of hours without water.  He was relieved to hear that Richie was bringing him cucumbers!

Richie started up, but was still finding it hard to get through the first section.  He, smartly, opted to jug the line as he had an ascender.  He did so in good time.  Had we thought about it, he could've brought up the backpack as well … with our headlamps!

Richie Kher arriving at the P2 ledge after jugging up. Ketan Vaidya is taking picutres from the ground just off his left shoulder and our bivy spot with tent is just to the left of his head. Chitchatting after a gruesome pitch!

It was getting late.  We all ate the food.  Ajit said it was my pitch.  I said, “Thanks, but you're doing great.”  This was his route and I was feeling somewhat jittery; no big pieces.  He took off, and after several minutes of wrestling an overhanging offwidth section, he kicked a #3 out of the crack and was standing on a thin ledge with pretty much no protection.  He exhaustingly hammered his first piton placement in, and traversed to a second bush-filled crack.  Now, he was moving as the rope inched away from us.  It was slow going, so I decided to build the descent anchor while we waited.  I transferred the belay to Richie and I opened two prusik cords and equalized them using the peg, piton and a screw link.  Good thinking.

Ajit Bobhate making his way through the P3 off-width. Slightly overhanging, dirty and slippery. Sunny Jamshedji, concentrating on the belay with lots of raining rocks. Richie Kher was clowning around until he got hit by a softball-sized rock! (Courtesy Ketan Vaidya)

Since we could not communicate anymore, we used Ketan located on the far slope of the buttress under Mahuli Fort.  He had been napping and taking pictures all day and by this time Guru had returned prematurely to take us back down.  Although, this sounds like putting the cart before the horse, Guru was mostly not contactable from our location, so we had pre-planned our departure.  They sat at the base helping us communicate for nearly an hour as Ajit made his way to the last twenty feet of rope.  After much shouting and screaming, he understood that he was out of rope.  We realized that summit fever had taken him over!

Richie and I decided one of two things based on our lack of headlamps.  Either, Ajit and I would descend immediately, or if the summit was close, we would go up alone with Richie staying put.  I scurried up the pitch.  Another #3 had popped out, but it was also another fantastic pitch by Ajit.  I'm thinking this guy has balls!  I get up to his stance in the middle of a wide slab, between a huge cactus and small dihedral.  His anchor looks good, but the expression on his face is priceless!  He points to another cactus about forty feet above an alcove in front of us and says “That’s the summit!”  I can see the fever is higher than I thought.  There’s no way, I can say no.  I tied off Richie’s rope and took the lead.  Some easy 4th class climbing brought me to just below the summit cap.  I placed a cam before starting up only to find that walking up forty feet of grassy slope is not easy in climbing shoes.  It was slippery and I backed off.  No time for accidents.  I brought Ajit up.  He had the pegs and after a pre-summit pose, he started hammering them into the ground and using them as support to move up.  Had I known better, I might have just taken my shoes off and walked up barefoot; I’m sure it would've worked.

Ajit Bobhate driving pegs into the dirt as the grass was too slippery to go up. Next time, we're doing it without our climbing shoes!

Fifteen minutes later we were at the top.  You should've seen his face!  All glee!  We took our summit photos with the Mahuli Fort in the background, searched for a rappel towards our giant cactus and descended quickly.

Bhatoba Pinnacle summit shot of Sunny Jamshedji and Ajit Bobhate with the Mahuli Fort in the background.

The Descent
The sun was nearly gone.  I decided that we would leave webbing and a screw link, so that it would be easier to pull the rope down.  There was some resistance, but Ajit acquiesced although his leave no gear behind mentality was still strong.  I reached Richie quickly and Ajit followed.  He still had to remove the single piton he had used while climbing.  We could see he was very tired.  It was getting darker.  The two anchor pieces did not look adequate.  While Richie and I worked the ropes, Ajit hammered in a solid peg.  I used another prusik cord and re-equalized it.  We could hardly see what we were doing.  I was ready to descend.  I told them to keep the backup cams in place till I descended, just in case.  I also told them to double- and triple-check their rappel setup before leaving the ledge.  I looked at them in the dimming light and realized that I couldn’t leave them in the way they were.  I had learned a technique from a guide in my first year of climbing, where the most experienced climber puts their partner(s) into the rappel system before descending first.  As long as they don’t remove themselves, a fireman’s belay from the bottom is the only backup they need.  I proceeded to put them in with cowtails off their belay loops.  I told them they just needed to unclip their personal anchors and descend.  Since this was nearly a 180 foot descent with thick, stiff ropes, I switched the orientation of the rope going through their rappel devices, so the friction would be less.  I indicated what I had done to them twice.

When I left I could hardly see their faces.  I reached the bag and took out my headlamp.  Whew!  I continued to the overhanging ledge and clipped in, drank and ate.  Richie followed in good time.  He took his headlamp, food and drink.  Then we waited.  It was quite a while before Ajit showed up amidst a lot of shouting and instruction.  Even before he hit the ledge, I saw that his belay tool was in the opposite orientation.  Richie had also explained to him that the tool was just backwards and he didn't need to switch it, but he was bonking due to the fatigue and the lack of water/nutrition.  He had wondered why it was so, and in the pitch dark he had switched it around.  All he could think of was getting down and drinking water.  We were relieved he was still alive!

We walked over the narrow ledge in various ways.  Me on lead, Richie clipped into and sliding on the rope, and Ajit following without a belay; all from miscommunication!  We rappelled to the ground, this time leaving webbing around the tree.  It was around 8 pm.  Guru and Ketan were there to greet us over ten hours later.  We made our way back to camp gingerly, legs shaking.

As I started eat my dinner and sort the gear, we talked about the amazing time we just had above.  Guru was with us unexpectedly, so we switched our sleeping arrangements and put him in the tent with Richie in his sleeping bag outside.  We went to bed late and tired.

In the morning, we were up somewhat earlier than expected with Richie and Ketan wanting to go up another shorter pinnacle.  I said it was possible, but we needed to get back as I was leaving on a weeklong trip the next day.  We all agreed that we had succeeded in what we came to accomplish and without injury.  It was a good time to return home triumphant; the pinnacles weren't going anywhere.

Getting Back
Our packs were slightly lighter this time, but we were quite tired and the steep hike back had us slipping and falling over. The going was slow, but we were down in a couple of hours with a quick wash at Guru’s and short walk to the state transport bus stop.  The rickety bus took us to Asangaon.  We got our train tickets and a quick snack before the train appeared.  Unfortunately, this was not the originating station.  The train was packed, and we had to stand all the way to Dadar station two hours away.  Richie had a momentary altercation with some chap wanting to start the pushing process a little too early!  I got home just after 4pm.  I had only sat for thirty minutes since we had gotten up at 7:30 AM!  I was exhausted as I’m sure my partners were.

Total train rides taken for this adventure by just me: 12; between 15 minutes and 2.75 hours long!  I’m sure Ajit and Ketan would've taken more.  Richie lives a cool fifteen minute walk from the Podar Wall.

These chaps are fantastic to climb with and I look forward to each of their scary adventures.  I know I had gotten short with them several times on the wall, but they seemed to soak up all I had to offer and were grateful for it.  I am grateful for their patience; putting up with this softie farangi, and to realize that this pinnacle stuff is not such a big deal after all; just dirty, offwidth climbing.

Guru, waiting anxiously, yet patiently as the sun sets on the team. He ended up staying the night as we descended after dark. (Courtesy Ketan Vaidya)

Guru is the local guide.  He basically brings nearly everyone into the area.  When we were packing up to leave, I gave him a bhaashan (sermon) on the benefit to him of keeping the area clean as well as ensuring that other climbers who followed would not remove the descent gear as well as any permanent bolts that were put up.  He slowly understood what we were getting at.  It is only a matter of time before people stop coming, if the environment is not taken care of and the climbing traffic increases.  Usually, the government either does nothing or completely closes access to the site.  Not unlike in the USA.  They’re talking about an Access Fund-like organization in India, but nothing has materialized yet.  The plan is to go back once more and place proper bolts at each belay station, cleaning it up and keeping the low-quality rock from being further damaged; ultimately making safer and more accessible for future generations.

On the climbing side, we realized that Ajit had basically done the route free.  If the anchors had been in place, this route is essentially three long and two very short pitches, with two long and two short rappels, and probably can be been done in less than six hours up and down.  If we could just convince the locals this was the case, we would be moving local climbing into the 21st century!  There is a sense that things have to be done a certain “way”, call it habit, machismo, stupidity, the way it is, whatever suits you.  I have not gotten into any discussions with the people setting the “way”, but one of other three in our group had an “altercation” with the local pinnacle gurus; some having done 200 or more routes in the nearby mountains.  They kept saying, “But, you can’t do it that way.”  “What about the 400 foot static line for descent.”  “What about doing one pitch on one day and then jugging up the next day and doing the next pitch.”  And, so on.  Several of them couldn't believe that it could be done free and have aided their way up these monsters.  There are even pinnacles with bolted sport routes that adventure companies take clients up, ascending it like a bolt ladder!  Of course, I don’t know if these can be completely free climbed, but I've been told that many of these are free-climbable or at least multi-pitch sport routes.

I've only been climbing since 1996 and pretty much have zero aid experience.  So, I can only imagine this is similar to how climbing was in the Wild West in the USA and how it evolved into the more free climbing of today.  Meaning, old routes were done in a similar assault style with lots of gear, over days, using aid, etc.  When the gear became more modern and versatile, and climbers willing to take more risk, maybe even relying on this new gear, the routes became more “free”.  Routes like The Nose on El Cap are testament to this.  I’ll let the oldies (yet Goldies) tell us how it was!

Fact is that these routes can be done free with the right gear and climbers have to believe that it can be done.  Also, more actual hand-jamming crack routes, if they exist, need to be established with proper rappel stations.  As the gear becomes more available, so will the route possibilities.  We also need to let the old guard know that yes, they paved the way, but now it is time for a new generation of strong climbers to come along and up the ante.  We aren't taking away their glory, just making new ones.  This new guard of terrifically strong and bold climbers are now on their way to do it, and need a little financial help to purchase the appropriate equipment.

So, this is where I had decided to come in, or at least my big American-ized mouth had!  I had determined, and not incorrectly, that the climbers here needed some free climbing gear that is appropriate for their local needs.  This means cam sets with larger sizes, lighter slings and carabiners, hand drills, lighter étriers (aiders), adjustable daisies, etc. The largest piece I saw was an old, pink #6 Camalot hanging on Sir Bong’s wall, which I would’ve taken had I seen it before I left,  AND if it didn’t have broken wires!  The other larger cam was a purple HB, which was at least 15-20 years old.  These appeared to all be in not-so-good shape.  Other climbing groups do have cams, but mostly in regular sizes; not really suited for wide cracks.  There are other cams around, but not a full rack like we take for granted in the west.  The ones that belong to Girivihar have been used by several different people, over many years, with no one reporting usage, or taking care of them in the interim.

To assist in this endeavor, I had enthusiastically set up an Indiegogo project to collect money from anyone willing to help out.  At the time of writing, the project described what was needed and how the gear would get here.  How the equipment will be administered had not really been determined, but the intention was to find some responsible, open-minded folks who would host the gear and allow a wide range of climbers to borrow it without prejudice.  A few dollars from interested parties would have kick-started the project easily and provided years of fantastic free climbing for many in a slightly less fortunate financial situation.

But, as life would have it, I decided to back off from this endeavor.  I realized on a subsequent trip that it is best not to give people [climbers] the tools to kill themselves in the kind of litigious world we live in.  I’m more than willing to allow the crew to use my gear when I’m there, or that provided by the local climbing groups, but I felt I would be more responsible, if I actually helped gift it to them.  I wasn't ready to make that commitment yet.  I’d be happy to accept comments regarding this and to see what the rest of the community or the three other climbers reading this would have to say.

Since then, my friends in Mumbai have informed me that they are already beginning to save up to buy their own gear.  Apparently, a thin dynamic rope has already been purchased and hopes for a full rack by the fall season are in the making.  Maybe, despite my backing out of it, these chaps will dream their own dreams.  I wish them the best in this endeavor and hope to climb with them again later this year.  I’ll let you know how this progresses in future posts.

Until next time...

Here's a link to the complete Picasa album: