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Rock Climbing

Overview

Rock Climbing is one of the grittiest sports to have emerged in our times. Globally popular as a sport of intense vigor, rock climbing has gained monumental footholds in India. Given the fact that it is a strength-based sport of endurance, rock climbing is a rather difficult feat, meant to boost the core toughness of the human body.

In India, rock climbing has developed over time as an allied sports form of mountaineering. The popularity of mountaineering (and later on, of rock climbing) witnessed a boom during early and mid 80s. Today rock climbing features in the list of top preferred climbing activities for youth.

Season

Diversity in Seasons

As some nature lovers say, India is a land “touched by God” when it comes to diversity of beauty! Everything about the natural aura here is different and lovely. As the rugged terrains and snow-capped locations for climbing vary, so do the seasons. Generally, the seasonal diversity depends on the location and varies from one zone to another.

In the snowy Himalayan regions of Ladakh, the season for climbing is from May to October. During harsh winters, the accessibility to the region is temporarily cut off and as such the footfall is reduced. During severe winters, the area is prone to snow blizzards and avalanches. In the initial warm months of March and beginning of April, as the snow melts and the terrain can become slippery.

Similarly in the locations like Miyar Valley and Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh, the blizzards may pose an obstacle during winters and so, the ideal season is the summer – from mid April to ending October.

However, in the Western and Southern locations like Malshej Ghat in Maharashtra and Ramnagara in Karnataka, the peak season covers practically the entire year (with limited exceptions during monsoon months). In these regions, rock climbing expeditions and sessions go from January to December and a mild lull may be witnessed only during heavy rainfalls or related factors.

In regions of Delhi and Haryana, rock climbing is a round-the-year activity.

This, of course, is relevant for outdoor locations, as in controlled and indoor environments like gyms and stadiums, regular rock climbing meets and events take place.

Location

Parvati Valley – Himachal Pradesh

Located in the lap of Himalayas, Parvati Valley is a soothing treat to the soul. It offers natural rock formations and hillocks which are globally famed. Local stay in Parvati Valley is quite economical and you will find climbers from across the globe here.

Sar Pass- Himachal Pradesh

The journey to Sar Pass is itself mesmerizing.

Kasol serves as the base camp from where the magnificent trek onto Sar Pass commences. The snow clad rock crevices and formations of Sar Pass make it an ideal place for climbing. Climbing events by national and international climbers are famed here and the terrain is suitable for both free style and aided climbing. A must visit for an avid climber!

Miyar Valley- Himachal Pradesh

Miyar Valley is located in seclusion in-between the Pir Panjal and Zanskar ranges. Known as the “Valley of Flowers” and especially noteworthy for the beautiful blue poppy flowers during the peak season, Miyar Valley is a treat for solo climbers and travelers from across the globe. The Valley offers climbing experiences par excellence – untouched and unparalleled!

Shey Rock – Jammu and Kashmir

Shey rock is actually the only climbing spot in Ladakh and hence quite popular among tourists from around the globe. Natural and favorable rock formations allow for a wholesome climbing experience and the conditions here are suited for all levels of climbing expertise – from beginners to experts.

Lado Sarai – Delhi

Advance-bookings are done for the weekly climbing sessions here and enthusiast from all over Delhi and outside can be seen here. The rock formations are ideal for beginners and amateurs. Professional trainers are available and the climbing sessions are conducted in a controlled environment.

Malsej Ghat

Malshej Ghat is a fascinating place for monsoon travelers and climbers. The place is full of ideal climbing places and old ruins. Especially noted is the Ajoba Hill Fort which is a dream-come true for rock climbing enthusiasts. Lush green covers and the rich flora of the area add to the thrilling experience of climbing and the place is seen teeming with tourist and climbers during the peak seasons.

Madhugiri -Karnataka

“Madhu” means nectar and “Giri” means mountain. Literally this is the mountain of nectar! Ideal and especially famed for the rock crevices and old rock structures that make the climbing trips experiences of a lifetime. The terrain is diversely rocky and serves as the location for massive rock structures, making it suited for different types of climbing. You can witness a large number of climbers in action here at different times of the year. The famous Gopala Krishna Temple is an added attraction.

Hampi Karnataka

When you think of bouldering in India, one cannot simply miss out on Hampi. This town in the state of Karnataka has some big boulders and with clear skies almost throughout the year, it sees climbers throughout the year trying to scale the boulders.

Sport

Types of climbing

Rock climbing is largely of two types – Free style and aided, however the detailed variants of the two types can be further divided into styles and sub-styles. Generally both aided and free style climbing involve units of two persons, with one acting as a “leader” and the other as a “belayer”.
 
1. Free style climbing: This is the most common and widely popular style of climbing. In this style, ascend is totally dependent on the climber’s physical strength and skill and support mechanism is used merely as a protection in case of a fall. Unlike aided climbing, the whole exercise of accomplishing the ascension during the climb is individual-driven and the equipment serves a secondary purpose. The climber secures footholds and grips in the natural slots and spaces and works the pace upwards while climbing. Given the amount of labor and work that it requires, free style climbing is an intensive activity for the raw skill and guts! Free style climbing may be classified as “Face climbing” (when the climber uses natural irregular features of the rock while ascending) and “Crack climbing” (where natural cracks in a rock are followed and advanced climbing techniques are used by the climber).
 
2. Aid climbing: There are rocks/ridges, where the natural ascent or the slope is too difficult and technically impossible to be climbed unaided. For such activities, aided climbing comes to the rescue. Aid climbing uses the practice of placing protection equipment in crevices/spaces in the rock, with the climber clipping a ladder-like stirrup for standing support. The belayer then climbs up to this point and the position thus secured becomes the belay station for further climb. So, unlike free style climbing, the use of equipment is extensive and primary to the whole activity in aided climbing.
 
3. Bouldering: This is an intense and short form of climbing, in controlled and exceptionally difficult environments. As the name implies, bouldering is climbing on short routes on boulders without the use of any aid-equipments like safety rope etc. For safety, a foam pad called “bouldering pad” is usually used in –between the boulders at risk points. A spotter (i.e. an observer) is involved keep an eye from below and guide the climber’s fall for added safety. 
 
4. Soloing or Solo climbing: The name says it all – soloing is the act of climbing solo, without the assistance of a belay and without any protection gear. Soloing may be “Deep water solo” (rock climbing overlooking a deep water body) in which the fall is cushioned by the depths of the water or “Rope solo”, where the climber uses a rope secured at the bottom of the structure (or beginning of the climb) to belay herself/himself. The risks associated with soloing are way higher than conventional climbing and the fall, if not cushioned, can lead to serious injuries to the climber.
 
5. Lead Climbing: Lead climbing is the technique where the climber makes the climb with the ascend-rope passing through anchors that are placed below and the belay gives out the rope from below the lead climber. During the ascend, the lead climber clips the rope into crevices/spaces (using runners and carabiners).This serves as a protection in case of a fall as the length of the fall is limited by this type of rope-clipping.
 
6. Multi-Pitch climbing:  When the distance to be covered is longer than the length of the ascend rope, multi-pitch climbing is done. In this type of climbing, there are one or more stops at a belay station as the lead climber climbs, sets up the anchor and then the second climber climbs up to the anchor, followed by the third climber and so on. Thus, the whole route is broken down into segments (called pitches) and the climbers complete each pitch in sequence.

Techniques

Rock climbing is a strength and agility driven sport and makes extensive use of stamina, balance and muscle mass. Before beginning the basic training and practice of climbing, getting into shape is essential. Endurance building workout sessions, cardio-vascular routines and maintaining a healthy BMI – all these contribute towards the basic readiness for rock climbing practice. While climbing, always keep the following points in mind:

  1. Climbing involves a blend of balance and precise movement. The techniques for effortless balancing involve weight-thrusting, gripping and posturing abilities of the climber.

 

  1. The technique actually boils down to synchronized and parallel movement of limbs, contorting and holding the position and a smooth upward “flowy” motion of the body.

 

  1. Footwork is of prime essence while climbing. The smoothness of ascend requires the climber to make efficient use of the lower body for upward thrust. The weight must be stably rested on feet while making a hold into the edge or the crevice of the rock.

 

  1. The correct way to secure a foothold is crucial or you may risk a fall. While securing the foothold, bending of the toe using the inside edge of the shoe is important, especially when trying to balance on a slant or plain edged rock surface. Once the hold is secured, you must try to push “towards” the wall/rock surface.

 

  1. Correct hooking for edging is of prime importance. Hooking can be either “Toe hooking” or “Heel hooking”. Toe hooking means wrapping the toe of the foot in a clinging position from underneath a crevice or around the edges of the surface. Heel hooking is setting the heel on a hold and pulling with the foot. It relieves the weight off the arms in an overhanging position and can be mastered with practice.

 

  1.  After hooking, next important technique is “smearing”. Smearing is the technique of increased rubber-rock friction where the climber rubs/deeply thrusts the shoe against the surface of the rock, in order to secure the foothold in a position. Smearing can be done essentially in a balanced and stable position and at any surface type. This differentiates smearing from edging because there is no visible protrusion or surface deformity while smearing and even the flat rock surfaces can be smeared. A precise positioning of the foot is very important for a correct smearing.  

 

  1. Achieving the correct handhold is the primary requirement during climbing. The dexterity of our hands and the diverse forms in which we can twist and form our grips are all used while getting the grip on the angle/surface deformity. The pressure on the biceps is obviously unavoidable yet any extremity must be avoided. “Campusing” or footless climbing must be generally avoided in the beginning wherever possible as it requires extreme stress on the upper body.

 

  1. Depending on the type of hold, the grips are of several types. “Jugs” are the relatively easy holds, where you don’t apply much pressure on the tendons for the grip. In any case, the grip must be flexible and not overbearing, so that body strength is reserved. Then there are “crampers” which allow you to get a finger-sized hard grip to pull the weight off your lower body. Cramper-position is also likely to injure you as it adds to more strain on the tendons. So, carefully enveloping the fingers around the hold in an unhurried manner is important.

 

  1. Handholds make definite use of finger-grabbing and pulling. For instance, there are techniques of “pinching” (making use of any protrusion in rock surface that can be squeezed, depending on thumb dexterity) and “pockets” (crevices where the climber can dig the fingers in to lift the lower body or to move the body sideways). Mastering each technique involves practice and initially, this is conducted in closed, controlled environments like a gym.

 

  1. Positioning the body while ascending is the core of the activity. So, before climbing in outdoor locations, it is important to practice in a gym-like controlled environment and under the supervision of professionals. Techniques involved are “mantelling” (using the upper body to drive holds till waist level) and “overhangs” (the vertically overhanging position). Working on the core while maintaining a relaxed but firm grip is the key to unhurried moving and tugging the limbs.

 

It is essential to note that climbing involves a degree of intuitive reflexes. The multi-faceted climbing positions allow a high degree of diverse muscle movements and as you practice, you go on achieving a gradual perfection.

Competition & Festival

Competitions

In India, the “Indian Mountaineering Foundation” in its role as a national body and headquartered in New Delhi, organizes regular competitions and climbing events at different locations.

A climbing competition is usually held in indoor locations, with custom-built walls and structures for the climb. The competitions are divided into types: lead, speed and bouldering.

Lead climbing is a competing event where climbers are judged on the basis of completion of a steep climb within stipulated time. In speed competing events, individuals or teams compete to finish a climb in the fastest manner.

Bouldering events are based on the number of hurdles crossed while climbing. Dual meets are also held in which a combination of lead and speed variants is displayed by the competitors.

Apart from periodic competitions, climbing fests are also organized in various parts of the world where selected teams and individuals compete. For many competitive meets, age groups and gender-selection form an important set of parameters.

Events and festivals:
In India, the popularity of rock climbing is growing at a fast pace.
Regular climbing fests and events are organized in various parts of the country, both in individual and team-based formats.

In India, it was the far sightedness of pioneers like JRD Tata which led to the establishment of sports-format of climbing. In fact, it was JRD Tata gave the grant for setting up of the first climbing wall in Indian Mountaineering Federation in New Delhi.

Today, the climbing segment, under the purview of IMF boasts of round the year sporting events in closed and external environments. Regular events in various age-groups and even mixed ones are held periodically in locations. The locations for such meets range from outdoor and indoor climbing walls in various mountaineering schools in Delhi, Joshimath (Uttarakhand), IMF premises (New Delhi), American Embassy school (Chanakyapuri in New Delhi), Chamundi Vihar Stadium (Mysore), DYSS Center (Tumkur in Karnataka), Kanteerva Stadium (Bangaluru), Chougan Stadium (Jaipur), Multiple Entertainment Centre (Mumbai), Dr. Karni Singh Stadium (Bikaner), “SAHAAS” Camp (Nagpur), Nagaland Rock Climbing & Mountaineering Association (Dimapur, Nagaland), Manipur Mountaineering & Trekking Association (Imphal, Manipur), Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (Darjeeling), Salt Lake Stadium (Kolkata), among other locations.

Apart from the regular events organized by IMF, there are amateur climbing clubs, who organize impromptu events and even full-fledged outdoor excursions at various locations across India.

General Tips

Rock climbing is an intense activity and a lot depends not only on the climber’s performance but also on the environmental impact. Although in indoor environments like gyms or indoor climbing walls, there are mandatory rules in place for ensuring safety and avoiding any untoward occurrence, in outdoor locations, the activity must be closely monitored. If working in teams, it must be kept in mind that an individual’s actions reflect on the entire team. Therefore, along with regular practice of climbing, strict observation of ethics and guidelines for safety is of paramount importance.

Ensure that you do it properly and safely:

Point 1: Proper warm up and buildup to the climb

Climbing involves extensive use of limbs and requires suppleness and flexibility of the whole body. Therefore, complete and a thorough warm up to rev up the core muscles and general fitness of the body is essential. Regular practice of yoga and combos of cardio and muscle training, especially chin ups and lower body work outs can work best for you.

Point 2: Proper attire and equipment

Rock climbing is one such sport that may make you feel on top of the world with a desire to let caution go to winds. This is exactly why patient and mindful preparation for the event is required. Don’t dress up in tight fitted attire as this may restrict proper blood circulation. At the same time free flowing clothing must be avoided. Before beginning the climb, double check the list of equipment that you are carrying and ensure that all is in order.

Point 3: Understand your natural style

Before beginning the arduous climb, it is advised that you practice in mock environments with assistance to understand the innate strengths and improvement areas.

Point 4: Focus on the climbing process and not on the speed of climb

This is important initially as speed of climbing comes in a later stage and depends on the mastery of the craft. You must focus on slow and steady movement initially and learn to build up speed in due time.

Point 5: Minimum impact climbing/bouldering

This is an essential habit that must be imbibed from the very outset. The key is to adopt a “no-trace” policy. Ensure that the track of the climb remains intact and the vegetation around the rock surface is not disturbed or affected. If there is any overgrowth that comes in the way, use duct tapes or strings. Do not disturb the natural environment whenever climbing in an outdoor location.

Point 6: Avoid hang dogging

Hang dogging is the general habit of remaining in the harness for long, extended periods after taking a fall. This may be during practice or in an outdoor location. Whatever be the case, remember that you can always descend and try again later.

Point 7: Give space

During team events or in locations where there are other climbers, take care not to do things like stepping on someone’s rope or blocking the vision while overhanging etc. Keep your senses alert for any kind of risk and always remain in the hearing range of others.

Point 8: If in groups, keep it small

While climbing in teams, keep the group size to a very basic one. Arrange and keep your equipment in one place and never use any permanent fixtures either while climbing or while anchoring. The original track must be maintained the way is.

From the very beginning, always seek the best available professional advices and try to develop clarity on the basic rules. Remember that rock climbing becomes an adventure when followed up with discipline and ethical practices.

Equipments

Courses & Experiences