Stage 1

May 1 - June 14th 2009

Chennai to Delhi

Hot Rock: the arc of asia
rock climbing in india

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Scenic Badami

India

The expedition starts in sprawling Chennai on the south east coast of India, marking one end of our great arc, and the beginning of our tour of the rock climbing in India.

The expedition will start with a bang as we head straight to Bangalore and the first world class climbing of the trip.

In this “city of rocks” we’ll meet up with some local climbers and visit the many huge granite domes that surround the town. The town itself is one of the most cosmopolitan and relaxed in India and it is well worth discovering.

Surrounding Bangalore within a 60km radius is probably the biggest concentration of excellent trad and sport granite climbing in the country. We’ll find boulder fields 2km long and 300m-high rock domes. An old OTE article likens the domes to the slab climbs of Yosemite – steep slabs with sparse protection. There are many more 50-100m towers with perfect finger to off-width cracks. One of the main domes is Savandurga with the famous route 'Bangalore Bill' with a 90m protectionless crux (British 5a: 5.9). Any takers?

There are many other sports climbs ranging from 4 pitch VDs to short E3's. The 'Elephants Head Rock' remains unclimbed past the initial line of eight bolts so we'll have to have a look at that, keeping an eye out for the wild bears that live in the area. Kabbaldurga dome has a couple of classic E4s (5.12) and two great VS (5.7) routes 'Mercy' and 'Innocence' as well as an unrepeated West Face. The local boulder field of Turalli is the favourite with local climbers, and a day on the hillside plastered with 5m-15m high boulders will be best finished with an ice cold Kingfisher beer in the local pub.

Owen goes for the big slap, Hampi

Steffi pulling the monos at Badami

Axel shaping up nicely

Our next destination is the mystical temple complex of Hampi which is surrounded by a massive boulder field. With hundreds of sports routes and fantastic bouldering the area has attracted a steady trickle of climbers from all over the world and the new route book in the bakery next to the hotel in which we shall stay, reads like a ‘who's who’ of the climbing world. We will base ourselves in the Shanti lodge situated next to a colossal Virupashka temple. From there we can explore the ruins and hillside boulders are just a few minutes walk away, and every way you look boulders up to 50m high stretch to the horizon.

Simon Yates described the area as "a magical undiscovered climbing paradise. A place where you can climb on perfect granite and explore some of the most interesting ruins in India. A tropical Joshua Tree with temples and palaces."

 

 

On Kurt Albert’s trip with Johnny Dawes and Jerry Moffat, they said it was "a labyrinth of boulders reminiscent of Alice’s trip to wonderland. We were swept away with the possibilities and the desire to check out everything at once." On Leo Houlding’s trip they said that "you could do new problems for the rest of your life here!”

We will spend several days here playing and working on the countless problems, and hopefully pushing our grade in preparation for Badami. The ancient capital of the mighty Chahkyar Empire, nowadays Badami is most famous for its huge range of sandstone sport-climbing crags. A world heritage site, we’ll be climbing for once alongside local climbers, many of whom can seriously crank.

fantastic Goan sunsets

Indian boy, fascinated with the antics above

After our exertions on the Badami, Hampi and Bangalore cliffs, we will stock up the expedition vehicle’s bar. It is usually the job of somebody on the expedition to run a bar on board the truck at a small profit that we throw into a huge last night meal and party.

Talking of parties, our next stop is Goa. The salt water will help heal our battered fingertips, and the big red truck will turn heads as we rock up for a day or so in this travelers paradise.

The small coastal state of Goa is full of brilliant lush fields of irrigated paddy, villages and hamlets. There are bright white churches standing out against the startling red soil and green jungle clad hills.

With some of India's finest beaches, it's a great place for us to relax for a couple of days before the mass of climbing that will follow in the next two weeks. It’s a good place to wander around local markets and handicraft stalls to pick up presents or just chill out on the beach and sip cocktails. There is the opportunity to do some scuba diving, sailing or cycling for the more motivated.

Udaipur, Rajasthan

the tremendous Taj. Must see.

Elephants can still be seen in the hills filling their traditional role as beasts of burden working for logging companies, and with big game in nearby Bonivali National Park.

A couple of days should be enough here, and then we’ll set our sights on the beautiful lands of Rajasthan.

Rajasthan, meaning land of the Kings, is famous for its impressive forts set starkly against the Thar Desert. It is a fascinating region to visit.

Passing through the beautiful town of Udaipur (where the film 'Octopussy' was made), with its enchanting marble palaces, rock gardens and forts, we will then arrive at the hill station of Mt Abu, a granite mountain at 1,720m that is refreshingly cool and provides us with the opportunity to climb in a stunning setting. The area is dotted with lakes, temples and strangely shaped rocks.

Lianna on her favorite bouldery traverse

Bathtime for dumbo, Rajasthan

There are a number of places we can stop over during the next few days, so again we will put it to a vote, but needless to say whatever we do will be exciting. We can visit the Red Fort at Agra, with the exquisite architecture of the Taj Mahal. We can spend a day wandering around Jaipur: the 'pink city,' before continuing to the holy village of Pushkar, home of the famous camel market.

Leaving Rajasthan we continue to Delhi to finish this stage of the expedition. It will be goodbye to a few people and a welcome to some new faces. A couple of days in Delhi will be spent getting used to the chaos and cultural explosion that is India, and picking up our Pakistan and Chinese visas. We’ll probably take the time to give the expedition vehicle some maintenance and loving care too. This is where the expedition mechanic will be calling in favours, as many hands makes light work – and means he (or she) can get to the bar quicker!

We will meet up with a few local climbers in Delhi and head out to Dhauj, a climbing area 50km south. There is a guidebook for the area and over 300 climbs from VD to E4 (5.4 - 5.12). The rock is steep and juggy quartzite with one and two pitch routes mostly on excellent natural protection. We will camp at the base of the crags next to the lake where a herd of friendly water buffalos seem to welcome climbers.

India: land of temples and boulders

expedition overview
stage 1, may-jun 09
southern india
stage 2, jun-jul 09
indian himalaya
stage 3, jul-sept 09
pakistan & high china
stage 4, sept-oct 09
low china
stage 5, oct-nov 09
southeast asia
stage 6, nov-dec 09
thailand to singapore
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