Anthargange and Rock climbing, Dec 13-14, 2008

Friday, July 24, 2009
Ramanagara, 50 kms from Bengaluru on Mysore road, is famous for its rocks. Rock climbing and adventure enthusiasts come here from all over the world to indulge in hard core adventure. Ramanagara is also known for other reasons- The legendary bollywood movie, Sholay was shot here. Most of the residents of this town still recall the days when the sets of Sholay were put up and shooting was being held. It is also known as Silk City as cultivating silkworm cocoons is a main occupation here. IMG_0344
On the evening of 13th December we reached Ramanagaram for our rock climbing expedition. It was organized by Chennai Trekkers’ Club and Mars Adventures Bangalore and turned out to be a memorable mission. We trekked uphill, ignoring the steps, navigating through dense forest, gigantic rocks and vertical walls. Heavy backpacks made it even more challenging. We reached by night time and set up camp uphill, near the Pattabhirama Temple. We were about 16 in number, excluding our instructor, Kameshwar Rao of Mars Adventures and his crew, Bala and Nagu.
Day 2 was when the real adventure was. Next day, early morning, Kamesh and his men were already at the rock climbing spot, doing a lead climb (the initial climb where the support rope is positioned appropriately such that subsequent climbers will have a rope to fall back on, in case they slip down…). Rest of us got ready and joined them wondering how are we going to climb that huge vertical rock.
IMG_0166 Kamesh briefed us on the basics. Rock climbing is more of a will power than physical stamina… you need to balance yourself on one feet and one hand while using the other leg and hand to position yourself on a higher level- he explained. Wearing harness we got ready for the climb, with the confidence that there is a rope to hold us if we happen to slip. Sanjay was the most knowledgeable among us about rock climbing and related activities and he opted to climb first. With special purpose shoes (made of the same rubber used in aircraft tyres, designed to give maximum friction), fingers wrapped in tape and soaked in chalk powder (to get extra grip and to prevent sweating respectively) Sanjay slowly made his way to the top, pulling himself up. While it too several minutes of painful effort to climb up, coming down was kids play- its termed rappelling, just loosen the rope and hop down in multiple leaps…
3 sets of ropes were set up in parallel and everyone tried their best to reach as high as possible with most of the climbers succeeding in it, to their own surprise. As there was enough time left, many did multiple climbs.
IMG_0228 The legend has it that while flying towards Himalayas to get Sanjeevini, Lord Hanuman kept one foot in Antaragange and another in Ramanagaram. It is interesting to note the story behind Sri Pattabhirama temple of Ramanagram. The temple priest told us that post Lanka war, Rama, Lakshmana, Sugreeva and Seeta were returning to Ayodhya via Ramanagaram along with an Idol and as they entered Ramanagaram they were attacked by Rakshasas. While fighting with the Rakshasas Lord Ram had to put the idol on the ground. After they defeated the Rakshasas and decided to move ahead, they just couldn’t lift the idol from ground. As they made desperate attempt to lift it, they heard an Ashareeravani which instructed them to install the idol here itself as it is a divine place. That’s how the Pattabhirama temple came into existence. (I think several temples have similar stories of accidentally keeping the Lingam down and then not being able to lift it- Gokarna is one such example)
As we returned to the campsite hot puliyogare sourced from a nearby Udupi hotel was waiting for us. After visiting temple and enjoying our breakfast we decamped to head towards Bangalore. Previous day evening, our tempo traveler was intercepted by police near Kengeri who gave an instant printout showing photo of the vehicle and speed reading, which obviously exceeded the permitted limit. While we were discussing this is a foolproof system wherein police can’t pocket the money, it appears our driver was offered a generous discount of Rs 100 for not insisting on a receipt…
I also learnt that what we'd done earlier at Binsar was Zoomering and not Rock climbing.
IMG_0253 It is about 9:00 am on a pleasant Sunday morning. Far from the bustle of Bangalore’s morning traffic, a small group of people from the Chennai Trekking Club is huddled near a rock in Ramagiri hills, Ramanagaram. They are all scratched up as they have trekked for two hours through thorny woods the previous evening to camp out right next to the rocks just so they could climb at first light. We have been climbing for two hours now. I am on my third climb and about two thirds of the way up on a nice slab line. I feel my fingers burn as I struggle to hold on to a tiny crimper while I try to find the next foot hold. I am at my limit as I fight every instinct in my body and mind to shout the words “Tension” and “Ready to lower”. These words would instantaneously end my pain as Nagu, my belayer and national speed climbing champion would take the cue and lower me down. Instead I wince through the pain, lock my fingers securely to the crimper and hold on.
This was slowly shaping out to be an adventure and fun filled weekend.
We had gone to Anthargange the previous day, a hilly area near Bangalore with an infinity of unexplored boulders. As we made our way through the rocks and boulders, Kamesh, our guide from Mars Adventures and a climbing coach for the South Zone, picked routes which exposed us to basic climbing techniques like high stepping, mantle, chimney, down climb and so on. Along the way, we also found some VB bouldering problems to work on, which was very refreshing. Bouldering is a style of rock climbing done without ropes and typically limited to short heights so that a fall would not result in serious injury. It is rated from V0 to V16 with VB climbs representing problems much simpler than V0.
IMG_0375 Fast forward to here and now. By now, the world around me has faded away. I don’t even notice if there are climbers on other lines climbing beside me. All that matters now is that next move. Reading my predicament, Nagu gives me the much needed beta – a high step for a hand foot match and a push off to get to the next crimper. I summon all my strength and as I make the move, I yell out a grunt and give it all I’ve got. I make it to the next hold. That last move has put me past the limit of exhaustion. A part of me wants me to give up now – “after all, there is no shame…you gave it all you had and that’s what’s really important” but another part of me wants to persevere on and reach the anchor. As this debate rages on, I hear Nagu shout “allez”. Allez, is the French word for “go”. Frequently used in climbing parlance, it encourages climbers to push on. Somehow, as though that word had been the key to unlock hidden reserves of strength, I suddenly feel energized by hearing it. The pain melts away. I am not in conflict any more. I continue on to finish the last couple of moves, touch the anchor, bask in the elation for a few seconds and then shout out the words – “Ready to lower”.

IMG_0328 Rock climbing is a sport in which people climb up or across rock formations with the goal of topping out or completing a specific route or line. It is likely that man has been climbing rocks ever since he set foot on earth, initially perhaps driven by necessity. There is evidence of men climbing rocks painted in Chinese watercolors from 400 B.C. There are also ruins from several cliff dwelling civilizations from around 1300 A.D., mostly located in the area where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. Some shelters, built by descendents of Anasazi Indians, were dug out directly in the cliff faces, accessible only by ladders or steps cut into the rock. Perhaps it is no surprise then that throughout history we find many illustrations of climbing.

For example, invading armies frequently used climbing techniques to traverse mountains, scale castles and siege fortresses. As a sport however, climbing’s roots go back to the Victorian era of the 1800’s, when the study of nature and the exploration of the natural world became popular. In 1869, the famed naturalist John Muir made a free solo ascent of Mt. Dana and Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows (Yosemite National Park, California). In August 2008, my friend Anand and I spent a few days camping and hiking in Tuolumne Meadows. It was a very rewarding experience. After a visit to Mt. Dana and Cathedral Lake, we could not agree more with Muir’s words about Yosemite – “no temples made with hands can compare with Yosemite…the grandest of all special temples of Nature”. It was therefore with jubilance that I went back to Yosemite a couple of months later, to hike up Half Dome, first climbed with the aid of bolts by George Anderson, in 1875.
PIC_0046 Until 1886 climbing was still considered to be a part of mountaineering. It is regarded by some that W.P.Haskett-Smith’s 1886 solo ascent of Napes Needle, on Great Gable, in the U.K. gave birth to Rock Climbing as an independent sport. Modern climbing however traces its roots back to the fifties. Walter Bonatti’s 1955 solo first ascent of a new route on the southwest pillar of the Aiguille de Dru, in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps, is to date considered a classic climb. Then in 1958, history was made when Warren Harding and team aid climbed the 3,000 foot nose of the famous El Capitan, also in Yosemite National Park. Then came the likes of Royal Robins, Chuck Pratt, Tom Frost, Yvon Chouinard, Pete Cleveland and John Bachar and the rest of course is history. Recent notable milestones include Lynn Hill’s 1994 twenty three hour marathon free ascent of the nose of El Cap (graded 5.13), Chris Sharma’s 2001 ascent of Realization (graded 5.15a), in Ceuse, France and his most recent accomplishment – Jumbo Love (graded 5.15b), a project in Clark Mountain, California, sent in September 2008.
There is definitely a strange allure to climbing. As a sport, it transcends both the physical and the mental. It would not be incorrect to say that there is something strangely spiritual about the whole experience. Climbing, in some sense, has a parallel to meditation.
When you climb, it gives you razor sharp focus. The otherwise turbulent mind becomes calm and still and you are rewarded with a rather crystalline focus and clarity. The most common question one encounters about climbing is why someone would want to go through the pain and trouble of climbing a rock or a mountain. This is a question hard to answer. Noted climber and bestselling author of Into the Wild, Eiger Dreams and Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer, says - “In climbing, either you get it or you don’t. People who climb or have the urge to climb – even vicariously – understand it. And others just can’t begin to.” Jon is probably right. If George Mallory did retort “because it is there”, when asked why he wanted to climb Everest, it is probably due to the same frustration. But these statements do little to unlock the mystery and allure that draw so many of us to this intriguing and wonderful sport. Those amongst us that are spiritually inclined will perhaps relate to what Lynn Hill says – “(Climbing) is a means of experiencing a state of consciousness where there are no distractions or expectations. This intuitive state of being is what allows me to experience moments of true freedom and harmony”. “Aham” in Sanskrit refers to the self or one’s ego. By letting go of one’s ego, it is said that one can be free from the bondage of life and death forever.

IMG_0218 Perhaps then, some of us can relate to what Chris Sharma has to say – “My ego is powerful and not necessarily working in my best interest all the time…the reason why I started climbing was because I could be free from myself”.
It is now just past 10:00 am. After a wonderful climbing session, I sit down with my guides to exchange climbing beta. As we sit down to share a packet of biscuits, I cannot but help notice that climbing is such a uniting factor. When you go climbing, the barrier of client and guide goes away as do other barriers like language, religion or culture. When we root for each other with words like “allez” and “common man”, there is a selfless purity about it. Perhaps that is why Kamesh left a regular career to promote the sport of climbing. Perhaps that is why even at great personal and financial strain, he continues to persevere on. As I abode the van for my ride back to Bangalore, I am thankful for a wonderful experience with some fabulous people and sincerely hope and pray that Kamesh’s wish to coach an Indian team to an international climbing event comes true soon.
Organized by: Vinod H
Image Galleries:



Copyright © 2015 • The Chennai Trekking Club