Words: KRUTTIKA NADIG
Photographs: JYOTHY KARAT
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Pune, Goa
GREAT FOR Learning rock climbing
Cramped toes, scraped fingers, sore muscles… if these seem like scary words to you, stop reading right now, for that’s what you trade for an exciting weekend in sleepy Badami. A rigorous sport in which people pit their bodies against rock formations or artificial walls in order to scale summits, rock-climbing is a cool activity for the fit and fearless.
Among Badami’s almond-coloured sandstone hills are some of India’s best rock-climbing routes. Sign up for a course with Sport Climbing India. You’re introduced to the basics of climbing before being let loose on the rock, with a goal in sight but no pressure to perform. A quick introductory bouldering session helps you get a hang of the sport and a feel for the terrain. Soon you’re learning the ropes – how to leverage narrow holds in the rock, how to tie a clove hitch, and how to ‘belay’ (secure) another climber as they ascend.
Rock-climbing is safe, but there’s no mollycoddling here – this sport challenges your body and mind, leaving you elated along every inch of the 30ft-high beginner’s route you conquer. From Bunks Bum and Master of Biscuits to Babu Killer and Ganesha, there’s a wealth of creatively-named climbing routes here. Novices needn’t fear, as the difficulty grades range from 5a+ (easy) to 8b+ (difficult). Instructor Praveen cheerfully prods you on every now and then. And when this reigning national champ demonstrates the moves, it’s a sight to behold. Like an artist, he cuts arcs in the air as he climbs, hauls and leaps from one seemingly impossible place to the next. It’s a double test. Your wits must help you decide which crevice to reach for, and your endurance must keep you going as your feet turn to jelly. Slipping a few times (and being saved by the belay) is inevitable, but the promise of the summit lures you to try again. And so, when you huff and puff and manage another push off your toes, there’s no sweeter feeling.
Coming back down is less taxing, but more dramatic. Standing on the edge of the cliff, you rappel down, with Praveen guiding you from above, letting you have a fun moment dangling midway through the descent. You slowly learn to trust your feet, which have a way of finding a landing pad.
This activity surprises you with what your body can do – it’s just you, the rock, the sweat and the lovely landscapes. And Badami is rich in the latter, so it’s a sin not to explore them, too. Head to Mahakuta, a scenic temple complex that invites you to dive into its swimming tank with local kids after a hard day of climbing, before returning to the hills.
If you choose to stay with Sport Climbing India, one of these hills is where your campsite is set up, with the town’s twinkling lights, shimmering lake and a crumbling fort in the distance. It’s calm and secluded up here. A wintry wind nudges you closer to the fire as you stretch your muscles and relax. Campfire stories, a tasty barbecue, and cosy tents make the perfect end to this adrenaline-charged getaway.