Jess Spate has climbed on every continent except South America and Antarctica. When not halfway up a rock face somewhere, hiking, whitewater kayaking, or surfing, she works for an American climbing gear company and writes articles about her travels and outdoor sports adventures.
Mention India and climbing in the same sentence and most people assume you’re talking about conquering a Himalayan peak with the aid of ice axes and Sherpa guides, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While they are much less well known than the high Himalayas, India does have some really good rock climbing areas. You won’t need to be an expert mountaineer, you won’t need piles of expensive equipment, and you don’t need to be super-fit to enjoy getting high up in Hampi, for example.
Hampi, in Karnataka, is by far the most popular Indian rock climbing destination. The landscape is dotted with massive granite boulders perfect for relaxed, playful climbing. You can use a rope for the longer routes or climb shorter ‘problems’ over a crash mat. The latter style is called bouldering, and it’s what Hampi is all about.
Hampi’s boulders are almost everywhere you look, so there is no shortage of interesting things to climb. Most of the best boulders are within a few minutes walk of the main bazaar, and but it’s worth going a little further to the rocks near the Tiruvengalantha temple or those overlooking the spectacular turrets of Virupaksha, for the views alone.
Sanjay Ghandi National Park is another great place to climb. It’s just outside Mumbai and very easy to get to. Most visitors come for the beautifully carved Kanheri Cave sculptures or for the wildlife (deer, antelope, porcupines and even leopards can be seen in the park), but it’s also increasingly popular with rock climbers. SGNP has it all – history, culture, outstanding natural beauty and great rock, so there are plenty of reasons to go.
Himachal Pradesh is far harder to get to but worth it for those with the experience to climb independently. The chance to get onto almost untouched rock in the shadow of the greatest mountains on Earth is something few climbers would pass up. Manali, some 300km North of Chandigarh, has recently seen visits by top climbers from across the world, and locals are also starting to enjoy the rock in this area.
If you’d like to try climbing but need a little help getting started, there is no shortage of climbing clubs, climbing schools, guides and instructors. You can even try climbing indoors before going outside. Rock climbing is growing fast in India and there are now indoor climbing centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Darjeeling, Calcutta, Bangalore, and most other big cities. Beginners are almost always very welcome.
Even if you’ve never climbed before, a few days on the rock make a great addition to a holiday. It’ll challenge your body and your mind, and let you see views other people never even dream of. We’ve only discussed a few of the possibilities- there are dozens of other climbing destinations to choose from. No matter where you go in India, there is almost certainly a good climbing venue not too far away.
– Jess Spate