logo

The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.

- Alexander von Humboldt

image

Events

Feb 25, 2019

GritFest 2019: The long-awaited trad climbing event returns

Fueled by a common passion, an assembly of seasoned climbers revive the traditional climbing movement just outside of Delhi, India.

The wind coming off the rock face felt inhospitable, but the air itself gave off a sense of communal joy. After 33 years in absence, the thrill at the Great Indian Trad Festival, or Gritfest, emerged again for a new generation. 

We stood together in ceremony around Mohit Oberoi, aka Mo, the architect of the Dhauj trad climbing era, whose been climbing in the area since 1983. Mo, who continues to inspire many, briefly underlined the cause behind the Gritfest: a two-day annual trad climbing gathering that finally saw the light of day on February 23rd and 24th 2019. The gathering, although one of its kind, was not the first. The first one took place in 1985 and was put together by Tejvir Khurrana.

Read next: Mohit Oberoi: My History with Dhauj, Delhi’s Real Trad Area

“Dhauj is huge and there exists such an amazing playground right on their doorstep”

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the climbing scene in India, Dhauj is where some of the country’s finest climbing began. Located in Faridabad Haryana, Dhauj is roughly between 18 to 20 miles away from Delhi. The region is home to the Aravali Mountains that start in Delhi and pass through southern Haryana to the state of Rajasthan across the west, ending in Gujrat.

The Great Indian Trad Fest was long overdue and brought together by Ashwin Shah, who is the figurative sentinel guard of the Dhauj territory. In addition to being the guy with more gear than you’d ever expect one man to own, he is also often caught headhunting belayers, sometimes even climbers. His never-aging obsession with Dhauj is also very contagious. I’m grateful to start my own climbing journey with Ashwin. In my first attempts at belaying, my simple mistake caused him to drop on a 5-meter whipper. It could have been more.

Rajesh, on the left, getting ready to belay, Ashwin in the middle and Prerna on the right

That whipper, in hindsight, transmuted into a defining moment for me. The primal squeal Ashwin let out while falling made me realize the danger of this new passion I couldn’t help but fall for myself. That being said, had it not been for Ashwin’s impressionable optimism to entrust me with his life, Dhauj wouldn’t have held the same allure that it does for me now. Ashwin started contemplating the Gritfest after his return from Ramanagara Romp in Bangalore: a three-day event that gauged the possibility of climbs undertaken during a two-day window.

Read Next: Why the Aravalli Forest Range is the Most Degraded Zone in India

The idea behind the Gritfest is to celebrate a legacy built over the last four to five decades. A legacy that should be preserved for posterity as it has been thus far. “The objective is to think about the future,” said Mo, as he jogged his memory from back in the days. Furthermore, the fest also aims to encourage and educate aspiring climbers on traditional climbing: a form of climbing that requires climbers to place gear to protect against falls, and remove it when a pitch is complete.

Mo leading Aries at the Prow.

Sadly, the fest also takes place at a time when the government of Haryana seeks to amend an age-old act,  the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 (PLPA), that would put thousands of acres of land in the Aravalli range under threat. India’s Supreme Court, however, has reigned in and we will likely know the outcome in the days to come.

The know-how around trad climbing rests with a handful of members in the community. This also makes the Gritfest ideal for supporting a trad-exploration pivot in the country. Dhauj, also home to the oldest fold mountains in India, has been scoped out with lines that go over 100 feet. The guidebook compiled by Mohit Oberoi documents some fine world-class routes since the early stages of climbing in and around Delhi. With grades ranging between 5.4 to 5.12a, Dhauj has more than 270 promising routes.

The fest kicked off with Mo leading the first pitch on Aries, a 5.6 rating, 60 feet high face at the prow, while the community followed. Seeing Mo repeat some of the climbs he’s been doing for over 30 years was exhilarating to say the least. Amongst the fellow climbers, we also had some professional athletes, including Sandeep Maity, Bharat Bhusan, and Prerna Dangi. The fest also saw participation from the founders of Suru Fest and BoulderBox.

Kira rappelling down from the top of Hysteria with a stengun, 5.10a.

“Trad climbing can be a humbling experience”

While the Gritfest finally came to fruition, I wondered as to why it took so long for it to happen. One of the questions that I particularly had in mind was regarding the popularity of places such as Badami and Hampi over Dhauj. Although the style of climbing varies across all regions, the scope and thrill of climbing in Dhauj remains underestimated. For one reason, I knew that there is a serious dearth of trad climbing skills which makes it partly inaccessible. Whereas the red sandstone crags bolted with possibly the best sports routes in India make the approach to Badami relatively easier.

I reached out to Mo, and asked him to share his perspective on the fest as well as some of the questions I had in mind.

1) Tell us a little about your thoughts on theGritfest?

It’s a great way for climbers to get together and climb, form new partnerships, share information and also solidify the ethic part of climbing, especially in Dhauj, which is purely a trad climbing area.

2) What is it that the current community can learn from Gritfest?

The possibility of climbing in Dhauj is huge and there exists such an amazing playground right on their doorstep, also Dhauj is an amazing place to learn “trad climbing”.

3) Since it was the first installment, where do you see it heading in the future?

I think it will grow to a large number of climbers congregating here as long as we KEEP IT SIMPLE, and climb as much as possible. We should keep the learning workshops “How to climb” type of courses out of this. This should be one event where we just climb at whatever level we feel comfortable with.

4) Why is it that Dhauj isn’t nearly as popular as Badami or Hampi?

I’m not sure why, really. It’s possible that the grades are not “bragging” grades and climbers don’t feel comfortable starting to lead or climb on “trad” at a lower range of grades. “Trad” climbing can be a humbling experience as one has to work up from the lower grades upwards. It is both a mental and physical challenge unlike climbing on bolts. Despite the guidebook, there is a reluctance to going out to Dhauj which surprises me, that Delhi / NCR locals would rather have travelled more times to Badami / Hampi than take a short ride to their local crag.

Perhaps it is about bragging rights. Perhaps it’s about the lack of skills. Whatever the reason might be, Dhauj will continue to inspire generations to come and fests like Gritfest will serve to strengthen our community. Whether you are new to climbing or have been at it for years, there is always something to learn.

Continue Reading

image

Events

Apr 09, 2019

Running For My Son’s Life

The doctors told this family there’s nothing that can be done. This father doesn’t agree, and now he’s running for his son’s life, proving the impossible is possible.

image

WRITTEN BY

Ryan Richardson

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a rare muscle-wasting disease that is 100% fatal. Because the disease is so rare, funding to find a cure is practically non-existent.

“If I can get through a race that I’m told I’m not supposed to, or I shouldn’t even be at the starting line, it helps give me a mental advantage to take on a disease that has never been cured before.”

Jim wears his heart on his sleeve, and his son on his shoulders.

After suffering a heart attack during Jim’s second attempt at completing the 170 mile (273 km) ultra race at the Grand to Grand Ultra in September 2017, Jim was determined to complete the race on his third attempt. The following year, Jim headed back to G2G where he finally accomplished his three year goal. After seven brutal stages Jim crossed the finish line with his son, Jamesy, on his shoulders.

In 2013, Jamesy, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. When the Raffone family learned of Jamsey’s terminal diagnosis, the doctors told them that nothing more could be done to help them.

That was either the right thing or the wrong thing to say to the Raffone family. Instead of listening to what the doctors told them, the Raffone family has been doing everything in their power to raise awareness about this deadly disease, and ultimately help to find a cure.

Jim runs along Lake Pukaki at the foot of Mount Cook. Photo by: Ryan Richardson

Alps 2 Ocean Ultra, New Zealand.

The ultra community is a niche community. It’s also an international community. Michael Sandri, the founder of the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra in New Zealand had met Jim while participating in the Grand to Grand Ultra in 2016. Sandri was constantly being asked by other participants, “Why isn’t there an ultra in New Zealand”. He couldn’t think of a good reason why New Zealand doesn’t host an ultra race. With the help of family and friends, he created that race.

Sandri invited Jim to participate in the race’s second annual run. This was an opportunity to spread the word about Duchenne around the other side of the planet. An opportunity that was far too great for Jim to refuse. Even if it meant not having sufficient time to train for the epic 200 mile (323 km) race.

The gravel trails on Stage 3 take their toll on the runners. Photo by: Ryan Richardson

The Alps 2 Ocean Ultra begins at the base of Mount Cook. The course skirts along alpine lakes and ascends up countless mountain ridges and foothills. Eventually descending into the low lying valleys, the course finishes along the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

“Every person who talks to me or asks me about ultra running, I always tell them about JAR of Hope and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.”

Fellow JAR of Hope teammate Bill McCarthy, another Grand to Grand participant, fundraised in support of JAR of Hope. Supporting them in their mission to find a cure for Duchenne. McCarthy had heard about Duchenne for the first time when he saw Jim running at the Grand to Grand Ultra in 2017. Bill was shocked to learn about Duchenne and he thinks about the Raffone family every single day. “What makes Duchenne so unique, is the lack of support and funding from governments and pharmaceutical companies because it’s such a rare disease.”

Left to right. Bill McCarthy (USA), Charlotte Rodier (FR), Jim Raffone (USA), Ian Chidgey (UK). JAR of Hope A2O Ultra 2019 Team Members. Photo by: Ryan Richardson

Despite the support, Jim encourages his teammates to “run their own race”. Fundraising and supporting JAR of Hope before the race is welcomed. Once the gun goes off, that’s all for them.

27 Hours of Suffering.

“why would someone spend almost 30 hours out there on a course? Then I’m able to tell them about my son’s story”

The elite runners at the front of the pack would complete the long stage in just over 10 hours, after 54 miles (88 km) and a ton of climbing, Jim estimated it would take him nearly 30 hours to run the same route. This isn’t about competing for Jim. It’s about a platform. It’s an opportunity to continue raising awareness about Duchenne. “It’s not about being a ‘competitor’. At that point, it’s all about the admiration for this fellow human being and what they’re willing to put themselves through. Then they want to know why, why would someone spend almost 30 hours out there on a course? Then I’m able to tell them about my son’s story.”

Gravel beaches made the technical running on stage 3 even more difficult. Photo by: Ryan Richardson

After running through the night and making one last epic push over a nearby mountain, darkness eventually turned into dawn. Michael Sandri stayed awake through the entire night to ensure he could greet every last participant coming in from the long stage. Sandri greeted Jim with a hug as Jim finally came into camp from his 27 hour day.

Sandri relayed a message from Jim’s family, “One checkpoint at a time captain”.

There would still be many checkpoints to go after the long stage. However, surviving the long stage was a huge victory. The hardest part was over, theoretically.

Jim collapsed into his tent after running over 100 kilometres through New Zealand’s mountainous terrain. Photo by: Ryan Richardson

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over.

The next day was even tougher. There was almost just as much climbing but in a much shorter distance. The climbs were steep and brutal. The time cut-offs were also considerably more strict, so the runners had to be quick.

This race would be tough for Jim, all the way until the end. The end did finally come through. 7 days, 200 miles later, Jim had finally run over the finish line in the small coastal town of Oamaru. The crowd of spectators, participants’ families, and locals, all cheered on Jim as he crossed the finish line. Jim running with his JAR of Hope flag in the air.

It took everything he had to cross that finish line. Yet, he somehow mustered up the energy to steal the crowd’s attention for just a little longer. Standing underneath the finish line banner, Jim had shared his son’s story.

The story isn’t over yet. Jim is on a mission to grow his JAR of Hope team, to bring them back to the races he has already run. Jim hopes to take JAR of Hope and his son’s story to Ultra races on all 7 continents.

To learn more about Duchenne muscular dystrophy and JAR of Hope, visit https://jarofhope.org/

This story originally featured on Ryan Richardson’s blog.

Recent Articles



Jess Roskelley, David Lama and Hansjörg Auer: How the World Reacted.

On Friday, the world was forced to come to terms with the passing of three climbing pioneers. Perhaps the biggest loss to the outdoor community in decades, respects were paid from around the world.

Alpinists David Lama, Jess Rosskelley, and Hansjörg Auer Presumed Dead on Howse Peak

The world-class mountaineers were climbing Alberta’s Howse Peak on Tuesday, April 16th when a large avalanche carried them to their likely deaths.

Five Petitions To Sign This Earth Week

Only have five minutes to spare, but still want to help make a difference? Add your name to these petitions!

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Advertising

Analytics

Other