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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon

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Adventure Travel

Sep 14, 2017

First Indian Ascent of Difficult Himalayan Big Wall ‘Samsara is Nirvana’

Indian climbers Kumar Gaurav and Madhu CR recently snagged the coveted second ascent and first repeat ascent of one of the Indian Himalaya's raddest lines.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

Samsara is Nirvana is a 17-pitch big wall climb rated 7b/+ (5.12b/c). Located in the Kharnak Gorge, in Ladakh, it ascends a steep, 750-meter tall limestone wall, at over 4,000 meters in elevation. The late Swiss alpinist Giovanni Quirici, who died on the Eiger in 2011, made the first ascent of Samsara is Nirvana along with Guy Scherrer, Phillip Chabloz, Claude Chardonners and Elie Chevieux in 2007. 

Ever since then, the pitches have lay in wait of suitors seeking the second ascent.

Kumar Gaurav, a 23-year-old from Delhi, was just the guy for the job. He made his first attempt on the route last year. He and his partner climbed until the 12th pitch, where Gaurav took a large fall. He broke a bone in his palm, and doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to climb for the remainder of the year. “But I always [had] the same thing in my mind,” he says. “‘I want to climb this big wall.'”

Gaurav at the belay station, while Madhu CR leads a traverse on the upper pitches of the “Samsara is Nirvana.” Photo: Play.

He spent the year bolstering his other mountaineering skills, unable to do any technical rock climbing because of the plaster cast on his hand, but all the while preparing for his return to Samsara is Nirvana.

This season he was ready to go. Over the summer, Gaurav climbed Stok Kangri (6,153 m), King Yatse 1 (6,401 m) and Kang Yatse 2 (6,250 m), all in alpine style. While great climbs in their own right, they were just warm-up for Gaurav: “My motivation [was] always the same. I wanted to finish Samsara is Nirvana [at the end] of my trip in Ladakh.”

In early September, Madhu CR, a 25-year-old from Bangalore, joined Gaurav for his second attempt on Samsara. Their first two days were discouraging. Intermittent rain kept the wall slick, and the slabby first pitch wouldn’t yield to their efforts. On day 3, Madhu CR pieced pitch 1 together with new beta, giving new hope to the team’s prospects. Each night the duo descended to the ground to sleep before jugging fixed ropes up to their high points the next morning. On day 4, they pushed the ropes up to the base of the 12th pitch, and decided to bivy on the wall that night, committing to one final push. The next day, September 5, they blazed upwards and reached the summit at a civilized 2:00 pm.

Gaurav and CR’s was the second free ascent—which also happened to be the first Indian ascent—of Samsara is Nirvana. The duo’s climb was documented by the Adventure Sports Channel 4Play

Gaurav says the climb was a “dream come true.” Where or what he starts dreaming of next remains to be seen, but with his ambition and skill, it will likely push Indian big wall climbing to even greater heights.

The mountains are calling! Try your hand at climbing Stok Kangri, just like Kumar Gaurav, with The Outdoor Voyage

Madhu leading the final pitch. Photo. 4Play.

Feature Image: Madhu gives Kumar a hand as they approach the summit. Photo: 4Play.

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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