Plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky / A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd



Jan 15, 2014

Ajij Shaikh: First Indian to send an 8a boulder



The Outdoor Journal

After chasing the title for two consecutive years, the four-time national champion ascended The Diamond, a day after Tuhin Satarkar became the first Indian to redpoint an 8b+

22 year old Pune-based climber, Ajij Shaikh, became the first Indian to send an 8a (V11) grade of bouldering with his ascents of The Diamond (sit-start) on December 15th and The Middle Way on December 31st, in Hampiin the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. After two weeks of crimping, ripped skin and near-finishes, Ajij completed The Diamond one day after fellow Pune-based climber, Tuhin Satarkar, became the first Indian to redpoint Ganesh (8b+ / 5.14a), India’s hardest sport route, in Badami.

Both problems were long-standing projects for Ajij, “I’d been trying both for the past two years and had my doubts when I started, but it felt nice being the first Indian to complete them”, said the four-time national champion who was in near disbelief, before breaking out into a victorious yell, post his ascent. Ajij, who kept falling at the top out, explained that using the last hold a bit differently did the trick. “A little change in my footwork also really helped”, he said.

On New Year’s Eve, he cracked Chris Sharma’s mega-classic, The Middle Way. To finish the crimpy, overhanging, granite power-problem, he had to study videos of Sharma and Canadian climber Sonnie Trotter doing the route. “His (Sharma) style was difficult, he’s taller than me and that makes a difference. The other approach suited me more”, Ajij said, adding that he had to plan very well where he’d go static and where dynamic. After falling twice at the top out, he completed it with world para-climbing silver medallist, Manikandan Kumar amongst others egging him on. “When he finally caught the last hold, everyone around him burst into happiness. There was such relief in his expression. It was wonderful” said Manikandan. 

However, grim financial challenges loom large. He needs a steady sponsor and perhaps a job to support his family; only that will allow him to train hard and experience growth. Even these ascents were done with borrowed shoes, as he couldn’t immediately afford a pair. Getting sponsorships is very tough in India, which despite a thriving outdoors community does not have many major outdoor brands represented directly, but only through local distributors who are often disinterested in backing the community.

In the context of their achievements, Tuhin Satarkar (who receives Red Bull support) said “All of us are practicing like hell to enhance our climbing skills. If you hear about people climbing 8cs or 9as, that’s just the hard work talking; but the Indian climbing scene is definitely changing for the best!”

So why has it taken us this long to get here, in the first place? “It’s our thinking; we don’t try hard routes. If you don’t try hard grades, you’ll never know the kind of growth you require. 8a or 8b isn’t difficult; with effort, everything is possible” says Ajij, who dreams of climbing with American phenom, Dave Graham, one day.

But he’s optimistic, “8a is not enough for me, I want to do more 8b’s and 8c’s and open lots of new routes” he replies, when asked what’s next. For now, certain ghosts have been exorcised and he’s enjoying the after effects. 

Note from The Outdoor Journal Team: “Climbing grades”, while subjective, are fairly consistent amongst grading systems around the world. A climbing grade essentially describes the difficulty of the climb- sometimes defined by the sender, and other times by a group of climbers that reach a common consensus. There are a variety of systems used around the world; the most popular however, are the American, British, French and UIAA free climbing grading classifications. For more information, see: http://aaj.americanalpineclub.org/extras/grade-comparisons/

Image © Manikandan Kumar

New Delhi, India

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Adventure Travel

Oct 18, 2017

EOFT is Back With 7 of the Year’s Best Adventure Films

The European Outdoor Film Tour or EOFT for those in the know, Europe’s largest outdoor film event is playing once again across 300 locations in 14 countries.



Apoorva Prasad

Here’s our review of this year’s selection. Keep reading for a chance to win free tickets! You can also click here to find a screening near you.

The show begins with ‘Choices’, an emotionally-charged portrait of Steph Davis – American climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer. Steph rose to serious prominence sometime in the early 00s thanks to her ever-increasing list of achievements, as well as the fact that she became one half of a famous couple – her late husband, the inimitable Dean Potter, kept the climbing world equally, if not more riveted.

But Steph has suffered several tragedies (read our review of Steph’s second book, ‘Learning to Fly’). Both her former spouse and second husband died in separate wingsuit accidents. As Steph climbs and BASE jumps in the film, her current partner reiterates that Steph’s choices in life are driven by her desire to constantly seek ‘ultimate freedom’. “Climbing makes me happy”, she says, and while that might sound simplistic to some, maybe even juvenile, in reality, it is a very deep and powerful statement when we drive deeper into the meaning of a life lived to the limit of absolute freedom. A great film on why outdoor athletes do what they do.

Ice Call
Short film on the European Outdoor Film Tour following Sam Favret freestyle skiing inside the giant Mer de Glace glacier, like it’s some kind of grownup terrain park. Whoa.

Follow The Fraser
A bunch of downhill mountain bikers downhill mountain bike some biggish hills in Canada. “The closest you’ll get to skiing with two wheels”. Nice shots. ’Nuff said.

Dug Out
“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, and our two British lads decide to not prove Noel Coward wrong by heading off into the Amazon jungle of Ecuador to live with the remote and isolated Huaorani tribe, where they ‘befriend the natives’, chop a tree, build a dugout canoe and paddle down the river back to civilization. Simple, right? (This reminds us of our very own Brit kayakers exploring and paddling remote rivers across India.)

Of course, hilarity ensues, including nakedness and survival on banana-water and maggots. The film ends on a deeply troubling, somber note, reminding us that the Amazon is today under a deep and existential threat from oil and logging interests. One of the best films of the tour.

Into Twin Galaxies
The world’s only female Master Polar Guide Sarah McNair-Landry (read an exclusive interview with her here), and two dudes decide to kite-ski across the Greenland ice cap so that they can maybe, possibly, kayak a river they think they might have spotted on Google Earth. Erik Boomer and Ben Stookesberry went on Google and found a meltwater stream from a Greenland glacier they thought they could make a first kayak descent of.

So they got Sarah involved as the experienced expedition guide, took a boat to the eastern edge of Greenland, to travel 1000km across on foot dragging their kayaks and supplies to the western edge to a place they call “Twin Galaxies” (no, it’s literally just a location on a map with no inhabitation or life of any sort). Is this river actually flowing? Is it even kayakable?

They don’t really know. Kiteskiing across the ice cap is the only way to do it without support; and well, I guess it does make it more of an adventure. Unfortunately, <<SPOILER ALERT>> on Day 3, Sarah’s safety gets stuck during a gust of wind and she breaks her back… But they carry on. <<END SPOILER ALERT>>. Of course, to kite-ski you need wind, and some days there just ain’t any, so each person just has to haul that 100-kilo pig with their kayak, sled and supplies. On other days it’s booming, so they do “10-on, 2-off” – ten hours moving, two hours resting, repeat.

My level-headed hiking friend next to me whispered that she couldn’t understand what drove these people. It seemed a bit too insane for her. But rest assured, it’s a beautifully shot movie and I’d watch it again.

My heart skipped a small beat when the lineup announced Ushba, a movie about skiing in Georgia. I was in Georgia last year, in Mazeri village at the base of Ushba and I’ve been worryingly developing an obsession with this peak, and this part of the world.

Unfortunately, after the epic nature of the previous films from the European Outdoor Film Tour, this seemed to be a pretty random, “dude, that was extreme!” kind of film with some good images of skiing, but an abrupt shift from the pensive, exploratory and environmental nature of some of the other films.

Good shots made want to get back to surfing some snow soon, but I could barely tell if they were even on Ushba, fearsome killer mountain, testing ground of Mikhail Khergiani, Tiger of the Caucasus? A bit unfortunate.


La Congenialita
The legendary Italian mountaineer Simone Moro has one of alpinism’s most storied careers, as the only person to have made first winter ascents of four of the world’s eight-thousanders. This film about the relationship between him and his much younger climbing partner, Tamara Lunger, 30-year old ski alpinism champion during a 2017 expedition to attempt the world’s highest traverse on the Kanchenjunga massif, shows how the mentor-mentee equation has begun to invert with the passage of time. Touching and also one of the best films of the tour, especially for anyone who’s followed Moro’s career.

And if you haven’t already seen it, here’s the trailer:

All images copyright the photographers / EOFT 17/18.

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