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Athletes

May 01, 2017

Ueli Steck: The Carpenter Who Climbed Mountains

Ueli Steck, who died in Nepal on April 30, was probably this generation’s greatest alpinist.

WRITTEN BY

Nuno Rocha

A goal like the Everest-Lhotse Traverse via the Hornbein Route, while a major coup if successful, was not objectively dangerous in the same way as his speed solos in the Alps. But in the end, climbing is serious business, and even the best are subject to the whims of chance in the high mountains.

UPDATE: Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck was cremated in Nepal on Thursday, May 4, according to a press release from his family.  Steck’s wife Nicole and both of the couple’s parents attended a traditional Nepalese ceremony at Tengboche Monastery. The press release states, “The Family described the [ceremony] as solemn and impressive, sad and at the same time liberating.” The press release also offers further details of the circumstances surrounding Steck’s death. Though he initially intended to acclimatize on Everest on April 30, the night before “Ueli noted that the conditions [on] the Nuptse wall were ideal, which is why he decided in the evening to change his plan and to climb up to Nuptse the following day.” He began climbing on the 30th well before sunrise. “Ueli’s accident occurred [at] around 7600 meters at about 9.00 [a.m.] (local time),” the press release goes on. His body was retrieved by helicopter at an altitude of 6600 meters, meaning his fatal fall was approximately 1,000 meters in length. Despite this new information, exactly what happened up on Nuptse remains (and likely will continue to remain) unknown.
A portion of Steck’s ashes will be scattered in his home country of Switzerland. For those wishing to offer condolences or share stories of the inspiration Ueli provided to them, please visit: http://www.uelisteck.ch/en/rip


In a video of Ueli Steck setting the speed record on the Eiger North Face in 2008, soaring aerial footage captures the Swiss alpinist daggering up the final, steep snow-slope to the summit ridge. The musician Radical Face’s anthemic song “Welcome Home” combines with the jagged peaks to create a timeless, limitless moment. In those frames, Ueli is invincible.

It came as a shock to the entire climbing community when, on April 30, news spread that Ueli Steck had died in Nepal. He was in the Khumbu to attempt a bold new enchainment that would have linked Everest and Lhotse, via the unrepeated 1963 Hornbein Route on the former. Steck arrived in the region in early April to train and acclimatize with partner Tenji Sherpa.

On April 30, Steck was climbing alone on Nuptse (the third peak in the horseshoe after Everest and Lhotse) as part of his acclimatization regimen. Details are still fuzzy as to what precisely took place. On his blog, veteran Everest chronicler and climber Alan Arnette shared a report from Larry Daugherty, a member of Adventure Ascents’ 2017 Everest expedition: “Body found at the base of West Nuptse, climber apparently fell alone and unprotected. Initially, it was suspected to be Ueli based on clothing and apparently his acclimatization plan…then they confirmed with my team 10 minutes later it was in fact him.”

Steck’s body was recovered swiftly and airlifted to Lukla, the only airstrip in the Everest region, where it was flown to Kathmandu.

A representative for Steck told The Outdoor Journal that his family members were en route to Nepal and that it is their wish to have Ueli’s funeral there. Steck is survived by his wife Nicole. He was 40 years old.

The Outdoor Journal interviewed Steck about his Everest-Lhotse plans on April 4, just before he flew to Nepal. When asked about the serious nature of such a climb, he acknowledged that anything in the Himalayas carries with it different kind of seriousness: “Yea, I mean, you’re exposed… it’s 8,000 meters.”

But part of the shock felt by climbers around the world at Ueli’s death stems from his complete mastery on the type of terrain he was dealing with on Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. “For me, for example, I can move really comfortably in this kind of terrain. Coming down from 8,000 meterslet’s take the South Col—I know I can be in Camp 2 in one-and-a-half hours,” Steck said.  “And on this terrain, like the Hornbein, I can move up and down however I want without needing any technical equipment. It’s a skill I’ve worked on over 20 years. This terrain, which is serious climbing for other people, is basically like walking for me.”

Before leaving for Kathmandu, he told The Outdoor Journal, “I only do stuff I feel comfortable with, except a few climbs I’m not proud of. I know what it means to be up on Everest. I have a lot of respect for the mountain. But I’m not scared.”

Ueli Steck was born in Lagnau im Emmental, Switzerland in 1976. He began climbing at the age of 12, and first climbed the Eigerthe mountain with which he will forever be linkedat 18. He trained as a carpenter and began working in his home country, all the while pushing the level of his climbing. In an email to The Outdoor Journal from Tajikistan, Billi Bierling, mountaineering journalist and assistant to Himalayan archivist Miss Elizabeth Hawley, notes, “When you look at [Ueli’s] CV on his website, it says: ‘Profession: Trained Carpenter’ even before he lists all his incredible mountaineering achievements.” It was this down-to-earth “modesty” that Bierling admired in him.

Steck first gained acclaim for his solo ascents on the Eiger North Face. In 2007, he took the speed record under four hours for the first time in history.

2008 was a career-defining year for Steck. On February 13 of that year, he set a new, blisteringly fast speed record on the Eiger North Face, at 2 hours 47 minutes and 33 seconds. Then on April 24, Steck and climbing partner Simon Anthamatten, capped a three-day first ascent of the northwest face of Nepal’s Teng Kang Poche (6,487 m), a climb for which they were awarded the Piolet D’Or in 2009. Finally, as icing on the cake, from August 29 to 30, he left his mark in the Eiger’s history of hard, pure rock routes. Along with Stephan Siegrist, Steck made the first free ascent of Paciencia, a route that the two had cleaned and bolted in 2003. The climb became the hardest rock climb on the Eiger, ascending 23 pitches to the top of the wall, the hardest clocking in at 8a (5.13b).  

Steck acquired the nickname of “the Swiss Machine,” due to his extreme speed, diligent training and seeming perfection in the alpine. But according to Billi Bierling, also a friend of Steck’s, “Ueli NEVER liked the term ‘Swiss Machine.’ He was branded with it but never liked it.”

His achievements in the 2010s were just as noteworthy as he turned his attention more and more to the Himalayas. In 2011, he soloed Shishapangma (8,027 m) in just ten-and-a-half hours, and in 2012 he summited Everest for the first time (both without supplemental oxygen).

Then in 2013, he completed a climb for which he won his second Piolet D’Or: a solo, 28-hour round-trip first ascent of Annapurna’s South Face via the previously unfinished Lafaille Route.

His 2013 solo of Annapurna followed hot on the heels of a now infamous controversy on Everest between Steck, Simone Moro, and Jonathan Griffith on one side, and Sherpa ice doctors fixing ropes on the other. Steck, Moro and Griffith had come to Everest with the goal of attempting the same Everest-Lhotse Traverse which Steck intended to attempt with Tenji Sherpa this season before his death. The exact circumstances of the debacle remain convoluted to this day, but the events revolved around the Western climbers moving above the Sherpa as they fixed ropes, and accidentally raining down ice on them; an exchange of words, including Nepalese slurs directed at the Sherpa; and a subsequent altercation at the climbers’ camp in which the Sherpa physically attacked them.

Following 2013’s extreme highs and lows represented by his Annapurna solo and the Everest altercation, Steck shifted focus back to his stomping grounds in the Alps for the next couple of years. In 2015, over the course of 62 days, Steck climbed every peak in the Alps over 4,000 meters high as part of his 82 Summits project.

But the Hornbein Route and the Everest-Lhotse Traverse remained firmly imprinted in Ueli’s mind. It took him two failed trips before he finally succeeded in climbing Annapurna’s South Face. Before he departed for his third, successful attempt on the face back in 2013, he was quoted in an article at swissinfo.ch as saying, “The South Face of Annapurna I is an old project. I have attempted it twice already and I guess you need patience if you want to climb hard routes on an 8000m-peak. Sometimes you have a lucky punch, but often you have to go back, and everything has to be right.” Having proven this idea to himself on Annapurna, and with the aesthetic, historic appeal of the Everest-Lhotse Traverse, it was only a matter of time before he decided to head back to the Khumbu for unfinished business.

But it was not meant to be this time around. Ueli’s aura of invincibility from the 2008 Eiger video was just thatan aura. Even the best are subject to the whims of chance in the high mountains. Ueli Steck’s passing has left an unfillable void in the greater ranges of the world. The mountains have never seen a climber quite like him, and they may not again for a long time to come.

Below are additional thoughts from Billi Bierling, shared exclusively with The Outdoor Journal:

“When I heard about this tragic accident on Sunday morning, I was in the midst of translating his latest book, which I have been working on for the past two months. Ueli and I were very excited when one of his books was finally going to be published in the English-speaking world as he always wanted to have an English version of one of his works. So I have lived and breathed Ueli for the past two months. I would like to share an excerpt from the Annapurna South Face chapter, which I re-read several times after I had heard about his accident. Maybe this section can help us understand where Ueli was coming from:

I was completely detached from the other world. There was nothing else but climbing. No goal, no future, no past. I was climbing in the here and now. One swing of the ice axe after the other; one step after the other. I only saw my ice axes and how they penetrated the snow and ice. My view narrowed and I had adopted some sort of tunnel vision. And here I was; in the middle of this gigantic face with very limited equipment. I felt light, but also extremely exposed. I knew that the tiniest mistake would mean certain death. However, I was not scared of making a mistake. I was still giving orders and controlling the person climbing the south face of Annapurna. It did not feel like me. If this person fell, it would not really concern me.

 

I remember when I once asked him how he could possibly NOT be scared when scaling such huge steep faces unroped, he responded: ‘Climbing is like walking the stairs. I never expect to slip and fall. Do you?’ And this is exactly how he viewed climbing – like walking the stairs. But unfortunately, on Sunday he slipped and fell, and it is a great loss for the climbing community, a great loss for his friends and family and of course a huge loss for his wife Nicole. My thoughts are with all of them and I will certainly remember Ueli as an amazing climber, a good friend and an inspiration for a lot of people. Despite his speed ascents he never lost his love and passion for the mountains.”

 

 

 

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Climbers

Aug 16, 2018

New Kids on the Bloc: Boulderers in India

Is this the bouldering revolution we’ve all been waiting for? The first generation of Indian climbing bums leads the charge. Here are a few of their stories.

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This story was originally published in print, in the Summer 2014 issue of The Outdoor Journal, you can subscribe here.

It was a mildly overcast evening on December 15th, 2013. A pleasant breeze blew across the ancient granite formations of India’s bouldering mecca, Hampi – perfect conditions to attempt The Diamond, a superb 8a sloper arête.

Indian climbers were pushing harder grades than the normally dominant European visitors.

Ajij Shaikh, a stick-thin, withdrawn young man was alone nearby, composing himself. He’d come excruciatingly close to completing it, but had repeatedly failed at the crux. He stood up to return to the problem. Taking off his shirt, he revealed shred upon shred of lean brown muscle. Ajij pulled on a pair of borrowed climbing shoes, took a few breaths and sat down to try again. I stood behind, ready to spot him should he fall.

“My dream was to become a doctor. But you have to study a lot; it was too difficult on us financially, so I had to give that up…”, Ajij Sheikh (pictured here) explains how his education got the axe. Here on an unknown 7c+ in Singhad Fort, bolted by Ranjit Shinde; Pune, Maharashtra. PHOTO: Sharad Chandra

This time he flowed through the traverse. A slightly different heel-hook and mantle pushed him through the crux. When Ajij topped out, he became the first Indian to send an 8a graded boulder problem. Within the next two months, Sandeep Kumar Maity and Vikas ‘Jerry’ Kumar would follow with more 8a sends.

The 2013-14 climbing season in Hampi, of which I was a part, was the first one ever where Indian climbers were pushing harder grades than the normally dominant European visitors. Here in India, with an extremely nascent mainstream climbing culture, this heralds the emergence of our first generation of climbing bums – individuals willing to forsake everything for the sole purpose of climbing hard and exploring their potential.

But where did this begin?

He comes back into town either for rations or to watch a cricket match

My starting point was Paul ‘Pil’ Lockey, a forty-five year old British juggler and climber from a trad background who’s established the largest volume of bouldering in two of India’s biggest areas – Hampi and Himachal Pradesh. Normally ‘Pillu’, as he’s known by Hampi’s locals, stays in caves while developing bouldering areas. He comes back into town either for rations or to watch a cricket match. Our conversations would happen during those windows.

When in the 7th grade at the Sant Tukaram Nagar Primary School, Ajij thought of dropping out – severe poverty had plunged him into a depression and made education seem pointless. Under a mentor, Vivek Sable, he started competing nationally and representing Maharashtra. His exposure to people and places outside his home (pictured here) in Pimprii, Pune kept him motivated. Photo: Sharad Chandra.

“I was looking down…and there was this wolf, just standing there!” he laughed, while telling me about his experience after topping out one of Hampi’s most revered problems, Kundalini Rising.  “It’s so hard to find a new three-star 7a problem in England…but here in India, there’s so much potential.” His Indian obsession began with a postcard of Hampi he received in 1992, from Jerry Moffat, Kurt Albert, Johnny Dawes and Bob Pritchard who were exploring its potential at the time. “It was just boulders…for miles…I couldn’t pass on this” he laughs, recalling how near-ridiculous Hampi’s unexplored potential seemed to him then.

In 1993, he visited for the first time with his then girlfriend. The first problem he opened was Cosmic Crimp (6b+), a near-30-foot highball. “I had to on-sight it, and there were no crashpads at the time” he recalls, explaining how bouldering developed into a real and separate discipline in climbing only in the late 90s. Since ‘93 he’s visited every year, staying months at a time.

When in the 7th grade at the Sant Tukaram Nagar Primary School, Ajij thought of dropping out – severe poverty had plunged him into a depression and made education seem pointless. Under a mentor, Vivek Sable, he started competing nationally and representing Maharashtra. His exposure to people and places outside his home (pictured here) in Pimprii, Pune kept him motivated. Photo: Sharad Chandra.

“Did you come across any Indian climbers in Hampi, back in the 90s?” I asked Pil. “A few…mostly from Bangalore…but it wasn’t too crowded until 2004” he said, referring to the climbing tourism boom Hampi experienced after the release of Pilgrimage, a movie documenting Chris Sharma’s climbs in the area. Yet somehow Himachal’s star visits didn’t have quite the same effect. Fred Nicole and Bernd Zangerl, two of the most pivotal figures in bouldering history, visited and established classics such as “Nicole’s Problem”, a 7c+ overhanging arête in Solang, which I was working recently. This lack of interest perplexes Pil, who feels Himachal is superior to Hampi. “I first came there in 2002, from the Rocklands (South Africa), looking for something to climb during the summer…” he recalls. With other travelling climbers, Pil and Harry developed bouldering in Manali, Chhatru, Chota Dara and the boulder fields between Lahaul and Spiti.

Where were the Indians then? I turned to Mohit “Mo” Oberoi for answers. A veteran climber from Delhi and the founder of Adventure 18, one of the first outdoor gear stores in the country, Mo “was hanging around the crags of Delhi – Dhauj, DamDama, Old Rocks and PBG.” When he came down south in 1986 to climb Savandurga (a 1200-foot high monolith showcased in The Outdoor Journal Issue 01) he met Dinesh Kaigonhalli, another figure well known in Bangalore’s circles. Along with many other now-forgotten names, they put up big wall and sport routes across the country.

And Mo wasn’t at today’s warm up levels either – back in 1994, he was climbing E7 (7c+) trad routes. Neither was Indian bouldering stagnant – by the early 2000’s, areas like Turuhalli near Bangalore had plenty of classics, put up Indians who’re mostly in their 40s now. So what happened then? Why hasn’t anyone else heard of them, and why has the Indian climbing growth curve been so slow?

“Rocks, rocks, rocks!” yells Mo, who represents the old guard of English-speaking, public school educated climbing enthusiasts. He says that the younger generation of climbers got too wrapped up in competition climbing, spending little to no time on natural rock. Since my generation is finally working on outdoor projects again, grade progression is finally visible, he says.

But why was this generation ignoring natural rock in favour of competitions?

Sandeep dropped school because he saw no point in wasting his efforts or his parents’ scant resources. He started working as an outdoor instructor for Rs.250 a day. 90o Arete, a 7a problem in Hampi. Photo: Vinay Potdar.

It’s the economy, stupid.

Mo’s generation and the Himalayan Club lot came from a wildly different socio-economic strata than the post 90’s climbers. The later young guns came from socially conservative, poor backgrounds, unlike their predecessors. Their families often expected and required financial support from their children. Competitive climbing did not require the resources that outdoor climbing did, while offering the promise of returns via cash prizes of up to Rs. 20,000. It simply became the more viable option for those with climbing skills. As for the other upper-class kids from the 90s? Well, they just left the country to live and climb abroad.

I’m fairly sure climbing came to mean different things to the two generations – high slinging, adventurous pursuit to one, and escapism from grim class realities for the other. This is also reflected in this new generation’s interest in bouldering, literally the freest form of climbing – vs. expensive “trad” and alpine climbing.

India is the world’s third largest economy today, by purchasing power parity

Finally, the nail in the coffin was a total lack of climbing gear, media, support or indoor infrastructure. India doesn’t have the kind of gyms available across Europe and North America. When I started climbing, about four years ago, we were practicing bouldering on the lower panels of a lead wall. Campus boards, fingerboards, sling trainers and the general equipment and knowledge used for performance training aren’t largely available even today. But why?

Photo: Vinay Potdar

Sponsor me, please?

India is the world’s third largest economy today, by purchasing power parity. It’s a huge potential market for big outdoor gear companies… or isn’t it? While writing this article I emailed several outdoor brands in the US and Europe. Many just didn’t reply. Brooke Sandahl, VP of Metolius, did. “We sponsor a number of athletes who gain exposure for us. Many athletes are sponsored with our distributors on a country-by-country basis. In North America, we are partnering with many non-profit organizations that promote climbing” he said,  explaining how they support the climbing community. The problem, it appeared, was that international brands wanted to work with distributors in India, and local distributors weren’t (and still aren’t) willing to risk investing in a nascent sport or culture; and the little they do is a miniscule drop in the ocean.

So, why hasn’t there been any active interest in organizing big events like the Petzl Roc Trip or Kalymnos Climbing Festival? Such events bring a lot of attention to the sport, which is often a first step. “Many of our alpine athletes come to climb incredible peaks. India isn’t well known for other styles of climbing. Hampi for bouldering, I have seen some amazing sport climbing there but a country needs to be proactive if they want this type of event.”

While my peers are crushing hard, they’re still to learn how to use their achievements to promote themselves and the scene. Brooke explains how that’s crucial to obtain sponsorship through Metolius. “Currently, the level needed is mid 5.14 (8c/8c+) for rock and V12 (8a+) for boulder. People who don’t climb super hard but open lots of quality routes, help with national, regional or local access issues, coach a climbing team, write a well-read blog, gets his/her photo in the magazines (thus our products), take lots of good images or make films…can all enjoy some level of sponsorship…from a tee-shirt, to paying an athlete cash and everything in between!”

Sandeep dropped school because he saw no point in wasting his efforts or his parents’ scant resources. He started working as an outdoor instructor for Rs.250 a day. 90o Arete, a 7a problem in Hampi. Photo: Vinay Potdar.

That covers at least eight Indian climbers immediately. Bar one, Tuhin Satarkar (Red Bull), none of them are supported by any international brand. Here are three:

Sandeep Kumar Maity:

After nearly thirty unsuccessful attempts on Ayurveda (7c+), a crimp-to-crimp power sucker at Hampi, Sandeep seemed spent. He put on his shoes for a token ‘last try’, took an impatient breath and went for the take off. He grimaced through every move and finally stuck the last dyno with a violent right leg swing propelling him. When it was done, even he couldn’t figure out where that extra juice had come from. But Sandeep is no stranger to running on empty.

Sandeep was introduced to climbing in 2006 by his sports teacher, Mitra Ghosh, at his school in Delhi. His father was a supervisor at an offset printing press, and his mother a housewife. Five people – his parents, his sisters and him – share a small one-room house. Like many from that section of Indian society, travel was a unattainable dream. His earlier fantasies were more in cricket than an obscure sport like ‘climbing’.

In 2008, after his 10th class Board exams, Sandeep heard about a climbing wall at the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) in South Delhi. With not much else to do, he started going, carrying lunch from home and sharing a pair of Converse sneakers with three others. He speaks gratefully about the people who mentored and even supported him financially – Amit Sharma, Naveen Arya, Norbu Bhutia, Sushil Bera, Nanda Kishore and Manjeet Singh. “I still remember borrowing a pair of La Sportiva Cobras, and winning gold at the 2008 zonals” he recalls.

Sandeep’s family does try to understand his pursuit. Before heading to Manali for the climbing season, I was at his home for three days. One afternoon, I watched Dosage 5, an old climbing flick, with his father who kept bursting into “What the…” reactions of amazement. “Is there a video of you too?” he asked Sandeep, who just smiled and continued watching.

A sign of his confidence was his trip to Europe in 2012, to compete in four bouldering world cup events. He took a loan of Rs. 70,000 rupees to make that happen. The events taught him route-reading, planning and controlling nerves. But he reflects more on his interactions outside, particularly in Millau, S. France. Back home in Delhi, he pulled out a poster and proudly showed it to me – “blue skies, my friend,” signed Dave Graham. That was his full-stop moment – having Dave shake hands and introduce himself.

Sandeep dropped school because he saw no point in wasting his efforts or his parents’ scant resources. He started working as an outdoor instructor for Rs.250 a day. 90o Arete, a 7a problem in Hampi. PHOTO: Vinay Potdar.

Vikas ‘Jerry’ Kumar:

On the day that Vikas sent The Diamond’s sit-start, four others, including me, sent the less difficult stand-start variant (7b). I had fallen off three times after nearly topping out. Vikas told me to use the edge of my palm to push off the last hold, not pinch it. “That’ll make the conversion really easy…” he said. Next attempt, I nailed it.

If Sandeep drains himself, Vikas just doesn’t care enough. He climbs hard, but it’s all play. In many ways, he’s perhaps the ‘purest’ climber of the bunch – never climbed on plastic, never ‘trained’, never competed and literally has no clue about the bureaucratic aspects of the sport.

After Vikas’ family unexpectedly lost a small business in Bangalore, they moved to Hampi. He was forced to quit school and start selling chai. Soon he met Koushik and after a few scrapes they were selling knick-knacks together. Their constant bickering got them nicknamed Tom & Jerry. Their experiment is the Tom & Jerry Climbing Shop in Viruppapur Gaddi, better known as Hampi Island. It rents out crashpads, climbing shoes, rope and other gear. The small shop runs largely on donated material and used shoes from gyms in Europe. “We make about Rs.30,000 ($500) each for the whole season. We save, travel, and then return to open for business” Vikas explains.

Like most of his Indian peers Vikas suffered the 8a mind-block. “That started opening up after I sent Goan Corner (Chris Sharma’s brilliant 7c arête problem)…” he recalls. “Initially, I didn’t think it was possible to send The Diamond; Sandeep and the others were trying it and I just tagged along…when I had a few good attempts and fell off at the last mantle, I knew it was possible.” On the cloudy evening of February 19th, we heard Vikas scream from the boulder. It had happened.

Ajij Shaikh:

Over 35 feet high and without a rope, Ajij was contemplating the next move on Mental Mantle, a hard, scary Hampi boulder problem. “Allez Shaikh…” voices encouraged him from below. He reached for a crimp, stepped up and pulled through. When he topped out the 45 foot behemoth, there was cheering with heaves of relief.

Ajij’s appearance doesn’t always reek of fortitude – stick thin and somewhat withdrawn. But once his shirt comes off for a climb, you see nothing but muscle. We first met at the 2011 national championships in Delhi – I was asked to MC the event – one year after the surprise victory that marked his arrival. Since then he’s become national lead champion three more times.

I was spotting him when he became the first Indian to send The Diamond. The only Indian World Para-Climbing Champion and our good friend, Manikandan Kumar, was capturing his attempt on video. Between tries, he’d walk off, calm himself and rehearse the final move. When it finally came together, there was a delayed elation. “Haath dikhare upar (Let’s see your hands up high!)” Manikandan had to actually ask him to celebrate. Sixteen days later on December 31st, 2013, he sent Sharma’s classic, The Middle Way. You could see the effect yoga had on his climbing – controlled breathing, tremendous body tension and absolute calm during progress.

Over the years, his own success alongside climbing flicks fuelled hope of a ‘climber’s life’ – travelling continuously, sending projects and getting featured in movies while being sponsored. “If I get a sponsor, I’d love to compete regularly on the world cup circuit” he adds. For that, Ajij has much work ahead. He admits that he lacks the knowledge and communication skills to push for sponsorship. He’s now getting offers to work as a senior climbing instructor, but he must learn the skills necessary to push his career ahead.

Looking ahead:

Healthy fights for FAs, collaborative efforts on projects and high levels of psyche to explore new areas are not exclusive to this wave. But we’re perhaps the first bunch willing to do anything to continue climbing – another career or ‘stability’ simply isn’t an option. From living in people’s shops, to living rent-free, to selling off personal belongings to stay on the road – we’ve known poverty, and we don’t care. Some compete, some don’t. This wave is simply a natural evolution on the work of our predecessors.

Maybe our efforts will lead to increased climbing tourism. Maybe this will create decent livelihoods through guiding, guesthouses, rental shops, resoling services and more. Maybe more people will climb, and maybe the (always ineffectual) Indian state departments will help. Maybe that’ll attract big outdoor brands to invest something, anything, in our climbing scene. We’re all hoping. But in the meantime, we’ll keep climbing.

 

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