Dec 13, 2013
Exclusive : Paige Claassen redpoints India’s toughest route
The Outdoor Journal
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The Colorado climber becomes the first woman and third ever to climb Ganesh, in Badami. The 8b+ (5.14a) route turned out to be a real test for Claassen and two Indians, racing to be the first locals to top it
American climber Paige Claassen today became the first woman to climb Ganesh (8b+), redpointing the toughest sport route in India. After five days of crimping, deadpointing and falling repeatedly, this morning at 7:30 the 22-year-old also became only the third person to finish this 20m sandstone route in Badami, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Two top Indian sport climbers, Sandeep Maity and Tuhin Satarkar, who’ve also been attempting the route alongside Claassen this season, are yet to link up the tough sections, falling off en route the top. Red Bull-linked Tuhin and Arjun Vajpai Foundation-sponsored Sandeep are both trying to be the first Indian climbers to redpoint the route. They’re also chasing an INR 50,000 (US$ 800) prize announced last season by Indian outdoor gear retailer Adventure 18, for the first Indian ascent of the route.
Ganesh was bolted by Alex Chabot in 2010, but climbed first by Frenchman Gerome Pouvreau. Etienne Seppecher in 2012 made the second ascent of this overhanging, bulging water-stained orange face.
The Outdoor Journal caught up with Paige for a phone interview:
TOJ: Congratulations! Take us through your climb.
Paige: Thank you! Yesterday we rested but the day before that I had stopped at the crimps twice. At one point I had even thought of quitting. But today, I did it again from the second loop to the top.
TOJ: You’re from Colorado. So, was it difficult adjusting to the heat and dust in India? Also, Ganesh is sandstone. How different was it?
Paige: Definitely different. It’s hard to climb in the heat. We were waking up at 5am everyday to go climb before the sun comes up. So, that was a little bit of a problem. But we don’t have sandstone in Colorado, so it’s fun here. I have climbed on sandstone quite a bit in the past, like in South Africa and the US but they are very sustained, they are cruxed but it stays so most of the way. But you also have to keep your head together the whole way. Sandstone tends to be very crimpy. But this is definitely one of the most powerful routes that I have ever climbed.
TOJ: Ganesh looks very overhanging and crimpy, so we’re guessing it took some upper body strength. Is that right?
Paige: It’s very bouldery. I’m not very good at bouldery roofs but I really wanted to do this, so I had a lot of motivation going in. I think sometimes you tend to get through things which you’re not good at if you really want it.
TOJ: You had relatively tough climbs earlier, say the Smith Rock, Ceuse, Red River, Rifle to name a few, which also fall in the 5.14 category. So, how would you rate this one?
Paige: I definitely rate this in my top 5 best roofs in the world! It’s really amazing. It’s an incredible roof and the rock is amazing from the very bottom to the very top. Every move is really fun to cue, the whole part is comfortable, the rock looks beautiful, it’s steady, and I think all of these things make it make one of the best roofs in the world.
TOJ: Between Tuhin and Sandeep, who do you think has more chances of finishing it first tomorrow?
Paige: The best part of this roof is that there are many tough sections. And what’s hard for one person is easy for the other and they have a different craft. So, I think both of them are going to finish it for sure.
On the sidelines of Claassen’s epic climb, The Outdoor Journal also had a quick Facebook chat with Etienne Seppecher, the second person to climb Ganesh.
TOJ: Etienne, there’s this big buzz around on who’s going to be the third to climb Ganesh in Badami, India. When did you do it?
Etienne: I did it in February 2012 and Gerome few years earlier in January 2010.
Etienne: Yes, huge debate. Gerome dropped the grade to 8b+ after struggling to do the route and he usually does a 9a more easily. But he is short so the first crux was way harder for him than for me. In my opinion, it’s a solid 8b+ with my size and way harder if you’re shorter. Conclusion – a reachy 8b+. But again, it’s up to the repeaters to give their opinion.
This route should not be considered for its grade. I am glad Gerome dropped a sandbag grade because the beauty of climb is already a fulfilment. Besides the route being tough, there are so many surrounding factors to deal with that Gerome called “les dessous de Ganesh” translation “the underthings of Ganesh”.
TOJ: Could you please elaborate?
Etienne: For me Ganesh is three boulders. The first one is the hardest with a very long move to a really poor crimp. Gerome did an incredible dyno where he could get the crimp; while I barely was able to hold it.
To extend my theory on the “dessous de Ganesh”, I include the facts that you are in the city for a short while and the route is facing the south, requiring an early session when it’s hard to get in the crushing mode, for western people staying in good health in Badami is already a very high performance.
Last point, there aren’t many routes to do for your friends that don’t attempt the route.
TOJ: So, what do you have to tell these climbers who are attempting it now?
Etienne: Give your best!