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News

Nov 08, 2018

The 2018 midterms: Colorado Voting Blue, Thinking Green

News From Boulder: Climate-conscious Jared Polis won the contest for governor, Democrats took control of the state Senate and then swept the highest state offices, but what does the “blue wave” mean for the environment?

WRITTEN BY

Kela Fetters

As of late Wednesday afternoon, Democrats secured a majority in the state Senate and increased their hold over the state House. Republicans were ousted from positions of attorney general, state treasurer, and secretary of state. Polis’s election warrants optimism for the environmentally-conscious; the governor-elect is unyielding in his commitment to bring Colorado to 100% renewable energy by 2040. Polis’s website notes that “leadership at the state and local levels to address climate change has never been more important, particularly in the absence of leadership at the national level”, a nod to the significance of the state’s $28 billion outdoor recreation economy with its workforce of 229,000 and the valuable open space and public lands they utilize.

Jared Polis. Official Photo for Congressman via Wikimedia Commons.

Democrat Joe Neguse handily defeated Republican Peter Yu to fill Polis’s former seat as Congressman for the 2nd Congressional District. He also promulgates progressive environmental policy, calling for investment in renewable energies, the elimination of government subsidies for fossil-fuel companies, and local sovereignty over oil and gas development.

State ballot initiative Proposition 112, which The Outdoor Journal reviewed in September, failed to pass. The “Safer Setbacks from Fracking” amendment would have required new oil and gas wells to be at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings. Colorado Oil and Gas interests channeled almost $40 million into anti-112 campaigning, wildly outspending grassroots group Colorado Rising, who raised shy of $1 million to promote the initiative.

Conjointly, voters rejected Amendment 74, which would have mandated “just compensation” to property owners should government action reduce private property values. With strong backing by the oil and gas industry, Amendment 74 was fracking exponents’ solution to the possibility of Proposition 112’s approval; the setback mandate would have arguably reduced the value of private drilling land, entitling fracking companies to governmental reimbursement.

In Boulder, voters approved a slew of local initiatives that bode well for the environment. Issue 2C, an oil and gas tax, stormed through with a 77% majority. Though Boulder has gone decades without an application for a new well, drillers would face an extraction tax of up to $6.90 per barrel of oil or 88 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. Ballot measure 2D passed, authorizing the city of Boulder to keep all money raised by the sugar-sweetened beverage tax implemented in 2016. Funds from the tax flow to community health equity programs such as Double Up Food Bucks, an initiative of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides low-income shoppers double the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables from a grocery store purchase. And in another win for the environment, Democrat Matt Jones claimed the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners District 3 race. Jones intends to fight fracking in Boulder County and substantiates Polis’s vision of 100% renewable energy.

As Polis remarked, the erosion of support for progressive environmental policy at the national level necessitates a strong cadre of environmental advocates at the local and sate levels. Buoyed by a formidable outdoor recreation industry and a state of avid outdoor recreators, Polis and the Democratic elects have the political efficacy to address environmental issues such as renewable energy, local energy justice, and land access.

Cover Photo: Governor-elect Jared Polis has pledged to transform Colorado’s energy sector to 100% renewables by 2040. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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Events

Mar 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.

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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.

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