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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville

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Events

Feb 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.

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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Events

Jul 05, 2019

Red Bull Illume Image Quest 2019 – Final Call for Entries!

The world´s greatest adventure and action sports imagery contest is underway with entries now being accepted.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Red Bull Illume showcases the most creative and captivating images on the planet while illuminating the passion, lifestyle and culture behind the photographers that shoot them. An elite judging panel of editors and experts from around the world will select 55 Finalists, 11 Category Winners and 1 Overall Winner, to be unveiled at the Winner Award Ceremony in November 2019.

The Outdoor Journal Founder, Apoorva Prasad, has also returned as a Red Bull Illume judge this year, after previously serving on the panel in 2016. He said, “Judging the 2016 Red Bull Illume competition was an honor and also a genuine challenge, with an incredible range of entries to choose from. I have to admit that some of the final decisions were incredibly difficult to make. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the planet’s best adventure photographers present us with their work once again.”

In 2016, a record-breaking 34,624 images were submitted by 5,646 photographers from 120 countries, with Lorenz Holder crowned for the second consecutive time as the overall winner.

You can submit your images and become part of the Image Quest 2019 until July 31.  Everything that you need to know about the categories and previous winners can be found below.

Previous Winners

Last time around, German photographer Lorenz Holder took the top spot for the second time running. His atmospheric shot of athlete Senad Grosic riding his BMX across a bridge in Germany received the most votes from the panel of 53 respected judges. In addition to the Overall Title, Lorenz’s winning image also took home the coveted Athletes’ Choice Award.

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“Today I am just feeling overwhelmed!”

Mr Holder, who works as a staff photographer for Nitro Sports, explained how he got the shot to The Outdoor Journal, “I discovered this lake in Germany by accident and decided that this was the perfect spot for shooting with an athlete. The bridge mirrors in the water and this is the perfect circle. The day of the shooting we had to clear the lake of all autumn leaves before we have been able to do the shooting with Senard Grosic. Today I am just feeling overwhelmed!”

The Categories

Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer, young content creator, social media enthusiast or a videographer – there is a category for you! Categories are influential in the judges selection – so choosing the right one is essential!

Prizes

A huge array of prizes are on offer courtesy of the competition partners, such as Sony, SanDisk, Skylum, COOPH and Red Bull Photography. However, it doesn’t stop there, with great exposure on offer too, such as seeing your image on display at the breathtaking Global Exhibit Tour and in the Red Bull Illume Coffee Table Book.

How to Enter

To enter Red Bull Illume is very simple, photographers just need to follow these steps:
1. Shoot awesome stuff – what that is, you decide!
2. Register and sign in at www.redbullillume.com – it’s just a couple clicks
3. Choose your categories for submission – you can submit every image to two categories and in total 10 images per category = 100 chances to win
4. Upload your images. For the initial entry, only JPGs and MP4s are required
5. Submit your image until July 31, 2019 – once an image is submitted, it is final and can’t be changed

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