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Athletes & Explorers

Nov 20, 2018

A New Landmark for Indian Women: Siddhi Manerikar Climbs Samsara

Arguably the hardest sport route ever climbed by a female climber in the Indian community, Siddhi Manerikar has set the bar higher for her peers by climbing a 5:13b/8a route in Badami.

Note: As there are not any records, it’s difficult to validate that Siddhi Manerikar has broken a World Record for Indian Female Climbers. However, The Outdoor Journal is not aware of another Indian Women who has matched this feat.

Siddhi Manerikar started climbing when she was in the 8th grade. There was a 43-foot high climbing wall in her school that she spent two hours a day training on.  Last week, Siddhi Manerikar redpointed Samsara, a 5:13b/8a route in Badami.

Siddhi has raised the bar and showed what is possible for those willing to push further. The Outdoor Journal caught her to talk about climbing Samsara, the process and the inspiration behind it.

Why Samsara?

“It wasn’t really a project or something specific that I had in mind. I just happened to give it a shot while I was there. I was a participant in Badami Training Camp back in 2010: an event for national climbers before being picked for the Asian Youth Championships. Between 2010 and 2013, I went to Badami almost every year and worked on some relatively easy routes. One of the higher grade routes, called Ganesha, had been attempted mostly by men. Up until then, I hadn’t really tried any 8a routes.

This year I decided to train in Badami. It has been four years since my last visit. I wasn’t really satisfied with my performance and felt that it had deteriorated last year and so I had a lot to catch up to. The first two days I climbed easy routes, when some of my friends asked me to try Samsara.

“I returned and placed my focus entirely on Samsara”  

Dhaval Sharma, another climber from Pune who had recently sent Samsara asked me to give it a push. He said that I had the strength and endurance for it. It was on the 5th of November when I finally went for it. To my surprise, I was able to connect all the moves till the top. And that further cemented the confidence in me more than anything else. Also, I didn’t have enough time like others who had sent it over two to three trips and so, I concluded that it was either now or never. For the next two days, I returned and placed my focus entirely on Samsara on top-rope and was able to eventually send it.”

Could you share the process behind setting yourself against such a challenging route? How was the crux like?

“I was really pumped.”

“I have been scared of falls since 2015 when I had sustained an ankle injury. On this route, I concentrated on the first three clips and also the last one, which are also the crux moves.  Also, between the fifth and sixth clip, it was kind of a long run out and I wasn’t comfortable falling there. The last clip also came loose when I attempted the route in the evening. Shortly after, I re-attempted and took a two minute pause before the last clip; I had to because I was really pumped.”

How long have you been participating in competitions and what’s your journey been like?

“I have been participating in competitions since 2010 and have mostly been a sport climber. Before this, I have never worked on natural climbing projects. This was certainly a good experience and exposure for me.”

Having climbed Samsara, do you feel any different now?

“Nothing except the fact that I now believe I am capable of executing projects.”

Do you have any other interests apart from sport climbing?

“Dancing and badminton were there, but I somehow always managed to get back to climbing. Whatever time I was left with after studying, I used to channel it to climbing.”


Do you have any role models? If yes, who and why?

“If you have the mindset, dedication and willingness, no one can stop you.”

“Philippe Ribiere and Kim Ja-in. I first met Philippe Ribiere in 2011 at a girivihar competition in Navi Mumbai. I was surprised to see him climbing with his physical disabilities. It simply made me question myself, “If he could do it, despite the physical challenges, why couldn’t I?”

Kim Ja-in because she still participates in the world cup and is also married. It hasn’t influenced her career or lowered her ranking. I remember being told rather impudently that my climbing will suffer once I get married. It made me very angry. If you have the mindset, dedication and willingness, no one can stop you.”

You have set a benchmark for all the fellow female climbers in India, what are you looking at next?

“After having sent that route, I received a few calls from friends from the community who expressed their warm praise of the climb. I am glad to have contributed back to the community by setting an example. It makes me happy that other female climbers will take this as an inspiration to further push themselves and pursue such projects. I look forward to undertaking many more projects in Badami as well as in other parts of India.”

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Expeditions

Jul 29, 2019

Trans Himalaya 2019: Breathless in the Himalaya

In an unprecedented Himalayan snowfall, ultra-runner Peter Van Geit breaks out his ice axe to access undocumented passes in the High Himalayas.

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WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Last month, The Outdoor Journal received the first contact from Peter Van Geit on his 2,500 km self-supported journey across 100+ Himalayan high passes in Himachal, Ladakh, and Uttarakhand, accompanied by filmmaker Neil D’Souza. In his latest update, Peter navigates unpassable verticle cliffs and holy glacial lakes along his spellbinding adventure.

After completing the entire length of Uttarakhand in 17 passes, I entered the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh. I had been doing 600-700 km ultra runs through this beautiful state in previous years on lesser-traveled roads in remote valleys. This time I was targetting several passes across the high mountains in three major sections: the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) a wildlife sanctuary and protected biosphere, the Dhauladhar range separating the Kangra plains and Chamba valley, and the Pir Panjal range separating Chamba from Lahaul. As of mid-July, I completed 45 high altitude passes touching 4,600 meters and heavy snow due to unprecedented snowfall this winter.

Shepherds from Barmour descending from the snow-covered Chaurasi pass at 4700m in Chamba valley on their way to graze their herds in the high altitude meadows around the Chaurasi Ka Dal lake.
Panoramic view from the Gaj pass at 4100m from the Dhauladhar high range onto the snow-covered Lam Dal Lake in the upper range of the Chamba valley. Late summer after the snow melts tens of thousands of pilgrims visit this holy lake.

Climbing above 4,000 meters in early summer meant cutting through steep, frozen snow gullies with my ice axe, opening several passes not yet traversed by anyone or following the fresh trail of the shepherds who had just migrated across some passes. With the Northeast monsoon setting in soon, I’ll be moving next to the high altitude deserts of Lahaul and Zanskar to complete several 5,000-meter plus passes and come back down to Garhwal in Uttarakhand in September once the rains in the lower Himalayas subside.

Read next on TOJ: Alpine-Style, Ultra-Challenge in the Himalayan High Passes

GHNP is cornered between the high ranges of the Parvati National Park and Kinnaur. Three major rivers flow through this national reserve: the Tirthan, Sainj and Jiwa Nala separated by sharp, steep rising ridges. With no accurate trail info available on the Internet (no blog references meant few people or none have hiked here) I explored all three valleys using a very rough PDF sketch map made available by the tourism office and crossed over through three steep passes. The park has some of the steepest and most inaccessible rock cliffs I have encountered. Losing the trail here meant getting stuck inside near-vertical cliffs.

Sharing a cup of tea beneath the onset of the monsoon clouds with these shepherds while climbing up to the Waru pass at 3870m while crossing over the Dhauladhar range from Chamba valley to the Kangra plains.
Hospitality in the mountains. Night stay and dinner with these two shepherds on a ridge above the Jalsu pass in the Dhauladhar range of Himachal. Beautiful views on the snow-covered Mani Mahesh in the background, one of the seven Holi shrines of lord Shiva.

Once the snow melts on the higher ranges, many young men in Uttarakhand and Himachal go out in search for the “Jungli Nalla”, a high altitude medicinal root which is smuggled across the border from Tibet into China. One kilogram fetches 20 thousand rupees ($300 USD). Spending one and a half months in the mountains provides sufficient income for the rest of the year. While hiking deep inside the GHNP, I came across several villagers digging for both roots as well as large, beautiful rock quartz crystals.

Dhauladhar is a 4,000-meter plus mountain range which rises up steeply from the Kangra plains between Dharamsala and Palampur. Several passes cross over to the beautiful Chamba valley fed by the Ravi river which flows down from the high ranges separating Kullu-Chamba-Lahaul districts. There are several high altitude glacial lakes in the Dhauladhar which are considered holy and visited during an annual late summer pilgrimage by the local people. Most of the lakes were still covered under a thick sheet of frozen snow when I passed by.

Woman carrying home firewood from the forest in Lug valley in Himachal Pradesh for cooking purposes. With no road access or electricity in many remote hamlets, people rely on natural resources for home building and cooking.
Two Gurjar (mountain tribe) from Mumbardar in Chamba valley of Himachal were grazing their buffaloes in the alpine meadows above the clouds and upon seeing me passing by immediately invited me over for dinner and a night stay in their mud home.

I crossed five passes in the Dhauladhar: Baleni, Minkiani, Indrahar, Waru and Gaj pass between 3,800 to 4,300 meters coming across heavy snow at the North facing (less exposure to the sun) Chamba side. The most adventurous was Waru at 3,870 meters, a lesser-known pass used only by shepherds (which means undocumented) where I lost the trail several times. Trying to get back on track, I had to scramble through dense forest and climb down through several side gullies which had cut deeply into the valley slope resulting in several “free solo” moments while climbing down 100-meter plus vertical drops. I survived several breathless and adrenaline rushing moments here until I set a foothold on firm ground again.

One of the near-vertical rock descents into a snow-covered gully which deeply cut inside the main valley while navigating my way “off-trail” to the Waru pass across the Pir Panjal in Himachal.

The Pir Panjal is a high range of 5,000meter peaks separating the Chenab river valley (geopolitically split across Pangi and Lahaul districts) and Chamba valley. Shepherds from Chamba annually migrate with large herds of 300 to 1,000 sheep and goats across several very steep 4,500 meter passes to graze the high altitude meadows of Pangi and Lahaul which produces better quality milk and meat. They return home only five months later at the end of the summer before the passes close again.

Camping below the stardust of the milky way while camping at Trakdi along the Manji Khad stream inside the beautiful Dhauladhar mountains near Dharamsala in Himachal.

I crossed the Marhu, Darati and Chaurasi passes touching 4,200 to 4,600 meters, all undocumented, following the footsteps of the Gaddis or shepherds who had just crossed over. The most adventurous and scary one is Darati, which is a sheer vertical 1,000-meter rockface that seems impossible to climb at first sight. From steep snow-covered ridges on top of the pass to a labyrinth of narrow passages through steep rock faces, one can only imagine how shepherds traverse these with 500 sheep. About 5% of the sheep do not make it alive to the other side.

Shepherds from Chamba Valley, Himachal at the base of the Darati pass waiting to cross over the steep snow-covered pass in early July across the Pir Panjal range into the high altitude meadows of Lahaul.
Women at Kalprai village in Chamba valley harvesting wheat on the rooftops of the mud separating the grains from the stem by hitting with large sticks while rhythmically rotating in a circle.

I experienced one of the most spellbinding moments in my entire journey so far while I was about to climb up the Chaurasi pass. At exactly the same moment, a massive herd of more than a thousand sheep and goats descended down the snow-covered pass displaying their natural skill to traverse these very steep slopes. They were guided by ten shepherds from Barmour district in Chamba on their way to the fairytale Chaurasi ki dal glacial lake surrounded by lush green meadows dotted with alpine flowers of all colors of the rainbow.

One thousand sheep descending from the snow-covered Chaurasi pass (4700m) in the Chamba valley in Himachal on their way from the plains to graze the high altitude meadows. They will only return home 5 months later at the onset of winter.

The most memorable moments in these remote valleys of the Himalayas have been my encounters and night stays with the Gujjars, or mountain tribes. Small, remote hamlets far beyond the last villages deep inside the forest, completely disconnected from civilization. These tribals live with their cattle in large beautiful rock and mud shelters built with huge pine tree trunks. They graze their buffaloes, horses, and sheep in the meadows which stay together with them under the same roof. Each and every encounter along my way with these native people has been one of heartwarming hospitality. After a full energy-draining pass crossing, ending up around a warm fire in a mud home eating freshly cooked food with these families who consider you as one of their own is beyond words.

Unseen hospitality with the Gujjars or mountain tribes in Chamba, Himachal who live disconnected from society deep inside the forests in mud homes grazing their cattle in high altitude meadows.
Overnight stay and dinner with the mountain tribes at Rali Dhar in Chamba, Himachal. The lady of the home is preparing yummy rottis (flat breads) on the fire with buffalo milk. They stay under one roof with their cattle.

Peter will continue to share his field notes with the hope of inspiring others to explore these beautiful locations. You can read more about Peter’s experiences and motivations in his interview here – Alpine-Style, Ultra-Challenge in the Himalayan High Passes. Stay tuned on The Outdoor Journal for Peter’s next update along his 2,500 km journey.

To follow Peter’s expedition, visit his blog.
Facebook: @PeterVanGeit
Instagram: @petervangeit
Chennai Trekking Club

For more Neil Productions, visit: http://neil.dj/
Facebook: @neilb4me

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