On Belay Devices

This write up is not about how to belay, this is more focused on the design of belay devices, and on the advanced skills that can be applied with some of the belay devices.


One of the most critical climbing related safety action is associated with belaying the climber.  The term belay means to stop or arrest, and has origins in Shipping terminology, where a rope would be secured around a cleat or a pin to either anchor it or to control the amount that is to be paid out.

The bending of the rope and running it around an object creates friction, and with sufficient friction, the ability to stop a falling climber is amplified.  The amount of friction needed to provide a safe belay is determined by the co-efficient of friction during the belay, and a few other factors.

My earliest introduction to the concept of securing or controlling a rope was during my kayaking days.  In case of emergencies, we would jump out of the kayaks on to the shore, to create a belay or even anchor the rope, with a few wraps around a tree or a boulder if we could find one, or one of us would sit down and brace to create a body belay or body anchor.

While those quick and dirty methods of securing rope for river rescues was the precursor to the more elaborate and contextually different rope work needed for climbing, the less dynamic world of climbing allowed for a leisurely study and application of belaying techniques and study of belay devices.  But when things go south in climbing, the reaction has to be based on sound principles and quick thinking based on a depth of experiences, while working in a dynamic environment.  Right tools help in ensuring such situations don’t become more than epics.  But before we attempt to identify the right tool, let’s understand the principles behind a belay device.

There are at least five-six factors that determine the ability to safely stop a falling climber while climbing.

  • The impact force of the rope, and how much energy it transmits between the falling climber and the belayer. The impact force is dissipated and reduced by the way of stretching capability of the nylon braided ropes.  One of the reasons, static or low stretch ropes are not recommended for climbing.
  • Belay device’s ability to stop the fall.
  • The amount of friction at the top most anchor, and its ability to absorb the impact force.
  • Harness is critical component too. It acts as a component of anchor.  It should be robust enough to withstand the peak forces generated during a fall.  A belay loop per UIAA standards should withstand 15 kn of forces, and the waist loop should withstand about 10 kn of forces.
  • Critically, considering the nature of most belay devices, and the dynamic nature of falling scenarios, the ability of the belayer to provide for attentive and safe belay.  Also, what is critical is that there be no more than 40% difference in weights between the belayer and the climber.  If that number is lower and closer to zero, would be ideal.
  • An anchor for the belayer, either by the way of their own body weight, or by the way of being secured to an external anchor.

In the early days of climbing, the co-efficient of friction was provided by what were called ‘Body belays’.  It truly needs to be experienced to realise what it takes by another climber braced and positioned by the way of sitting or standing to stop the fall of another climber.  If one is doing top belay, that is with the belayer situated above the climber, and with no slack in the system, and near equal weights of climber and the belayer, the body belay works fairly well.  However, to stop a fall of a climber either on top rope or on lead, the body belay is not sufficient.  On an average, a waist belay by a well braced belayer allows for near equal weight of holding capacity.

A climber falling from above generates many times the weight of their body weight in impact force, and that force is nearly impossible to stop with a body belay.

Up until 1930s, the guiding principle was that the leader shouldn’t fall, and if did fall, the best to do was to sacrifice the leader by ensuring the rope would snap by anchoring the rope to a tree or a boulder, which would practically ensure that.

The first known mechanical device to assist with belaying was invented in the 1960s.  ‘Sticht plate’, an aluminium plate with a slot or two slots allowed for a bight of the rope to be inserted, clipped to a carabiner, and the carabiner attached to the harness allowed the belayer to stop the fall with minimal effort in relation to the effort and risks associated with body belays.

Sticht plate is the forerunner of modern belay devices.

Munter hitch was introduced at a 1973 UIAA meet in Italy and offers about 2.5 kn of holding capacity in closed mode, which is when both the sides of the rope are parallel to each other.  In the ‘open munter’ mode, the holding capacity drops to about 1.4 kn.  Munter hitch requires just one HMS type locking carabiner.  It is a critical skill to know for times when you have dropped your belay device.  It isn’t more popular than it should be, as belaying on Munter hitch (especially for leader belays) can be hard on the shoulders, and then it also is more impactful on the rope.


Recreational Climbing is just one application for devices that use friction to control ropes.  Other applications include industrial high rope access, caving, canyoneering, and other aerial pursuits, and such devices are designed for the specific purpose.  Climbing related belay devices are designed for belaying and some related activities.


Original being Salewa Sticht Plate, offer about 2 kn of holding power.

Sticht plate

Salewa Sticht Plate with spring

With the spring, the holding power reduces to about 1.5 kn.  The smaller eye of figure eights also functions in the same manner as that of Sticht plates.


  • Jam against the carabiner
  • Too much friction for rappelling
  • Heat generation during rappels, due to small mass.

Belay plates in their original form are outdated.


Latok tuber was the first in the long list of tubers that have come into the market.

Belay Tuber.jpg

L-R: Black Diamond ATC, Mammut Fuse

More advantageous than belay plates, and over comes all the three issues that the plates have and have been mentioned above.

Belay tubes are quite versatile and relatively inexpensive.  They can belay a leader, abseil, bring up a second and lower the second with ease, and work with double ropes.

For most of your rock climbing career and needs, simple tubers may just be sufficient.  There are multiple makes in the market, including Black Diamond ATC, Mammut Fuse, etc.

Best uses: Top Rope belays, Belaying a leader, Abseiling.  Tube style devices also work for multi-pitches, for bringing up the second.  There are two ways to do this right to ensure that if the follower takes a fall, the impact is not on the belayer, but on the top anchor.

  • If belaying from the harness, redirect the rope from a higher point.
  • You could also hang the belay tuber from the master point, and redirect the rope from a higher point.

Emergency tip: If you have one of the bigger hexes, they make for good emergency tube style belay or rappel devices.


High Friction mode on belay tubes is achieved by either V shaped notches on one side of the tuber or by the way of adding serrations on the side of the notches.  This provides about twice the braking power of a regular tuber.


The term ‘Plaquette’ (in French meaning Plate) originally comes from ‘Paquette Magique’ (or Magic Plate), a device originally made by New Alp, a French manufacturer.  The specific feature of this device is the auto-locking mode when belaying from top.  Also known as the guide mode, the rope locks off automatically, if the belayer is not feeding the rope.  The beauty of this system depends entirely on the geometry of the belay device and the rope friction.

belay Plaquettes 2.jpg

L-R: Kong Gigi, Camp Ovo, New Alp Magic Plate or Plaquette Magique

Plaquettes work well with double ropes, to bring up the followers efficiently, rappel smoothly, and function as progress capture device to help ascending a fixed rope.  A critical drawback of the Plaquettes has been their inability to belay a leader effectively.  There simply isn’t enough friction to be able to confidently belay a leader, in the design of the device.

One of the reason, Plaquettes still remain popular despite advances in design of belay devices, is their ability to belay the second climber or the follower, very smoothly.  The large slots on plaquette allow for ropes to be fed very smoothly.  A couple of Tube style Plaquettes have come close to being able to provide similarly smooth belay.

One critical thing to remember with Plaquettes is that because of the large belay slots, the risk of rope inversion exists.  What this means is that a single rope can twist around and invert itself, thus removing the advantage of the belay, and risk dropping the follower.  While this is a possibility and has rarely been recorded, there are two ways to over come this.  If belaying on a single rope from the top, clip the secondary carabiner that goes through the rope, back into the carabiner on which the Paquette is hanging.  Or, two, clip the carabiner through the rope and ensure it is going round the entire plaquette.

An external link to one of the methods to overcome the risk of rope inverstion in plaquettes.  http://youtu.be/MkkFmLoFcFc

While there have been improvements on this design, some manufacturers have continued to provide devices dedicated to the original design, as few other design comes close to the efficient and smooth belay that it provides to bring up the followers on multi-pitches.  Couple of popular designs include Kong Gigi and Camp Ovo.


Petzl Reverso and Black Diamond ATC Guide fall into this category.  They combine the advantages of a tube style belay device (most times with High Friction mode) and the Plaquettes to provide a versatile little tool that can belay a leader, rappel easily, provide a guide mode belay (even on double ropes), and can work as progress capture devices.

Tube Style Plaquettes

Clockwise from top left:  Cassin/Camp Piu aka GTX, Cassin/Camp Piu 2, Grivel Master Pro, DMM Pivot, Singing Rock Shuttle, Edelrid Mega Jul, Simond Toucan and Black Diamond ATC Guide

Tube Style Plaquettes or Guide Mode Belay devices or whatever other names they are referred to by, are downright the most versatile belay devices on the market.

The single biggest challenge with the Tube Style Plaquettes or Plaquette design is their complexity in lowering a climber in the midst of a climb, when belaying from the top.  Typically, a notch is provided to assist with the lowering.   There are two-three ways to provide some slack or to completely lower the follower in the midst of a climb.  One, requires ratcheting of the carabiner that is clipped into the rope, or two, create a redirect to lift the same carabiner, or, three, using the notch provided either insert a third carabiner, or sling using the notch.  In the last two scenarios, the brake end of the rope needs to be secured using a munter hitch belay, or with a secondary belay system to ensure that the follower is not dropped while lowering.

There have been some improvements to the design by various manufacturers, that incorporate compactness of design, lightness of materials, ability to lower a bit more easily, or simply some other gimmickry, but most of them work with about the same efficiency overall for smaller rope diameters.

In my experience with a dozen different Tube Style Plaquettes, I have found that there are some subtle differences based on design that offer advantages with different diameters of ropes, or ensure smoothness of belay, while not impacting your shoulders and elbows.

A noteworthy mention is DMM Pivot, which comes closest to offering similarly smooth top belays as with Kong Gigi or Camp Ovo, even for thicker ropes.  Ability to lower in the midst of a top belay is also much superior in the DMM Pivot.

Edelrid Megajul combines all the benefits of Tube Style Plaquettes, with Assisted Braking while providing a top rope or leader belay.  However, it’s versatility is mildly compromised by it’s inability to do anything with top notch perfection.  And then the learning curve is steeper, so especially if you are the types who likes to keep things simple, avoid Megajul.  The design and innovation with this simple looking device is inspiring.

There are also some devices in this category that work less well with thicker ropes, or the design lends itself to less efficiency.

Simond Toucan 2 is least of my favourites.  In theory, an innovative design, the material used makes a tuning fork sound, the belay isn’t that smooth, and most importantly, it is extremely difficult or impossible to lower or provide slack to the follower in the midst of a climb.

These are external links some advanced skills that can applied using Tube Style Plaquettes or Plaquettes or ABDs:


These devices provide the smoothest rappels, due to their larger mass.  Has only 1.2 kn of holding power, if the rope is running around the neck.  If the rope is running through the carabiner (sport mode), then the holding power drops to 80 newtons.

Figure eights.jpg

Black Diamond Figure Eight, Gipfel Figure Eight

Figure Eights are descenders and not dedicated belay devices.  There is no reason to use Figure Eights for rock climbing or technical climbing.  However, in India, about six-seven out of ten devices are of this kind.   FOE devices work well in the mountains, and for speed climbing applications.

So, if lead belaying with FOE devices, use either Munter mode or Sticht Plate mode (as shown below, left to right, respectively).


Munter mode belay on Figure Eight style device

Sticht mode belay using the smaller eye of Figure Eight device


Popular with alpinists for their compact size and weight, but have a tendency to abrade more quickly than a full sized figure eight.


Figure eights with ears drooping over the sides of the head are to ensure that the rope doesn’t slip over the large hole and girth hitch during rappels.

Figure eights with ears forming horns on the sides off the large hole provide the same function as above but with marginally less certainty, but more importantly provide additional options for higher friction during descent.


The action of Belaying is critical to safety, in the climbing systems.  Aside from the very process of climbing, belaying depends largely on the human skill to belay correctly and attentively.  Most belay designs depend on the ability of the belayer to brake properly.  However, a popular category attempts to mitigate any risk of human error by providing assistance by the way of rope locking off when a sudden and urgent pressure is generated on the device by the rope pulling through.  Such belay devices are categorised as Assisted Belay Devices.

This assisted braking ability is either generated by geometry based design that pinches the rope between the carabiner and the device, or by mechanical means which ensures that when the rope is pulled urgently through the device in any direction, a moving part in the device pinches the bight in the rope, and generates tremendous friction.

Inkedbelay abd_LI

Clockwise, as per the numbering: Petzl Grigri 2, Petzl Grigri +, Petzl Grigri (Gen 1), Camp Yoyo, Edelrid Megajul, Mammut Smart, Madrock Lifeguard


The most popular one for nearly three decades has been Petzl Grigri, and the standard for such devices.  There have been three generations of it already, including the original Grigri, Grigri 2 and Grigri Plus.  In addition many more devices exist in the market, including Faders Sum, Trango Cinch, Trango Vergo, Madrock Lifeguard, Edelrid Eddy, and so on.  However, Grigri has stood the test of time, and remains the most popular.

There are distinct advantages with such devices.  They provide the most stress-free belay, especially for top roping and if the partner is working a route.  However, the assisted nature of the belay is not to be confused with automatic belay.

In the past, atleast two of my experienced partners believing that they are auto-belay devices, released the brake hand from the ropes.  Such lackadaisical attitude with these devices makes them a bit dangerous.  In addition, they tend to be heavier, cannot accommodate double ropes, abseiling with them requires complex setup like the Reepschnur method, and also while belaying a leader, unless one is well versed, may cause short roping.

One other critical problem is that while lowering, many of these mechanical assisted belay devices require a lever to be compressed to release the rope.  This depressing of the lever needs to be calibrated correctly.  Depressing of the lever without the brake hand controlling the rope, has caused accidents over the time.

To overcome the particular problem with users accidentally keeping the release lever depressed, Petzl Grigri Plus and Edelrid Eddy have what is known as anti-panic mode.  The lowering action is enabled, when the lever is calibrated to a precise degree, and when completed depressed, the device locks off.  This is an additional feature, and not all Mechanical ABDs accommodate it.

Also, considering the very nature of assisted braking, the catch is a little stiff, so the impact force generated on top anchor and the rope is typically higher than with other belay device designs.  Ideally, one should avoid using ABDs for any type of trad climbing lead belays, or lead belaying on ice.

While comparing, Petzl Grigri 2 and Madrock Lifeguard, I have found the Lifeguard to be much superior for majority of functions.  In Grigri 2, to offer a smooth leader belay, you have to keep your thumb over the device, to avoid the device locking up, and providing short rope to the climber.  Where as in the Lifeguard, the belaying action is similar to the action in a tube style belay device, and still locks off effectively.  There is a small slippage in the Lifeguard, but that slippage is preferable to provide a dynamic belay.  Also, the Lifeguard is lighter by 24 grams, and a more compact device than the Grigri 2.  Grigri 2 however, because of quicker lockoff ability provides a far better belay while belaying from top to bring up the second.

One of the more hyped recent entrant to this list of devices includes Wild Country Revo, which apparently can be threaded in any direction for it to work.  All other ABDs currently need to be threaded in a particular direction for them to work.  This is a potential risk, but usually, is part of the short learning curve.

Mechanical ABDs in general are expensive.  They range in pricing from USD 90 to USD 150/200.

Best uses for them include, frequent gym usage, for top roping, and sport climbing.  Amongst other uses, I have found them to be very useful while exploring new routes, being either belayed or being on rappel.  If on rappel, I can convert the device to back up for ascending the same rope.

Some of these ABDs are also popular for solo climbing, but there is an entire category of self-belaying devices, which is not being addressed at this time.


A second type of Assisted Braking Devices are manual or geometry based.  These include Mammut Smart series of devices, Edelrid Jul series, Camp Yoyo, Climbing Tecnology ClickUp, Wild Country SRC, etc.

These devices are typically cheaper, and lighter than the Mechanical ABDs, and also have certain limitations.  They aren’t as smooth as the Mechanical ABDs, require some more learning curve, and are usually harder on the elbows and the shoulders to release the rope.

Amongst the ones I have played with include, Camp Yoyo, Mammut Smart and Edelrid Megajul.

Camp Yoyo has atrocious amount of friction.  It makes for a fascinating device for those who are obsessed about belay device designs, but outside of this academic interest, Camp Yoyo seems like a dinosaur in the digital age.

Mammut Smart is an inexpensive lightweight ABD for top roping and for gym usage.

Edelrid Megajul is way more versatile device that is both a Tube Style Plaquette and a manual ABD.  It certainly has its cult following.  If I were allowed only one belay device, it would be Edelrid Megajul.


I have skipped talking about mono-tubers (which have a following for sport climbing), or self-belaying devices, or other hybrid belay devices like Omega Pacific SBG II (which is a nice hybrid of tube style and figure eight device).


Most common belay devices used for roped climbing, whether on rock or on ice, are tube style belay devices or tube style plaquettes, followed by Assisted Braking Devices.  But a single belay device doesn’t apply well for all situations.  One must chose a belay device based on the type of climbing.

What is considered by climbers when making a choice include the following:

  • Type of device.  Further notes on the same listed above.  But typically, the most popular are Tube Style, Tube Style Plaquettes or Guide mode Tubers, and Assisted Braking Devices (ABDs).
  • Weight.  Typical weight of most devices is sub 100 grams for manual devices and sub 200 grams for ABDs.
  • Price.
  • Rope diameter range.  This is not an actively considered, but this is critical, when your range of climbing may include thick gym ropes and then skinny doubles.
  • Compactness of device
  • Ability to provide top rope belay.  Most basic requirement.  An ideal balance is between control of the rope when fed through the device, and smoothness of belay
  • Ability to provide lead belay.  Primary consideration is that the friction is such that a smooth belay is not inhibited and provides no risk of short roping.  Usually, not a problem with Tube style devices, but is a serious concern with ABDs.
  • Ability to bring up the second, while climbing on multi-pitches.  The ideal feature here is the ability of the device to auto-lock off, and yet smoothly operate when actively engaged.  However, basic tube style devices can bring up the second safely, but won’t auto-lock.  Only Plaquettes or related or ABDs can assist in braking.
  • Ability to convert to lowering or to lower a loaded rope, for the second, on multi-pitches.
  • Ease and control while rappelling on the device.  While Figure Eights and other dedicated descenders may provide smoother rappels, that doesn’t translate such devices to ideal belaying devices.
  • How much does the device dissipate heat while rappelling.  This will define if the device is capable for multi-pitches or for long exits.
  • Double rope usage.  For any climbing beyond sport routes, an ideal device is one that can be used to belay double ropes, or rappel on double ropes.
  • Some devices can be used as progress capture devices, or secondary device for ascending ropes.  Some can be converted to ascending in the midst of a rappel.  These could be useful in self-rescue scenarios.
  • Some devices can be used to provide an assist to the follower on multi-pitches or simply for hauling gear, using a 3:1 or even 5:1 hauling methods.  Most Plaquette style devices or ABDs could do so.
  • Impact force in case of a leader fall as a consequence of the catch by the belay device. See the section under ABDs to understand this better.
  • Assisted Braking capability, either through mechanical mode or manual mode.  The ideal balance again is between control (as defined by friction) and smoothness of belay.  For example, Camp Yoyo has tremendous friction, but is hard to pay out slack.
  • A subset of requirement for ABDs is anti-panic mode, which allows for auto-locking off of the rope, incase the lowering mechanism is not correctly operated.


A belay device choice is sometimes a function of personal prejudices as well.  Most belay modern UIAA certified devices should work just fine, and at the end of the day, it boils down to user capability with the tools.  Whatever choice you make, in terms of the Belay Device, learn everything you could about it, and how to use it right.


On Night Climbing around Bangalore

There is a whiff of enhanced sense of adventure with climbing at night. And the aesthetics of it are mind blowing. A blob of light on the rock ascending in otherwise darkness has certain charm to it. The voices carry further at night. Your senses are sharper. The coolness of air, stars in the night sky, a full moon; all add to the experience, somewhat otherworldly for us used to living in the daylight.

Also, for someone in 40s, the demands of work, and with kids’ schedules, and despite a supporting spouse, the logistics of trying to get a night climb are always playing against me.

There is an app on my phone that sits in the climbing folder, and reminds me of the moon phases. The app’s been there for about 30-36 full moons now, and each time it sends a notification for the next one, it’s always competing with other priorities, lack of will or the lack of similar will in my partners, weather, or some other reason.

Also, India is a highly populated country. Atleast around the parts we live in. The locals get easily excited about such activities at night, and the risk of cops or forest guards getting involved is high. There are so many exciting memories of time spent in the police station or negotiating with the forest guards, that it acts as a deterrent for venturing out at night.

Then, there is the objective concern about disturbing animals in the wild. Outskirts of Bangalore is leopard, elephant, and bear country. To be honest, the fear goes both ways.

BROOMBERG: 450 feet of slabbiness

So, yesterday night turned out to be one of those times, when planets aligned, and appropriate partners available, we chose to get on Broomberg.

Broomberg is a four pitch climb, and slabby for most part, except the easy third pitch which in my opinion goes at an intimidating 5.7 or 5.8. The other three pitches rate consistently (in my head) at about 5.9 or 5.10a slab.

If you have been climbing slabs for as long as I have been, it becomes difficult to differentiate between a 5.9, 5.10 or a 5.11 slab after a while. They all seem as easy or as hard. Also, you try to avoid falling on slabs. For falling on slabs in never pleasant. Imagine a cheese grater, and now imagine falling any distance on a slope with similar effect. You won’t die. But that damage caused is unpleasant at best, and fractures at it’s worst. The fear kicks in about six-eight feet after you leave the last bolt or piece of protection, and subsides after clipping in a bolt, while wondering whether that smear of a foothold will hold strong.


Four of us, including Lata, Gowri and Gokul, the folks who could take time out during a weekday, and were excited to be climbing on a near full moon night, reached the base by about 4.30 pm or so.

Lata, an old school climber, and one of the original woman badasses of Bangalore climbing scene, had just rediscovered the old love for climbing more regularly, and has become one more of my regularly suffering partners.

Gokul is a professor with University of Wisconsin, and a frequent visitor to Bangalore. He is one of the few people I know who has climbed extensively all over India, despite not residing locally. And quite the social and popular chap that he is, sometimes I describe him as the Paris Hilton of the Indian climbing scene. He had just landed in India, and jumped in on the plan. “So, this is going to one of those ‘Sohan adventures’!” He chuckled. He meant more by that, I suppose. But he was game.

Gowri, the youngest of us all, spends equal time between Peruvian Amazon jungles and in the suburbs of New York, while taking out time every year to spend a couple of months in Bangalore with her parents. She is also my ticket to getting into unusual adventures such as these, as she is popular with rest of my family; so if ‘G’ is around, Sohan gets a free pass.


The plan was to climb the four pitches and rap off, instead of walking down the hill, to minimise encounter with bears. As such we took three 70 meter ropes.

We began to climb by 4.50 pm.

Lata and I climbed as a team. For the first pitch, I started the lead on two 70s, and the plan was to connect p1 and p2.

Between bolt 3-4 of the second pitch, the two near 10 mm ropes became way too heavy. So I downclimbed to the last bolt, and left the second rope behind for Lata to haul it up.

It was way more enjoyable without the weight of the additional rope. But soon Lata suffered having to haul the trailing rope and the pack on her.

3rd pitch was a breeze. A bit spooky in the fading light, with all the grass that that grows out of the small caves that pockmark the first half of the pitch, I think I took less than 7-8 minutes for that pitch versus the 40 minutes I took for the first two connected pitches.

At the station at the end of the third pitch, we took a water break, waiting for it to get dark, so that we could climb with the beams of the headlamp for visibility. Meanwhile, Gowri and Gokul were nearly below us, exchanging leads.

It was post 6.30 pm that I got on the pitch 4, which is nearly 40 meters long, and has 9 bolts on a ridiculously flake filled slab. This pitch defines the slab climbing around Bangalore. No edges for feet. Pure smearing with your feet on anything you can find, and stepping up, while your fingers are just holding or cupping minor outbursts of the rock.

There was no wind as the previous times, so it was a lot less hairy, working my way up, finding relief in clipping each bolt, and that relief disappearing as I moved up, past each previous bolt.

And with the headlamp in low beam, bolt finding was mildly exciting. And probably, because of the headlamp, I could sense the best places for my feet. Wherever, the shadows formed by minor depressions in the rock fell, went the feet.

The pitch eased up a bit after 5th or the 6th bolt, I think. Reaching the anchor station was a relief. It was exactly 7.05 pm now.

It took us another hour or so to bring up the other three. Meanwhile, we noticed excitement in the village to our north. Couple of high beam flashlights attempting to focus on us, from half kilometer away. The anxiety of dealing with villagers or cops kept nagging us all through the rest of the night.


The exit plan was that the other three would rap off on single ropes, connecting two pitches at a time, and I would rap off each pitch, to ensure the ropes could be cleaned without getting stuck on the flakes on the slabs.

The first three exited, and I rapped off the 4th pitch on two ropes, as the pitch was 40 meters long. The trouble began immediately.

Cleaning the two ropes became arduous. It took me 40 minutes just to pull down the ropes. The drag on the ridiculously flake filled slab, required as much workout as I would get in an hour of intense yoga class. Muscles burned, as I hauled and tugged, watching inches of gain for tremendous amount of effort. Dozens of minutes of that workout, finally saw the the rope moving a bit more freely, and eventually gave way to the sweet sound of the entire rope whizzing down slope and settling to my side.

Next three pitches took about ten minutes of rappel each.

By the time I got to the base it was 10.30 pm. Still worried about the villagers or the cops, we exited as quickly or quietly as we could.

The ride home was one of the quickest ride ever from Ramanagara, with barely any traffic.

*All images, courtesy Gokul

Knots for Climbing


Unless you are a geek who gets off on the knowledge of 1000s of knots and hitches out there, for your entire Rock Climbing career, a handful of knots, hitches and their variations will just do.

More critical than knowing a wide range of knots is the knowledge of the appropriate application.

There are multiple resources out there that already provide images, videos and gifs on how to of knots & hitches.  So, I am not going to invest in creating more such content.  But sometimes a familiar voice helps iterate the essential knots, and this is the sole purpose of this list for that intended audience.

Probably, the best resources out there is the Grog’s Animated knots’ site.  This particular resource is extensively referenced below.  Grog’s Animated knots’ site is likely the best thing that has happened for knots’ documentation and learning since 1944 (when ABOK was published.)  If there is another, I am ignorant or my requirements have been met with the above.

Below is a list that connects the knot or the hitch to the specific use case scenario.

Tie in knots

These are the knots that are most useful for tying the rope into your harness.

  • Figure of eight follow through: The standard for teaching a tie in knot and the first knot that is taught most of the time.  Reason being that this is simple to tie, easy to inspect and is an incredibly strong knot.  A six inch tail is mandatory to ensure that the knot under cyclical load doesn’t untie under normal circumstances.
  • Bowline on a Bight or Doppelter Bulin:  Till I was taught this knot by visiting members of German Alpine Club (DAV), or others who were influenced by DAV, bowline rated very lowly in my experience.  While the original Bowline has the dubious distinction for untying itself under cyclical loading under certain circumstances, there are variations such as ‘Double or Water Bowline’, which provide slightly better reliability, but still didn’t seem that much of an improvement over the FOE follow through.  However, the Doppelter Bulin or the Bowline on a bight (BOAB), is an incredibly reliable knot; strong, easy to tie and easy to untie, provides tremendous redundancy, and overcomes all the attendant issues the single bowline has (where in people have got hurt as a result of improperly tied single bowline).  Surprisingly, it is also easy to inspect.  This has become the go to knot for tying in to the rope for me, as it is it is easy to untie after hanging in the harness, and importantly, I feel this knot provides an added level of redundancy over and above that of FOE follow through or even double bowline.

Friction knots for backup on rappel, for ascending or other Rescue applications:

Friction hitches or rope grabbing hitches are useful as rappel backups, for ascending, and other rescue applications.  Listing four that are in my list, and each is used depending on the requirement and the circumstance.  And each provides a certain degree of friction and ease of use appropriate for intended application.  Take into consideration rope diameters vs prusik loop, and rope slickness, when using any of these hitches.  

A prusik loop is typically created with 4-6 feet of 6-7 mm cordage connected by a double fisherman knot.  The smaller diameters provide excellent friction, and the 7 mm diameter provides the margin of strength and redundancy in rescue operations.

  • Prusik: Most commonly taught and probably used.  But I use this only when I need higher degree of friction, and in a rescue situation or for ascending.
  • Autoblock: Also known as French Prusik, or Machard Tresse, is similar to Klemheist, but the ends of the wrapped loop are simply clipped into a carabiner.  Autoblock has lesser degree of friction, but sufficient enough to act as a brake backup for a rappel, and is the simplest and the quickest to setup for a rappel.  Caution:  Don’t use autoblock in wet conditions.  In wet conditions, best for the first one to be lowered, and the subsequent folks to be also supported via a fireman’s belay.
  • Klemheist: Has as much friction as Prusik, and I prefer this for rescue activities, or when a higher degree of friction is needed on thinner ropes.
  • Bachmann: Prefer this while ascending as it is easier to release under load and to slide up.  Please note that the carabiner is never to be grabbed to ascend, and is only to be used to slide the friction hitch up.

Connecting two ropes for rappels

There are only two knots that I have ever considered or needed for connecting two ropes for rappels, and only one that I use at all times, which is the EDK.

  • Double Fisherman: Double fisherman to connect two ropes counts as one of the strongest connector knot.  However, the profile of it causes it to snag in rock extrusions on the rock face, when the ropes are being retrieved from the anchor post-rappelling.  For this reason, even while EDK may be weaker knot than the Double Fisherman, it is supremely relevant for the application of rappelling.

Connecting two ropes or webbing for other applications:

  • Double fisherman as described above is one of the strongest connector knot out there, as the knots tighten up further when the ropes are being pulled apart.  Double fisherman is the preferred way to connect ropes for creating Prusik cordage, or for Anchoring cordage.  For Kevlar/Technora cordage used in slinging nuts or hexes, use Triple Fisherman, which requires one more wrap before threading back the rope, on each side.  If creating a cordlette for anchoring or for the Prusik Loop, leave tails of 3 to 5 cm.


Anchors make for a complex subject.  Non-standard situations that arise in climbing (outside of double bolted anchor stations), require that you have a wide knowledge of various elements including knots, skills, and a quick ability to recognise the specific gear and knots requirement.  Listed below are some of the more common used knots.

Anchor Tie in knots:

  • Clove hitch: If you need a reliably strong, and adjustable hitch, this is the one.  Quick to tie in to anchors, and easy adjust.
  • Figure of Eight on a Bight: Very similar in profile to the tie in knot of FOE follow through, but tying method is quicker and simpler.  The preferred knot, if I have to clip into a carabiner.
  • Bowline: If I have to tie a rope or cordage around a tree, or a rock, this is the go to.

Knots for Anchor Master Points: 

  • Double Figure Eight Loop or ‘Bunny Ears’:  Initially introduced to me by Muggy, and have found it to be useful on top rope anchors on occasion when I am short on rope.  It is useful for equalizing the load on two anchors, and uses less rope than BFK/BHK.

Knots & Hitches useful for Rescue situations

  • Munter Hitch:  Know this skill, and you might just save on a few stories of near epics.  Also known as the Italian Hitch, was  popularised by a group of Italian guides in the 1950s as a reliable mode of belaying.  The fact that it kinks ropes probably didn’t help it’s cause, but still is a key skill to have when one drops the belay device accidentally.  There are variations of this that make it more interesting for various other situations.  For example, the Auto-blocking Munter Hitch can be used to bring up a second more securely.
  • Mule-Overhand backup: This refers to a method of locking off a tube style or any other belay device in such a way, that even under load it could be released.
  • Munter-Mule-Overhand: Useful for releasable tie-off of the climber, if you need to get your hands free, and need to belay directly off of the anchor.

Other Knots & Hitches:

  • Girth Hitch: Also known as Lark’s foot hitch, applications include for attaching personal anchor to the harness (always hitch through the waist belt loop and the leg loops).
  • Stopper knots: This refers to a family of knots that are useful to tie off an end of the rope.  Most commonly used are the Double Overhand and the Figure of Eight.
  • Slip knot on a sling: If you are into trad climbing, you may someday come across a chicken head, and this is a useful skill to have to use that chicken head or such similar protrusion (bolts with out hangers, if you don’t have a chock nut) for protection.  In ten years of climbing, I have probably used this a couple of times!
  • Overhand knot:  Surprisingly, I list this towards the end, but forms the basis for many of the other knots listed above.  Most importantly, Overhands can be good limiter knots on cordage used for anchors or personal anchors or even can be used for master point clip in points, on a bight with closed loop.

‘Chocking’ knots

There may come a time, that you may need to protect using nothing but the slings or ropes you may have, by jamming or chocking them in constricted cracks.   Monkey fist is too elaborate to be created on the go.  However, any of the reliable stopper knots such as Double Overhand or Stevedore can also work.

Other knots, deliberately avoided above

Double Bowline as a knot to tie into the harness has been avoided in favour of the much better two listed above.

Double half hitch as a anchor tie in hitch has been ignored in favour of bowline.

Garda Hart or Alpine Clutch, again, as I haven’t used it in a decade since I had learnt it at the AMC’s rescue course.  For any hauling activity, I prefer the 3:1 hauling setup using guide mode or auto-blocking munter setup.

One of the more common ways of anchoring trees with rope for a quicker setup is by putting a few wraps around the tree and then connecting the rope via carabiner on a knot on a bight to the other rope.  I couldn’t find a name for it, but also, you can save on the carabiner by tying off with a bowline.

Confessions of a Crack addict

A month-long obsession with the cracks at a crag called Golladhani Konda had a moment of finality, this week.

Also, I looked at this month as the final epic climbing month before I end my fifteen year association with GE, my old company, and join Gipfel Climbing Equipment, where I will be leading the Sales and Marketing efforts for this fledgling but fast growing climbing and camping equipment company started by Apaar Mahajan.

Like most climbers, I have to juggle life, family and work; hence spread this out over multiple weekends, and eventually dedicated a four-day slot earlier this week.

Eventually, we realised six lines and 10 pitches worth of climbing; four completely trad lines and two sport lines, and I expended 53 bolts in pursuit of this project.  Ten other folks pitched in with this project at various points in time.

While, I believe all the six lines are certain classics, one of them, a 50-meter chimney route, ‘Life’s for the Living’ (LFTL) rated at 5.10a is certainly in the top five-ten routes in the country, in terms of the experience and exposure of the climb.

This is an account of that obsession and the experience.


Golladhani Konda or Golathi Konda is a spectacular piece of rock rising about 300 feet from the nearby plains of Uddanapalli, about half an hour to the south-west of Hosur on Rayakottai road. Nearest village to the base is Rajajinagar.  GPS coordinates, 12.587131, 77.929098.  You can either go through Hosur, or through Attibele.

This is Telugu speaking country, though located in Tamil Nadu, and being a Telugu was helpful while negotiating with the locals. We also had to negotiate with the local cops, and GMR security folks who initially were suspicious about our activities. (GMR owns most of the land around the hillock, a legacy of which is the spectre of abandoned farm houses dotting the uncultivated and arid landscape).

A year or so back, the existence of this hillock came to our knowledge, and we had begun to explore the more accessible Uddanapalli Betta about three kilometers north of it meanwhile. Even though, the profile of Golladhani Konda was visible so prominently, local enquiries about the approach provided conflicting beta, and one afternoon many months back, we drove my XUV through the rocky terrain from the south, attempting to get close, and found ourselves still a couple of kilometres short of the crag. Carrying all the exploration gear and approaching the hillock seemed like more than a day’s commitment. So we parked the project for another time.


More help of google maps, found us a jeep track that took us over a ‘bund’, and got us to about couple of hundred meters.

This was Jun 18th of this year. A little help from the local shepherd to find the closest trail, then a quick scramble across the long slab, and two bolts placed for the final 90 feet of technical scrambling that required a 5.6 climbing move to get over a ledge, finally got us to the summit. In lighter vein, we have since been referring to this last section with two bolts as the ‘Hillary’s step’.

There were five of us on this day, Narayan, Srivats, Pravin, Murali, and me.

Ah the happiness on finally reaching the summit!  But quickly we realised, what seemed to be a technical scramble for us, might not have been so much for the locals.  There was graffiti on top to indicate the presence of the previous visitors.

On that first visit, we got down to the base and explored a crack line on the northwest facing wall.  This side offered promise of multiple cracklines and chimneys.  Atleast five-six obvious lines.

So the first line we began to explore, starts on a large boulder leaning on the main face, with the undercut providing good holds to get on top of it, with a bit of slab that leads into a long crackline.  This line was named ‘Dhul Qarnayn’ subsequently.  I explored this line ground up, reaching the crack and exploring it for about 50 odd feet. Along the way, added a bolt on the slab section before the crack.  I had to exit from the 50 foot point, as heat cramps caught up with me, and I couldn’t keep my hand open after a while.  To clean the gear, Narayan, Pravin and Murali hiked up, added top bolts, and cleaned the gear on rappel.  Eventually, this entire line of 45 meter, including a 20 meter hand crack with three bolts would go at 5.8+ or 5.9.

The day’s adventures weren’t done. As we returned to the car end of the day, our fast approaching profiles highlighted by the headlamps beaming across the dark landscape, we probably made quite the spectacle. And as we approached my car, it had visitors waiting for us near it.

The locals apparently had called the cops on seeing a vehicle parked in seemingly desolate place, and the cops took us back to the Uddanapalli station.  After about an hour’s ‘interrogation’ that included ‘cross examination’ of our responses, the previously hostile Sub Inspector Manjunathan was quite genial by the time we left the station, with a promise that we will inform at the station when we visit the hillock again.

As SI Manjunathan explained later, we were a novelty in the area, and considering our skills and gear, they suspected us to be terrorists or naxalites.  (Also, I suppose Pravin’s and my beards, and our general appearance that aligns with one’s stereotypical assumption of how the leftists look weren’t too helpful.)


Second visit on Jun 25th with Karthik and Kamal, allowed us to complete the previous line, ‘Dhul Qarnayn’.  We added two bolts below the top anchors and connected the line to the lower crack.  Subsequent idea was to explore the left side offwidth on top anchors.

However, the rope got stuck on Dhul, and Karthik and I had to rap off to clear it.  And this forced my hand to start exploring the left side offwidth line ground up.  Subsequently named ‘Zoar Gap’.

‘Zoar Gap’ is the left most of the lines marked on the topo. The first pitch is about 20 meters of traverse, and goes at 5.8X. The plan is to make this line eventually a G rated climb. Additionally, we added two bolts at the end of that 20 meters, to allow for a two pitch climbing, and also, as we realised that climbing further beyond that and through the roof crack wouldn’t allow ease of communication between the belayer and the climber.  The second pitch is an offwidth crack on a slab.  The crux is right after the first pitch anchors, which goes via the offwidth that expands to a squeeze chimney.

(Additional to the ratings that define the technical difficulty, the letters ‘G’, ‘R’ & ‘X’ adopted from movie rating system refer to the risk factor of the climbing routes. ‘X’ rating implies that in case of a fall, the climber risks death or severe injuries, ‘G’ rating implies that the climb is well protected. Rating ‘R’ in between these two, indicates that the climb is run out, but risk of severe injuries is mitigated.)


Third trip was to get a quick climb on ‘Dhul Qarnayn’ with Poonacha, an old climbing buddy of mine, currently pursuing PhD in France.  This was a middle of the week climb on Jul 12th.  We both had to get back to work, so we climbed ‘Dhul’, traversed over the plateau, dropped down to the top of the finger crack to the right, added top bolts for a line that we explored (second from right, eventually named ‘The Badass’), and abseiled off.

The fourth and the last visit was over this week. Taking four days off from July 24th through July 27th, I decided to spend three days focused on staying near Uddanapalli and completing additional lines.

Aravind and Latha joined me for the three days at Golladhani Konda, and Kamal and Prakhar joined on the third day.  We will get to the fourth day shortly.

Aravind is a 24-year-old lad from Chennai who had quit his IT job to pursue climbing in earnest.  His intensity and urge to learn all things climbing is inspiring.  In two years of his climbing, he has come a long way, and is likely to be one of the best outdoor rock climbers India will have seen, if he continues down the path judiciously.  And his part time work schedule also is allowing him more creative flexibility.

Latha is from the old school of Bangalore climbing community, and rediscovering the passion for rocks.

So here we were, cliched as it may sound; the past, nearly past and the future of South India’s rock climbing scene on a pilgrimage to do something epic during this trip.

And we did. In three days, we opened two new lines, worth four pitches, and both likely classics at Golladhani Konda. And on the fourth day, Aravind and I freed two more lines at Raogodlu.

Day one, we scrambled over the now too familiar ‘Hillary Step’, dropped ropes on the third from left route, ‘The Badass’.  The name was chosen by Lata.

On rappel, we added six bolts on the second pitch which goes at 5.10a, and on the bottom pitch or the first pitch, we added 10 bolts. This route is probably harder than 5.11d-5.12a: a two pitch climb, that starts on 40 foot long dihedral which is the crux of the entire route, then goes into an easy crack that goes at 5.10a. Second pitch is another 5.10a line of another 90 feet. Third pitch is a 50-foot scramble to the top, through a gully, with no protection.

By the time, we completed the route and hiked out, it was close to 8 pm. That night, after the dinner at a dhaba at Uddanapalli, we slept in the house of Govindraj, who has a nursery on the outskirts of Rajajinagar village, and is the closest inhabited house to the crag. Next morning, he refused to take any money, but he suggested we may bring him some alcohol on our next visit.

Day two, our goal was to put up a route along the right chimney of a massive piece of rock that was leaning on the main face. we expended time looking for an appropriate location for the top anchors for ‘LFTL’ route, and managed to just put in the top anchors by the end of the day. On the way down, one of the ropes got stuck amidst the rocks that were wedged in the chimney to the left.  So we left it there to be retrieved the following day.

That night, we went looking for accommodation in Hosur, as we wanted more comfortable sleeping situation with an attached toilet.  At the Victoria hotel in Hosur, they took one look at us three, and refused to give us accommodation as we weren’t a ‘family’.  Driving a couple of kilometres further, and on the Hosur town main road, on the eastern side of the highway, we found some Residency hotel, which was ok with all three of us sharing a triple room.

Day three, we found it hard to wake up, but we eventually did by 7 am, and dragged ourselves out by 8 am.  Kamal and Prakhar joined us from Bangalore. Kamal had joined me on a previous visit, and Prakhar, a complete newbie, had messaged the previous day asking to just come hang out.

We were so glad to see them.  Considering the previous two days brutal schedule of hiking a kilometer, and then scrambling up the ‘Hillary Step’ every day with 15 kg loads, and hanging in our harnesses for six-eight hours in the blazing sun every day for the previous two days, and the subsequent efforts; we were happy to distribute loads, and reduce the weight of our individual packs.

Post breakfast, we reached the crag much later than the previous two days by about 10 am.

Just after we passed Govindraj’s house and parked in an empty space, began the next drama.

A few people gathered around us, including the locals and a chap dressed better than the locals.  As is the case most times, some of the locals had begun to speculate about our true purpose of climbing at Golladhani Konda.  In some locations, in the past, we have been mistaken for treasure hunters, and that I suspected was what was in the mind of the few simple locals.

And they seemed to have informed the GMR security folks. GMR, as mentioned earlier had acquired 100s of acres around the hillock, and the adjoining land belonged to them. Siva Ramkrishnan, who was the security officer was initially very intransigent, and refused to allow us through. A few calls to a cousin who happened to know the GMR family and a few higher-ups in GMR, followed by some name dropping helped. The security person went through his chain of command, and finally I got to speak to the local General Manager located in Hosur, Senthil something. He was quick to understand our purpose, and things turned more pleasant. Finally Siva Ramkrishnan and we parted ways with a handshake. Some of the locals still grumbled. But that is the nature of mob dynamics. Not everyone is happy.

Thus delayed further, we started up the crag only by 10.30 am, and to be more efficient with the remaining time, we split into two teams.  Latha and I were to rap bolt the pitches of LFTL, and Aravind was to lead the rest of the group down the Hillary Step scramble, and meet us at the base. Lata and I dropped down to the top anchors of the LFTL which was about 80-90 feet from the top over a roof, completed rap bolting two pitches by 4.30 pm.

Rest of the group were at the base by the time. With the route completed Aravind and Kamal got to top rope, and then we left the place by 6 pm to go grab a drink to celebrate the three days.


This fourth line to the far right is probably in the top five climbs in the entire country!

Bold claim as it maybe, it certainly is a classic. It is wildly exposed climb along a chimney, that requires squeeze-chimneying and stemming technique to get to the top. As you stem across the chimney, especially closer to the top, the ground falls below into an abyss, and the billowing winds at the top, with sun glinting off the textured rock, adds an aura of ‘wild west’ of ‘Mackenna’s Gold’ to it. The entire climb is rated at 5.10a-b, but grades alone don’t define climbs. It is the experience of the climb, and this one heck of an experience.

For much of that morning, we had been listening to Passenger’s song ‘Life’s for the Living’.  And so the name of the climb came about to be.  LFTL in short for those already brought up on acronymizing tradition of Indian movie names.


Day four, only Aravind and I were left to pursue the ‘Crack’ Fest of four days, so on this last day, we went to Raogodlu, which is south of Bangalore, on Kanakapura road. There joined by Gujju and Mahesh, we decided to explore few trad lines spied by Aravind and Abhishek over a month back.

I onsighted a new line, which went at 5.10a (Pathala), and half an hour later, Aravind onsighted a much harder 5.11b-c line (Devil’s Snare) that went over the roof and joined the line that I had onsighted earlier.

Rest of the afternoon, we spent toproping or alternatively leading the last variation.

Thus ended my month-long obsession with cracks.

A Short History of Climbing around Bangalore

A contextual understanding of the evolution of climbing and climbing tradition in Bangalore helps one appreciate the current climbing scenario.  People, clubs, climbing routes all form to make for a vibrant climbing community.

pic209.jpgOne of the typical KMA workshops from early 1980s.  With backs to the camera, Dr. Venkatesh Thuppil & Usha Ramaiah.

Bangalore’s climbing tradition can be dated back to the 1960s for certain.  Govind Raju from Mysore who started Deccan Mountaineering League, and Usha Ramaiah who is the co-founder of Karnataka Mountaineering Association were amongst the early pioneers of climbing in Karnataka.  These folks were mountaineering inclined, and technical rock climbing as a pursuit for its own objectives evolved much later.


To climb more technical or difficult routes, technical climbing gear is critical.  The cost of it is still very high, but in the 1960s & 1970s India, it was prohibitively so for an average person to acquire any gear.

govindraj.jpegGovind Raju, one of the early pioneers of Mountaineering  in the South India.

By 1980s, a certain cooperative movement was underway, driven by clubs including KMA, and KMA offshoots such as SPARK (Society for Propagation of Activation of Rock Klimbing), The Climbers, KINS (of the) ROC, Hill Top  Mountaineering Club, Anveshak (MES College Club) and to some extent BMSCE Mountaineering club.  These groups/clubs acquired ropes, harnesses, rock protection gear including nuts, pitons and in rare instances, spring loaded camming devices.  Most important piece of gear; technical climbing shoes with sticky rubber, was a luxury at a time when the cost of a pair equaled or exceeded the monthly salaries of an average Indian.

Starting ‘80s, with the availability of gear, technical climbing abilities evolved.  Climbing routes were being put up in trad style which sometimes meant minimal gear placements in available flakes or cracks, and hip belays in good stance (using the belayer’s body weight as the anchor).  But more technical and harder routes required appropriate modern techniques and modern gear.

Visiting international climbers also helped with introduction of advanced climbing techniques and gear during 1980s and 1990s.  Local climbers inspired from these visits pushed their own limits.

pic200.jpgMembers of The Climbers, one of the clubs that thrived during the climbing scene of 1980s and 1990s.  Dattatreya (extreme L), Kamalesh( 3rd from L), Harshavardhan Subbarao ( 4th from L) & Jagadeesh ( Extreme R)

Listed below is a somewhat chronological order of people and climbs that punctuates this evolution.  (For a detailed list of climbs around Bangalore, leave a note in the comments section, asking for the guide book.)

Amongst the earliest trad lines that were technically hard, two cracks, both named similarly, Scott’s crack in Savandurga and Ramanagara were put up by 1985 by renowned British climber Doug Scott and KV Mohan.

‘Mezzanine Roof’ at Mayanganahalli Betta was first climbed by Goonda Srinivas in 1986.  A 5.10ish crack that is now overgrown at the base, helps understand the quality of climbing that quickly evolved by mid 1980s.

First bolted route in Bangalore can be dated to Apr-May 1989, when two visiting French climbers, Philip and Dominic opened a route on Handigundi, ‘The Face’ (5.10a), hand-bolted ground up.  Subsequently, they established a couple of sport routes in Kabbaldurga as well, the first of the sport routes in the location.  Philip & Dominic also opened the first pitch of Louvre, a classic 5.9+ crack at Banyan Tree Pillar.

Jean-Francois Hagenmuller and KV Mohan in Ramanagara opened five classics in a span of a month in Nov-Dec 1990.  Namaste, Shanti, Beladingalu, Simple Monkey Day & Super Deluxe.  Alll ground up, machine bolted.  Unfortunately, Shanti, & Super Deluxe are unavailable for climbing anymore, as they are in the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary.  The routes on Savandurga have aging bolts, and are unsafe to climb.

mohan-k-v_02-e1498926877714.jpegKV Mohan, pioneered many classic routes in the 1990s in collaboration with folks like Doug Scott, Hagenmuller, and Rukmangda Raju.

KV Mohan was active in the Bangalore climbing scene from 1980s through early 1990s.  Apparently, in late 1980s, he had been appointed as a Liaison Officer with IMF for visiting foreign climbers, and he leveraged this position to introduce Bangalore to many of the international climbers who were visiting Himalayas, including Doug Scott and Jean-Francois Hagenmuller. Mohan along with Rukmangda Raju (together known locally as the crack brothers) also went on to put up many other trad lines including the Prana Chimney-Crack (as it is called today), and a few lines on Savandurga.  By late 1990s, he was less involved with climbing and frequenting Guru Freddy’s Ashram on Kanakapura road.  In 1995, while climbing in Himalayas, was swept away in an avalanche accident.  ‘Mohana’, a classic route on Savandurga, put in 1997 by Dinesh Kaigonhalli (Dini), Krishnan Narayanan (Shyam) and KINSROC group, was named in Mohan’s honor.

KINSROC as a club/group was extremely productive around Bangalore starting in late 1980s onwards till mid-90s, and after the 90s, the individuals in the group simply dropped the club act but continued with the climbing activities.  The climbs associated with KINSROC or folks associated with the group included routes such as Flesh Trade (Dini & Mohit Oberoi at Savandurga), High Lonesome (Dini, Shyam, Ajay Thambay and other folks at BM Betta), Darkness of Dawn, Ramanagara (Dini), most of the classic trad routes around Banyan Tree Pillar (Mohit Oberoi, Dini, Seema Pai, Aveek Ghosh and other folks).  KINSROC, and the associated folks have been responsible for over 60 routes around Bangalore, including opening new areas such as Senapathy, Achalu wall, Mother Wall, Vanakkal Betta, Rainbow wall, routes at Kabbaldurga, etc.

In mid 2000s, Gerhard Schaar, a visiting Austrian climber collaborated with Pranesh Manchaiah and other local climbers to put up over a dozen routes around Bangalore as part of ‘Bolts for Bangalore’ project.  Gerhard and Prani were also responsible for many bolted lines around Badami (set amidst ancient Chalukyan Temples and red sand stone gorges, with about 150 odd bolted routes, is the sport climbing Mecca of India).

Pranesh Manchaiah or Prani is one of the strongest climber Bangalore has seen and has been prolific since early 2000s in contributing towards new routes, including at areas such as Varlakonda, Atrani Gudda (Gethna area), Prana area (near Savandurga), Mayanganahalli Betta (Rasta Cafe area), Mother Wall (in collaboration with Dini), and in Badami.

Balaji SR, a top level national level climbing athlete in the 2000s, opened routes and areas such as Pond wall (which is unfortunately not available for climbing anymore), Freaky Flake (at Gowda’s farm), Vani’s Wedding (an airy 5.11b climb, now inside Ramanagara Vulture sanctuary, and not available for climbing anymore), etc.

It was not just contribution towards new routes that defined the evolution of the Bangalore climbing community.  A community to sustain must bring new folks into its fold.  While many groups and clubs contributed to this, more recently, ‘NOLS’ Ravi (currently a NOLS India official) is remembered for the energy he brought to GETHNA (General Thimayya National Academy of Adventure, a setup since 1989 by the state government of Karnataka to promote adventure sports) had in the 1990s during his leadership, in organizing effective workshops to introduce new folks and evolve climbing skills.

Keerthi Pais, mentor and coach of many of the competition climbers, helped make Bangalore the mecca of the competitive scene in 2000s.  He is also responsible for the routes at the Rasta Café area, Gethna area, Magadi road, and Varlakonda area.

pic207Bouldering in Turahalli.  Look Ma, no Crashmats!

During the early part of this century, Gethna Climbing Wall at Kanteerava stadium came into being.  In the initial years, it contributed to some strong climbers who also pursued outdoor climbing.  Balaji SR and Pranesh Manchaiah are couple of those products.  But the Climbing Wall also seemed to satiate the climbing energy of many others, and slowly there was a cleavage between those who climbed in the outdoors and those who climbed at the wall.  The energy exhibited in the outdoors climbing scene since 1980s seemed to slip and sputter along during the late 2000s and into this decade.  Many of the strong climbers seemed content with the competitive scene and rarely ventured into the outdoors with the same energy as exhibited in the previous decades.

Since 2014, there has been a quiet revolution underway in the outdoor climbing scene of Bangalore.  Bangalore Climbing Initiatives in existence since 2014, along with Dinesh Kaigonhalli, Pranesh Manchaiah, Keerthi Pais and others have been responsible for over 90 new routes with a spread ranging from 5.6 through 5.12s, including trad, sport and multi-pitches.  All in all, over 130 plus pitches have been added in the last three years alone!

And may this energy continue!

pic206.jpegOne of the first climbs at Ibrahim farm, Ramanagara being opened in 1980s, by the Climbers Club.  The original route ‘Ha’ traverses left.

scan0036Dinesh Kaigonhalli. one of the pivotal figures in the evolution of climbing in Bangalore.  Ibrahim’s farm, 1989.

scan0025Naveen Tater at Badami, mid 1990s
scan0033Couple of climbers at Labour Pain, Vanakkal Betta, Ramanagara, 1992

scan0034Mohit Oberoi on ‘Dynosaur’ at Turahalli in 1990s.  ‘Dynosaur’ is next to ‘Bonsai’ around the corner from the ‘Big Slab’, opposite ‘Chocolate  Omelette’.  A large tree covers that entire face currently.

scan0031Mohit Oberoi leading at Kabaldurga.  1989-90.  Mo, a resident of  Delhi and on his visits to Bangalore, in association with the climbers from the KINSROC is credited with many routes around Bangalore many in the company of Dinesh Kaigonhalli, including: Flesh Trade at Savandurga, Khoday Neer, Idli Grinder, Cane Toad, Bombs Away, second pitch of Louvre, and other lines at Banyan Tree Pillar, routes at Vanakkal Betta, etc.   Mo continues to be an active athlete into his 50s; he swam the English Channel in 2015, and continues to run Ultra Marathons.

pic210.jpegAn image from Kamalesh’s archive.  Circa 1980s

pic204.jpegJagadeesh from The Climbers setting up a traverse pitch at Ramanagara, circa 1980s.  From Kamalesh’s archives.

pic203.jpegKamalesh and Jagadeesh on a climb at Kabbaldurga, circa 1980s.  Kamalesh’s archives.

Personal Anchors for Climbing

A Personal Anchor System allows you to secure self at the anchor stations, either on top of single pitch climbs, or on multi pitches.  Securing self using a PAS allows you to either build a SRENE anchor quickly and safely, and subsequently remain attached to the main anchor system, or allows you to clean a route before exiting.

There are many types of personal anchor systems, some that you can build yourself or some that are pre-rigged by the manufacturer for ease of use, etc.

An efficient PAS will have the following features.

  • Ease of use.  Will be quick to deploy, and quick to rack away.  Anything that seems elegant but takes long to deploy is inefficient PAS.
  • Adjust-ability.  The distance to the first piece in the anchor system will not always be constant, and your PAS needs to be adjustable for the best stance.  And this ability to adjust should be quick
  • Rack-ability.  Should rack conveniently on your harness, without snagging on your knee while you are climbing, or creating bulk on your harness gear loop.
  • Bulk and weight.  Those days of lugging boom boxes and other inefficient gear are behind us.
  • Simplicity.  This applies to all kinds of climbing systems and gear.  Unless the piece of gear or process has unique advantages, best to use one that is simplest to use and propagate in the community.
  • Safety.  Some of the PAS may have all of above, but may suffer from a degree of  safety in case you accidentally fall from the waist level at the anchor or happen  to go over it.  For instance, Rope based anchors or Nylon webbings are known to perform better in case of higher fall factors, versus Dyneema or Spectra.
  • Versatility.  Can your PAS be used for other applications such as rescue, or when you have  run out of runners or alpine draws or quick draws to make that additional draw?
  • Cost.  Cost is a minor factor in the scheme of things, but if it is a hideously expensive solution, then that is a non-starter.

There are various schools of thoughts on Personal Anchor systems, ranging from use of climbing rope itself to using cordage based tethers to slings to proprietary anchor systems marketed by various brands.

As most things in climbing, there is not a single solution that is best for ALL scenarios.  And I get a bit leery about something that is promoted as a panacea for all kinds of climbing, or all scenarios.  However, as most of us, I can get very dogmatic about the flavor of the season, and then eventually I sometimes discover another solution that works equally well or better, or the solution I have been adhering to may not be the most optimal.  That is experience of evolution, I suppose.

So, let me start with my current personal preference and then talk about the rest of the systems and their strengths and weaknesses.

Knotted Sling PAS/Rope Anchor mix

Sometimes a 60-cm sling is also used, but I prefer a 120-cm or a 48-inch sling with knots at two equal intervals for flexibility, reach and versatility.

It is attached to the harness by the way of girth hitching between waist loop and leg loop.  I equip the clip in end with an HMS type large (non-auto) locking carabiner

It racks away on the gear loop either to the left or to the right, depending on the situation or your preference, and closer to the belay loop.   The large carabiner allows for ease of clipping into the anchor point.  A non-auto locking carabiner also ensures less effort is required for clipping in.

On sport climbs, when I get to an anchor station, I clip into one of the hangers, then proceed to set up the complete anchor, and then clove-hitch the climbing rope into the master point.  Now, I have ‘two-point’ personal anchor; one with the PAS attached directly into one of the hangers, and the climbing rope attached to the master point of the main anchor system.

If it is a Trad anchor setup, I get to the point where my anchor is to be setup, I put in a piece, clip the rope directly into it, and then proceed to build the anchor.  If that primary single piece feels inadequate, then I add in one more piece, clip my rope into one and my knotted sling PAS into the other, and then proceed to work on the anchor setup.

An additional advantage of the knotted sling is that while exiting a sport climb, I am still clipped into one of the hangers, I can setup my rappel, with the belay device attached to the sling, and remove it before I rappel off.

This above system provides all the flexibility and adjust-ability that I need, racks away well, provides redundancy, and is extremely safe.


Daisy Chains:

Do not use a Daisy Chain, at all!  Daisy chains are meant for aid climbing, and their stitched loops are rated for only 2 kn breaking point, and there is a huge risk of not clipping in correctly, thus when the stitches come off, you may not be clipped into any personal anchor system at all!

Read more here for the risks.


Using the climbing rope alone:

This is the cheapest system, and requires no additional gear (with some qualifications).  Arrive at the anchor station, clip in a spare quick draw, attach your climbing rope in with clove hitch, or if you have a spare alpine draw then proceed to clip directly into it via your belay loop, build rest of the anchor and reattach the climbing rope to the master point.

Climbing rope is strong and self-redundant, so you are secure.

The downside is that while this works in most simple cases, there are many downsides to this.  The action of clipping into an anchor piece with the rope is a minimum of two-step process versus using a separate personal anchor system, which is a single step process.  While sport climbing at your hardest grade, this can be a bit unnerving and inefficient.   Two, having a separate personal anchor provides more flexibility in rescue situations.  Three, for more complex setups it uses extra length of rope, and on longer routes, you will need every bit of that rope.

But it is good to know how to use the rope for personal anchors or for anchor stations as some days you may be low on gear, or as in trad anchors, you simply may require some type of quick rope anchor.

And as stated earlier, I prefer a mix of Rope anchors along with knotted slings for my PAS.

Rope lanyards or rope based proprietary anchor systems or home-made solutions:

Rope lanyards used for personal anchor systems are made of 8 or 9 mm dynamic ropes, and have a tie in point and clip in point.



For example Beal Dynaclip or Simond La Vache; are strong, but they aren’t adjustable, and add bulk around the belay loop area.  Racking them is also a challenge.

Their positioning and the relevance as PAS relies on the fact that tape slings whether manufactured based on Nylon or Dyneema have higher impact forces and can fail if one generates high factor falls.  See the chart below sourced from Beal site to understand this.


And rope lanyards do have their usefulness in case there is a chance that you may fall on the anchors.   They are also useful for rope courses, where aside from protecting from possibility of fall forces, the durability is also a concern.

However, for most type of rock climbing, you will be loading the anchors, and not be going above them or creating situations that may potentially expose you to a fall on the anchors.  If you are creating a situation where you may be going over the anchors, then you are probably doing something wrong.

Simond la vacheSince, I referred to Simond La Vache as an example, it has an additional problem that it can only attach around the belay loop, and not through the waist and leg loop because of the length of the attachment loop.  The reason that this is a problem is that, I worry, that the wear on the belay loop while hanging and working can degrade a harness quicker than normally would be expected.

However, if you prefer Rope Lanyards, you could also create one with an old climbing rope.

Below example is made of a 10 mm old climbing rope, but a 9 mm or smaller diameter would be preferred to keep the bulk down, and requires 10 to 12 feet of rope.  Below example uses the Purcell Prusik principle for a climbing rope lanyard, to incorporate ‘adjust-ability’.



Proprietary Personal Anchor systems made of looped webbing

m_pas_22_blue_-_yellow_1.jpgThese are similar to a knotted sling, except that each looped webbing retains it’s full strength in contrast to a knotted sling.

Examples include Metolius PAS 22 and BD Link PAS.  These are brilliant.  These however cost about two-three times more than a knotted sling, and weigh considerably more as well.

Purcell Prusik:

Purcell Prusik is cordage based personal anchor system, and has many advantages.  It is usually made with a 10 foot length of 6 or 7 mm diameter cordage with a minimum rated breaking strength of 7.5 kn.



It is versatile, flexible, safe and relatively inexpensive to make and use.  However, it is bulky to rack, and not as quick to adjust as you would want to, especially in hard sport climbing situations.



Other interesting solutions:

petzl-connect-adjust_1-1.jpgPetzl Connect Adjust Lanyard is a nifty solution that adjusts quickly between 15 cm to 95 cm, and is an improvement on the rope lanyards.  The diameter of the lanyard is 9.5 mm.  The cost of this is $60.

There are other similar lanyard adjustable devices such as Kong Slyde, Petzl Zyper, etc.  They have their particular applications and advantages.  You can read more at Storrick’s informative page on Cow Tails.

Climbing Quiz – BCI Socials, Jul 2016

Below is a quiz that was used for the BCI (Bangalore Climbing Initiatives’) Socials held on Jul 10th, 2016.


  1.         List all the climbs on Savandurga.
  2. Define fall factor.
  3. Who put up these two routes, Kamasutra at Gowda’s Farm, Darkness of Dawn in Ramanagara, Flesh Trade on Savandurga, and Khoday Neer at Banyan Tree Pillar, Savandurga.
  4. Who put up the following routes, Freaky Flake at Gowda’s farm  and Pond Wall routes in Ramanagara.
  5. If a route grade is described as 5.12a, which grading system is it?
  6. What did Edouard Bourdanneau and Pierre Allain create that has furthered the climbing in late 1940s.
  7. What mistake is a climber making when he/she clips rope into a draw by pulling slack from BELOW the previous clip?
  8. Identify this knot. BCI Quiz 2
  9. Identify this friction hitch.
  10. Identify this boulder in Turahalli.
  11. What is this setup known as?
  12. What command should one hear from the belayer BEFORE beginning to climb?
  13. What is the minimum strength a sling is needed to possess to be UIAA certified
  14. Without limiter knots, which anchor principle does the Sliding X setup fail on if the sling breaks?
  15. Who? She learned gymnastics early in her years, but disliked the way girls “had to smile and do cutesy little routines on the floor.”  Her autobiography is “Climbing Free: My life in the vertical world”.  Nearly broke a  record lifting weights and ran competitively.  Was a protégé and a partner of John Long.  86-92; she was an extremely successful competitive climber.  In 1992, returned to trad climbing her first love and by 1993 became the first person to free climb the Nose on El Cap.  Next year she became the first person to complete the Nose in 24 hours.   Was considered the best rock climber during her peak.
  16. Which recently deceased French climber and mountaineer put up iconic Bangalore climbs such as Shanti, Beladingalu, Simple Monkey Day, Super Deluxe and Namaste?
  17. Lionel Daudet, at the peak of his form in 1995 travelled all the continents to put up the hardest routes he could. In India, in south, he put up a route on Savandurga, which is an extremely run out 5.11 D route on the main buttress of the south facing Savandurga wall.  What is the name of the climb.
  18. What brand does Mohit Oberoi own? Mo is the author of the only guidebook on climbs around Delhi, and who has a productive partnership with Dini and have put up some good climbs and ascents around Bangalore, including the Flesh Trade and Khoday Neer at Savandurga and Banyan Tree Pillar.
  19. A-frame, Modified A-frame, Tunnel, Hoop, single hoop, Inflatable, Khyam system, Tepee, Geodesic or Dome are types of what?
  20. Kurt Albert, a german climbber who lived between 1954 and 2010, used to mark certain routes to indicate that they were possible to free climb,  either after reviewing them ground up or on rappel.  This has given rise to a term that is popular today, but used in slightly different context.
  21. Karl _______ developed a knot to repair the violin strings, during the course of which he would use this knot to tighten the strings, which he realized also had an application in climbing. This knot is also misspelt often.
  22. Shunt type, Gibbs type, And ______ type.  What is the missing link or what are  these types of?
  23. The first commercially available mechanical belay device to be invented is what?
  24. In 1970 Cesare Maestri put up a route on the south-east side of Cerro Torre, a 10,262 feet ice covered granite spire in Argentina’s Patagonia region. This was in reaction to general disbelief of his alleged first ascent claim of 1959, on the north-east ridge of Cerro Torre.  In 1970,  he and his team hauled a 135 kg petrol driven drilling machine, 1000s of meters  of rope, and drilled 400 bolts in all, and yet not reaching the top, but stopping short of ice covered bulge about 100 meters below the summit.  What is this much criticized route  referred to as?
  25. What does ATC stand for in BD ATC.
  26. So, you guys know what is onsighting, red pointing, pink pointing (pre-placed gear). What’s Wolf Mooning?
  27. This piece of equipment on some helicopters, is a pin that holds the blades on top of a helicopter to the main mast. If it fails, all hell breaks loose.  So a term was given to it, during the Vietnam war which became popular, and has been adopted by Trad climbers for a crucial piece of gear placement.
  28. Usage of chalk is controversial in many climbing areas of the world. In this particular area of bouldering, considered the spiritual birthplace of bouldering  about 100 years back, locals don’t use chalk or frown up on its usage.  They use something else for friction.  POF, a ball of sticky resin glue tied into a towel, which they use both on their hands and feet.  Apparently, it leaves a residue which is very slippery and only use of more POF provides any further friction.   Please identify this bouldering location, or the other famous influence on bouldering this place has by the way of its shortened name.
  29. In 1977, a plane flying from Colombia and later alleged to have been carrying six tonnes of marijuana, in Lower Merced lake in Yosemite. Apparently, the first to be able to get there were climbers, who managed to figure out what the plane was carrying.  And then began the Great Weed rush of ’77.  Many smoked away for months after that, and as the legend goes some enterprising climbers managed to make money out of it and used it for seed money for their first businesses.  John Long inspired by this, wrote a story around it, and eventually a screenplay.  What did this screenplay morph into?
  30. OK, someone wanted some cool questions, here it is. What is Verglass?
  31. German word for half clove hitch is halbmastwurf sicherung. How do we better know this as, and in what application?
  32. This French chap, ______ Rebuffat, is credited with popularizing this style of moves.  He supposedly climbing long cracks using this style, which seemed as if one was prying open an elevator door.
  33. In 1968, Douglas Tompkins, Yvon Chouinnard and a couple of other folks did a road trip from California to Patagonia and put up a new route on Mount Fitzroy, and made an adventure film, Mountain of Storms, about their experience. Between Doug Tompkins and Yvon Chounnard, they were responsible for or contributed towards at least five world famous brands, four still existing.  Name all five.



  1. Beladingulu, Deepawali, Simple Monkey Day, Mohana, Scott Crack, Bangaore Bill, Choot de Sexo/KMA  Route, Flesh Trade, Shanti  Das, Navaratri variation of Deepawali, Snake in the Eagle Shadow, Cloud 9
  2. The ratio of the distance a climber falls before the climber’s rope begins to stretch and the rope length available to absorb the energy of the fall.
  3. Dinesh Kaigonahalli
  4. Balajee  SR
  5. Yosemite Decimal System
  6. Created the first canvas topped, rubber randed climbing shoes.
  7. Z clipping
  8. Alpine Butterfly (acceptable, Lineman’s loop or Harness loop.
  9. Klemheist.
  10. Krishna.
  11. ADT
  12. Climb on!
  13. 22kn
  14. If the sling breaks, the entire system is shot, hence redundancy.
  15. Lynn Hill
  16. Jean-Francois Hagenmuller
  17. Shanti Das
  18. Adventure 18
  19. Tent styles.
  20. Redpoint
  21. Prusik
  22. All ascenders.  Shunt works on a principle that uses an exaggerated ‘S’ shaped camming action to clamp the rope, Gibbs type ascenders completely encircles the rope, which requires that you dismantle the entire  ascender.   Jumar type has a partial shell, and to load the rope, you have to swing open the cam, with a safety catch to keep the cam  in position against the rope.
  23. Sticht Belay plate
  24. Compressor Route (in 2012, 120 of the original bolts were chopped)
  25. Air Traffic Controller
  26. To complete the route at night.
  27. Jesus nut.
  28. Fountainebleue or Font
  29. The John Long’s screenplay was not Hollywood ready, so a revised screenplay morphed into Cliffhanger.
  30. Thin, clear coating of ice that forms when rain or melting snow freezes on a rock surface.
  31. Another word for Munter hitch.  HMS carabiners
  32. Gaston
  33. The North Face,  Black Diamond, Chouinard Equipment Company, Patagonia, Espirit

Rock Climbing capital of India: Bangalore

Bangalore IS the Rock Climbing capital of India!   Is that an empty claim based on jingoism?

Let’s consider the facts.

There are over 250 plus sport and trad routes, a spread that covers single pitch sport to 1000 foot long multi-pitch sport and trad  routes within a radius of 100 km from the center of the city.  That number alone is the most for any city or or urban population center around the country.  There are 1000s of boulder problems spread over half a dozen boulder gardens.  And over 250-300 people who climb actively.  There are half a dozen plus  artificial climbing surfaces within the city.

Badami, the sport climbing paradise set amidst red sandstone hills is about 460 km to the north, and  Hampi the bouldering  mecca of international renown is about 350 km in the same direction.  The energy in the town and around the crags is palpably upbeat, and holds promise for climbing as a sport around these parts.

Let’s look at all this in more depth  further below.


Bangalore is blessed with some fantastic climbing and climbing potential.  The most popular bouldering area, Turahalli is 20 km from the center of the city.  Located on the south-eastern fringe of the city, it has an association with modern bouldering for over 50 years.  There are over 500 plus problems in a 591 acres spread.  Additionally there are dozens of boulder gardens within 50-100 km range, around the city.  Other frequented boulder gardens include Raogodlu (highballs, cracks for trad climbing), Narsapur Junction rocks, Antharagange, Magadi, etc.

In addition to the dozens of boulder gardens, there are multiple slabby crags ranging from 100 to 1000 feet plus, all around the city.  Ramanagara to the south-west, attracted most efforts from climbers, and alone has about 150 plus sport and trad routes, many of which are multi-pitch routes.  Savandurga to the west, the 300 meter monolith has close to a dozen routes of five to seven pitch long routes.  Additionally the surrounding areas around Savandurga have another 30 odd routes.  Varlakonda, to the north, a single hill that rises about 300 feet from the plains around, with 200 feet plus craggy surface, is fast becoming a popular sport climbing location.  It alone has about 20 routes at this time, with potential for many more.

There are many more areas that I will eventually document and discuss in detail later.  Between all these areas, there are close to 250 plus routes.  But a warning to those who may go looking for all of those 250 plus routes.  Close to a fifth of these routes were lost to natural aging of bolts, or have yet to be rediscovered as the beta is sketchy or fall in areas now banned from climbing.  But that is offset by the fact, that last two years alone has seen an addition of 50 new climbs.  More about it later.



Weather around Bangalore is truly an all season climbing weather.  The summers are largely mild, but with the global warming, there are weeks when the weather heads north of 35 degrees Celsius, but you could boulder in the shade, or as some of us took on as a challenge and proved was that you can definitely get on the longer climbs (including the Savandurga routes).  For rest of the year, the temperatures hover around late 20s to 30 degrees Celsius.

Monsoons have rarely played spoilsport with our weekend climbing plans, as the rains start around afternoon or late afternoon.  And I have got some of the best climbing in during the monsoons.   Now, the winters certainly are desired time to get on the Savandurga’s long routes.  How we wait for those two and half months of extremely mild weather, starting mid-November through January!  And they go by so quickly.

CLUBS AND PEOPLE: A short history of Climbing in Bangalore

Technical rock climbing in Bangalore has been around since 1950s, but modern climbing could be traced back to 1980s with certainty.  Multiple clubs abounded around Bangalore in the 1980s.  The fierce competition between these clubs translated into some good productivity.

In 1984, the first technical route on Savandurga was climbed using traditional methods.  This was a fine moment for the trad climbers around Bangalore.  But Bangalore largely has compact granite.  The traditional routes established during this era required boldness and imagination.

In 1991, under the leadership and guidance of a visiting Frenchman, Jean-Francois Hagenmuller; K.V.Mohan, and a bunch of local climbers quickly established a series of bolted routes, which still remain as the all-time classics.  Some of these were bolted ground up.  The first of these ‘Shanthi’, an airy 5.10b two pitch slab climb remained the classic for the longest time, until the area in which it is located was turned into a Vulture Sanctuary and climbing there was banned in the middle of last decade.  ‘Namaste’, a two-pitch 5.9 climb on Mahout rock, ‘Beladingulu’ & ‘Simple Monkey Day’, seven pitch routes on Savandurga, and ‘Super Delux’, adjacent to ‘Shanthi’, were the other classics put up by the same set of folks.  (K.V.Mohan passed away in 1997 during a Himalayan expedition, and Hagenmuller also lost his life to a climbing accident earlier this month.)

During late 1980s and early 90s, Dinesh Kaigonahalli, Mohit Oberoi and a bunch of other climbers associated with them as Pegs and Pitons club were extremely productive, and put up many climbs, both sport and trad, largely around Ramanagara/Savandurga area.  Some of the classics include Khoday Neer, Darkness of Dawn, High Lonesome, Flesh Trade, and Mohana.

Amongst the finest routes that went up during the golden era of 1980s and 90s in Bangalore included a free solo by Lionel Daudet.  Who, while on a world tour and at his peak of climbing abilities, put up the ridiculously hard Shanthi Das, a multi-pitch sport route on Savandurga, which is rated at 5.11D.  It remains to be repeated as yet.

Turn of this century saw the opening of Bangalore’s first climbing wall, at Kanteerava Stadium.  And a new kind of club came into being.  Clubs that never left the wall, and competed to be the strongest or the fastest at the wall, with limited exposure to the outdoors.

Throughout the last decade, and early part of this decade, climbing scene in Bangalore chugged along.  Except for an occasional spark, there was little imagination, very few new climbs being established.

A couple of climbers from this era, who stood out for their efforts at adding to the repertoire of climbs around Bangalore include Balaji SR and Pranesh Manchaiah, both also national level competitive climbers.


The inspired fire from the 80s and 90s wasn’t completely extinguished.  Dinesh Kaigonahalli one of the architects of all the mischief from those years was away building an outdoors brand called ‘Wildcraft’.  And couple of years back decided to become once more to be more productive with his contribution towards climbing in Bangalore.  This time around, he offered to teach a few folks how to bolt, and shared his philosophy around climbing ethics.

I was part of that group that had the opportunity to learn to bolt from him.  Same year, I and a few others including Muggy (Bhaskar Bhat) started Bangalore Climbing Initiatives.  The idea was to provide a structured introduction to roped climbing, document existing and new routes, and help with maintaining existing and establishing of new routes.  Since 2014, between Dini (Dinesh Kaigonahalli), BCI and another group in Bangalore led by Keerthi Pais, we have established 50 plus new routes in a matter of two years!  These include both single and multi-pitch sport and trad routes.

Since 2014, our introductory workshops have given about 200 plus folks opportunity to sample climbing and about 20% plus of those folks continue to climb on a regular basis.  This number doesn’t include the networking effect of those 40 folks, who continue bring in their friends and family and help them get addicted to climbing.

We largely coordinate our plans through WhatsApp, and we also connect with the world through a Facebook group, Bangalore Climbers. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/BangaloreClimbingAndOutdoorsGroup/).

But we are just one of the many climbing groups that are currently active in Bangalore.  Climbers are a diverse lot, socially, and culturally.  As such groups form around the specific philosophy of climbing.  There are at least a dozen large sized groups, and multiple other two-person teams and individuals who float around.  I suspect Bangalore has about 300 odd active climbers, plus another population of 300-400 folks who climb very occasionally with their more active friends or family.

BCI, the group that I climb with has a mission goal of ‘10,000 Climbs and 1000 Climbers by 2025’.  The goal statement doesn’t consider  environmental impact, but the group is a conscientious lot.