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3 women climbers tell you all about the sport of bouldering

Ahead of India's first bouldering World Cup, meet three women climbers for a lowdown on the sport and where to practise it

  This weekend, more than 120 athletes from 13 countries will dexterously try to traverse tiny rock formations on 15-feet high indoor walls, without any harness, at Vashi’s CIDCO Exhibition Centre. The walls, created from artificial fabric panels, have been set up especially for the bouldering edition of the IFSC Climbing World Cup 2016, brought to India for the first time.

A participant at an earlier edition of the bouldering competition organised by Girivihar
A participant at an earlier edition of the bouldering competition organised by Girivihar

Governed by International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), a world body for climbing competitions, the World Cup championships are held annually in three disciplines — lead, speed and bouldering. The current edition in bouldering is hosted by Indian Mountaineering Found-ation (IMF) and organised by Girivihar, a Navi Mumbai-based mountaineering club formed in 1954.

B for bouldering
In recent times, climbing has come into focus after being introduced as a new sport in the Asian Games 2018. It’s also shortlisted to feature in the 2020 Olympics. Bouldering is a relatively new form of rock climbing, which involves the art of climbing small blocks of rock (boulders), usually without a rope for protection. The specialised climbers, also known as boulderers, try challenging moves to solve difficult boulder problems close to the ground. “The athletes need to showcase power and technique to climb a maximum height of four metres. They can fall back on mattresses,” says Abhijit Burman, vice president of the World Cup committee.

Involving participation from both, men and women, the World Cup will feature renowned athletes like Shauna Coxsey from UK and Akiyo Noguchi from Japan, World No 1 and 2 rankers in Women’s Bouldering respectively, along with male champions, Rustam Gelmanov from Russia and Jongwon Chon from Korea. Meanwhile, the Indian contingent includes 17 shortlisted climbers, including one from Mumbai and six from Pune. “The best climbers from each country participate in the world cup. IMF handles the team selection and training,” informs Burman.

The guide speaks with three women athletes currently undergoing intensive training at IMF’s South Campus in New Delhi.

FROM: May 13 to 16 AT CIDCO Exhibition Centre, Sector 30, Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
LOG ON TO: ifsc-climbing.org

Siddhi Manerikar, Mumbai
Age: 20
On the CV: First Rank in Girivihar Rock Climbing Competition (2010), Selected for Asian Youth Champ-ionship in Singapore (2011), Fourth Rank in Asian Youth Championship in Indonesia (2013).

Siddhi Manerikar

Seven years ago, Siddhi Manerikar was introduced to the world of climbing when she was selected for a Republic Day demonstration to climb the 43-feet high Arun Samant Climbing Wall located at her school playground in Goregaon. “The sports teacher invited participation from those students who may have an interest in climbing trees. I thought, why not give it a shot?” says Manerikar, adding. “That’s the only wall in India which is built from ferro-cement, so the feel is very real, unlike other bouldering walls which are made from fabric panels,” says the second year Commerce student from Goregaon’s Patkar College, who has participated in and won many zonal, state and national bouldering events. In fact, she is the only Mumbaikar selected for the World Cup. “I hope more people get to know about the sport through the event,” she says.

Tips
>> Warm-up is essential. Try stretching exercises.
>> Pay attention to your footwork.
>> For bouldering, opt for toe-down shoes which help with a better grip. Rub your hands with chalk powder for a better grip.

Nehaa Prakash, Bengaluru
Age: 22
On the CV: Six-time Indian national champion in rock climbing, Gold medal in lead climbing at Asian Youth Climbing Championship in Kazakhstan (2009), Third Rank in Girivihar Open International Rock Climbing Competition (2013).

Nehaa Prakash, Bengaluru

“Bouldering is purely between you and the wall. You are not competing with anyone. You are just conquering your fears,” says Nehaa Prakash, who has climbed artificial and natural structures, including the rocks in Karnataka’s Badami region, for over eight years now. “It started as a hobby during summer holidays. Then, I participated in a local competition and won it, so I took it seriously and began competing,” says the final year law student, who is equally fond of lead climbing. “Bouldering is integral to climbing as it helps you manoeuvre rocks when climbing with a harness too. However, lead climbing requires more endurance,” she informs. Besides physical strength, Prakash believes, mental alertness and keeping calm under pressure are also integral to the sport. Ask if the sport is more challenging for female climbers and Prakash asserts, “It’s not tougher for women, they just don’t attempt it.” Eager to learn from international athletes at the upcoming World Cup, Prakash says, “Often, we don’t have enough money or time to travel abroad to watch such competitions. So, the event in India is a great opportunity for us.”

Tips
>> Be flexible and self-aware. Hand- leg coordination is important.
>> Avoid climbing in the rains or when it’s too sunny.
>> Have a spotter at hand, who can help you locate the mattress if you need to fall back on it.
>> Attempt on an artificial wall first, before scaling natural rocks.
>> Don’t try bouldering without a crash pad.

Mayuri Deshmukh, Pune
Age: 18
On the CV: Gold medal in Singapore Open International Championship, competed in World Youth Champ-ionship in New Caledonia, won four national championships

Mayuri Deshmukh, Pune

While the SYJC Arts student is still to figure out her career path, Deshmukh is confident about her bouldering strategies. “For lower boulders, you need dynamic strength while vertical ones require a lot of balance and mental focus. It’s like problem solving, but using your body,” says the athlete, who began climbing four years ago. Having read about bouldering on the web, Deshmukh connected with the climbing community in Pune, including athlete Tuhin Satarkar (also a participant in the World Cup), who helped her search for places to go bouldering in the city. “My first outdoor bouldering experience was in the Plus Valley in Tamhini Ghat near Pune. I fell in love with the high boulders and climbing them was fun,” she recalls. Currently undergoing an intensive climbing, weight training and cardio training for the upcoming World cup,  “Taking part in the Singapore competition was an eye-opener. While in India, we have very few climbers, I saw more than 100 women participants there. It was crazy.”

Mayuri Deshmukh attempts climbing at Badami, Karnataka
Mayuri Deshmukh attempts climbing at Badami, Karnataka

Tips
>> When faced with boulder challenges, learn movement combinations that work for your body.
>> Don’t overthink because it’s a relatively new sport in India. Just try it.

What's bouldering?

>> A relatively new form of rock climbing, bouldering involves traversing rock formations (boulders) on 10 to 15-feet high walls, without the use of a harness.
>> Participants rub their hands with chalk powder for a stronger grip.
>> A bouldering mat or crash pad, made of foam, is used for safety.
>> The criteria for judging the bouldering World Cup includes a look at technique and number of attempts.

Where to go bouldering

Around Mumbai
Manori: Two hours away from the city, the weekend getaway is also a popular rock-climbing destination with vertical rock structures that can be conquered using a harness. It includes bouldering routes too.
Gandhi Tekdi: Located in Borivali’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park, it’s a good bouldering site with various grade rock heights from 10 feet to 60 feet.

Around Pune
Plus Valley: Located 150 kms away from Mumbai, Plus Valley in Tamhini Ghat resembles a plus sign, hence the name. Offering a reverse trek — where you first descend down the valley and then ascend to the plateau — it’s popular among bouldering enthusiasts because of huge rocks dotting the ascent routes.

Around Bengaluru
Badami: Located in Bagalkot district of Karnataka, the lesser-known cousin of Hampi, is the mecca for rock climbers. It features more than 200 routes including Ganesha, the country’s toughest climbing route graded at 8b+. Other options include Savandurga hill, 60 kms west of Bengaluru, and the hills in the Turahalli forest.

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