On the Rocks,in Tamhini Valley

(Please note that the author had not carried her slr camera on this trip with her.So the few photos adorning the end of this post have been taken on cell phones.These photos might not cover everything..so this time,please go,by the description alone,mostly..also,some images wont be seen in the correct orientation..i havent had the time to rotate n save them.)
I could not have asked for a better beginning for the year 2011.
It was 5.30 a.m. of 1st of january 2011 and i was having a hard time to heed my mobile alarm.
I had had a happening New Year’s eve at a friend’s place and so it was natural that I’d reach the parking place(where we were supposed to gather before leaving for Tamhini) a bit late.
Once i reached there,it turned out that we were going to stay overnight in the valley itself.
I tried not to think about it since that morning i had made myself wake up by the sole consolation that i’d have a ‘tagdi’ sleep after the climb.
 So anyway,we were a group of 12 people on 6 bikes and off we went at 6.30am.Tamhini is 75 km from Pune.We went there via Pirangut.Needless to say,the cold was biting.The big rucksack on each of our backs was also making things not so easy.Thankfully,Sachin sir called for a tea break after about 60 minutes of driving,when we were only 20-25 km from Tamhini.The chill in the body went away a bit because of the hot tea which took only a minute or so to be so lukewarm as to be called cold.

But the route after this passed along the water and I liked the ride.I dont remember the name of the water body or river or anything like that.I was just concentrating on the ride and reaching Tamhini as soon as possible.May be it was the hangover.

Started riding our horses again and reached a local person’s lone house in Tamhini ghat where we parked our bikes.By this time,the sun had come up and it felt good to remove the riding gear from our bodies(like the jacket,scarf,helmet,gloves) and feel the sunrays on the arms.We didnt waste much time there.

within 15mins,we had hitched rucksacks to our backs and  started walking towards the point in tamhini ghat from where we were to climb down into the valley.

I was in tamhini ghat for the first time.I had heard a lot about this place and had always wanted to visit it.Now that i was actually there,it was all so beautiful.The landscape is huge..i mean,huge mountains and cliffs,deep valleys.The power of wind seen in the ways the mountains were shaped.

After about 10-15mins of walking ,we were at a point in the ghat where passers by were getting off their vehicles and looking down into the vallley..it was kind of a view-point(not exactly that..but aking to it) for non climbing or non trekker tourists.

 Well,we were not non climbers and so,we chose this point to begin our downward journey.This is where we were to do our climbing.

To give you a clear picture of the area we had landed in,consider this:

Say,in lonavla ,u go to a view point(like Lion’s point) and look down in the valley..and what do you see?…Vertical cliffs rising up from the valley.a smallish stream/river meandering though it(sometimes) and the narrow base of the valley that’s surrounded by these cliffs is studded with green vegetation.

Now what we did was this:We also reached a view-point and climbed down till that green base along the stream.and the routes that we were going to do were on those cliffs rising up from the base.

At first i did not believe that this was indeed the route that we were going to take;but watching Sachin sir already ahead and down 15-20 feet,i was left with no option to follow.(not that i ever minded.)We were following a “naal”(like a gulley…water flows on this route during the monsoons.Thats why,the path looks like well marked and feels like a trekker’s trail.)The initial 20 mins were full of loose soil and dried grasses and even though none of us found it tooo difficult,i wouldn’t say it was easy climbing down.With heavy bags on the back,we had to be on alert mode all the while.

After about 15 minutes,the naal becomes wide and the rocks in it take a shape of man-made steps,albeit sharp,cut actually by the flowing water.Rocks are always easy to tread upon and the part of the climb onwards was made easy because of it.After 10 mins like this,we reached a water fall point..it was dried out in this season.it was not exactly a waterfall and nobody called it that at the time..but the rocks suddenly descended down at this point and now that im writing about it,i am sure water must be falling over those rocks in quite a flow when its raining.There was a small easier trail along the left side of this waterfall and we took it and in next 5 mins,we had reached the area where Sachin sir along with some Italian climbers, had opened rock climbing routes 3 years previously.He was the one who had explored the valley thoroughly.

So now we were still in the naal…the cliff to our right side was named by Sachin sir as Suryakada since it received the sunrays while the cliff on left side was christened makadkada since he said that there were a lot of monkeys on the top of it..(we never saw any)..

There were 3 routes on Suryakada and 2 on Makadkada.All of them were around 38meters i.e.125 feet high.All routes were bolted(i.e.at regular intervals,a device called a hangar was put in place on the vertical climbing route.When a new climber comes in,he has to take a rope and quickdraws with him and clip the carabiners in the hangars and rope through the quickdraws to secure himself.)Thus,it was a sport climbing route that we were doing.

Initially,looking a the routes,we unanimously felt apprehensive.They were too vertical and except our coaches i.e.Sachin,sagar,viru and rupesh sir,none of us had climbed such routes with around 70-80 degrees of gradient.

Sachin sir assured us that the 3 routes on suryakada were doable and that the initial fear of the height will go off once we start climbing and get a feel of the rock.The other 2 routes on Makadkada were supposed to be very technical and difficult to tackle.

So by 10am,we were warming ourselves up in the naal and getting geared up for the rock climbing session ahead.The walk down the valley had already warmed the body ..we put on our harnesses,took out the ropes,slings,carabiners,quickdraws(QDs),PA shoes,descenders,Reverso and ATC(belaying devices) and chalk bags.

Sagar,sachin,viru and rupesh sir did the lead climbing..i.e…as they went climbing up,they had the safety till the last point where they had clipped the rope.So if they fall off while making a move,they wont fall off till the ground but till the last anchored point,i..e about 10-15 feet..

A lead climber’s job is always difficult because while taking a fall,one can have a strong impact on the body after colliding with the wall,or one feels the jerk of the rope on his body or one can collide with a projection in the wall..its never safe..there are safe ways of taking a fall but theres never a guarantee.

We watched our coaches lead climb the route and belay each other..i meantally tried to note the grips enroute and the kind of body balance shifting i’d have to do..

when the job of the experts was over and it was time for us juniors to hone our skills,

mayur and bunty decided that they will also try to lead climb the route..others,including myself,chose the easier and safer option of topropingi.e.if we take a fall,we wouldnt even have to take that fall till the last anchored point..we would be locked in the same position by the belayer standing on the ground.The rope will already be clipped through the anchor points all the way till the top and all we would do is to unclip the rope while going up and clip the rope back in while coming down.

Thus we started and i found myself giving the belayer “I am climbing” call..

The rock felt good..i went on finding the grips easily..when i couldn’t ,i would have immediate guidance from the base as to where i should move my hands and feet and find the next hold.

After a few minutes,i gained the rhythm and taking a grip of holds became easier.

But i would take rest after every 2-3 anchor points to catch breath.SInce it was a vertical climb,i would be a bit short of breath after making the moves..the height was also a factor.

I felt thrilled at the last anchoring point.I looked down and it felt great to be able to climb that much.for a novice,it certainly felt good.

I climbed all 3 routes on suryakada in a similar fashion that day..everyone else also did the same..bunty was amazing since he completed all 3 routes by lead climbing..mayur also had his first taste of it and was superhappy about it.Lead climbing takes the fear away and makes climber more confident…while top toping,since one already knows that his safety is taken care of,one takes wrong moves just for the sake of moving up..that kind of thing is not possible while lead climbing as one is bound to fall if the move is not carried out in the correct technical way.

But i am still not an expert and i consoled myself that at least for this trip,this much adventure is enough and i will definitely be trying my hand at lead climbing in the next trip..even with a top rope,the thrill and adrenaline is still there…the height and vertical nature of the route makes all the difference.plus,even if one knows that one wont be injured on anything if one falls,nobody wants to slip off even once while climbing..




We were done with our climbing session by 2pm.We packed our personal belongings nad the luggage required for camping in rucksacks and tied the climbing equipment to a rock in the naal itself..no point in carrying them down n lugging them up again the next day n who will come in this valley via that godforsaken route to steal our equipment…

we walked down for 15 more minutes and found ourselves in our very very beautiful camping site.

We were near a pond and still in the narrowness of the valley and could see sunrays falling on the cliff that runs along the right side of our camping place.Sachin and Rupesh sir showed us a jumbo route on this clif..they had named it “Dnyaneshwari” and it had only been climbed by a couple of people before..Its diffuculty was of a too higher a grade.

We treated our eyes to the scenery around us while Rupesh sir stated brewing a tea for all of us..the fire was worked out of dry grasses,dried up logs or thin branches..Dipping the fatigued feet in the water(it wasnt ice-cold) felt wonderful.

we started feeling cold also since the valley was in the shadow.

After tea,one more fire was started to keep us warm..we all assembled around it,while once again,rupesh sir took charge of that night’s dinner preparations(chicken + rice)..before gathering before the fire,we helped rupesh sir by cutting potatoes and onions..useful swiss army knives!i definitely want one for myself.

Then started the flow of climbing stories from our coaches..this flow did not know how to abate and we really welcomed it..i was engrossed listening to various pinnacle climbs,accidents,about people who died,about how difficult climbing was in their young days,..Got to know so many things.Climbing is certainly very easy and accessible for the current generation.The equipments are 100 times more sophisticated and safer,finances have improved and there’s a lot of awareness and guidance available..once again,i felt thankful to all the coaches for taking me along with them for climbing(as they always do) just because they know that i am desperate to learn and they too want to teach whoever is genuinely interested in the art of rock climbing.It s not their proffession..all of them do something else only,careerwise…Climbing is their passion.

By 8pm,dinner was hot and ready to be gobbled up,,while we were sitting by the fire,some of us tried to use the fire as barbecue and baked potatoes and chicken pieces over it..they tasted very good,even though a bit burned up!

By 9.30-10pm,i had zipped myself in my sleeping bag…the rocks below were quite uneven but i somehow cushioned the base using my set of clothes for the other day and i was all warm n cozy the entire night,even when it started getting extremely windy after about 2 hours…others did not enjoy the sleep since some of them did not have sleeping bags and blankets are not enough for stays like this..so these people stoked up the fire once again at 3am and were awake all the time after that…

The next morning,we again had tea, rice n chicken of the previous night as breakfast and left the camping site for good to go up again till the climbing site..

That day,we were to try the 2 routes on Makadkada.We didnt have much time since we arrived only around 11am and had to pack up n go up the valley by 2pm….one by one,we tried climbing the routed by a toprope…again,the coaches did the routes leading..so did Bunty..though he could not reach the top this time..

These routes were less intimidating but technically ,they demanded a lot higher calibre.Except Bunty,none of us could beyond the 2nd clipping point on both the routes.Still,we had fun as these routes made us realise how important all different kinds of moves are and how to use them and balance the body..I realised during these 2 days’ climbing session that i m best with pressure holds and weakest with laybacks…pinch holds im slowly slowly getting around..pull and pressure has also started influencing me now..

Pretty soon,it was time to go up..we retrieved the quickdraws(i.e.coacehs did it),distributed all the other equipment in the rucksacks and started the strenuous upward hike in the naal in the sun.

It was a tiring hike but in 35minutes,we had completed it and were again at the top in Tamhini ghat..all giving out a sigh of relief that the backbreaking climb up was over.

Back on the horses,we reached home by evening 5pm!

A superb rock climbing trip.I was on the rocks,,rather a cliff…i have grown up watching discovery,natgeo adventure on tv and pasting photos of climbers hanging by the cliff all over my room.Finally,i am also getting there..slowly,yes,but definitely.

I am watching myself going toward my dream.I am happy…very,very happy.






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