The sun was rising behind the lofty ranges.Small dwellings had started showing up on the mountain side of the road.A cat stretched herself on the rooftop of a house as my bus passed it on the left.Further ahead,a bunch of street dogs crossed our path,barking at one another.Some shops had already opened the store for the day while some were in the middle of doing so.The Lake City of India was waking up to a pleasant winter morning.
Alighting at Tallital,I breathed in the cool air,had a long look at the line of ducks swimming in Naini lake,called up Tipu to come and pick me up and seated myself in a tea shop with the bread toast and steaming hot tea.
More orders went in for tea as Tipu arrived with his friends.Tipu informed me that I would have about an hour and half in which to freshen myself up and get ready for bouldering at Bara Pathhar.
Not one to disobey orders given by someone who can take me along for climbing,I was ready in time.
I whiled around at Mallital,watching the beautiful poplars and the mosque and the market,waiting for Tipu and Gaurav.
Within next half an hour,we were in bara patthar area;more specifically in the area adjoining Aurobindo Ashram.I was happy since I had spotted some nice rocks here in my previous visit two months earlier.The trail was beautiful.To our right ,down in not too deep a valley,lay the path cutting through the forest toward Land’s End or the Cliffs.Beyond that,we could see a greenhouse and a lake ,that we couldn’t presently see from that point,lay ahead behind the fold of the mountain.The mountain top to the right side beyond the valley was serrated with huge boulders.It was quite a magnificent view.After about just 10 minutes on the trail,we deposited our rucksacks on a rock,put on the climbing shoes,spread the chalk powder on palms and started to look for ways to climb a boulder that had attracted our attention.
Pinching,pushing,pulling,stretching,twisting, lay backing,side holding,the three of us played around on the boulder.We tried different routes of more difficulty.I had success on some and on others,i did not.But it was fun.Sun was shining on us.And here i was,among rocks and mountains.I tried to click pictures of climbers but soon gave up since it was eating into my climbing time.
After some time,we went ahead and chose another boulder for practise.The surface of this rock had a crack going along its breadth.I couldn’t bring myself to grip that crack since I could see a chameleon wandering through the crack.Tipu and Gaurav did not seem to mind their reptilian friend at all.After a while,I somehow told myself that the creature had gone to hide inside in the rocky fissure on account of the heat and started my own attempts on the rock.I changed footholds,balanced my weight from right to left but remained unsuccessful till the end in grabbing the hold at the top of the rock.I gave up after a while and we moved ahead to the next boulder.
We kept on like this for sometime but the sun was almost overhead by then.We felt irritated by the scorching sun and decided to call it a day.We did not have the option of having another go at the rocks the same evening since it was going to be Christmas Eve and some plan was cooking up at Sonu da’s home!!This was the first time I was going to meet Sonu da , another very good climber and I was looking forward to the evening.
I rested my body during the afternoon at Tipu’s family’s hotel and joined in everyone at Sonu da’s place around 6.30 in the evening.I found myself inside a nice,cozy home and face to face with two cute little girls-Sonu da’s daughters!Goga and Khappa(Khyati & Sia),as they had been nicknamed are one of the cutest little duo I have ever encountered.They were not shy at all,spoke in your face and were simply lovely.My time was passed easily talking to these ladies,Sonu da,his wife Kripa and Tipu & Sonu da’s friends in the house.The Christmas party was awesome and food delicious.
I went to sleep thinking about the next day.
Next day arose a little later than the previous;but we were able to pack up and leave for the Cliffs in time.We would be doing some top roping in the boulders located in the area of Nanital mountains called the Cliffs-obviously because it was on top of a cliff and one got a grandiose view of highly eroded and precarious looking cliffs from this place.
We first walked up from Tallital ,up the winding tar road towards the top of the hills forming back side of Naini lake.The lake and the town looked lovely in the morning sun.We passed Governor’s building and a couple of popular schools.We entered the mountain trail from there,among the woods.This was a beautiful trail too.We passed under the shade of tall trees for some time and then emerged onto a narrow,slightly precarious path that opened into a valley towards the left side.From here on,we could see the deep deep drop on the left side.Ahead in the valley ,huge ,eroded cliffs,much prone to collapsing ,could be seen.Hearing Sonu da and Tipu’s stories of how they had imprudently tried to climb up on those cliffs during their childhood days and in general all about the rash climbing they used to do under the influence of lack of knowledge about consequences that’s typical of young kids,I felt happy that none of their adventures had ended badly and that now I was climbing with experienced guys!
The boulder area in the cliffs was amidst the woods.Huge boulders were reclining against one another forming caves,cracks ,chimneys and gulleys here and there.Ropes were taken out and base was created at the top of a boulder(base at the top-talk about oxymoron!),with trees acting as anchor.
Shoes and harnesses were put on,Tipu the belayer, took his position and I went ahead to climb the vertical rock patch,as Sonu da said that ladies should go first!! 😛
I tried to trace the route i would have to take to reach the upper portions of the rock.It seemed to have an enormous number of grips.Pockets to put hand into,pinch holds,flat portons to push onto,surfaces for friction hold,cracks to pull up on and sharp projections one can take help of temporarily and so on.I managed to complete first one fourth of the patch and then got stuck in a layback position.Whatever I did,it seemed to me that i wouldnt go ahead of that point.After a few futile attempts at grabbing a higher hold,I finally asked to be lowered down.It was Sonu da’s chance next and he literally made the whole climb look like a piece of cake.His moves were smooth,without any falls,he did his footwork and balancing swiftly.I was jealous of him for he reached the top quite easily!
He consoled me by saying that he too had gotten stuck on his first attempt here and that i would do better the next time.I gave that rock four or five more tries.I managed to reach a little higher than before but i again got stuck somewhere ahead and I was disappointed.
Gaurav also mt the same fate.
But by then,Tipu and Sonu da had turned their focus on another parallel route that involved negotiating an overhang!The route has a crack along which to climb till one comes face to face with the overhang.By now,i was tired and was spending my energy on clicking.Gaurav took charge of the belay while Tipu and Sonu da tried to climb the route.Both were very good climbers and had no diffculty reaching the overhang.It was here that the crux of the problem lay.
We were watching,cheering,clicking when Sonu da amazingly got over the overhang problem.After a series of moves that needed power and skill,that twisted one’s body in many ways and pumped one’s muscles to the point of fatigue,Sonu da was on top of the overhang,joyous at his triumph!!!It was clealry his day;he had topped two routes today,and that too with relative ease!!It was great climbing on display.
Next Tipu too attempted to climb the overhang.He almost made it twice but finally fell off at the last moment.He had done the most amount of belaying for the day too.Me?I had lazily excused myself from the duty of belaying by saying that I was not feeling confident enough to belay people who are much heavier in weight than myself.I had climbed myself,clicked pictures and enjoyed watching people climb.
It was approaching evening now.Time to wrap things up.The air had become cold too.Especially so since we were in a shaded area of the Cliffs.Gear was packed back in the rucksacks and we began looking for an open site where we would be exposed to the about-to-set Sun.We landed on a patch of grass and began to take in the last rays of the sun on our faces.The view was spectacular.Valley was shrouded under clouds.Towards left,we could see the clouds taking shape along the ridgelines of the hills.The sky there took on a pink hue.In front of us,the sun was setting behind a tree.The winter line wold soon be blazing up.We had a quick meal of maggy thanks to our jet stove and improvised spoons(read shrub sticks used as chopsticks)!What a sumptuous meal it felt like!
We took the path leading back to home.On a plateau on the way,we witnessed the burning horizon.We had a nice long look at all the nature’s awesomeness,idled away some time in the quiet under a tree and then resumed the journey back.We were engulfed by darkness by next 15-20 minutes and headlamps had to be turned on.At our last beauty break,as Sonu da liked to call it,we were still inside the woods,but very much near the building from which we had to get back to the tarmac.We just sat there and kept quiet till the last of the last shimmer was gone from the distant horizon.Only then did we quicken our paces and found the way home.