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Bangalore Climbing trip December 2017: Part 1

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Lone Ranger · · Mumbai Suburban · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 1,514

Like many time-constrained recreational climbers, over 95% of my climbing time is spent in my head, before the laptop, dreaming, plotting, salivating, discussing with potential climbing partners, so that the 5% time that I get to spend on actual rock is spent in the best possible manner. The idea of this trip too was born like that, over six months back when I had just returned from my Indian Creek trip with Sunny in June and Aravind said he could spend 10 days with me in December. The idea of climbing 10 days with a high energy climbing partner like Aravind and not having to coordinate with multiple partners sounded like a perfect offer and I readily agreed (or maybe I was the one who initiated this). We promptly started planning and converging on mutually interesting goals and soon I even wrote up a fairly detailed itinerary, gear details and almost down to the sequence of routes to do to optimize progress and rest days etc. And as most things planned too much ahead of time, this one too promptly fell apart : Aravind, now a pro/ sponsored climber had work and could eventually only fully commit to 3 days. But so what, my 8 days were blocked long back and I would find other partners and fill my days and this is how it unfolded.

D-day arrived. As is the norm, I was wrapping up work till the last minute. The day I flew down to Bangalore, Sunday noon I went for a work meeting in South Bombay with all my gear, and directly went from there to the airport. It is only when I reached the airport that I switched off from Mumbai life completelyand donned the climber hat; no emails/work calls for one whole week.

19-21 Dec 2017: Ravugodlu, with Aravind Selvam.

Days 1-2: This was my first trip to Ravugodlu, supposed to be a hotspot for bouldering and short trad routes. The name (pronounced as Raogodlu) has a nice ring to it, kind of Telugu name and whetted my curiosity. Aravind had been pretty active in the area doing lots of old and new trad routes and my goal was to do as many of them as I could and put my newly acquired trad skills and gear to use. All the route names were alien to me, and I didn’t have any specific route or goal in mind, so I left it to Aravind to plan. Aravind had been working out new routes lately, so we decided to try two of his projects, mostly 6c/7a types, one route per day. Now although short routes, these are really hard (for me at least). The approach we used, not exactly my preferred style, was to first scramble up from a side and set up a top rope, and then get about 2 attempts each on top-rope to figure out the moves and placements. This itself proved to be quite challenging/exhausting and time consuming and a good day’s work; clearly, these routes were well outside my current range (or I was just new to the place/type of climbing).  [Edit: there is a name for this style: headpointing!]

A good concentration of some old classics as well as Aravind's projects:

We chose Prani, about 13 km away, for our overnight stays; it helped that we had a car. A very pleasant place with all the fragrances (I mean it!) and sounds of livestock, free-roaming country chicken, an amorous donkey couple, and a horse, among others, to be woken up by another set of bird sounds at dawn, oh, it was blissful. Wish I had taken pics of the bamboo tree house/dorm that we had to sleep.

Dinner was usually delicious local cuisine on the roadside “military hotels”: nati koli saar (country chicken curry), Ragi mudde (millet), boti fry (offal) and kaal soup (lamb’s leg stew). Heavenly! A full plate dinner would cost Rs 150 (2 USD)…

Day 3: By now Aravind had developed a painful shoulder from the previous days’ exertions and generously offered to spend the whole day belaying me on climbs of my choice. I chose to lead stuff in my range; I didn’t really know the names or grades then but here’s the list of climbs I did, with some pics:

  • On-sighted Sweet Smell of Guano, 5b+
  • Led High Noon 6a with 2 hangs, and TR-ed it clean
  • Onsighted Red Sea 5b
  • TR-ed Indian Grit, 6b+ clean
  • Onsighted a possibly new route that I saw and felt I could do, 5b+/5c. I had to hike back to the car to get No. 4’s and 5 for this one, but it was worth it!

A route I wanted to do; maybe next time:

Smell of Guano, 5b+, onsight; my first trad lead of the trip


The curved C-shaped line is High Noon; the thin straight line to its right is the hard line (8a+?) that Bharath Gowda recently free-soloed (high-balled):

This would be Red Sea:

The possibly new line that I onsighted, my guess is ~5b+; takes two #4's and a #3: I will post a pic of me climbing it once I get the pic from Aravind:

The day ended by around 1pm, quite an efficient, productive day and a nice finish to the Ravugodlu trip, just how I like it. 

Ravugodlu is a good place to learn trad climbing and push grades because all the routes are very short, mostly 10-12 meters, with easy access to set up top-rope and are not committing. This is a good place to brush up your trad skills/partnership if needed, before entering more committing terrain such as Savandurga.

Day 4: With Bharath Gowda

We started the day by top-roping Sankranti P1, a 7a sport classic. I TR-ed it twice, hanging multiple times and managed to get most of the moves. This is still several of days of dedicated effort away before I can send it, but seems doable if I put in the effort. Just a matter of connecting all the moves. Led P2 and rapped off.

Here's Bharath following P2:

And yet another great partnership; two very unlike climbers (what can be common between a middle-aged recreational climber/alpinist and a competitive pro boulderer at his peak), but with significant complementary skills to make for a good partnership.

Bidhiru Kallu, Achalu
Had a leisurely lunch break to beat the sun and got back to Achalu’s Bidhiru Kallu around 3:30pm, to attempt a clean ascent of Don’t Fall, 6c. I had top-roped it clean in Dec 2016 and it was kind of on my mind since then. 

The place holds a special place in my heart because in Dec 2016, when I saw it from atop Achalu, I had envisioned the climb for the first time. I mean, I have been atop Achalu at least a dozen times and would have seen this rock countless times but I had never imagined climbing a new line before. But that day with gear and a seasoned partner at hand, I felt empowered, and convinced Samiran to come along and bushwhack and try this line with me. In that trip Samiran had aided the crux and I had followed on a tight top rope. Those days I wasn’t familiar with the cam sizes and the route felt very scary; the name Samiran gave, “Don’t Fall” seemed reasonable to me.

One year later, I was able to see the whole thing in completely different light, what with all the crack climbing skills I had acquired from my Indian Creek trip with Sunny earlier this year. My partner today was Bharath, a dude who had free-soloed a classic 8a+ trad line in Ravugodlu recently (thereby converting it into a 7B+ highball), and I knew I could bank on his help if needed. I went for it with full gusto. I thought I did reasonably well, but the crux was just outside my reach. It took me a few frustrating attempts/hangs before I could figure out the moves. By then I had a raw left elbow (from elbow jamming; guys with bigger fists can probably do it entirely as a fist jam). Last year I lied-back; this time jams seemed the natural style. Didn’t feel scary, but just hard. That's some progress in itself.

I had to finish it that day because we had bushwhacked with some effort to reach this and had all those itchy thorns and scratches all over the body and I was not going to let all of that go in vain. Plus, who knows when I would be able to come back here next, that too with a stronger partner. My elbow was raw/bloodied by then (and I am known to not climb in pain), but I was on an adrenaline rush then and in a bit of fury. I went down to the pack, put on my cycling sleeves to minimize further damage, dried my now sweaty crack gloves, shook the fatigue from multiple burns off my forearms and went up for one last, full blooded attempt. At the crux I let out gasp, an expletive, and shoved my elbow in despite the pain and torqued it like my life depended on it, and finally sent it clean. Yay! Some progress since 2016; that is what matters! And, that the legendary Samiran Kolhe and one of my trad mentors had aided on the crux last year was some ego boost for me :) Possibly a first free ascent (unless folks have been climbing this before us; it’s too obvious a crack for anyone with gear and time at hand to miss it all these years).

I wouldn't rate this among the finest climbs around, but given the proximity to the other climbs, it may be worth doing when you are around. See the comments section of the topo for gear details.

By now I was fully satisfied with my trip and anything else I would get would be a bonus. Day 5 was for some urgent personal work and to let the skin heal a bit. I had planned to spend the next 3 days sport climbing with my brother’s family.

Continued as Part 2

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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