The massive city of Mumbai, located on India's west coast, was formerly called Bombay and is one of the most populous cities on earth with almost 14 million people. Before I moved to Mumbai I started researching the climbing community. I found a climbing wall that is set just off of a school grounds in an area called Goregaon. The community at the wall is very active and dedicated, immediately accepting me and inviting me to join them regularly on their real rock adventures.
Towards the end of 2009 I spent several weekends in an area called Belapur in New Bombay, inland a ways from Mumbai. My friend Vinay introduced me to the group of guys that spend seemingly every weekend climbing somewhere in these mountains. They come from all over - from Lower Parel in Central Mumbai to Pune, three hours further to the East.
Everyone meets at the house of 'Bong', a man probably in his 50's or 60's that is somewhat of a legend in Indian climbing. He provides the climbers with anything they need, harnesses, crash pads, ropes, or even chalk (I asked if he had any hand chalk and he pulled out a huge plastic bag and tossed it at me). Some of the climbs are within walking distance of his house, others are just a short drive up the other side of the mountain. Bong and his crew have been busy bolting sport routes and finding bouldering crags throughout these neighboring mountains.
Bong yells for me to wake up and climbers slowly appear from different hiding places with some new faces showing up. We start off to the climbs around 9:30, some on motorcycles and myself crammed into a small car carrying multiple crash pads up to the bouldering area. Hiking a short ways over boulders, dry grass and cacti careful not to step in the cow manure scattered about, we get to a bouldering crag that Bong had recently found.
The guys warm up and then hit the rocks with full force. They project a new problem taking turns climbing and failing. Finally Vivek sends the high-ball problem, probably to scared to let go at the top. We move into the shadows as the sun heats up the rocks and continue to climb, discovering new routes and problems on the wall.
I am impressed with the voracity with which these Indian climbers attack the rock. They are powerful and dedicated, training hard during the week so they will be strong each weekend. It's a challenge for them to get new equipment, having to order most things from outside of India. I need some new shoes and I hate the thought of dealing with customs' import duties.