Hampi Drew Us In
Following a quick training session in Malaysia's Camp5 training gym we embarked on a 4-day of direct, non-stop, budget journey, and then settled in for more than 2 months on the granite blocs. From my birthday to Christmas to New Years and through into January we kept reuniting with climbers on the circuit through Asia - some that I hadn't seen in over a year since last being in Yangshuo, others that I'd just said goodbye to in Tonsai. They came alone or in groups, found a room down near the infamous Goan Corner and never seemed to leave.
It had been two years since I was last in Hampi, India and things have taken a good turn for the climbers now. The industrious minds at Goan Corner (and by the time you read this, doubtless many more will catch on) have finally started to stock REAL climbing chalk (through Wildcraft in Bangalore) rather than trying to pass off talcum powder as the real thing. They've also replenished their rental crash pad supply with 30 some-odd NEW pads rather than the mangey leftovers from climbers past.
Being there for the second time (and this time in the actual on-season rather than the Summer where it can reach up to 52Cº / 125Fº by high-noon) I was finally able to send every project that had been nagging me for the last two years. I cannot express my relief at finally sending Japanese Dyno (V8), which I couldn't even fathom the starting holds on the first time I touched it two years ago. However, sending all your previous projects in a place the size and scale of Hampi only means that you'll be left with twice the content to project, and ever more difficult patina crimpers to contemplate. This is especially true when you have the creative minds of dedicated boulderers out wandering the granite plateaus every rest-day. This year saw the extended development of many popular areas and even the opening of some entirely new sectors, including "The Pete District" which will undoubtedly be left with a number of hard projects unsent for the next season of climbers.
Our extended stay also allowed me to build a more complete profile and image of the place. There are seasonal regulars, crazy babas (holy men), secret project lines, pros, first-timers, Osho cultists and the lot. I loved Hampi the first time I went there in 2008 and I love it all the more now. Between visits I finally got around to watching the film that made it famous...though I think that if all you know of Hampi is Pilgrimage, you've probably been massively misled as to what the wonder of Hampi is really about. Hampi is about cheerful people and heinously long moves on granite crimpers.
Video by karthac
Pilgrimage probably led everyone to believe in a certain, "dark side" of Hampi as though to discourage those not hardy enough to travel here. Though every place must have its "dark side", Hampi's is hardly dark enough to justify canceling ambitions of going there. Sure, you may have to pay some backsheesh to the cops, and the guy who sells cakes to climbers out at the various crags is always stumbling drunk, but it really only serves to add a bit of character. Perhaps the only true darkness to this place is the shade that's cast over you to blind you from the external madness of the India around you. Crossing to the main bazar, or further onto the nearest town of Hospet after a spell in the rocks will send your head rolling with all the horns and hawkers. All the more reason to stay longer in the rocks then.
With all the pads in circulation, Goan Corner's supply of good chalk and reasonable leftover climbing shoes we had the pleasure of seeing a number of fellow travelers, previously unaware of climbing (and in particular bouldering), stumble into the sport. We even concluded our trip with a short stop in Badami, a recently developed sandstone wonderland, first to explore the area but also to introduce a new friend and new climber to the realms of sport and trad. He came along with a sandwich bag of chalk and some borrowed shoes to bag his first top-roped pitch. It's an inspiring site to watch someone give into the addictive quality of this sport.
I myself, after setting my first ever stopper into a sandstone crack, have also developed a new addiction. Trad climbing, which I had been regularly dreaming of trying for the 6 months leading up to our foray into Badami, has definitely made me reassess why I ever thought sport climbing was cool. It's possible though, that this enthusiasm has been catalyzed by having The Sharp End on my ipod for the last 4 months.
Being in Hampi that long helped me to unravel a certain mystery as well. For a long time I was mulling over how I was going to find work in Norway after climbing my way through Europe. The answer was simple and came after an afternoon of hypothesising with a couple of friends: "Go East, not West." So now we are. I'm now moving to Australia for a year to save up for a massive tour of the Americas with three other good friends and climbers. Check out www.landoficetolandoffire.com for more details on that future adventure. After that I'll figure out how I'll get to Europe...and though I'll be a few years older by that point, I'm still holding on to the idea that my prime years of climbing are somewhere in my 30's.
In the interim, I'm making my way north into the Himalayas. I have a 2 months stint of trekking around Annapurna and Everest ahead of me which means no climbing for a spell. I've come to accept it though, as it falls in neatly with my need to rest what appears to be a partially torn A2 pulley. If only every climbing injury could be supplemented with a trip to the Himalayas (where I hear that there are a number of recently developed, high altitude bouldering areas).