Ascent Of Balasari
For hours, I have stood still, just gazing at the mighty rock wall of Balasari.
For hours, I have stood in its wake beckoned by a dream. I have remained in its shadow for long. I reckon Balasari as a handsome and magnificent climbing rock face in Western India. The modest patch extends to 190 feet till the top, with some severe patches.
The Balasari was always going to be daunting. The climb was not an awesome size. It was going to be the 'nature' of my climb that held a strong significance
It was time for a challenge. The climb had been elusive for long. It may be the most important ascent in my life. Ascents become significant with the depth of its impact in the heart of the climber, irrespective of the magnitude or the size of the climb.
Rock Climbing - Sites
Attempting only renowned names is getting too close to glamorous climbing. It's not about doing world grades - it's about a passionate encounter with yourself, facing your own strengths and weaknesses.
Before any climb, I always have a few moments with myself. I stood there in the face of Balasri in an attitude of intense concentration. I separated myself from everything except the wall before me. The focus was important. The route had to be figured out before beginning. Maybe you can call it the 'pre-climb meditation'.
Yes, free climbing was the nature of this attempt. I know a lot of people who oppose free climbing to safe, aided climbing. But let us understand this....the two are different sports for different kinds of people with different goals, ready to face different consequences. There is no reason for people in the rock climbing circuit to criticize my rationality. I don't advocate unsafe climbing...I just do it for me. Let me mention it again - " KIDS, PLEASE DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME OR ANYWHERE "
Free climbing must not be encouraged...but at the same time it cannot be criticized. There will always be people who live on the edge. It's the thrill of playing with life and teasing death that brings the stimulation that's found nowhere else. The risk is the essence. Admittedly, a single mistake can be fatal.
Yes, its unsafe...but "safe" is playing checkers at home. "Safe" is fishing in a pond. "Safe" is a card game with friends ! I am not climbing to commit suicide. It is the only gratification I can relate to. I am incomplete without it. There can be no adventure if there is no danger. There's no thrill if there's no risk. There's no achievement if there is no individuality. You pay as much as you gain. The gain is indescribable. It is in the heart...and in the soul.
Anyway, I am doing what I am best at.
I covered nearly 1/4 th of the wall with relative ease. Now, came my favorite area - a nice long crack. I am a 'cracker' with cracks. The only thing that sometimes bothers me is the presence of scorpions inside, since I have been greeted once by a scorpion while doing a summer climb on a sea face buttress. Jamming my hands inside I followed the crack which must have been 45 meters. It took me less than 10 minutes here. At the end of the crack, resting for just a couple of minutes, I moved further up.
Well...I had to traverse a long distance to find a friendlier patch to continue upwards. Moving long distances sideways had now increased the total climbing area. My mouth was drying up. Dehydration, cramps and exhaustion were now playing in my mind. I kept psyching myself, kept saying c'mon u @**, c'mon u **@#, to egg myself on
I must have covered a little more than half the distance now. A few powerful moves and I made it to a good ledge. The sun, the thirst, a wounded little finger, all added to the challenge now. With 3/4th of the distance covered I was nearly home...or that's what I thought. I looked upwards and there lay an overhang right above me like a demon.
An overhang is an outcrop jutting out of the wall surface. Leaning beyond 90 degrees, an overhang loves to throw away climbers off its surface. It's the most challenging manoeuver for a rock climber. This was going to be the ultimate test of my determination, courage, strength and skill. This move would separate glory from failure. This was the pivotal moment. There would be no second chance if I slipped. This is what I had been training for.
I It was no time to weigh the odds. I knew about my abilities.I was very good at reading surfaces. The ledge did give me an opportunity to hold on and gather some energy. I was going to need it.
Dipping my hands into my chalk bag, I reached for the first jug hold I could find. I was now with all four limbs on the rock. I moved a little upward. The next move saw me sway in the air, as I remained hanging clutching the cliff with my hands. I was like a pendulum, but facing a huge exposure. The next move was make or break. I had to pull the entire weight of my body with my hands and make a quick grasp for another hold over the outcrop with one of my hands. I was screaming aloud, psyching myself. With one loud shout, I gave it all I had, to make the move that I am still proud of. There was a struggle. I spent too much time fishing for an appropriate hold. I got 'over cautious'.... I came face to face with fear. In the end, victory was to the credit of my mental strength, because the demon had been trampled.
Carefully concentrating on every move, I was coming closer to the magical top. It wasn't difficult except for the loose rocks that were in abundance in this stretch. The holds seemed deceptively easy but I wasn't going to 'fall' for it. Can't have myself hang on to a hold that simply decides its time to loosen up ! I had to test every hold before trusting it. The climb slowed down and it was tenacious progress. I was a few good moves away from the top. Sometimes the anxiety of coming close to the summit, can cause the climber to make that one false move of his climb and he fails just two moves from the summit.
For me, it was one move at a time. I was panting and grunting. The sounds of agony were quite audible even 190 feet below, at least according to Jitesh and Amit, who had developed sore necks, craning to look up.
It was now time to do the mantle shelf move which would bring me to the top of my world. In the next moment, I raised myself on the platform of Balasari and just dropped myself on the ground. The mean and mighty Balasari had been climbed ! I was ecstatic. I had done it. Kneeling down with hands over my face, I was laughing, crying and screaming. Whatever happened to the exhaustion, thirst, painful fingers ?
It was an emotional moment in my life. I was a winner. I was an achiever. I had used my strengths, challenged my weaknesses. It was more than just the triumph of a climb, it was the triumph of the spirit.
I spent hours in intense training everyday. There was tremendous dedication and sacrifice to achieve a good level of physical conditioning. But that had very little to do with the climbing accomplishment. The battle was purely a mental effort. The mental strength, the intense concentration, the belief, the desire, the determination, the driving force, the relentless pursuit, the courage - it was mind over matter. It's only your mind that tackles the crucial moments.......moments that decide success or failure.
And I have never done anything to work towards a stronger mind. If you are doing something you love, focus and concentration comes naturally. Believe it or not, I still can't get myself to read the newspaper ....simply cannot concentrate !
My mother doesn't know much about my climbs except that I coach kids on weekends.....with ropes, of course.
Tips for the most challenging sport in the world
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.