Friday, April 10, 2009

Ramanagaram – A Rock-climber’s paradise

On his way to rescue his wife Sita from Ravan, Shri Ram is reputed to have passed through Ramanagaram. My visit to this place was for more mundane reasons. Having taken up trekking at the ripe old age of forty-four I opted to go to Ramanagaram with a bunch of techie lads from Chennai, even though I was warned that the trip was primarily meant for rock climbing enthusiasts and despite knowing only the organizer in the entire group.

The group was from Chennai – except for me - but ably guided by a Bangalore outfit. After a breakfast of Thattai idli at Bidadi, where we were served idlis with unusual side dishes like aloo masala and butter in addition to the customary coconut chutney we proceeded to Ramanagaram for the day’s activities.

Rains had been pretty persistent all through the previous week including the previous night. This had left the rocks wet and, therefore, we took a mini-trek to the rock-climbing spot in order to allow the rocks enough time to dry. Having trekked over various types of terrain over the past year, I was quite confident of acquitting myself well. The trek route, however, had a few surprises in store!

I had planned to be the applauding audience for the rock climbing efforts of my group. Trekking in the mid-forties was all right but to take up rock climbing on the strength of my non-existent shoulder muscles seemed a bit too foolhardy even for me. The trek route, however, ensured that a bit of rudimentary rock climbing was needed – though real rock climbers would probably sneer at my usage of the term for scrambling up rocks on all fours.

Thrice in the course of the trek we had to take recourse to ropes to aid us up rocky inclines. But for these bits and the vertical stone wall that we climbed at the end of the trek, it was not too testing a trek as treks go. The view at the end of it all was worth the effort that went into arriving there.

While we were toiling up rocky inclines the guide group had affixed the ropes to assist the wannabe rock climbers. It was strictly amateur hour, as far as rock climbing was concerned, since none of the guys had done much of rock climbing before. Sitting on the sidelines gave a wonderful view of the efforts of the chaps who were making the ascent on the strength of microscopic foot-holds and hand-holds on the rock while harnessed to the rope in order to prevent a speedier descent than they would have preferred.

It was exhilarating to see the perseverant few who made it all the way, despite failures that sapped their strength and made it more difficult to manage the task. Indeed, so enthused was one successful chap that he decided to spend his intended Bangalore holiday at the Kanteerava Stadium practicing at the artificial climbing wall!

After a sumptuous lunch, we merrily descended down the stairs cut into the rocks and arrived at our vehicles within fifteen minutes. That, in a nutshell, captures the trekking experience. It is not that one can only see the view if one treks; it is just that the process of trekking itself is enjoyable to the trekker. After such a day, the group of strangers whom I set out with had becomes friends.

Back in Bangalore I am ruing the fact that I did not try my hand – weak though it is – on rock climbing. Maybe next time, foolhardy thought the attempt may be!

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