Updated: Apr 22, 2020
The hot December sun was past its prime for the day. It beat down nonetheless on brown fields of paddy smeared by green stems. A thin strip of a trail cut through these fields. On it, a group of women shrouded behind the crash pads they are carrying, took their first steps towards climbing real rock.
For the second time in a row, the CLAW Annual Meet-Up unfolded in the bouldering mecca of Hampi between December 14 -18, 2019. This place is considered a mecca due to the baffling scale and volume of boulders that line the horizon and the fervent troops of climbers that try to climb them in this island town.
We had 28 women from all across the country, with different reasons and motivations to seek out an outdoor experience in the company of women. Barring only a few, most of them had never climbed before in their lives.
The five day event was planned by our team of five mentors in two segments, with a goal to educate and enable. In the initial three days, basics of bouldering like movement, technique, safety and spotting were focused on.
These days were crucial to give a good footing in terms of knowledge but also for everyone to individually assess their level of comfort and how far they needed to step out of it. This was transformational for some and a new way to breathe and perspire for others.
Final two days involved unstructured climbing with the freedom to choose where one wanted to climb and who with. These were intentionally left open ended in order to encourage a sense of initiative and confidence in our new set of climbers. They also provide an opportunity to take up space as women in the climbing community alongside other individuals( men, women or non-binary) who make up this community. This acquainting of oneself with the everyday scenario is necessary to further the culture of this sport. On a normal given day, it's not only women who go out climbing after all.
As a sport that is all about movement, we wanted to instill a deeper sense of mobility amongst participants. Slackline fits the bill perfectly and what better way to train the body’s stability and mobility than balancing on a thin, loosely rigged strip of webbing? Since slacklining was invented by climbers, it came as no surprise that the ladies at CLAW were eager to learn advanced slackline techniques after the first beginner's workshop! Along with mantles, sit-starts and chongo mounts, they also learned how to rig a primitive line.
Bouldering can be extremely intimidating and hard the first few times one tries. Especially so in the case of the sharp crystal granite of Hampi which takes a toll on climbers (new or experienced) easily. Reinforcing the importance of longevity, we included in our instructions, a series of exercises to promote conditioning, injury prevention and climbing fitness.
A popular task on one of the evenings involved a long walk across the plateau to arrive at our secret swimming hole. A water channel of the Tungabhadra river runs through the ruins and boulders forming a lovely beach. This made for a much needed evening of unwinding from climbing.
Connection is something that a lot of people came looking for in this meet up. One of our climbing days, we stopped still for a few moments and spread across the rocks to tune into our surroundings and connect to the farthest sounds we could hear. Between the flock of swallows overhead, egret calls and the distant temple rhythm, there was a lot to focus on. Little sessions such as these help us become more aware, a faculty that we use a lot during climbing.
We were delighted to see that our event this year was joined by the familiar faces from CLAW Alumni ( participants from the previous Claw MeetUps) and Friends of Claw (fellow women climbers who are pushing their limits on rock and helping drive the community in India).
These women make excellent role models and having them around through the climbs, supporting and uplifting others is exactly the kind of organic mentorship system we aim to build more of. We also feel that it is crucial to have strong women around during the meet up. The mere act of them trying hard opens several doors for others. Our vision with this initiative is to have more women return to climb on their own. This is our attempt at making the climbing community in India more diverse and inclusive.
It is worth mentioning here that on the day of our registration, we filled up our seats in under three hours! It just goes on to show how much, an outdoor space like this is wanted and needed, amongst women.
Written by Prerna Dangi * Photographs by Praveen Jayakaran
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