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For the Love of Climbing

Written by Ria Andrews

The thought of climbing never actually crossed my mind until I climbed for the first time. But here I am, a couple of years later, reading rocks and cursing at crimps. Basically hooked.

Ria on the rocks in Hampi. Photo by Kopal Goyal

It all started back in 2017 when I was working in an advertising firm and my boss called us out on being far too couch-potatoed all the time and so he took us to Equilibrium climbing station which had opened up close to work. I didn’t really stick around the climbing gym the first time I went there, mostly because climbing indoors is expensive and outdoor climbing in and around Bangalore required 4 am alarms on the weekends. I’m still not a 4 am alarm kind of person. I did, however, make it to some nice evening bouldering sessions and slowly fell in love with the sport. It wasn’t long before I was excited to find my beta, to know my body, to learn to hate the rock and love it at the same time, and to finally send a problem.

Lekha Rathinam flashing Krishna 7a, Hampi. Photo by Nick Russel

Majority of climbers in India are all men. And I wouldn’t be climbing as much as I do if it weren’t for the few other women climbers around me. My best friend (Lekha, a terrific climber) always pushed me to climb more and I’m so glad she did. It wasn’t easy to keep climbing initially. I’ve had family members tell me to stop climbing and that I should rather be doing something more ‘women-friendly’, some sport where I don’t sweat or get bruises - this only makes the need for a larger women climbing community so important. Climbing with the wonderful women at CLAW at their first meet-up at Hampi changed the idea of support within a sport community. We shared the love for the sport and that made all the difference to how we climbed - better, harder, and happier.

The first edition of CLAW Meet Up in Hampi 2018. Photo by Kopal Goyal

Another constant climbing crisis I have is to find short person betas for almost all the problems. For every move somebody else makes, I need one or sometimes two intermediate move(s). It’s honestly frustrating but everybody keeps telling me that it’s going to make me come up with more ways to climb and climb more, and hence make me a better climber - which is true. But I’m still in awe of how some tall people cruise through routes. But that aside, being short can also work in favor of my climbing too. It’s great getting betas from folks but it’s so important to remind myself that at the end of the day, I know my body best. I’m still surprised at the odd grain of rock or a little bump on the wall that turns out to be pretty solid holds.

Ria on a slab being spotted by the tallest person in our crew( trivia), Mel. Photo by Kopal Goyal

Every climber I know has their own personal relationship with the sport. For me, it gives me space to be weak, allows me to fall, and pushes me to get back again and gets me stronger. It’s therapeutic for me even. I never feel like I’m strong enough but I also am well aware when I finally get through a move that I’ve been trying for days, weeks, or months together, the feeling is surreal. Almost like I am not my old body anymore. I am now a body that can do this move. And these moments are always worth the climb.

Ria leading Porari 6a+, Louhos in Kouvola, Finland. Photo by Jussi Pöyhönen.

It has been around a year since my climbing grounds have shifted to Finland. I’ve been doing more rope climbing here as opposed to bouldering just because it is more accessible. I’m amazed at the different types of rocks around, their formations, and the way they feel on my hand and on my shoes. I also had my first ice climbing session last winter and it was beautiful(and cold and difficult, but beautiful). I’ve taken a liking to cracks recently, I feel like the route is so versatile for different climbers. Most of the easy routes aren’t cleaned as much here, so I spend half my time lugging a ladder and brushes through the forest cleaning the lines, covered in moss and dirt. And then climbing, reaching out to a new hold I didn’t think I would use, only to slip off the moss-covered hold. I still have the fear of falling but the more I climb, the more I learn on how to fall and the better I climb.

Ria establishing the first ascent of Mämmikantti 5+, Lintukymi in Jaala, Finland. Photo by Jussi Pöyhönen.

The best part is that I know when I’m on the rock, nothing matters but the climb. I can’t wait to travel more and to climb more. My climbing journey has only just begun.

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