For work, I tend to travel a fair bit during the summer and it seemed like a good idea to try and do a bit of climbing in those places. Surely, a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag should be able to find a place in my backpack. This August, I went to Bangalore and after posting a message “does anybody know anything about bouldering in Bangalore?” in the SHAG group on Facebook, Carlo F. pointed me to Turahalli forest.
Bangalore sits on a plateau at an altitude of about 1,000 m keeping the temperature in summer around 30° C. Popping out of the landscape are domes of about 3 billion years old gneiss of which Turahalli is one. Finding information about this place on the web was tough: lots of informal stories but no topos or explanations of how to get there. To complicate things, Bangalore traffic is a nightmare: the so-called motorway is a slalom course with cars, lorries, busses, motorcycles loaded with stacks of people/boxes/chairs, pedestrians, cows, piles of rubbish in random places, while the average distance between cars is about 1.5 inches. Town itself is packed with traffic while everybody beeps their horns continuously and flashes their lights. To top it off, streets and areas have multiple names and even the locals have trouble figuring out addresses. Not really the sort of place where you would want to set out on your own.
Luckily, Bangalore has its own group of climbers with a Facebook page Climbing Bangalore India through which I got into contact with a few locals. After a bit of posting, we set up to meet here at 7am for breakfast. Through my hotel, I hired a car with a driver for the day as that seemed to be the only way to get there, as a bus would have taken 2-3 hours. After a lot of searching through nameless streets dodging man-eating potholes, people, cows, and stray dogs, we finally spotted a few guys with crashpads and I knew we had found the right place!
We followed this route into the forest. The hill is covered with smooth pale gneiss boulders that were apparently shaped by ice when India was near the South Pole. My local hosts Sohan, Pashan, and Muggy go to this place several times a week and we started off on a few problems on a slab. It looks easy from below but as you go up you realise it is steep, balancy, and damn high. However, friction is great and there are often some crystals in the rock that give just enough traction to stand on or do a mantle.
We did a problem in a roof that they had been working on for three weeks. The roof was strategically positioned above a pair of razor sharp boulders on the ground, making falling off—on a crashpad balanced on those boulders—a bit tricky! Encouraged by a trio of spotters, we all managed to send eventually. There were lots of great problems on smooth looking rock with the key often a crimpy hold on a serrated bit of gnarly gneiss that was very sore on your fingers! Finally, we did a few scary highball problems and called it a day.
Since I started climbing in February, I have mostly climbed on plastic in the TCA Glasgow. Initially, it is a bit scary to be confronted with grey rock instead of colourful holds and having to figure it all out yourself. However, that passes soon enough. The only thing that the TCA cannot simulate is the awful pain of crystals trying to punch their way through your skin.
Anyway, although you are unlikely to go to the same place, I can highly recommend bringing your shoes next time you go on a work trip. Just make sure you are adequately insured. I got the BMC travel insurance for rock climbing, which covers bouldering and indoor climbing as well. Muggy pointed out that “medical insurance is cheap in India, so feel free to break you leg any time you want”. That’s very nice of you Muggy but you still might miss your flight if things go bad.
Next stop: San Francisco in February. Does anybody know anything about bouldering in San Francisco…?
- Closest thing to a Turahalli topo on Facebook
- Rock Climbing in Turahalli – The Lesser Known Destination