While in India, I’m climbing to raise money for Apne Aap, an Indian based organization working to end forced prostitution. In India, the average age for a girl to be sold into prostitution is 9-13, and she may spend 10 years working off her selling price without pay. Apne Aap places young girls and women in self empowerment groups, provides scholarships for women working to rebuild their lives after escaping prostitution, and lobbies with local and national governments to change the cultural acceptance of sex for pay. Help me raise $10,000 for Apne Aap by donating to my online fundraiser at crowdrise.com/leadnowtourindia. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent.
I’ve always dreamed of visiting India. The bustling streets, vibrant colors, orange hued landscape, and rumors of delicious tea have existed in the fantasies of my imagination for many years. When I came across a video of Gerome Pouvreau climbing Ganesh, currently India’s hardest route at 8b+/5.14a, I was searching for plane tickets before the video even ended. I had to climb this route in the land of my daydreams.
Ganesh would become the inspiration behind Lead Now. I wanted to climb some of the most obscure, beautiful sport lines in the world, in locations that would force me to learn about myself, about the world, and about the people in it. What better place than India? I knew there was more than Bollywood colors behind the deep, dark, beautiful eyes of the women who graced the pages of National Geographic each month.
Just before arriving in India, I returned to that video in hopes of gleaning a few tidbits of beta. To my surprise, I realized that nearly every move was a jump, and the jumps weren’t small. I had flown to a location for one specific route, a route that so blinded me with its perfection that I didn’t care to take into account whether it might be feasible. And I only had two weeks to make it happen.
For three days, I watched Jon and our two Indian friends Tuhin and Sandeep power through the initial crux while I floundered and toppled with each attempt. Thankfully, I’m endowed with long arms. Unthankfully, I’m not an explosive climber. The opening move required my full 5’11” arm span. A series of powerful left hand moves between sandstone bulges also separated the opening crux from the anchors. With a daily temperature of 85 degrees and a south facing route that roasts all day, our group of four attacked from 6-7:30am, at which time the wall became too hot to reasonably climb.
Ganesh (5.14a), photos by Jon glassberg (LT11)
Between Jon and Sandeep’s bouldering preferences and Jon and Tuhin’s 6+ feet in height, the boys hucked through the powerful sections without much problem, only to whip off the top with forearms blazing. I’ve fallen off enough projects to know it’s not over until the chains are clipped, so once I sorted through my own less powerful beta for the crux, I held on for the whole ride and snagged our group’s first ascent of Ganesh after five days of work. Tuhin punched it to the top the following day, and Jon and Sandeep are soon to follow!
Tuhin on ganesh (5.14a), Jon Glassberg (Lt11) screenshot
Ganesh is certainly the most powerful route I’ve ever climbed, and also makes it on my top-five-routes-of-all-time list. The two week time pressure, combined with unfavorable conditions and a route not conducive to my strengths meant there was no time to waste. I’m learning to try as hard as I possibly can on every attempt, rather than expecting to take long periods of time to complete routes. As a result, I’ve found that when you’re trying your hardest, you can typically pull things off when you least expect it.
It’s pretty rare that a group of four climbers of very different sizes and strengths can encounter such different struggles of equal “value” on the same route. If it’s not the first move, it’s the middle move. If not the middle move then the pump. If not the pump then the head game. Different pieces of the same route can thwart all types of climbers. Thus is projecting, and that’s why I like it.
As for India as a country, it certainly lived up to my dreams. I think tourists have a tendency to romanticize places, as I had with India. We see photos of beautiful landscapes, architecture, and faces, but we can’t fully comprehend the customs, the struggles, and the background of places foreign to us. These are things it takes a lifetime to grasp and appreciate. We travel to learn as much as we can, even though it’s never enough. Sometimes pictures tell the best stories, and they often lend the truth better than words. Since photos aren’t uploading very well right now, I’ll post more during our ten hour layover in Moscow next week on the way to Turkey!