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.
Badami, India. The next ‘world’s best’ bouldering and sport climbing haven. The rock in Badami supports this statement. However, a few crucial details mean the crowds will forever trek to the likes of Spain, Hueco, and the Red River Gorge. Unfortunately, Badami is not Spain, Hueco, or the Red because favorable climbing conditions don’t exist, you’ll likely sacrifice a few days (and pounds) to the toilet, and the logistics can be a bit overwhelming.
While gaggles of pale legged foreigners might not flock to Badami, the dusty oasis in the heart of India should make your “must visit” list, and you’ll be thankful to explore India without a slew of tourists at every turn. Why? Kilometers of under-developed, world class sandstone. Take your pick between highball boulders, wandering cracks, and bulging face climbs. Bring a crash pad, rope, rack, bolts, and you’ll be satisfied for a lifetime. I couldn’t find much info online about the town or the climbing, so here are my suggestions.
When to Visit
December supposedly offers mid 60s temperatures, although we arrived to consistent 85 degree daily averages (but 0% chance of rain, as a bonus!). As one friend said, “it’s Badami, it’s always hot”. If you’re looking for the best friction and “sending temps”, December is your best option. However, November to March are recommended as the coolest months with the least amount of rain.
Much of the rock here is south facing, and roasts in the sun all day. Gullies offer shade, but even the shade is hot mid day. Plan to climb in the early morning, as the rock is still hot in the evening.
The easiest option for foreigners is to fly. Book tickets to one of India’s major cities, then take a cheap SpiceJet flight to Hubli. Ask your hotel to send a taxi to pick you up at the airport (about a $40 ride), or hop on a local bus for a much cheaper fare. Local buses are also available to and from major cities.
The series of cliff lines sit just above the town, and a 30 minute walk along the main road will get you from one end to the other. Alternatively, a rickshaw will take you where you want to go for 10-50 rupees (under $1). The cliffs and boulders are just a few minutes walk off the main road
If you’re on a tight budget, plenty of hotels in town will welcome your company for as low as 100 rupees per night (that’s less than $2). Plan for loud horns, pigs grazing on trash outside the door, and potentially bed bugs.
If you’re willing to throw down a bit more cash (comparable prices to a stay in Europe or the US), I highly recommend the Heritage Resort. For around $15-20 per night per person, you’ll get a quiet, peaceful bungalow outside of town. Very clean, private bathrooms, comfortable beds and pillows, and a hearty breakfast included. I’ve also heard Badami Court is a good option, perhaps slightly cheaper and slightly more run down than Heritage.
Camp near the cliffs anywhere you like. But beware of intense sunshine and monkeys that will undoubtedly steal your food and shiny belongings.
Maintaining a strong and settled stomach is a challenge. Weak stomached foreigners should avoid the street food, which includes the majority of restaurants in town. We drank lassis (a sweet yogurt drink, highly recommended) from some dingy looking establishments in town, and that seemed to be okay. There’s no grocery store, but small shops along the main street sell a few packaged items, and the Bangalore Bakery offers pretty good packaged and fresh cookies. Banana stands are plentiful.
As for restaurants, the Heritage Resort has it’s own restaurant (you don’t have to stay there to eat) with incredible food. All dishes are vegetarian, so you don’t have to worry about unidentified lumps in your masala. The restaurant is clean, some but not all food is spicy, and the menu offers a variety of choices. This is by far the fanciest restaurant in town, and dinner ranges from $1-2 per person.
Guidebook and Topos
As of now, there is no guidebook for Badami. Our friend Sandeep, a local Indian climber, is currently working on an updated guide for Hampi and Badami. You can find a few topos on the DreamRoutes, Outback India, and India Climb sites, but nothing extensive. Don’t rely on other climbers to point you in the right direction, as you could be the only climber in town. Routes and boulders are not difficult to find if you’re just playing around. If you’re looking for something specific, try to contact a local ahead of time through one of the aforementioned sites.
Keep in mind that climbing within 500 meters of the museum area is not permitted. The first few hangers have been stolen from random routes, and some of the runouts are quite spicy, particularly on easier routes.
If you climb early in the morning, you’ll have a lot of down time with not many extra curricular activities. The Cave Temple, the primary reason tourists visit Badami, is interesting but will only take about 30 minutes of your time. Exploring some of the small back streets between town and the lake can kill many hours, as an endless stream of interesting things walk down the street at all times of day. Here you’ll meet young locals hoping to practice their English phrases and many curious eyes.
Currently, bolting in Badami is permitted in areas not closed to climbing. The potential is endless for sport, trad, and bouldering, with many beautiful faces unclimbed.
It’s a small town, not a modern city, so women are expected to dress conservatively (no bare legs or shoulders). It’s hot, so bring loose fitting clothing. I wouldn’t recommend sandals as the streets are dirty and the climbing areas are thorny. Young children in town and on the way to the cliff will ask for “school pens”. This irritates some people who see it as begging, but I think asking for an educational tool is better than begging for money, so you might want to carry a few extra with you.
Time spent in Badami is an experience you’ll never forget. Prepare to have your eyes and heart opened, and to climb some of the best rock you’ve ever seen.