Hampi: The experience and lessons learned by an amateur rock climber

We had been discussing the idea of going to Hampi amongst ourselves long before the actual trip happened. Some of us had never been there but for some experienced climbers, it was their 4-5th trip. Night after night we would sit with beers in our hands discussing the place, its people, and the vibe. At the end of my days in Hampi, I realized that I could have been better prepared.

Both these definitions are extensions of our outlook in the present age, where success is always measured upwards and thought essentially as an amalgamation of incomplete wishes and fantasies we are keen to forget. The definition I keep for myself is an incomplete one, incomplete because I haven’t actually seen the mountain from either of its base camps. I have seen it multiple times from a distance and the closest I have been was a mere fifteen kilometers away, what essentially intrigues me is how my mind has embraced a concept which I don’t fully understand yet, but I am able to comprehend.

So here goes lesson number 1

“Try to gather as much information about how to make the trip successful in terms of actual climbing. Because in the end, you want the purpose of a rock trip to be fulfilled i.e. climbing at your absolute maximum.”

To get to Hampi, the nearest Airport is Bengaluru and the nearest railway station is Hospet. I chose to fly from Delhi to Bengaluru. From Bengaluru, you can book a bus for Hospet. I did the same. The traveling time is around 10 hours. As soon as I reached Hospet, a hoard of auto drivers were waiting. I was half asleep when I deboarded and immediately sat in an auto after some bargaining. The sun rose while we rode towards our destination and it was a fairly chilly morning. I was taking in the view and then it hit me. I had forgotten my wallet in the bus. Now I am the kind of guy who puts everything in his wallet, from cash and debit cards to IDs. I panicked and asked the auto driver to turn around towards the bus stand. He told me that the chances to catch the bus were slim as it would have already left for Gangavathi. I called up the bus agency contact and he did not pick up at once. It is fair on his part as it was early morning around 6 am. During these 15 mins of panic, I said to myself “you have already ruined this trip”.The auto driver suggested that I take a look in my bag. Without thinking, I said “It isn't there” and then checked. I found it and felt foolish and relieved at the same time. I realized that the auto driver had cooperated with me fully during this time and tried to help me. On reaching my destination I shook his hand and thanked him with a warm smile that reflected back.

Lesson number 2 is kind of a general rule to follow in life.

“Do not panic. Be aware of your belongings and surroundings. Not everyone in this world is existing to rip you off. So be kind and have faith in people.”

The first thing I saw on reaching Hampi was the huge temple. (But I had no interest in temples) I was there to feel the hard granite texture on my fingers. I dialed my friend's number who was already there. I couldn't reach his phone and after a few tries, I decided to settle in a guest house at a price of 1000 rupees which is quite a lot if you want to stay for long and have been planning a budget trip. After resting for awhile I decided to go out and look around. To my disappointment, Hampi wasn't as good as it sounded in our conversations. As I walked on, I saw the river. I decided to cross it by myself. Being a climber I felt confident as it looked shallow and there were plenty of rocks. The factor that I had missed was that the rocks were super slippery. I almost fell in the shallow water once. And then again, I fell and drenched myself completely. A band of Pandits sitting on the rocks in the middle of the river laughed at me and I did too. I was relieved that my phone was safe. But my wallet was soaking wet. I took this as a sign to be patient and sat on the rocks in the crisp morning sun to dry my clothes.

Lesson number 3

“Always take the ferry to the other side of the river. Don't be too ahead of yourself and be patient.”

P.S. I went back to my room and after some time decided to cross on foot again. Why? Because I wanted to.

The other side of the river was completely different than the side I was staying in. This seemed more like the place we had discussed. I started seeing shops and cafes. Beautiful green paddy fields stretched long in front of me. I stumbled upon the friend whose number I was dialing. I definitely liked this place more than the side I was staying in and decided to move here in the evening. The location of my room was really tricky in the night and I got lost many times. If you are coming to Hampi, be aware that there are no street lights. So a source of light other than the cell phone would be highly useful.

This brings us to lesson number 4

“Buy a headlamp or a torch beforehand. And carry extra batteries.”

The next day I started late in the morning and the washroom and bathroom were outside. This was really cumbersome for me as I like to brush my teeth and use the washroom first thing in the morning. In short, I am very particular about the routine things. Along with some friends, I decided to go to the Goan corner. Now, this is the place where you will get the best food and amenities. This is a really great place to stay for both the budget travelers and someone looking for a high-end experience. They provide rooms with attached bathrooms. Also, you can pitch your tent in the vicinity for as little as 200 rupees. I got the vibe of a really energetic place - climbers all around, stacks of crash pads lying in front of the cafe, campus board and pull up bars, people playing chess and carrom. Personally, I would suggest this place to stay to any climber because most climbers stay here and if you have got a tent and sleeping bag, you are all sorted.

Lesson number 5

“Carry a sleeping bag and tent for a budget trip.”

The boulders in Hampi are made of granite and the grips are extremely sharp. The first boulder I tried is called “TV Boulder”. I got onto the rock and I thought to myself “This rock is something else.” It was really Crimpy and Sharp. I got a blister on my very first day.

For the first few days you tear up the skin of your fingers and as they heal, the skin becomes thicker and more resistant to wear and tear. But the process of healing is slow and if you are on a short trip, you want the skin to heal faster. Which leads us to

lesson number 6

“Carry ‘Climb On’ cream/ tiger balm and climbing tape. Tiger balm is the cheaper alternative but not as effective as Climb On.”

If you are visiting for the first time, you would probably start your climbing on the Rishimukh plateau. The plateau has enough routes to keep you busy for 7-8 days if you are an amateur climber like me. The overall vibe on the plateau is very social. You see people trying routes all around and everybody cheering up their friends. It is a great place to meet new climbers from around the world. The evenings in the Goan corner are the best - people are unwinding after a hard bouldering session with good friends, food and drinks.

In all the 20 days I was in Hampi, I rarely took a rest day. This is not an intellectual thing to do. Climbing on granite every day is bound to make your fingers feel creaky and your muscles stiff and achy. And on top of that, the skin of the fingers also take a beating. Every day I used to climb with a body that was not performing at its 100 percent.

Lesson number 7

“Take rest days in between hard days of climbing as they will help you heal and climb better.”

During my stay, I met two British climbers called Andy and Phil. They were strong climbers and I used to see them climbing on most days. I would often see them in the heat of the afternoon, both carrying crash pads and looking for rocks to satisfy their zeal with spirits as bright as the sun in the sky. I had arrived in Hampi alone and although I did have some of my friends from Delhi, I did not have a climbing partner. Having a climbing partner now seems essential to me because now that I look back on my days and think about Andy and Phil, they had a pretty strong bonding and they shared the same enthusiasm for exploring and sending. That is the kind of partner you are looking for.

Lesson number 8

“Even before arriving, think about who shares your psyche. Someone who pushes you to your absolute maximum. It could be one or more of your climbing gym buddies.”

In the end, I want to mention that these are suggestions and not rules. You are free to make your own mistakes and explore and absorb the place in your own way. If you ever visit this magical place, let us know how your experience turned out to be.

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Hampi: The experience and lessons learned by an amateur rock climber
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