When GG sent the Black Moon, 8A

The sunlight has almost faded completely as we stand leaning against a rock in little cave area on the Rishimukh plateau, watching Gaurav try a boulder called ‘Don’t Touch’. The boulder resides inside an enclosure formed by other adjacent boulders leaning against each other forming a little cave. He pulls himself up on a tiny crimp with his left and a micro foothold, goes for the next move, falls down on the crash mat below. We take turns to try this problem and I am giving my best. I try the first move but it is pretty hard, my fingers need some patching after the last few days of climbing on sharp granite. To my surprise, Gaurav removes his pants and starts climbing in his boxers. Apparently the pants are obstructing his movement. Climbers chanting “Alle, Come-on”, GG (yes Gaurav is known by GG in Indian Climbing community) gets on the route once again and this time connects all the moves and tops out. It is like Goku removing those heavy clothes before getting into a serious battle if you know what I mean!

Gaurav is a national medal holder in speed climbing and has been in the sport for almost 13 years now. He has been going to Hampi for the last 5 years to test his mettle. My first trip to Hampi was in last December and the first person from Delhi I met was GG. I had known GG for quite some time now, he comes across as a warm and considerate guy. I spent a lot of time with him as he showed me around the climbing areas and introduced me to his climbing circle in the “land of Hanuman”. He helped me get a scooter in Hampi at dirt cheap price and made sure I become part of the parties on the plateau. I mean what else does a guy need!

My trip came to an end in mid-January and I bade farewell to all my Delhi friends and the new ones from around the world. Gg stayed for long after I was gone, he had his own objectives to achieve. He had his eyes set on the black moon. Black Moon is a steep overhanging boulder problem in Hampi with razor sharp crimps.

On the first day itself he was climbing stuff that official instructors of the club were afraid to climb on a top-rope, “I was scolded a bit towards the end of the day when they came to know about my adventures but, I was inspired and had ample energy to believe I could climb anything I set my eyes on.

We had the opportunity to ask Gaurav some questions.

Himanshu: You fulfilled your objective to send an 8a in Hampi this year. How did it feel when you topped out black moon?
GG: It was always a dream to be a part of 8a community. I gave a lot of my time to climbing in this particular year. When I started my Hampi trip in dec 2016, I was literally fighting with only 7a and 7b routes and after a week of struggling, I decided I have to finish this trip with at least one 8a route. When I was hanging on to the hardest move of Black Moon and when I got the next grip after 23-25 tries,the skin came off and it bled as well, I had to tape it. And after the worst grips, when I was hanging on to the best one, I reminded myself I can’t leave it. And when I actually did it, it felt like I touched my inner divinity.
Himanshu: You have been to Hampi 5 times now. How do you manage a 3 month trip in this place with minimum expenditure?
GG: It was my 5th year in Hampi, so I got to know a few things and also got to know a lot of people over the years. For instance, Tom & Jerry Climbing shop which is run by Kaushik and Vikas respectively. They helped me and I helped them. And then there was a lady who used to sell fruits in a basket and I used to sell the fruits for her and for every sale she used to give me a part of it. The same thing happened with automobile rent shop. I used to help Mr. Lakshman rent his scooties and he let me use his scooties, and that’s how I helped you get a scooty in the best price. That is how I got to know a lot of locals over there, who helped me every time.
Himanshu: Climbing, holds different meaning for different people. You have been climbing for a long time. What meaning does it hold for you and how do you keep yourself motivated?
GG: I started climbing in school and used to take part in competitions. But at the moment climbing is like meditation for me. Usually what happens is that we panic in situations where we are out of our comfort zone. For example, you are sitting in an exam and you forget the answer even though you had studied it. In the exam you are out of your comfort zone and the panic makes you forget. Climbing helps me stay calm in my life. About motivation, for some people it is only the act of climbing that keeps them motivated. In my case, the grades keep me motivated to climb harder.
Himanshu: What are your plans and objectives for the coming months? Do you intend to go to the Hampi in coming season? Any set objectives in mind?
GG: I am definitely going to go. I am planning to do all the remaining routes that I had tried in the last season but couldn’t finish. Also I intend to explore and open some new boulder problems.
Himanshu: How is it going in the romance aspect of life? I believe some of your close friends envy you as you are quite the “popular guy” amongst girls.
GG: It is going good. But at the moment I am facing dry days(chuckles) and I hope things will be better in future (and we both are laughing now ) And about being the “popular guy”, I believe it is because I make them comfortable. Not just girls I usually make anyone comfortable in my company.
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