Hampi bouldering, UNESCO, Climbers and the environment.

The huge bouldering and climbing area in South India is one of the great destinations in the world and for sheer volume of rocks it must be right up there at the top. If you visit Hampi you will feel under your fingertips and palms some of the oldest and best granite in the world and may also get a totally different cultural experience from the popular bouldering areas in western countries.

  There is a unique magical atmosphere here created by the sometimes eerie deserted old temples and cave dwellings from the vijaynagar empire times combined with the stunning landscape and wildly exotic creatures, plants and trees.

 The past forces its way into your present mind whether you like it or not. If its from the legendary Hanuman and Rama Kishkinda times or Vijaynagar empire hundreds of years back there is no denying this place has a massive history. For the people who visit for the bouldering things might change a bit now a proper climbing/bouldering guide book has come opening up some more good areas previously only known by a few people, the ones who come back every year. The guide book has been prepared by the German Geoquest-Verlag team Gerald Krug and Christian Hupe with information provided by Hari Vierroth and Pil Lockey who have been climbing and bouldering here since the early 90’s.

ABOVE - CHECK OUT TIME ? !  Roots and Rocks Guest house on Demolition Day - Febuary 2013

 Hampi has gone through some huge changes in the last 2 decades but recently the rate of change seemed to speed up dramatically. In Febuary 2013 the next round of destruction with JCB bulldozers hit the area and for the first time the authorities started demolishing the guest houses and shops on the other side of the river. The first demolitions were in Hampi village itself in 2011 but nobody really believed they would do anything on the other side known as “the island”. It is an actual island but only for 1 or 2 months a year during monsoon. This so called island (real name Virupapurgaddi) is where all the climbers and most of the tourists stayed in the last few years. There are not many momuments or ruins it's mostly just rice fields and a small village. In the 1990’s it was a quiet little place with just 1 or 2 restaurants and a handful of rooms but then development quickly mushroomed.

 UNESCO made Hampi a world heritage site in 1997 and has decided on this course of action in the name of “preservation” of the ruins and temples. Rather than preserve things they seem to do the opposite. Putting concrete over slightly damaged stone gods to make them look better on 500 year old temples and breaking the locals houses is to most people not preservation at all. For most of us it’s sad to see this happen as we actually quite liked the atmosphere of the place before. For the people who started the little tourist village it's a complete catastrophe. Maybe it all came a bit too quickly. Just too many guest houses, restaurants and shops with everybody wanting to jump on the band wagon at the same time. Just the locals would have been okay but with so many greedy outsiders joining in it looked wrong somehow. Then big business people noticed and wanted a piece of it.. They are the ones who were more interested in destroying the small guest houses. 
  UNESCO as well as demolishing peoples properties have done one good thing at least for climbers which was stopping the free for all blasting of boulders anywhere near to Hampi. However a little further away from the 'core zone' this is not the case with  boulder blasting going on rapidly. 
Better than life 7b

 This boulder on the way to Yahadelli near Paraport had one of those special climbs you find only sometimes,  a classic 3 star *** problem which I had calledBetter than life" 7b V8”  Maybe I had named it wrongly but yes the name turned out to be true.
 They had blasted and cut it the next year!


 It's the tip of an iceberg as far as the blasting and it's selfish of course but when you have climbed a good problem then it gets blasted it feels worse. Now huge plateaus and hills are just turned into wastelands. I sympathise with the locals and try not to judge them as they are forced into such poverty by forces beyond our control. If they keep on with this way of getting pillars and bricks though the whole area will be devoid of boulders soon enough.
Hampi itself will never be the same now, most of it for a while resembling a war zone just piles of rubble and concrete’ and half smashed houses like the aftermath of a bombing. They will clear that soon enough though and for new people its okay most of the boulders should still be there so climbers should continue to come. Some of the best new areas of the last 10 years are anyway further away from the UNESCO site and new places to stay nearby will also be realized as time goes on.

The “Pilgrimage effect”
After the Chris Sharma pilgrimage movie of 2003 for some reason all of the climbers have stayed in just one big guest house the “Goa Corner” on the other side of the river where he stayed. This tended to lead people to always climb in the same old areas on the nearby Rishimukh plateau and the Island. The excellent rock quality in the new areas around Kadirampur, Samadhi hills and Kamalapur on the Hampi side of the river and Paraport,Yadelli and Rangapur in the wild areas being almost completely ignored in favour of the old areas near to the tourist guest houses. Short time visitors just didn’t really know that there has been so many more superb areas opened not just the same rocks next to the goa corner.

Wild area - Paraport
 Paraport is a hill an hour walk from the lake or a 40km drive and has a high concentration of quality  problems of all grades. There are fewer flakes and more of the beautiful bombproof quartzite edges and slopey white and gold blob holds. Out of the 300 problems done at Paraport about 80 are between 7a and 8a. Some harder ones await ascents. Routes like Stoned immaculate 7b Dharma kaya 7b searching for soma 7b+ paraport express 7a+ majick fingers 7b+ the milking way 7c worlds in collision 8a are amongst the best problems of the whole Hampi area. There are also brilliant highball/routes like Soulfire E6 6b an overhanging 9 metre wall with superb climbing or Captain 5 beans f 7a+ a perfect traverse into a high arĂȘte.There are 300 problems of which about 120 are listed in the book. 

 Above Paraport area topo example from the guidebook

 Near to Paraport about 2 km away is a small village called Yadelli with a population of 500 or so. It is connected by road but from the other direction making it a 30 km drive from Hampi Island instead of a 4km walk in directly. Unlike Hampi and Senapur the people of Yadelli have never seen “proper” western tourists only a few dirty climbers who stay in caves. We go there for water runs, drink tea and sometimes buy supplies also.
  Shocked to see westerners the first time but they were friendly and gave us nice reception and generally good energy. The people are very poor compared to around Hampi as they have no irrigation for the land so can’t grow any decent cash crops and also no tourist money. They can only do stone blasting then cutting and slicing by hand to sell off the pillars and bricks of granite for building materials. We have actually now managed to persuade them that the rocks at Paraport are special for another reason…. climbing, bouldering!  Which is good so hopefully they won’t blast that particular area in the next years. It doesn't mean they lose a single rupee as they have only to choose a different hill.
   If the guide book gets more climbers to Paraport it's a good thing as the more people they see climbing the less likely they will be to blast those stones. we have always respected them a lot over the years so they also respect us and what we do. They will still blast rocks but on the other side of the village so the livelihood is not affected. There are so many other blasting areas in every direction from that village. Unless they can find an alternative way to sustain the village they won't stop.

Worlds in collision f8a V11 (no.36 on topo)  Please don’t blast.

Worlds in collision

The worlds of the forest department, Yadelli village locals and also the climbers are all in collision. We wanted to climb the boulders andloved the place that’s why we came here in the first place. They came later than us by 3 years or so from the village 2.5 km away and wanted to destroy them for sale only. If it's possible climbers can nicely help them understand that the rocks are actually worth something else! Worth keeping for some type of longer term gain. That is probably the only way to convince the people, they are not modern enviromentalists but just trying to survive.

1 comment:

  1. bom!

    good read :) greetings from finland