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Abhishek trying a move on Ganesha.

Not many are familiar with the place called Badami in Karnataka. But ask any serious rock climber in India and they will tell you about the high density of hard sport routes in this place. The place is a serene concoction of old Hindu temples and hard pumping sport climbs. One that stands out amongst them, is Ganesha. The Ganesha line established by french climber Alex Chabot is hailed as the hardest sport route of India with a difficulty of 8b+. It surely will make you stare at it irrespective of whether you can climb or not. The first ascent of Ganesha was bagged by Gerome Pouvreau, another climber from France. Since then, Indian climbers – Tuhin Satarkar from Pune, Kumar Gaurav from Delhi, and Adarsh Singh from Delhi – have ascended the route. The new addition amongst them is another lad from Delhi called Abhishek Mehta.

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Taking rest during a hard day on the route.

Having known Mehta (as he is referred to by his friends) for quite some time now, he certainly strikes me as a guy who can and will get things done. No doubt he is one of India’s best climbers with a balanced head and loads of climbing experience having won in national speed competitions multiple times. Then there is this other side to Mehta which is the guy who dances to Punjabi beats whenever he gets a chance, whether it is an Indian wedding or an outing with buddies. His light hearted sense of humour certainly kept me happy during my visit to Hampi. During our time in Hampi I saw Mehta climb some of the hardest boulders and while some of us were settling down into the place with our booze escapades, he was getting things done. After a few days spending time in Hampi, he set out to Badami to focus on his main objective – the hardest sport climb in India – Ganesha.

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Abhishek in his new avatar.

We at 4play were curious to know how he trained for this monumental project despite being a speed climber and having never touched an 8b+. He told us that he trained for this project in Delhi at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation improving his power and endurance for the final climb. Despite this training in IMF and in Hampi, he faced difficulties making the climb. He saw Ganesha and felt like he would finish the route in 2-3 days. But when he stepped onto the rock, things did not turn out as expected. The rock has it’s ways to turn your confidence to shreds. He could not make the second move which was almost the length of his own height. Mehta trained for Ganesha by doing other hard routes like Samsara. He divided Ganesha into two parts – before 6th clip and after 6th clip. He took 5-6 attempts on Ganesha everyday. It took him 4 days to connect the 2nd move. He told us “I had the endurance and power to do this route but I felt drained of energy when I tried it. This happens when you try a hard route for the first few times.” After his continuous hard work on the route he finally managed to send Ganesha after 20 days.

A major support in his ascent was his friend Kopal Goel. Having seen the short film, it is hard to believe that Kopal did the entire shoot and editing of the short film ‘GANESHA ROUTE 8B+ (5.14A) BY ABHISHEK MEHTA’ and also belayed Mehta while he tried the route. Kopal dreams of becoming an adventure film maker. When asked about how she managed to pull this off in the blistering heat of Badami, she told us that she had to try multiple camera positions for the filming before actually starting the recording. On the day she arrived she took shots of the route from different points and different angle to figure out the best shooting points. She never had a script for this film but she was prepared mentally in the sense that she knew what she had to show in it. She knew she had to blend both the climbing process and give a flavour of the local place. As if being the only person to shoot and belay in the heat was not enough, she had to deal with the mischievous monkeys around. She found some good shooting points but the catch was that these points were also playground for the monkeys. She narrates a funny incident, “After a lot of deliberation with Abhishek I decided to place the camera at a good vantage point while I belayed him. Not to my surprise a monkey did come near the camera and tried to mess up the shoot. I yelled up to Abhishek who despite being reluctant anchored himself and started making weird sounds to divert the monkey’s attention, so that I could take hold of the camera.”

Watch upcoming highliner and climber Bhupesh Patil dreaming life into his projects.

All this goes on to prove that huge objectives are achieved with constant hard work and friends who believe in you. When asked about whether he has set any new climbing challenges for this year, Abhishek told us that he is going to start training in March for international competitions. He plans to prove his mettle in the speed category in three world cups. He is also planning to open a hard line in Badami this year and try the route ‘Badami Masala’ which hasn’t seen a first ascent yet. Kopal is also keen to bring out a new film of Mehta called ‘Training for success’ at the end of this year. We at 4play are excited to see this dynamic duo bring out the best of each other.

Watch partners in climb Rohit Vartak and Ganesh Geedh attempt to speed climb Duke’s Nose (Nagphani) – Simul Climbing Project, India.

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Himanshu Gupta

Author: Himanshu Gupta

Amateur rock climber and photographer. Been climbing for 2 and a half years now but only beginning to unravel the realm of bouldering and sport climbing. Into sciency stuff and wildlife.

Abhishek Mehta Climbing The Ganesha, India’s Hardest Sport Route

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