There’s always a magician in the movies who performs his act and brings inanimate objects to life. Similarly in the world of climbing there are creators who turn seemingly chaotic rock faces into passages through which generations learn and test themselves, against the previous generation’s vision.
Creators are a perfect mix of both explorers and artists, they have a habit of venturing into the unknown but, this they do with an aesthetic that speaks about their experiences in life. Anil Belwal is one such creator from Nainital. Like others in his trade of creation, he has discovered lines, cleaned them, bolted them, tried them himself and then made others try them. What really makes him stand out amongst others in his field of expertise is his imagination, which has allowed him to look beyond the opaque glass of materialism and comfort. It is by working against the tide that we realize our true potential.
Mr. Belwal was drawn to the sport of rock climbing simply by appreciating the symmetry of a figure 8-knot. “I used to swim in the lake a lot. I used to approach the diving boards early in the morning and used to leave only at sunset. One day I was teaching someone else how to swim. He was afraid to go in the water and so my friend tied him to a rope. I enquired if it was safe, and he replied that even if an elephant is tied through this knot it would hold him in place. In short that brought me to NTMC (Nainital Mountaineering Club) and I started climbing.”
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.”
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It is quite often that people complain and make excuses about the limitation of resources and know how. This however, didn’t stop Mr. Belwal from climbing. “I didn’t know that rock shoes existed, like till a decade ago. The concept of crashpads never crossed my mind . When I was made aware of them I tried to stitch one for my own self and it fell-apart on it’s very first landing. With a little effort I reworked the design and use it till this day.” He smiles and then stresses that its climbing that’s important, everything else falls into place when it needs to. When you see Mr. Belwal climb you know what he is talking about. It is quite possible that for his age he is climbing the hardest in India.
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The first time I came across his name was, when he completed a project in Badami Karnataka. After that whenever people visited Nainital they always told me about Mr. Belwal and his projects.
Mr. Belwal belongs to the second generation of climbers in Nainital. The first generation of climbers were primarily mountaineers and used to practice aid-climbing on the rock faces of Bara Patthar. “It was like I was inspired to free-climb that seemed like the only logical way to me,“ and to fuel his endeavors he started bolting lines. Today almost every line bolted around Nainital is a piece of his collection and it runs into double digit. Add to this the number of boulders he has opened and his alpine ascents, and the number soon adds another digit to itself.
I first met Mr. Belwal over a year ago. He seemed reserved and made it clear that he was dedicated to his craft and expected others to be the same. Slowly over a period of time he started telling me about his adventures; which left my jaw-hanging and prompted me to daydream such fantastical getaways for myself. His attitude with his level of skill has never been of a superior but, that of a fellow-traveler. He never told me that something was hard. All he stressed on was the intensity and continuity of the effort which would be required.
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Adventure activities serve as an existing medium for the cause of generating employment and awareness about conservation in the hills. If nurtured properly the connect between an adventure enthusiast and the activity, will lead to a better relationship with the environment. This is a huge part of Mr. Belwal’s plans for the future. If you ask him about the people he has trained he would never drop bombs by bragging about climbers such as Sandeep Kumar Maity, Kumar Gaurav and Adarsh Singh. He would rather tell you stories about kids from nearby villages. “It’s my dream to make Nainital a world class climbing destination, and most of my efforts are fueled towards that. I don’t really understand the politics that money and fame bring along, so it’s better for me to concentrate on whatever lays in front of me at a given moment” he says.
Mr. Belwal these days is developing a new sector in Nainital. He is planning to write a guide book and offer training to both amateurs and pro climbers. He can be contacted through facebook and his organization’s facebook page – Climbing and Roping society. He also loves and conducts bungee jumping, birdwatching and photography sessions for tourists and kids alike.
Abhishek Mehta recently joined the pro league by sending Ganesha, 8B+. The hardest sport climbing route in India. Read on about his journey with nailing the climb in a first go.
Author: Aditya Pande
A climber hailing from a quaint hill town of Kumaon, Uttaranchal. Focused towards staying healthy and efficient, in the mountains and in the cities.