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The excitement begins early in the morning. You get up on the first bell of the alarm. Never done this before, have you? Before the whole household knows, you are up and kicking. Fresh with the flavour of the toothpaste mint and a clear mind, you are looking forward to this new day. No, it’s a Sunday and you are not heading to work!

Things will be different from now on. Why? You have seen a lot of this on TV lately and you have always wanted to experience. Always wanted to be on the edge of things and look at the world from a different angle. It’s different! That’s it! You say, I am going to do it! With adrenaline pumped up, you head towards the station where a friend is waiting and take you straight to Marve jetty. There are more like you who have decided to try something new and joined up. Having missed the ferry to cross to the other side, you decide to take a sip of hot chai at the nearby stall keeping one eye on the early morning rush for the next ferry ride. Luckily the wait is only about 20 minute by which time you manage to finish the tea and rush to the boat lugging all the equipment.

The other side sees a little haggling for an auto-rickshaw as we do not want to take the crowded ST bus. The rickshaw makes way into the Goa-like environs of small fishing villages and then stops in front of a very narrow lane. Getting into this lane is an experience and with all the excitement built-up one can almost hear hearts thumping. A walk through the green undergrowth builds more expectations. Soon the breeze grazes your hair and you smell the salt. All this while you are wondering as to how come you never knew such a place existed; right next to the city of Mumbai. But where is the sea, the sand, the rocks, the shacks,…..?

Mind filled with questions, you soon come over the cliff from where you see the Arabian Sea extend in front of you. You spot small fishing trawlers in the horizon waiting to shore the night’s spoils. The tides are good today but the walk down the cliff makes you nervous. Your friends stop at a ledge where you rest while they set up all the gear. You are not sure if all this equipment will live up to its work, but soon you see the action and your friend reassures that its absolutely safe. You are asked to have a look at the system and clear any doubts about safety of the system and the functions of various units in the set-up. This ensures that your friends have double-checked every element of the system. You get that extra boost of confidence and are convinced about the top part.

By now its 0900Hrs and you are feeling a little hungry; hunger fed through a little anxiety. You walk down the cliff where you see the two ends of the 10mm thick rope. A small snack of sandwiches and some Tang does you good.

With tummies satisfied, all the attention is now focussed towards the short talk made to everyone on climbing and other related issues. Initially it’s hard to grab those technical jargons. But what is important is your state of mind and that of the gear. You get convinced about both as you slowly begin handling the gear, inspect the various specifications and watch what follows. Of course you do not get on the rope first to climb but wait patiently!

Before you know your friends have got into their harnesses. One tied to one end of the rope while another friend holding the rope. Your friend, who is now looking like a miner with his helmet on, gets close to the rocks; looks up; takes a deep breath and talks to himself for a few moments. His hands move in a zigzag fashion with his index finger outstretched as if he is looking up the stock price board in the BSE. Then he mutters a few words to the friend at the other end…
“Take slack”
“That’s me”
“Check belay”
“Climb on”

The friend holding the other end of the rope, tells us that this is a sequence of calls to check the stability and the proper functioning of the system.

With a burst of energy your friend makes his way up the rock wall. There are some tense moments while he is making his moves. Else he seems to be dancing on the vertical. He stops at some places and lets us know the basic moves and some difficult sections. While he is up there, the belayer is all eyes on the climber and is continuously taking the slack in the rope so that at no point is the climber in danger of taking a fall more that a couple of feet. The life of the climber is actually in the hands of the belayer. He cannot afford to take things lightly.

Your friend by now is near the top. All the way up he has been focusing on his next move making some important decisions. At times he feels as if he is going to peel-off the rock and looks rather tentative. On other occasions he is sticking to the rock like a lizard. Often he gropes for some handhold and sometimes relies on cracks in the rock or eraser-size projection to pull himself up. One thing that has been important in his climb is that he has been putting his weight on the legs so that his hands do not tire fast. We need to keep that in mind.

Your friend always is in complete control of his mind and body. He knows what he is up to and this gives him the confidence. Now with a big lurch he grabs the final hold and raises his leg over the top platform and stands with his hands extended. He is done with the climb! We all praise his effort and watch him rappel down. He sits in the harness on the rope as if it’s a chair. As soon a he touches his foot down, there is calm in the camp for now one of us has been asked to put on the harness. It’s your turn now!

Things look much easier from down watching someone make his way up! Yes, but they are, its just a matter of time that you will be able to do the same. The climber did make some difficult moves you think are impossible. But what the heck, you are not expected to reach the top today! The fun is in making one move at a time and soak in the success of each. That’s what makes climbing so exciting. You always end up feeling great! The climb is more important than the top. You also learn to realise and work on your limitations.

By now you are convinced that not so many people will take to this activity if there is any great risk involved. You have seen the system, the quality and ratings of various gear, the safety, the role of the belayer etc. It’s only up to you to make up your mind and give it a shot. According to a survey done in western countries this activity is safer than driving on the highway. Of course a lot of safety depends on the climber himself; the system rarely fails.

Getting into the harness itself is a little tricky, you think. You want to ensure that every bit of the system is double-checked. The moves are reiterated to you, then you are roped-in and asked to begin. You dab your hands with some chalk to dry your sweating palms, make a few white marks on the rock and with a heave your step on the first foothold.

The first few moves are easy. The rope has been taken in and now you feel good! With each subsequent move you get a lot of advice and act accordingly. Things are fine but now your forearms are a little tired. On the next move your arms are stretched wide out and you have to step into a hole in the rock, which you cannot see. You struggle a little while your climber friend instructs you to change your position in a manner that will take you closer to the hole. You wouldn’t let go of your good handgrip. Now this is something! How on earth do you try and reach that hold? Hold? Which hold? You begin groping and then realise that it’s not the kind you have been thinking about. Not all holds are for you to grab. This is real climbing. You jam your left fingers in a gap in the rock, pull your body to your left while holding a nice chunk with your right, believe in this move and place your foot where your friend tells you to. Easy? Not yet? It looks very precarious, but then you decide to do it once and for all. Then move your right leg towards the hole. There you are! You are comfortably perched as simultaneously you have grabbed a handhold further to the left and balanced your body. It feels great to be there and now you are asked to rest. Stretch one arm, shake it to loosen up, alternate with the other. Dab with more chalk powder and get on the move again.

The next few step are almost like a step-ladder, but the following moves are quite difficult. Now you are at least 25 feet above the ground; the sea looks good, the breeze is cooler and the rocky ground looks awesome. You strain to move your arms now, thinking that they have not been exercised for long before this, but yet you managed to reach so high. One move and now you hang on a small hand-hold for dear life. Your mind wants to give up but your heart does not! By now your hands are so strained that you cannot just go up. So with a big cry to the friend on the other end, you give way and gravity takes you over. Well you do not head for the ground; you just cannot! Its only now you realise that the rope can take your weight, the force of the fall and how safe the system has been.

While all this happens you are overcome with fear, but as soon as you settle at the other end of the rope and hang there, you look up to your move and decide that the small fall was worth the effort. While on your way down you thump the rock in frustration, but are completely satisfied that you got so far. Your friends have been cheering you and you are proud of your achievement. While you are being lowered down slowly a feeling overcomes you; this is the best place in the world to spend a lot of time; you mean the end of the rope! Everything, the initial anxiety, the trust, the climb, the moves and the fall, have been worth it! Now you are ready for another attempt but will have to wait your turn again.

Meanwhile you gulp some water and sink your teeth into some fruits and snacks. While others climb, you cheer them to make the correct moves. Already you are advising someone! Simultaneously you are also planning your moves for the next climb, imagining making complex moves and make it to the top. This day you try about a couple of more times, reach almost the top, but decide that you will be back with more enthusiasm. You are now hooked on! Everyone is happy and many soon decide that they are ready for more. They want to learn more and try better climbs. There are many places to climb, friends have been talking about those. Some overhangs, some flat walls and some easy climbs with one or two critical moves. You want to climb them all.

While heading back there is a small discussion about systems, gear and advanced climbs. You almost forget about your state of mind on your way to the rocks. Your attitude has changed and you want more of this adrenaline pump! You have a lot to tell your colleagues at the office the next day. You have been wondering what a waste all those Sundays have been when you spent your time lazing around or just watched some TV. You know instantly, YOU ARE ADDICTED TO ROCK CLIMBING!!!


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