|Our Really Big Adventure|
Mount Abu- Rajasthan
| My leg shook uncontrollably
with fear as I glanced at my diminishing rack. Just where was that next
belay? I was 40 meters above the security of the ground and even being frugal
placing protection I had all but exhausted the metal chocks and cams that
would stop me plummeting to the ground should I slip. I looked around nervously
for somewhere to anchor myself to; I needed to set up a belay and protect
Barbara and our guide as they climbed to my tenuous position on the granite
Get a grip on yourself, I said to myself, this is easy. True enough it was easy; we had come to Mt Abu specifically in search of undemanding climbs of a low angle to help build up our strength and technique. We werent ready for anything very committing yet, Barbara had been suffering from a recurring tendon injury and neither of us had climbed outside Ireland. So Mt Abu with its long easy slab climbs seemed like the perfect place for us to start our international climbing careers. We had not considered the soaring heat of Rajasthan in summer and the chronic fear that slowly develops with age.
I took a deep breath, mentally calmed myself and smiled: all documented ways to dispel negative energy that I would normally discount as bullshit. They say there is no such thing as atheists in foxholes and youll try anything when youre on the sharp end of a rope fifteen feet above the last piece of poorly placed protection. I was pretty sure I wouldnt die, but if I fell Id lose plenty of skin and endless amounts of pride that would take even longer to recover.
The worried looking faces below were all the encouragement I needed and I launched myself up the fist-sized crack in the rock. Quickly I found myself on a ledge large enough to sit on, a perfect place for a belay. I looked around for the pegs that our guide had said awaited me; I could see none. Confused and worried that the belay was still further, I shouted down for directions. The dry hot air that rose up from the surrounding planes whipped away the meaning of my words evidently leaving just a tinge of desperation. Communication with the ground wasnt going to be easy and we spent sometime irritatingly shouting, what and I cant hear you to each other.
Just when I thought things couldnt get much worse I saw our guide start to ascend the rock face, in his sneakers! Presumably he thought me anchored and ready to protect his ascent. I shouted at him to go back but he paid me no attention and continued to climb. It was only when he was a good ten meters up the rock face that I noticed he wasnt tied into the rope at all. He was free-climbing the same line that I had sweated and worried over and by the time he made it up to my position my pride was in tatters. Without making efforts to further embarrass me he showed me a natural handle in the rock: a perfect anchor.
I began to regain my composure as Barbara puzzled her way up the route. The view overlooking Mount Abu town was magnificent and it was easy to see why middle class Indians flock here each summer. Mount Abu is an oasis set on a plateau that rises unexpectedly out of the oven that is the Rajasthani desert. The town is set on a picturesque lake and is largely painted blue. Other than the climbing, Mount Abu town held little attraction for us; it was just too artificial and full of self-important Indians, who are no more fun than self-important Westerners. But sitting high above the town, anchored to rock so hot that I had to constantly wriggle my butt to avoid burns, it really did look magical.
Relaxing after the days climbing started
early as the heat forced us off the rock by midday. A couple of fresh
lime sodas and litres of water later, we revived ourselves long enough
for lunch before an overdue afternoon nap. Uncharacteristically for India,
we spent the evening sipping beer watching the sunset on the plastic swan
boats paddled by ghee-gutted middle-aged men.