If ever there was a place which deserves the title of having too much boulder sized rock it is Hampi. There is an insane amount. Could it be too much? Is there such a thing as too many boulders? It sounds so daft, but maybe it’s possible. But whilst it is blessed with near endless boulders, it is also condemned. Hampi is condemned to a fiery naga like heat. Even in the chills of winter day time temperatures soar, forcing climbers to emerge at dawn, their headtorches tracing out a streak of light towards the boulder fields.

As the sun rises the urgency sets in, within hours the heat is intolerable, the rocks are subjected to a sinuisoidal life of hot/warm.

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Even in the coldest hour the temperature never drops below 10C, so even at dawn the rock is barely what I would call cool. The window for climbing is a function of time and shade. By 9am climbing in the sun is madness and by 10am the shade offers little respite.

In these short windows of opportunity you are forced to warm up (remarkable given that you can’t cool down most of the time), climb, and enter crush mode before breakfast.

The emergant sun is like a giant egg timer, forcing you to try harder, to make the current go the final one, pressuring you to just slap for that next hold because maybe you’ll be able to retreat from the fiery boulder field and douse yourself in a cold shower. This mentality was probably the driving factor in my few successful ascents!

It’s difficult to describe boulder problems as king lines because I think they lack the height necessary for a king line, so in this context I’ll use champ line. It’s an arbitrary distinction, I know. Perhaps by sheer probability Hampi has a number of champ lines. Subjectivity may come into it but no one can argue against the fact that there are some striking lines.

Double Arete (7-) is a fantastic boulder. It’s difficulty is just right as it is accessible by most visiting climbers, and although the last move is easy it is at a height which makes you take a bit of extra care when laying down the bouldering pads. Another climber had hurt his ankle and there was no way I planned to either visit an Indian hospital or ruin my entire round the world trip! Luckily it went down without any sort of resistance. The lack of crimps also make it stand out from the usual tip assault of hampi boulders. 4 stars.

Goan Corner (7+) is most definitely a champ line. A striking arete, overhanging on one side, a steep slab on the other. The climbing is broken only by a crimp at the very start and a crimp at the end. Whilst it is one of the most striking lines I saw in Hampi it also suffers from being at an aspect that gives it the maximum amount of sunshine. The very first rays of sun that come over the horizon fall onto this boulder, heating the boulder from warm/hot to searing in a matter of minutes. Fortunately it’s only a 4 minute walk from our room, so being there before sunrise wasn’t too extreme. The classic warm up of a few pull ups must have done the trick. The sun had just cast its beautiful but hot orange light onto the boulder as I set off on my 3rd try. Perhaps the knowledge that this attempt at 7am was inevitably the last of the day spurred me on as I topped out into the orange glow.

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Surf Traverse (7+) is altogether different yet similarly striking. I looked up the hillside at an over hanging black face with a rising right to left line of white holds starting very low and finishing at the very apex of the boulder. I didn’t know what it was but from 200m away I knew I had to climb it. Surely that’s qualification for a champ line. Upon inspection at 50cm I was still keen but less enamoured. Every hold was a crimp, all quite large, and some kind of sharp. There were 2 clear methods, a low and a high. The low seemed purer, but involved more moves and harder moves. The high involved a crimp gaston and a heelhook. I had a quick blast at the low method but with only 2 pads and Emily to spot the high and sketchy landing end, I didn’t top out the boulder. I decided to come back with more pads and a bigger spotter!

On our very last day in Hampi I went back up to Surf Traverse. My purity of line choice relented to a desire to just get it done so I switched the must faster and easier high method, and was pleased to get to the top in 3 tries. It should have been 1 try, but I made a bad shoe choice. The switch to Anasazi Velcro’s sealed the deal and I remembered why I love them so much. A modern classic!

Surf Traverse is only let down by a hold in the middle which is most definitely going to break in the (near future). I could actually see it moving as I did the moves and even heard it crack a couple of times. However, given that I don’t like crimps, Surf Traverse must be good if I’m singing it’s praises!

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Climbing in Hampi, or even just being in Hampi, represents the first time I’ve been climbing outdoors since Squamish. You can see how long ago that was by looking at the previous posts; June 2011. I didn’t know what it would feel like to be a climber again, or indeed if I could be a climber again. How would my body adapt? How would I feel? How would I climb? Many questions plagued my mind as we made our way from London to Hampi. I’d been in a very different world for quite some time. Would I simply have moved on from climbing, physically and mentally? There was even doubt in my mind, something which felt very alien and not very welcome. There is even a quote in my notebook which reads

“Doubt has begun to creep in to my life and I hate it. I wonder if I can do a 7B. I don’t want to feel that. I don’t want to entertain doubt, to have it as a guest at my table. I want to rekindle the unrelenting self confidence that once surged through my veins”

Upon arrival in Hampi things felt a bit foreign. The whole scene felt a bit distant. Emily has been working so hard in a professional environment for the past few years and the first couple of days in Hampi were weird. The whole “traveller” scene seemed alien. Overhearing conversations about cosmic energy (seperate post to come) and seeing middle class white kids from America walk around barefoot in some bizzarre effort to either go native or just cut their feet; it just didn’t feel like home. I’m sort of glad to report that that feeling didn:t change in our time there. Maybe I have moved on… but only partially.I did encounter that feeling of home when I was pulling on, when I was analysing my body position, when I was focused solely on getting my hand to move to exactly where I knew my index finger would adhere to a granite crystal; that felt like home again.

It’s possible that I’m confusing the notion of home with the one of familiarity. I don’t know how to seperate them entirely, but I do know that climbing felt good and it felt right. If I’m really honest I know that climbing isnt my everything. When I have 5.10′s on my feet and I’m chalking up my hands then my whole world is climbing. I’m focused, I’m hungry, and nothing else exists or matters. But once the pad is packed up and I’m away from the boulders I don’t want to talk about climbing (not exclusively anyway). I want to talk about India putting a 6% input tax on Gold and what this has done to it’s current account deficit. I do want to talk to interesting people from other fields who inspire me with talk of how small scale solar will be a real solution for millions of Indians. I generally want a fuller life than only climbing. I get the feeling that most people realised this ages ago, so apologies for the obvious epiphany. What it doesn’ change is my desire to climb (relatively) hard. I want to climb 8B again. In fact, there is little more I want in climbing that to go back and do Gecko Assis. Well, perhaps Vecchia Leone too. The point is, I long to climb hard again. I just want to do it alongside a balanced life.

Climbing is a selfish sport. It devours us. I know I’m a selfish person and it’s perhaps one of the reasons I ever managed to get any good at climbing. But I can’t live so selfishly forever. I have a beautiful wife, I want a family, and I want to do something like start a business. But can that leave any room for trying to climb hard? I don’t know. I do know that I find it very hard to compromise, so how I will ever balance all of these things I don’t know. This diatribe can probably be summed up by 1 sentence; I’m growing up.

Hampi has been a great start to the trip. It’s allowed me to warm up for a climbing trip (literally and metaphorically). It reminded me how good climbing is, it served as a benchmark to how I’m climbing, and it showed me that I have grown up. I’m really happy that I’ve been to Hampi, it is an amazing place and if you want a climbing HOLIDAY then I really can recommend it. The emphasis on holiday is important because to me Hampi is not about climbing hard. It’s about climbing in an amazing place, relaxing in hammocks, eating delicious Indian food everyday, swimming in lakes, meeting many different people and generally chilling out. If it was 20C cooler then maybe it would be a climbing TRIP destination, but that’s never going to happen. I think the best way to view Hampi is as one of the coolest places I’ve been to on a climbing holiday. Font, Ticino, Yosemite, Bishop, Squamish; they are all climbing trip destinations. Hampi is not a climbing destination; it is a holiday destination with a lot of climbing. Hampi island is a little slice of paradise in India .

Would I go back? It’s doubtful. Apparently November is a better time to go for climbing, but maybe you’d gain 10% on the climbing front and lose 30% on the holiday front… hardly pareto optimal.

Hampi Info

Hampi - The Knowledge

Essential Info

To be updated with some basic info on how to get there, where to stay, expected costs, other activities, etc.