This is the chronicle of a scrawny guy from a tropical country who came to Switzerland (or Swiss as we like to call it
) three years ago, thrived physically and professionally, and will shortly go back to India, bigger and stronger and can climb Alpine North Faces
When I came here poor and hungry (I mean it figuratively; a Phd stipend in India definitely pays enough to eat enough
, but then, while I waited for my first month's salary here, I literally did not eat enough), I did not have the remotest dream of wanting to become a mountaineer, heck, I hadn't even met a mountaineer in real life, not seen a crampon or axe except on TV, and I had very romantic/extremely limited notions about the Alps.
In 2009 I got in touch with Assassin and his creed
, they took me up the Uetliberg, something I had been wanting to for four months but had been unable to find my way to until then. Object ticked off my list, what next? Salsa
sold me a decent bike for very cheap, a godsend for someone still getting used to Swiss prices, and I started seriously dreaming about Dakman's pass-rides. Litespeed
made it happen by allowing me to tag along with him, Mr & Mrs Chris and the ever playful young (
) Eire on the famous Alpine Roadie Adventure '09
. I was much slower than them, but they held on patiently and brought me back safely. Three Alpine passes in a day, wow! Ticked. What next?
Around this time I had gotten in touch with the lovely Hillseekers
couple and PTKate, very infuential figures in the EF sport/fitness circle, and who can resist being carried away by (now Coach) Jeff's writings, so a mountain marathon wiggled on to my ticklist. Managed some, narrowly missed finishing one, anyway by end of Sep 09, within 9 months of coming here, I felt much stronger (and heavier). I believe excessive running (or any sport) is ruinous to the body, so I had to find something else now.
Actually all along, my true passion/drive was to be a climber/mountaineer (a childhood dream). But the idea seemed so preposterous that I wouldn't dare dream about it. But now I was strong, more confident in my abilities, I could afford the expensive gear, so maybe I can dream about it? But what to dream, what to set as a goal when you are starting from zero and have no reference point? That's when Shane
entered my life. He was generous enough to take me out on my first outdoor rock trip and taught me some basics (yes, I have learned far more from friends for free than I have from mountain guides I paid through my nose at later stages). His climbing CV gave me something concrete to dream about.
April 2010 I took up an annual membership at the climbing hall and within 6 months I was leading 6c's, struggling up 7a's, that's when I thought, let me stop, because too much of indoor climbing can cause long term tendon injuries (hey, I am 37
). 2010 passed by with decent progress on rock climbing, multi-pitches. I also got a taste of ice-climbing and easy mountaineering
I was also fairly active with Alpine hiking
; through that thread (possibly the only tangible benefit I got from it) I got the privilege of meeting and hiking with Jed
, and subsequently a few climbs with him during which I learned what "brass balls" means, mine felt so squishy
He's one of those that can be called "insanely fit", who can give Ueli Steck a run for his money. 2011
So when summer 2011 began, I had all the basic requirements, right contacts, numerous openings through SP and Hikr, the rest was rapid progress. Starting in Jun 2011 with a PD rated 4000ér, by end of September I was climbing Alpine North faces
rated "Difficult" or higher
Fortunately, despite some crazy stuff I have been doing, and anyone can say it is too much, too fast, I played it safe and did not have any injuries/accidents. I think it is a good time to pause and take an objective look...All said and done, mountaineering is an inherently dangerous sport...and I had promised myself before i took up this sport that I would pause after a reasonable measure of success...so I have paused.
Why did I write this post? For my own sake, to reflect upon my journey. To formally commit myself to pause, because it is so easy to say yes when my (now) wide climbing network invites me for a climb, and I have a ton of the finest climbing gear/attire lying in my house tempting and testing my willpower.
And maybe to revive friendships that I might have neglected or forgotten over the years in my quest for personal achievements, to thank those that I might not meet again for various reasons (gawd, you have to be driven, obsessed, to be able to do this much in this time safely, balancing family needs and a 100% job).
And maybe there is someone else lurking in the corners of internet who is looking for a story to build his/her own climbing dreams on...