Here's how rock climber Ganesha Waddar is conquering the rocks of Badami and and selling it to youngistaan

Ganesha Waddar has grown up to be a famous rock climber in Badami in the past few years. He speaks about his journey so far and what he is doing to popularise this sport 
Ganesha Waddar climbing rocks in Badami (pictures: Climbing Badami)
Ganesha Waddar climbing rocks in Badami (pictures: Climbing Badami)

When it comes to rock climbing or adventure sports in India, Badami in Bagalkot, Karnataka, is on almost every climber's list. Pretty much every serious climber wants to scale the red sandstone rocks here at least once in their lifetime. So did Ganesha Waddar. "Every year, foreigners from different countries come to Badami between October to January just to get involved in this adventure sport. My family and I have been living in this area surrounded by rocks for many years now. One day, when I was in Class VIII, I saw a group of Americans climb rocks and I thought that I could easily do it too. I observed their climbing technique and followed them. Because I have some natural knowledge about these rocks, I climbed faster and with more ease than those foreigners. One of the climbers, Jason Hen-Jung Kuo, even appreciated me for the perfect climb. I tried climbing the rocks again after two days but this time, I found it tough as well as interesting. Then, the same team trained me to climb using climbing equipment and safety gear," recalls Ganesha. This was in 2011. 

In 2014-15, an Austrian company provided him with a sponsorship to purchase safety equipment. During this time, Ganesha met a rock climbing enthusiast from Vancouver, Matt Hanger, in Badami and the duo climbed the rocks together. "He liked my talent and interest in adventure sports. So, he sponsored my training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling, where I pursued a mountaineering course for a month. After completing the course, I participated in the South Zone wall climbing competition and won fourth place. After that, I participated in a series of competitions but slowly my interest in the competitions waned. That's when I returned to Badami and thought about popularising the rock climbing sport among the locals and tourists. You won't find rocks like these anywhere in India; their angle, slope and height make it easier for people to climb the rocks," explains Ganesha. 

With Ganesha now being into rock climbing for almost a decade, he knows exactly how it works. He explains, "We identify rocks with their areas and routes. There are a few areas that have been identified in Badami in the past few years — Ganesha area, Temple area, Kannaragavi area, Dyamamma area, Saraswathi area and Delux area. Each of these areas are spread across a few kilometres. We identified the climbing routes of these rocks. A climbing route is a predetermined path a climber follows to reach the top of a mountain, rock or ice wall. Routes can vary in difficulty and grade but once you've committed to that ascent, it can sometimes be difficult to stop or return. Among all the routes, the hardest is the Ganesha route in Temple area, which is 1.5 kilometres from the Badami bus station. This is also one of the most popular areas for climbers coming from around the world. These areas and routes are detailed in my website so that people know what they are up against before they explore the rock climbing in Badami."

Besides guiding others in rock climbing in Badami, Ganesha has also been training about 30 students who come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. He says, "I learnt rock climbing by observing people who came to Badami. There are many kids who like to take up adventure sports but there is nobody to guide them. Therefore, I train them to climb these rocks using the safety equipment I have. And I do this for free because I want these kids to be trained and for them to participate in national as well as international rock climbing and wall climbing competitions. I am hoping to send some of them to upcoming competitions this year."

So far, Ganesha has guided more than 3,000 foreigners from 15 different countries. He says, "Watching the swarm of foreigners and rock climbing enthusiasts, even the Karnataka Tourism department has identified rock climbing as an adventure sport and added it to their tourism list so that tourists can explore the terrain more. When the pandemic hit us, it was really difficult to carry on with adventure sports. We had to stop for a while. Later, once the lockdown restrictions were lifted, people started coming back. During the weekdays, we usually take up rock climbing only in the morning and evening. But on the weekends, it is a complete rush."  

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