Vertical Hurdles

Climbing: Much more than just a wall and a will 

Climbing, for Nepal, is still a relatively new sport. While Astrek with its climbing park definitely created some buzz for wall climbing, we are yet to embrace it for its full potential. Discussing this and more with us is, Mingma Sherpa, three time national rock climbing champion and now a national rock climbing coach. 

“My dad was a trekking guide so I would often go along with him. Back in his days, climbing itself was unheard of. He left this travel instinct in me and eventually trekking with friends and clients led me to this sport,” he says reminiscing fondly. 

Sitting right at the heart of this climbing park, Mr. Sherpa took to talking about the gears that actually go into the sport. “You see those climbing holds? They can’t be bought in Nepal. And bringing them from abroad is very expensive,” he says, “The customs department has no idea what these things are! So they have to go through a very rough inspection. And these are merely plastic resin so even while importing, most get damaged.” 

“Don’t even get me started on the shoes,” he says chuckling, “Climbing requires proper shoes but they also get worn off extremely fast and need replacing every 6 months. Each of these shoes cost about $100! Anybody who says golf is an expensive sport has clearly never looked into climbing.” 

The world of natural rock climbing is no different. Drilling as well as anchors simply add costs and even if these were all to be magically sorted, the other villain is then- permits. “Most of the good, south-facing and sunny walls fall inside National Parks. No drilling is allowed in these protected zones. And the other peculiar thing that’s definitely only in Nepal,” he says rightfully amused, “is that in villages where these rocks are located, they worship these random rocks as Gods. You finally find a nice, climbable rock only to find red tika smeared over it. So there is absolutely no chance of getting your hands or feet on them.” 

“The problem is,” Mr. Sherpa continues, “the government has no idea regarding the scope of climbing. And this extends to the general public as well.” 

“Infact, this one time we had an all female climbing competition with three cash prizes and we could only find three people to compete! They happily took away their first, second and third prizes.” Once he regained his composure, it was clear he chooses to have a more or less fascinated view of all of this. He is definitely doing his part to contribute by churning out one after the other national level athletes in this sport. 

“I don’t want to compare but the climbing environment is given a lot more room to thrive in other countries. In Thailand, there are viable rocks everywhere along with the possibility to freesolo over the sea. In Japan, in Tokyo alone there are about 400 climbing walls. Every school and every university has one to encourage it. While in Kathmandu, there are 3. And outside of Kathmandu, basically nonexistent.” 

It is sad to see a sport you love, not be able to live up to its potential due to factors you are powerless against. Despite this, the hustle has not stopped. The climbing parks are welcoming new members as well as returning climbers with open arms as is Mr. Mingma Sherpa, who is eager to pass on his experiences to anyone passionate enough to ask. 

The criteria to be trained by him, you ask? 

Passion and Consistency. 

Oh, and the determination to survive his quirky training tactics. 

Happy Climbing!

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