Shasta Dhar, likes spending her weekends at the Raje Shivaji Climbing Wall in JM Road. The nine-year-old started rock climbing at just 6 and today, it is her favourite sport.
“One day, my father said: ‘From tomorrow we will go rock climbing’,” recalled Shasta about how she started. “Once I tried it, I felt an amazing adrenaline rush. I come here regularly on the weekends and it’s my favourite sport now,” she added.
The wall was erected in 2010 by the Pune Municipal Corporation in association with the Shivaji Vyayam Mandal. The Pimpri Chinchwad Mountaineering Association provides coaching support at the venue. The three faces of the 50-foot wall are made for different forms of climbing — lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering. In lead climbing, a participant has to ascend a slanted cliff. In the second type, the climber must complete a 15m climb quickly. In bouldering, the walls are dotted with artificial footholds.
Amol Jagdand, a coach, said the response was not good in the first few years. “The sport started picking up only in 2016. Now, we have around 40 climbers,” he said. Jagdand, who has been climbing since he was a child, is a national-level climber. “Three of my students have been selected by the Indian Olympics Association,” he said.
There is no age barrier here. Jiza Malve, a 6-year-old, started climbing a few days ago. “At first my hands slipped. After four days, I was able to climb all the way up,” Malve said.
An indoor bouldering facility — the Rock Aliens gym — in Shivajinagar is proof of the rising trend. The gym was a result of its founders’ love for trekking in the Sahyadris, known to be the toughest treks in Maharashtra. Jay Shinde, one of the owners, said the facility started around six years ago. “My friend Dhaval Sharma and I wanted to make the world more aware of the sport, because whenever we told people we were rock climbers, they confused it with trekking.” Shinde added in Pune they were the first indoor bouldering gym. “Over the years, we have witnessed a 70% increase in the number of people taking to the sport.”
Abha Pandit, 23, a freelance writer, is a regular at Rock Aliens. “The Rock Aliens gym is a bouldering gym with a fixed height of around 13 feet and there are no ropes, only crash pads. The Raje Shivaji Wall is outdoors and has a lead climbing wall. One must wear a harness clipped on to a rope. Also, the wall is 15m high,” Pandit said.