The Zanskar Odyssey: High Alpine Bouldering in the Hidden Himalayas - PART 2/3Tue, 15/03/2011 - 17:36 — Petzl News
This past fall, Colorado climbers Pete Takeda, Abbey Smith, Jason Kehl and Mick Follari journeyed to that lofty crossroads where continents meet, ancient cultures mingle, and great religions clash — the kingdom of Zanskar in the Indian Himalayas. They were looking for adventure, a fresh perspective, and the most aesthetic boulders in the world's greatest mountain range. It's a postmodern blend of traditional expedition climbing and new school bouldering, it's a search for the highest hardest climbing moves in the world.
"Himalayan bouldering has had adherents since the 1890’s! Oscar Eckenestein, the first recorded proponent of the sport spent time in the Karakoram purely bouldering as an adjunct to a traditional mountaineering trip.
In more recent years, a British climber who goes by the handle Pil, has devoted a lot of energy to the development of some excellent and extensive bouldering. We are all tourists in Pil’s world.
For more on his adventures and climbing see: www.pils-trips.com His adventures outside of climbing are hair-raising to say the least.
This massive granite block is the size of a modest suburban home. It's squat and overhanging, burnished gold and streaked with grey. It’s magnificent and only one of countless similar boulders strewn on a mile long ridge deep in the Miyar Valley. It's paradise. A stone's throw distant, across a tinkling glacial-fed stream and edelweiss-dappled meadow is Base Camp. This exotic Zen Garden ambience is set against a backdrop of snowy mountains and huge granite walls.
When one imagines a Himalayan climbing expedition, it’s not often they think of tiny backpacks and tight shoes that have more in common with ballet slippers than boots. And more often we think of massive dome tents, ice axes, and heavy packs, before we think of crashpads and chalk.
Bouldering is a paradox of the rarified and mundane. It's approachable -- a climber of any stripe can walk up and lay their hands on the most legendary and complex problem, and even climb the first couple of moves – but it’s also the realm of the most talented athletes in the entire sport.
Here are two of the strongest boulderers in the world: Jason Kehl and Abbey Smith. Kehl is humble and self-effacing, but with the fashion and grooming sensibilities of mohawked extreme skier Glen Plake. Abbey is disarmingly demure - climbing bloggers call her a "full hottie" and "mega-babe" and she's turned down repeated offers to be a pinup in The Women of Climbing calendar."