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.
The crux is a long dynamic slap to a flat plaque of rock topped with a small edge. I have to hit it just so, or the fingertips and palm won't find enough traction to stick. I make it to the slap for the third time in three days, my hand arcing up and hitting two inches shy of the small edge. I fall. I rest for ten long and tense minutes before jumping back on. I'm weaker, fatigued, my body saggy. I'm losing hope. Today is the last day I'll be rested enough to do it. Deep inside, I know it's now or never. For me, a year of planning and an entire expedition comes down to a single moment. I'll either do or fail. This is the beauty of bouldering, its spare athletic simplicity. Its been said of bouldering, "The ground never lies."
With less than two weeks left, we are down to two chickens, three wire brushes, and a single bottle of whiskey. With a dozen unclimbed projects, its time to get busy.
"It's the kind of problem I'm always looking for. There is a similar problem by my childhood home that's a huge overhanging block. There really aren't any holds, you're just squeezing the rock and you're making holds out of the angles. That kind of trickery with a lot of toe hooks is kinda my specialty. So maybe it's easier for me to figure something like that out because I'm used to that. It's not straight forward. Normally you wouldn't do moves like that on a basic route."
"Pete cleaned this boulder and invited me over to have a look. I did the best line through the middle – first try. I felt bad at first but then he couldn't even do the crux… he that's just how it goes."
"Of course we did a little bit of alpine climbing, but the best was the bouldering…"