It took two weeks living in Delhi before I finally got a lead on where to get my fix. One morning, a friend of a friend texted me vague directions to a location behind Delhi University. He told me to show up around 5 p.m. and say that I knew Himraj.
My palms were sweating and hands shaking – symptoms of withdrawal.
I left immediately after afternoon classes. One hour-long metro ride, two very lost rickshaw drivers, and half an hour of walking by the side of the highway later, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation sign shone like a beacon.
It feels silly to admit, but one of my biggest worries in studying abroad was the possibility of going six months without rock climbing. Talk about first world problems. The prospect of time off from climbing meant more than taking time off from a hobby or workout regimen – it meant giving up a lifestyle and community.
CC Senior Lauren Hebert felt similar fears before studying abroad in Costa Rica for a semester, acknowledging that she “was definitely worried about climbing withdrawals,” especially because she had to stay in climbing shape during her Spring semester before embarking on a Ritt Kellogg trip climbing and backpacking in the Wind River Range in Wyoming.
Thankfully, Hebert found her own fix at Mundo Aventura, a climbing gym in San Jose. “When we got there, it definitely felt like home. We met really cool Costa Rican climbers there,” she remembers.
One of her most memorable experiences at Mundo Aventura occurred during what she refers to as “the first and last time I will ever compete in a dyno competition.” (A “dyno” is climbing lingo for an extremely dynamic move or jump from hold to hold.) Hebert and fellow CC student Skye Greenler decided to check out a climbing competition at the gym and had initially intended just to watch. The two could not resist the temptation to climb and shelled out a few ‘colones’ for entry fees. After casually climbing on some of the routes, announcements were made for a dyno competition.
The two students were heckled into joining in the dyno fun. Climbing is still a relatively small sport in Costa Rica, with even fewer female climbers than in the states. The female dyno bracket consisted of Greenler, Hebert, and one local woman who, as Lauren puts it, “put us to shame.”
“I will never forget the experience of walking up to that dyno in front of a whole gym of Costa Rican climbers with a bright spotlight making my palms sweat,” Hebert said. “Needless to say, my three pathetic tries at making the first dyno did not bear fruit. I touched the final hold once and turned to the judge and asked if that counted. It didn’t. Alas, our dyno comp careers were not to take off that night. However, Skye and I did graciously accept second and third prizes, much to our embarrassment.”
Whereas the climbing in places such as Costa Rica and India is less developed, junior Nick Pinto had no worries about going through climbing withdrawals before heading off to Spain for a semester.
“I knew the climbing was world-class, but I was a little nervous about finding partners,” he says.
It took some time, but after spending a few weeks climbing around in an abandoned tunnel in the middle of Barcelona, which climbers had taken over and covered in holds, he discovered a bouldering gym called Deu Dits.
Through the gym, Pinto found his place within a new climbing culture. He remembers, “Like at CC, there were tons of really down-to-earth climbers that send really hard. However, I felt like overall people seem to climb harder in Spain and focus more on training. Of course, there is also much more of an emphasis on sport climbing due to the plentiful and delicious limestone covering the region.”
Pinto got a taste of that delicious limestone himself by climbing at a place called Margalef, which he described as “thoroughly mind-blowing.” The place is full of varied climbs in a canyon with world-class limestone.
According to Pinto, if there’s anything you need to know about climbing vocab in Spain, it’s “VENGA!!! Venga!” This is the Spanish equivalent of “come on” that spectators use to encourage climbers.
Pinto ended his first day climbing at Margalef “getting cruxed off a wily tufa route in the dark.”
He was forced to bail on the route. Though the wily tufa got the best of him last fall, “It was the first time I’ve ever had to leave gear behind,” Pinto said. “I will be back.”
Much like Hebert and Pinto, I am glad climbing enriched my experiences abroad by bringing me together with local students who I could relate to more than most of the Americans on my study abroad program.
Throughout the world, climbing culture is a comforting constant. Wherever you wander, you can be sure a community of laid back, like-minded addicts are never too far away. Venga! Climb on!