Saturday, 10 May 2008

Aching to climb

I feel old! My shins, back and arms ache. But it's not without good reason. You see, Darjeeling, as well as being famed for it's delicious tea, is also 2100m high up in the Himilayas. From our hotel bedroom window, we can see the lofty snowcaps the summit of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain (only a few hundred meters shy of Everest's height). Being so high up, it's a wonderful relief from the 40C heat of the rest of India and it's also the home town of the legendary sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who along with Edmund Hillary who died earlier this year, were the first known people to summit Mount Everest.

Now, back to my bones. Being up in the mountains, I couldn't resist the opportunity to go rock climbing. Despite my almost complete lack of experience, I happily found the phone number for the well-respected Tenzing Norgay Climbing Club here in Darjeeling and made an appointment to meet some of them at the Tenzing Rock where they train the next day (yesterday).

So yesterday I met two climbers who happened to be Indian climbing champions. In fact they had recently represented India climbing in Iran, Hong Kong and Macau. They lead a roped climb up Gompa Rock, one of the tougher rocks to climb here in Darjeeling. It's a 30m stack which turns into a completely vertical chimney at the top, virtually smooth with only a thin crack for any holds for my hands and feet. I made a fair effort to get 70% of the way up the rock but after four attempts on the final stretch, I lost all strength in my arms and failed to make it to the top.
But it's left me inspired, determined and try more climbing.

(Oh - a couple of other things to update on. I broke one of the caps of my front teeth on the train to Darjeeling with a sachet of ketchup got the better of me. I now look like a dumb country hick but have a dental appointment to make me look more respectable when we arrive in Kathmandu. And I bumped into a guy called Sebastian here who was a volunteer for one of my PR stunts in London to break to world record for the world's longest phonecall. What a small world it is...)

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