Lonely Planet Writer

A new bouldering festival high in the Himalayas is showcasing the region's breathtaking beauty

The organisers of a rock climbing event in Manali, India, are hoping to put this small Himalayan town on the map as a serious bouldering venue. Raju Chatak and Nryan Dav, founders of the Manali Bouldering Festival, claim there is around ten-square-kilometres of bouldering potential in the region.

A place that looks like the Alps according to organisers.
A place that looks like the Alps according to organisers. Image by Facebook

Much of this is uncharted, untouched, and one of the main purposes of the festival, according to Raju, is “to open new lines and help explore the bouldering area. There are no competitions or prizes. We all love adventure and are starting this festival to grow and inspire a community of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts.”  The festival, running until 14 May, is open to climbers of all experience levels, and in addition to bouldering, will include guided trips around the region, meditation events, and plenty of good Indian food. The organisers are expecting relatively small numbers for this first year, but Manali has a good chance of hitting the big leagues quickly, says Joshua Cook, a climber from Colorado who is attending the festival.

Beautiful vistas at just about every climbing spot.
Beautiful vistas at just about every climbing spot. Image by Facebook

“The most popular climbing area [in India] is Hampi, in Karnataka,” says Joshua. “Once it gets too hot in Hampi, in February or March, climbers who want to stay in India head north to the Himalayas. Manali, and its surrounding area, is now the next main destination. I’m guessing it will be getting more and more attention in the next few years, because word-of-mouth does a lot in the climbing community.” It’s also simply a beautiful place to climb, he says.

This is the first year of the boulderng festival.
This is the first year of the boulderng festival. Image by Facebook

“Here you are in a place that looks like the Alps. It’s green with pine trees, and has four-thousand-metre snow-capped peaks around it. It’s also cleaner and less crowded than in and around Indian cities, so it is easy to relax and find a semblance of peace. “Personally, I think the climbing is really good. The granite is very featured, which makes for a variety of different routes that can engage climbers of many different skill levels. The boulders are in quiet forests and apple orchards and you can find beautiful vistas at just about every climbing spot.”
For more information on the festival see here.