Astrek Wall Climbing has been a hub for aspiring and experienced wall climbers, and has been doing a steady job to let people know more about this underrated sport.
It’s nearly five in the evening. I am in Astrek Wall Climbing. The air is exceptionally chilly at this time, a soft gust of wind sends a shiver down my spine – suddenly I think about the fervent reports of temperature in Kathmandu about to reach minus 1. And here I see some enthusiastic climbers stretching in half sleeved t-shirts and shorts, doing some stretches and gearing up for the climb. A palpable excitement sizzles the atmosphere; some muscular yet wiry young men laugh aloud while they fall back on the soft mattress after falling one more time, while some people are engrossed in conversation in the adjoined cafe.
When I see some people struggling to reach to the top, I can’t help but think that this is probably a bad idea especially for me, who isn’t very active when it comes to comes to athletic activities. But when I meet Niraj Karki, the Manager of Astrek and a national level rock climber himself, I feel assured in knowing that there are many inexperienced people who come to Astrek every day just like me and don’t have to feel so clueless.
Astrek Wall Climbing which is situated at Thamel was established in 2007, at a time when wall climbing wasn’t seriously taken as a sport. “There were no serious climbing associations back then, except a few private places calling themselves ‘national’ but severely lacking open participation” begins Niraj. Astrek’s openness when it comes to fair participation also contributes to its popularity for both experienced climbers seeking to sharpen their skills as well as for inexperienced ones who are curious to try out this underrated sport. In no less than ten years, Astrek has organized Climbmandu in 2012 – Nepal’s first open climbing competition, taken part in international climbing events and has thus given a platform for aspiring climbers who were seeking a way to express their skill.
‘Astrek is a community, where we are continuously learning from each other’ says Sanjeev Bhandari, a regular climber at Astrek. It’s a place as much for climbers and mountaineers, as it is for newbies. Experienced and well informed instructors are there to help you as you gear up for your first climb, letting you know about all the do’s and don’ts prior to climbing. The place consists of a well facilitated straight wall, a bouldering wall for people who are looking to up their game and is also quite children friendly.
It is quite obvious that experienced climbers need to sharpen their skill, but why should inexperienced people do it anyway? Turns out, Wall climbing as an indoor sport has many beneficial functions. Climbing is a really good activity for both mental and physical wellbeing. It is a full body workout – because there is a constant flurry of movements when you climb, from your feet to your arms which strains to support your weight as you hoist your body upwards. But as much as it is a physical workout, it also trains your mind when it comes to focus and tactics. If you lose your focus when you climb, you fall down – it is as simple as that.
However, the biggest misconception one can have is that wall climbing is for sheer adrenaline junkies – a mere momentary thrill. It is as much a proper sport as sports go. A regular climbing session conditions your body, making you fit, agile and mentally focused. Rather than going to a gym and hastily burning out calories, wall climbing serves the same purpose. But, one must be keen to know that Wall Climbing is as much about strength, as it is about balance and coordination. If is for you to decide, as Anuj puts it more sarcastically, whether you want to be an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Lee.
In fact, Astrek is worthy of praise when considered the work it has been doing to encourage Climbers, providing a platform for them as well as letting more people know about this underrated sport in Nepal. Head over to Astrek, to experience the place bubbling with enthusiasm and people willing to help and encourage you as you gear up for your first climb.
Shuvekshya Limbu is a Content Writer at Nepal Traveller.