Climbing the treacherous wall of Kokankada is every adventurer’s dream. Rohit was no exception to that. Having started at an early age, against all odds, quickly inculcating all the technical nuances,Rohit had established himself pretty well in the trekking and adventure fraternity. And now he wanted to attempt his dream climb – Kokankada. He shares with Fitrangi, the story of that historical climb and how he ended up being an adventurer. Read along…
As a kid, I was always looking to explore new arenas. Be it in the hills or anywhere else. I grew up in a rural background in a village near Lonavala. Catching snakes from homes and releasing them in their natural habitat, was one of my first hobbies. Later along with some senior people in the village, I started conducting snake awareness sessions in schools, colleges and outdoor camps. In one such outdoor camp, I was introduced to climbing. I saw, for the first time, some guys trying to climb up a rock patch with the help of a rope and something tied to their hips, which I later learnt was called a harness. It was then that I came to know that this was even a thing! I had always tried to climb rocks while on my wandering trips around the village since childhood. I might as well learn to do it in a professional way, I thought. And thus, I started to learn.
Most of my growth and development has happened because of one name – Shivdurga Sanstha. I came in contact with these guys serendipitously on one of their rescue missions and since then I have been an integral member of the team. They have groomed me very well and supported me in every way possible. After acquiring some technical knowledge and practicing enough on small terrains, I started attempting easy climbs like Dhak, Karnala, etc. and very soon I had participated in my first climbing competition in 2010 at the age of 24.
During this time, I met fellow climbers like Ganesh, Sameer and Yogesh who went on to be my best friends and now are like family to me. Climbing together for years, we have developed a beautiful chemistry amongst ourselves and I consider myself super lucky to have these guys in my life today. So, one day we decided to go for our dream project of climbing Kokankada in Alpine style. For those who are new to this term – Alpine style simply means mountaineering in a self-sufficient fashion, a branch of climbing which demands that the climbers carry all of their food, shelter and gear as they climb, thereby taking no supply from any team neither any support from a rigged framework on top of the mountain. Even after years of climbing experience, it wasn’t a cake walk, far from it. The first time we attempted it, we had to return after ascending almost sixty percent of the wall due to a lot of honey-bee habitat on the route. That was in 2015. So, in 2016, we attempted it again. This time with a strong location reiki. A lot of people climb Kokankada every year, but none of them had done it in this particular style. Hence, we wanted to introduce it for the first time. In spite of our extensive research on the route, we encountered a habitat of honey-bees at a spot after climbing about seventy percent of the wall. And we had to return again. When you try something over and over again and hit failure every time, it is very easy to fall back and start doubting yourself and your calibre. And it is quite natural to lose zeal and the will to keep trying. But, it is in these times that you need to hold yourself together and bounce back with double the energy and try harder than the last time.
We decided to give it another try the following year. From the past experiences we had learnt one thing – when you encounter a problem in life, changing your path is not always the correct decision. Sometimes you have to face the problem head-on and find a way to walk through it, bravely. And that is exactly what we did when we encountered the bees in our third attempt. We stepped back, took a break at a spot which was a couple of feet below their habitat. We waited there patiently for our chance. For the sun to go down. And when the night was deep and the air was calm, we climbed right in front of all the bees in pitch black darkness. We sneaked past them stealthily as close as two feet from the cluster. Holding our breath, making absolutely no sound, we slowly and patiently crossed the patch through the peace of the night. By dawn, we were on the top of Kokankada – a dream, which we all had seen together, had finally come to life.
Rohit has been an inspiration for a lot of kids who he trains in Shivdurga and sends to nationwide competitions. Speaking to him and listening to his perilous stories, was an experience in itself. I can hardly imagine what it must have been to be right there, in the middle of the action. Apart from this expedition, there are a couple more feathers in Rohit’s cap – Simul climbing of Duke’s nose in record time of thirty minutes, Climbathon of covering seven pinnacles (Wanarlingi, Nanacha angtha, Dukes nose and the four walls of Tailbaila) in forty-eight hours and many more. He is also credited with climbing many virgin pinnacles and opening a lot of new routes in the Sahyadri ranges. He is very passionate about this and spends almost half of his salary on equipment. A National award winner in climbing, Rohit has climbed different peaks all over India. Initially, he had no support from his family, but after seeing his achievements in such a short span of time, his family is now very proud of him.
An old saying that I had read somewhere perfectly suits this guy Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.