Monthly Archives: January 2019

Climb Like a Woman

Gowri Varanshi.
2019 Jan/ Hampi

Climb Like a Woman

Claw or Climb Like a Woman, is the first ever Indian women’s climbing meet up that just took place in Hampi from December 26th to 30th, 2018.

I initiated organizing Claw because for a few years I had felt that in India, and in other countries there is a lack of mentoring and guidance to teach people newly trying this sport. Often when beginners first start they have to climb with stronger climbers to learn. This can be quite intimidating as stronger climbers will teach beginners on one or two easy boulders and then naturally make their way to harder climbs and beginners are left trying things randomly way above their skill level.

Climb Like a Women

It can be especially intimidating for women and so I had wanted to organize a meet where it would be only women creating an atmosphere of positivity and encouragement while trying/teaching bouldering for over two years now. In a male dominated sport it, it would be refreshing to create an atmosphere of positivity, encouragement and a feeling of security to share anything with each other as we were all women facing the same fears on rocks, sharing the same weaknesses or strengths and helping each other while climbing.

So as soon as I decided to stop procrastinating and get it done, I first contacted Prerna Dangi, Lekha Rathinam, Vrinda bhageria and later Dr. Mel Batson and Inspire crew team Kopal Goyal and Zhen Patil to see if they want to join in on making this event happen. It was an event where complete beginners were mentored by experienced climbers and introduced into the sport the right way with knowledge of how to be safe, how to climb, how to spot and so on. We had 25 women participants at the event and most them had zero or a little bit of experience. By the end of the event all the 25 women bonded and climbed so well that most of them climbed highball boulders and did an excellent job spotting when not climbing themselves. We couldn’t believe that majority of participants were complete beginners due to the bravery and determination they showed on every boulder they climbed. We were proud of the spotting skills learned in particular, as it reduces potential injuries/accidents and keeps climbers safe. Apart from bouldering sessions, we did some slacklining, swimming and an exercise workshop where we taught everyone strength and conditioning exercises along with injury prevention for climbing and stretching/yoga.

Climb Like a Woman

We could not have pulled this off without the generous help of our sponsors and our event partner Inspire Crew. Gipfel Climbing Equipment provided us with quality tents and crash pads and we received swag from Decathlon Sports India, Allied Petzl, Climbskin, Deccan Climbing, Organic Climbing, American Alpine Club, The Cliffs at LIC, Adtire, Equilibrium Climbing Station, Godesi, and Adventureworx.

Our hope is to have more women’s events, where experienced women climbers will teach women bouldering, rope climbing, safety standards and more. We need the gap in ratio of men climbing versus women to be bridged and so doing more events where women are introduced in a friendlier atmosphere might grow their confidence in continuing to climb as a regular activity. The main goal though is to create a community and support system for women within the larger climbing community, which will also create closeness and friendships amongst women climbers but also encourage more women to take it up in the future.

Passion Airborne

Avi Malik

The author, Avi Malik, is an ex-IAF fighter pilot and the founder of Temple Pilots, an international flight training school. He is a Qualified and Certified Tandem Instructor, Acro Trainer, XC (Cross Country) Instructor and SIV Instructor, making him one of the most qualified in the country. He is also among the first in India to get their FAI (Federation Aeronotique Internationale) Paragliding Sporting License.


8 January 2019:   Flying is humanity’s oldest dream. And paragliding is that dream come true for me. As a recreational as well as competitive adventure sport, there are over a million hobby pilots worldwide enjoying flying in the most exotic of locales on the planet. It truly is amazing for me how you can fit a real aircraft in a backpack, carry it to the top of a hill, soar in the sky for hours together, land next to your car and drive back home with a smile on your face.It truly symbolises our deepest urge for freedom and joy in its purest form. Even after 20 years of flying paragliders, the serene delight of floating thousands of feet over a splendid landscape still inspires wonder and amazement in me.

But let’s go back to the basics first. A paraglider is a lightweight, foot-launched glider aircraft with a flexible wing. The pilot sits comfortably in a harness suspended below a wing made of nylon polyester fabric. The wing’s shape is maintained by the suspension lines, static pressure inside the cell openings and the aerodynamic forces over its surface.

Passion Airborne

This sport, like all others, comes with its share of history. Paragliders have evolved from parachutes. Improved parachute designs led to cut outs at the rear and sides that enabled them to be towed into the air and steered, leading to Parasailing or Parascending, which is pretty different from paragliding. In the 1960’s, the famous Ram-Air Design was invented. A decade later, a group of enthusiasts started towing Ram-Air Parachutes and three French friends started inflating them, running down a slope and gliding down to the fields below. As the equipment continued to improve, number of paragliding pilots and established sites continued to increase. The first officially sanctioned FAI World Paragliding Championship was held in Kössen, Austria, in 1989. Since then, glider design and technology have come a long way, and so have the worldwide training standards. There are national and international associations that regulate and promote the sport. Safety standards have gone up substantially risk reduced to a great degree.

There are two basic disciplines of the sport: Cross Country (XC) flying where pilots aim to find thermals and cover long distances and Acro Flying where pilots gain maximum altitude to do aerobatic tricks with their wings. Most pilots choose one over the other, though there are many who choose to enjoy both.

Illustration Leonardo Da Vincis Parachute

In India, paragliding first took roots in the hill station town of Manali when the first European paragliding enthusiasts began travelling abroad with their coloured wings in the early 90’s. They taught the basics to locals, who then started flying tourists on tandem gliders (two seater wings). Initially, the sport didn’t grow beyong just small tandem rides in the Solang Valley and a few local solo pilots.

I started my flying in Manali too. I learnt the basic techniques and backed with my aviation background, took to advance flying as a natural progression. I would travel to different valleys, find a launch & soar for hours over the spectacular Himalayan ranges.

India is a country which is designed for paragliding. The weather and the landscapes here offer a huge variety of flying and a long season to pursue it as a hobby. The Himalayas in the north, the Deccan plateau, the Eastern and the Western Ghats, all have a huge potential for the sport to grow in our country. With the culture of adventure sports slowly picking up, I can’t wait to gradually see more Indian pilots in the Indian skies!

Check out Temple Pilots’ latest video below!