Som en opfølger på vores snak med Anders Andersen om hans tid i Rakchham i Himalaya (hvis du ikke allerede har læst det, klik) har vi fået mulighed for at lave et interview med Bernd Zangerl, der er har drevet udviklingen i Rakchham i over et årti. Det handler om Rakchham specifikt, men også mere generelt om klatreetik, og om de udfordringer en udendørssport der i disse tider synes at vokse eksponentielt står overfor. Bernd har klatret i nogle af verdens mest kendte og besøgte områder siden før årtusindeskiftet, så han har oplevet klatreverdenens forandringer på første hånd.
Bernd fortæller om hvad visionen bag udviklingen af klatringen i Rakchham er, hvad der har formet denne vision og hvordan den bliver ført ud i livet, samt om mere lavpraktiske udfordringer og opgaver.
Mange tak til Bernd og Anders for deres indsigter og fortællinger fra Rakchham, vi glæder os til at følge områdets udvikling!
Can you briefly introduce yourself to those who don’t already know you?
I was born in Tyrol, Austria and I started climbing back in 1994. The last 23 years I focused on bouldering and was able to travel the world, putting up some of the hardest climbs of the time, and still do :-) Already in 2003 the American „Climbing Magazine“ awarded me with the title: „The Boulderer of the year“
I was developing many now well know bouldering hot spots with my friends, putting up more than 1000 FA`s and I am still loving it.
Ticklist: Dreamtime, New base line, Viva la evolution, From the dirt grows the flower, Entlinge, Shantaram, Into the sun
Sponsors: Red Bull, Adidas, FiveTen, Petzl, Evil Eye, Ropeless, Silvapark - Galtür, Eisbär,
How and when did you first come to know about Rakchham? What about the place caught your attention and interest?
When I first arrived in Indian back in 2010 the name Rakchham was not on my list yet. I only had a black & white picture in my pocket, which I found in an old trekking book from the late 1950`s. The picture showed some big walls in the Kinnaur Range. I was assuming, if there are such walls around like that, then there must be boulders on the ground as well. I convinced my friend Elie & Fred to check out this „unknown“ hidden valley near the Tibetan border. After we arrived in Rakchham it became clear: This is „Boulderparadise“, not just because of the endless numbers of boulders & cliffs. The nature, the place…. surrounded by mighty 5000 & 6000m high peaks was just so beautiful & unreal.
What are some of the main tasks involved in developing a new climbing area?
Nowadays we need to be aware us climbers, or athletes, that we are also tourists. The sport has grown so fast, and many areas became completely packed just after 5 or 10 years.
It is important to raise awareness about: Who is the owner? Who is living there? Where are you? How does the ecosystem look like & function ? – in a sanctuary area, a national park or in a private area? If you’d like to publicize the area, then you must be in touch with the local community. And you must assume that the interest to the area will grow drastically, and what consequences that might have. I didn’t want go publicize Rakchham, but after many years and talks with the local community I decided to push this project. Together we put up a plan to push this project in the right direction.
By the way: The main task in developing a new climbing area is looking for the best lines / sectors, brushing & cleaning rocks :-)
Can you tell us a bit about the vision behind the development of Rakchham as a climbing area? Specifically with regard to respect for the local people and culture, and the ecosystem
The Vision is very simple: We care about Rakchham. We want to protect this area, the nature and the way that local people have been living here for thousands of years. The key to a sustainable climbing tourism lies in the hands of the local people of Rakchham. They own the land and it’s them who should benefit from the guests coming here, with profits being distributed equally in the village. The guidelines should prevent this „Climbing Shangri-la“ from becoming just another „outdoor-gym“.
Which experiences or considerations were influential in shaping this vision?
I had the opportunity to experience areas like Magic Wood, Silvapark, Rocklands and others in their pristine state. Sadly, I also had to witness the changes and damages which where a byproduct of the booming outdoor sports in some of the areas. The sharp rise in the number of people participating in outdoor-sports is increasing worldwide. So is the pressure on the local eco-systems. Magic Wood was my living room so to say for years - now its destroyed. It’s not Magic Wood anymore, it’s Action wood. When I saw the primeval forests here in the Rakchham, the beauty & diversity it became clear to me and all my friends that we have to protect this place. It shouldn’t change with bouldering.
Rocklands has also changed a lot over the years and bouldering is a big business now. Authorities tried to implement some rules and guidelines, but it didn’t have that from the beginning and that makes it far more difficult. We tried to change that and start with some guidelines here. We try to make a change by putting this fundament in from the start.
Which initiatives have you already put in place or plan to put in place to realize the vision?
Main points are: The permit system, limiting the amount of people, the Rakchham Mountain and Adventure Club, local people start climbing (that it’s not just a tourist thing). This will shape the vision along with the guidelines we have listed on the website.
If it’s done in a proper manner, then we can have a positive impact to the local culture. We developed the ‘Rakchham Mountain and Adventure Club’. Now some of the local people have started to climb here, and a permit system that supports the local development has been put in place. Hopefully the climbing can grow together with the village. This could become a climbing village, and if that remains the case, then this is an amazing opportunity for a mutual benefit. This could be a showcase for new areas all over the world.
What do you think are some of the most important elements of sustainable climbing tourism in a future where outdoor climbing seems to continue to grow? How does this direct you in the development of Rakchham?
The most important element is to sustain the place. This is done through limiting how many can come here and the infrastructure must grow together with the climbing. The future of this village is also the forests, and the surrounding nature, as they depend on it.
Its also about bringing awareness into the climbing scene, that its not just about consuming and go here for your new 7A, 7C or 8A. I hope that the people who come here to Rakchham don’t only do so for the grades, but also have a heart for the local people of the Himalayas and the beautiful nature that’s around here. India is a unique place to travel in, so I think people can really learn a lot here.
What are some of the effects, both negative and positive, climbing tourism can have on a place like Rakchham?
There should be no negative effects because everything is set up. I really hope that only people who understand this interview or the vision of this all visit Rakchham. Most climbers are conscious / aware of their impact nowadays & know how to behave in a foreign place. We all live together on this planet. So let us support each others. There is also currently a maximum of about 50-80 climbers that the village can hold, and the local people have started climbing as well. Climbing tourism can be positive here, supporting the development of new infrastructure.
Negative would only be when some people give a shit about the „rules & permit system . But that will have consequences.
You mention having observed “changes and damages” that the boom of outdoor climbing has caused, can you elaborate on what these are?
The soil is a problem, trash is a problem, the shit is a problem. Toilet paper and feces around in the forests, it’s important to have outdoor toilets placed close to the more remote areas. In most of the areas parking & wild camping is a problem. More and more local people have a problem with night climbing, because animals don’t have the chance for a hour of freedom. Maybe we need to make more slideshows, talks, and I have already started doing that. But people need to change their behavior when they are outdoors. I grew up in the mountains, so it came naturally for me - how to respect and behave in nature. However, if you grew up in the city, you didn’t have this opportunity to learn. So, we need to tell them to be more mindful.
What do you think climbers can do to avoid or decrease these effects?
The main thing is to be more aware of our impact. Be more conscious about where you go and how you impact that place. Enjoy not just the 7A or 8A, but enjoy bouldering, and the time in nature with your friends! Be friendly & when you are not sure ask locals. Visit the local bar for a coffee, a snack and meet the people there. It is primarily awareness that is needed, and that we support each other and other people so it’s not just another egotrip.
Climbing is just a very anarchic sport. Adventure always involves a little anarchy, but the anarchy should not apply to the natural space and the inhabitants living there. Have you ever claimed that climbing is different? Now we have the chance to prove this and leave the teething problems behind us. My gut feeling tells me that it will get better. A cool Next Generation is coming, one which is already aware of the problems and will ensure that the next generation will have their fun in Magic Wood, the Rocklands or anywhere else in the world. Otherwise, the Alpine Association will introduce mandatory courses on careful management of areas in the future! After YOU have invested 245 Euros for module A, B, C, you can also get out into nature - the rest have to indulge in the gyms for their fun. Grim prospects indeed.