A Place Beyond the Clouds

Rachham 2022
Photo by Ray Demski

Bouldering in the Indian Himalaya

By Flo Scheimpflug

Curiosity is like a catapult: If the tension is high enough, it doesn’t take much to cut the rope and send you on a long journey of discovery. For Bernd Zangerl, that ‘not much’ was an old photo with a few rocks on it. However, that was enough to catapult him mentally far away, to the Indian Himalayas.

Twelve years have passed since Bernd’s first visit to Rakchham. Twelve years during which he returned for a few months every year. Thanks to hundreds of first ascents and a potential for thousands more, this place, high up, at the end of the Baspa Valley has become one of the best bouldering spots in India.

It was cold, it was wet and it was dark when Bernd Zangerl, Elie Chevieux, and Fred Nicole got out of the car in a small town called Rakchham in 2010. Behind them lay a 14-hour pothole-rodeo, a nightmare for shock absorbers and spines. Visibly worn out from the exertions, they unloaded crash-pads and bags and paid the driver. He turned the car around and disappeared into the night.

Exactly what time it was, no one knew. In the darkness, the houses of Rakchham stood close together like a herd huddled in the cold. At an altitude of nearly 3,000 metres thick blankets of snow rested on the houses and not a single light was on.
“And where do we sleep?”

The question hung in the night like a thick white cloud of vapour but no answer was forthcoming – and the windows remained dark. Then it began to snow, leaving only one option.

The boulderers had to call for help.

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