Poorva Shepal

The first time I set foot in the Himalayas, I knew I would keep coming back to them. I fell in love with the towering peaks, the freedom the mountains offer, and the awe-inspiring beauty.

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve been busy learning and honing the skills I need to survive in the mountains. I completed a mountaineering course from one of India’s best institutes and got certified as a WFR. Multi-day hikes and rock climbing or bouldering trips are always planned and marked on my calendar well in advance. Ice climbing in the cold valleys of Lahaul and Spiti is a newfound love that has me hooked—pun intended.

In addition to pursuing my mountaineering and climbing goals, I work with students as an outdoor educator/instructor. I love introducing my students to the outdoors and helping them safely explore nature in their own way.

Being a freelance writer is a big advantage when you have a nomadic lifestyle. When I’m not in the mountains, I can be found in far-flung places in India, exploring regions that are off the beaten track.

Poorva Recommends: Ice Climbing

I picked up rock climbing when I started training for my mountaineering course. Over the course of a few months, it prompted me to push my boundaries and challenge myself.

My love for climbing also prompted me to try out ice climbing, and I naively assumed it would be similar. But ice climbing is an entirely different beast. Climbing frozen waterfalls in remote Himalayan valleys opened up a new world of adventure and challenges. The freezing temperatures and icy winds make cold-related injuries a real risk when climbing ice pillars, but the thwack! of a good ice tool placement and the way your body moves on the ice to take you to the top of the route make it all worthwhile.

Anil Belwal climbing in Lahaul, India. Photo by: Poorva Shepal.

Poorva’s Favorite Adventures

Be it summer or winter, the northernmost parts of India have some breathtaking experiences to offer. In recent years, this has been the epicenter of most of my outdoor adventures. I’ll highlight two of my favorite activities below, but these give only a small idea of the possibilities this region has to offer.

Ice climbing in Lahaul and Spiti, India

In winter, temperatures in the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti drop well below -15 degrees Celsius. All over the vast expanse of the valleys are small streams and waterfalls that freeze over, offering a veritable playground for ice climbers.

Being lowered after climbing HWI 4+ route “Front Line” in the Mangwan Ice Park, Keylong.

Pioneered by some of India’s best climbers in recent years, ice climbing is a fast-growing sport in India. Every year, in winter, India’s budding community of ice climbers congregate in the Lahaul and Spiti valleys of Himachal Pradesh and the Nubra valley in Ladakh to explore frozen waterfalls, climb established routes, and create new ones.

Climbers at the Mangwan Ice Park, Keylong. Photo by Poorva Shepal.

The Mangwan Ice Park near Keylong and the waterfall near Chiling village are the two most popular ice climbing crags. Routes here range from Himalayan Water Ice (HWI) 3 to HWI 6+. The ice is great for beginners to learn on and get the hang of ice climbing. There are also many routes for intermediate and advanced climbers and a lot of possible new routes left to explore.

Bouldering in Suru Valley, Ladakh

On ‘Crippled Trickle’, Paradise area, Suru Valley. Photo by Sayandeep Roy.

Snow-capped mountains are the first thing that spring to mind when someone talks about the Himalayas. But the boulder-strewn lands of Suru valley offer a contrast to that image. Gigantic boulders dot the landscape, with problems of every kind and grade waiting to be sent. Some boulders are hidden in an orchard, fondly called Shambala, while others are perched precariously on scree-filled mountain slopes in the Quantum area.

Bouldering in Shambala, Suru Valley.

Suru is one of the newer crags in India and has caught on fast. Top Indian climbers are now opening some terrific lines. The problems in Suru valley range from easy beginner 5As to 8b+ highballs. There are also some lines for trad and sport climbing in the valley, but most climbers come here for bouldering.

Poorva's favourite brands

We’ve made it our mission to make decisions easier by helping you choose from the top options available.

Patagonia is our go-to brand for outdoor clothing for all seasons. We especially love Patagonia’s base and mid layers – there are tons of ways to mix and match to suit any season.

From approach shoes to climbing shoes to ski boots to mountaineering boots, Scarpa is my favorite technical footwear brand. For performance and comfort, they’ll never let you down.

Mammut has been innovating in the mountaineering world since the mid-1800s. Their ropes, technical apparel, and avalanche beacons have all earned my absolute trust.

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