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            Rock Climbing

If you want a cliffhanger experience out here in Nepal, the Kathmandu valley perimeter offers some prime spots. There are some terrific, dizzying places for those who get their kicks from crawling up vertical cliffs. If you are not making it to some of the kingdom's high peaks, here's another opportunity to get a high.

Of late, rock climbing has found increasing popularity among the tourists coming into Nepal as well as for local enthusiasts. Trekking agencies too have jumped into the bandwagon and some of them now offer the rock climbing experience.

Most of the spots are situated to the North and Northwest of the valley, in the vicinity of the Nagarjun Royal forest and the Shivapuri Watershed and Wildlife Reserve. Your rock climbing trip can therefore be combined with bird watching, game watching and experiencing some of the last of the Valley's wilds.

Where

 

Nagarjun

Nagarjun (also known as Jamacho) is a verdant hill located to the northwest of the Swayambhu stupa, and believed to be the place where the famous Buddhist philosopher Nagarjun meditated. The cliff here is located inside the Nagarjun forest reserve (or the Royal Forest), suitable for both beginners and wallrats. The limestone rockface is about 12-15 m high and bears the remnants of earlier climbs, what purists would describe as `piton scarred' or a `defaced face'. You could always do a free climb if experienced enough or use the friendlier chocks.

 

  Shivapuri watershed and wildlife reserve

The Shivapuri hill, to the north of Kathmandu, has a fine rock wall on its slope. This is the valley's second highest mountain and a hike here is complete with village life, a Buddhist monastery, virgin oak and rhododendron forests and grand mountain views. This is also a protected watershed area and you may choose to visit the source of the Bagmati River. The summit of Shivapuri also commands a spectacular view of Ganesh Himal (7,111m), Langtang Lirung (7,245m) and Dorje Lakpa (6,966m). Your rock-climbing trip here can combine all these experiences.

The granite faces of this hill lie scattered about and the central big cliff is the challenge. It has an `equipped' route, the regular climb, but you could go ahead and do a free climb and go exploring around.

 

Getting there

To get to Nagarjun, take a tempo or taxi to Balaju (3 km from downtown Kathmandu), near the new bus park. From there you can take a hike to the entrance of the Nagarjun wildlife reserve. The park is open from 7 am to 10 pm, but the gatekeeper there has been known to refuse entry until 10 am. Admission is Rs.5 for a person, Rs.15 for a motorbike and Rs.50 for cars. There are a number of picnic shelters around and a viewing tower. The road there also has a number of shops and wayside restaurants if you are looking for a bite.

From the gate, follow the dirt road to the army check post where a path branches off to the right. Follow this wooded trail for five minutes and the looming rock face will greet you.

To get to Shivapuri, take a taxi or minibus to Budhanilkantha (9km from Kathmandu), where the shrine of Sleeping Vishnu is located. Walk westward from here, past the bus stop and past the Budhanilkantha School on your right. The trail then leads along the left bank of the Bishnumati stream and runs through terraced paddies before entering the watershed and wildlife reserve. The cliffs are conspicuous and you won't have any difficulty locating them. The road up to Shivapuri has a few eateries and shops.

 

  Other

Trekkers and river runners have brought back accounts of prime rock climbing faces in the deep canyons of some of the rivers, but little information is available. Some of the spots are reported along the Bhote Koshi and Karnali Rivers. However, it would be best to cross-check this information with agencies and other rock climbing buffs and check out the qualities of the face before actually crawling up there.

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