Abhishek Mehta talks Indian climbing, a lack of funding and routesetting

Abhishek Mehta is a 25-year old professional climber from India. Known as ‘Mehta Ji’, he works as a route setter and operational executive at the largest gym in Delhi, Climb Central.

India may be a sports-crazy nation, but climbing does not quite grab national attention there.

Abhishek shares how he got involved in the sport and why the sport needs to be recognised in India.

Abhishek Mehta holding the Indian flag with a lead wall in the background

Abhishek Mehta with an Indian flag (Source: Supplied)

Zushan: I wanted to know a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Abhishek Mehta: I was born in the lap of the Himalayas, in Himachal Pradesh, and bought up in Delhi, which is located in the northern part of India.

I am 25 years old and am a professional athlete and speed climber.

Currently, I am working with Climb Central Delhi, as an operational executive and chief route setter which is also the biggest gym in India.

Climbing is such a small sport in India, how did you pick it up?

Yes, climbing is an unrecognized sport in India, as very few people are aware of the sport. Here, adventure is the only type of entertainment, no one really takes it as a serious sport, there is no big community nor any government funding.

In the last few years, some gyms have opened up in Delhi where athletes train themselves for competitions.

In my case, I was 14 years old and my school had a climbing wall for school students, everyone would climb as an extra school activity and I was also part of that, but in 2008, I got an opportunity to participate in a competition in Nainital (a popular hill station in the Indian state of Uttarakhand) and later, in 2015, I won and became the national champion.

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From that moment on, I trained a lot and the sport eventually became my focus.

What discipline do you focus on the most and why?

I started my life with speed climbing, and hold a national record of 6:50, and won the championship.

Later, I also took an interest in the lead wall and started training for that.  I then climbed the hardest route in India which is an 8b+  and later I introduced myself to the bouldering as well and I was able to complete 8a and 7c  routes in 2018.

Finally, in 2019, I started participating in the combined team and came first.

Abhishek Mehta boulder outdoors on a rockface

Source: Supplied

Do you think climbing has grown in India since you started?

Yes, climbing is growing gradually in schools and colleges.

Climbing walls are coming up inside the campuses, other private institutions have also started raising funds for athletes and I am hoping it will soon also be recognised by the Indian Olympic Committee.

However, there is this worry that the benefits will go through to the top athletes, and not other climbers who have strong will power but lack the exposure just because they have financial issues and lack of support.

Indian youngsters even won medals in the Asian competition, which is a very proud moment for every citizen of India.

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Which discipline is the most easily accessible in India?

Speed climbing.

How much do you enjoy climbing outdoors?

Well, I’ve never tried trad climbing, but I have done some multi-pitch climbing and I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s definitely scary, for me, personally.

Abhishek Mehta climbing an indoor bouldering wall

Abhishek Mehta at a sport climbing competition (Source: Supplied)

A lot of climbers say that indoor climbing is just practice to go outdoors, do you agree with this? Why/why not?

Yes! Indoor climbing works for outdoor climbers to understand the problems, learn holds, and shift their body positions.

We set the route accordingly with different types of grades where they can train for the outdoors and practice.

What is the biggest challenge for you in climbing?

I think the biggest challenge for me is feeling down and demotivated. Motivation boosts the mind and body and without this, no one can do or achieve anything.

Climbing is now an Olympic sport, do you think this will enable India to put more money into the sport and eventually grow it?

The Indian community is happy to see climbing in the Olympics but in India, the sport is unrecognized.

We have no funding from the government but maybe after the Olympics, athletes will get funding for international competitions and also find good coaches.

You can follow Abhishek Mehta on Instagram.
For more Climbing content visit Sportageous.
Saqib Tanveer assisted in the curation of this article. You can follow him here on LinkedIn.

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