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46 girls attended 1st Ice Climbing Festival

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

Written by Kopal Goyal

In the first week of March, Nubra Valley which is also known as the valley of flowers hosted its first-ever Ice Climbing Festival with an overall 46 participants but there are so many things that make this ice climbing festival unique and important in its own ways in the Indian community of sports and winter sports in general.

Sync with the nature and outdoors
Nubra Valley Women's Ice Climbing Festival

Talking about out of ordinary take, the festival was attended by girls from the age of 13-26 years old from 15 villages of the western valley in Ladakh, all unmarried but students and what was even more amazing was the way organisers of this festival Rigzin Tsewang and Dr Nordan Otzer who made this idea of organising ice climbing festival just for women success in the region which is a high altitude cold desert possible only defines how dedicated they are for the people of Nubra Valley and despite having no resources or very limited resources they aim to challenge access to opportunity and performance.

Nubra Valley Women's Ice Climbing Festival
Nubra Valley Women's Ice Climbing Festival

Rigzin said they managed to buy ropes through Nepal, crampons through a scrap dealer at the cost of 400/ INR which was funny because who can think that one will find crampons there. Otherwise, their personal equipment which they had: 2 pairs of technical crampons from their personal projects, 5-6 helmets, 8 harnesses, 6 pairs of ice boots which they rented from different places to meet the participants' requirements and personal ice screws which they had was something his team will never forget.

Rigzin Tsewang is an explorer, ice climber and president of Nubra Mountaineering Association who aims to provide better opportunities to local people and Dr Nordan Otzer also believes in seeing his people grow and supports local talent. Dr Otzer supported this festival with his financial support.

Rigzin Tsewang climbing in Shey Rock Area, Ladakh
Rigzin Tsewang climbing in Shey Rock Area, Ladakh Pic source: Rigzin FB

Nubra valley has many such adventure sites ( alpine ice) in the Siachen Belt extending from Chamshen to Warshi and Murgi to Gonbo, some of the famous sites such as Murgi Waterfall, Ayee Artificial Glaciers, Podong Panamik, Changlung thang etc but Rigzin has explored 30 waterfalls in the entire region which took him 3 to 4 years in which he himself made first ascents of 13 waterfalls.

Due to harsh weather conditions, it’s windy most days and snowstorms are quite frequent in that area but despite everything all the girls showed up and Rigzin adds, “I must say all those girls were super quick learners. I feel proud to say that the Ladakh region supports girls' education and so many of them go to different states to seek higher education. Our region is not like we marginalised other gender but support in every possible way. And you won’t believe some of the girls managed to do the first ascents of a few waterfalls which are exciting for us as an organiser.

Eternal perseverance: Suma Rao climbing in Turahalli, Banaglore
Yarma Ka Pic source: Rigzin FB

Remembering his old days, Rigzin says he was never that lucky to see higher education for some region. He literally had to quit school 5 times at the age of 16 or 17, he does not remember exactly and he had to as a porter for 16-17 years where he visited Siachin Glacier many times which was quite tough but at that time he had no choice, later he worked as a tourist guide also. As Nubra Valley is a part of Siachen Glacier which is home to the Indian Army gave him and so many locals at that time the opportunity to learn things from the Indian Army, training in different mountaineering institute in India and outside India and with so many ups and downs, experiences he has gained from years, he realised how the study is important and it’s incomparable to any life experiences.

The fun fact is he didn't have any idea about what opportunities his home village can bring in terms of winter sports until 2017 but when he visited Europe as part of some rescue training programme and attempted to first ice climb on the water ice as part of that programme, he soon realized the opportunities Nubra Valley can offer and soon he began his exploration with some of his friends and local boys.

Dream a dream. In Pic: Tanvi Badami
Whiskey Shadow of Murgi(140m) WI 4+/5. Murgi I Nubra I Ladakh Pic source: Rigzin FB

The organiser of this festival said, “the first women ice climbing festival will encourage women from Nubra valley to lead in climbing in the whole world and it will send a strong message across the world that women can play an equal role in adventure sports”.

Let us also tell you that in the month of January Rigzin and Dr. hosted mix ice climbing training session too, which was attended by 18 boys/men and 4 girls and the objective was to promote winter tourism with a specific focus on ice climbing in Nubra valley and to provide basic ice climbing skills to youths of Nubra so that they can serve as a rescue team during any untoward eventualities such as avalanches, falling into crevasses on glaciers and road traffic accidents.

In future, we are planning to run a rescue course for our youth who continuously go to Siachen glacier as porters because many of our students they to go to Siachen glacier as a rescuer. We want to give them rescue techniques.

Inspire Crew really wish Rigzin & Team and the people of Nubra Valley that they must keep raising the bar and create a unique space for winter sports lovers.

Nubra Valley Women's Ice Climbing Festival
Nubra Valley Women's Ice Climbing Festival

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