Rock Climbing in Bhutan: 13 Routes And Bhutan Climbing Clubs

If you thought that the trip to the ‘Land Of Thunder Dragons’ was only about exploring the monasteries or the national parks, you are highly mistaken. Adventure junkies looking for new extremities and unconventional tour programs can try out the various outdoor sports like hiking, rafting, and rock climbing. While many tourists love conquering the high cliffs by hiking, some take the adventure a few notches higher with rock climbing which take mental and physical determination, body strength, agility, perfect balance, endurance and also control over the mind. 

The Vertical Bhutan Climbing Club

Rock Climbing in Bhutan

From training to climbing sessions, there is something for every skill level and the Vertical Bhutan Climbing Club in the capital city of Thimphu is your only option for rock climbing where you will get climbing equipment, training, and field guidance. 

It was in early 1998 that Bhutan first opened its doors to rock climbing enthusiasts, thanks to Vertical Bhutan Climbing Club (VBCC) – the first and only organization for the said activity. The main climbing rock named “The Nose” stands like a sentinel above Thimphu and it offers safely bolted thirteen climbing routes of lengths ranging from 12 meters to 27 meters and difficulty levels ranging in between 4B and 7B i.e. moderate to challenging.

Best Time To Visit

You can visit either from March through May or from September through November. 

What They Believe

Consisting of a number of young enthusiasts of rock climbing, the VBCC has been striving to promote and establish rock climbing activities in Bhutan. To realize this long-nurtured ambition of popularizing the activity, the members try to make people understand that it is not only a hobby but can also be a professional mainstream sport. Each week during the climbing season, new faces from the country and abroad are welcomed at the centre and in order to keep their pace steady, they have their stronghold in Thimphu as for now. 

Brief History

An Austrian official from United Nations Office named Stefan Priesner along with his two guides of Lhomen Tours And Treks were the first to discover the trekking routes in The Nose in the summer of 1996. The route ascended a top rope, later named as “Reach And Preach” was developed and bolted in 1998 during April-May and there formed the first climbing gym in Bhutan. Stefan, Robin, Dilu, Arun and a few students were then trainees and they decided to start the club. By the year 2000, Vertical –Bhutan Climbing Club was formed with 18 members among whom 11 were trainees. 

The Nose - 12 Climbing Routes:

Rock Climbing in Bhutan

There are 13 climbing routes on The Nose in western Bhutan and these are used for sport climbing mostly. Seven are Intermediate Routes, four are Experienced Routes and one is Expert Route with the average height being 17 meters. The route called “Friends No More” is an unconventional and less traversed route. The difficulty levels and degrees are between 4B up to 7B and the length is in between 12 to 27 meters.

1. Walker’s Crack (4B[5-], rb, 6 bolts, 25 meters)

In the beginning, you have to climb chimneys and 4B first crack, then turn left. It is better to approach through any cave located higher on a slope. This is considered a beginner’s climb.  

2. Sandflies Kisses (6B[7], rb, 5 bolts, 12 meters)

Rock climbing in Bhutan

Named after the numerous sandflies during the month of June, this challenging yet scenic route offers a number of moves. Start with the two challenging 6B moves, get a sharp pocket and then the 6+ second overhang to climb higher. With an under-cling ascend half a meter to the right section of the 4th bolt and on the 5th bolt (third overhang), you can bring your legs to the level of the handhold so that you can reach the left pocket of the ring bolt.  

3. Dead Man Walking (6B[7+], rb, 4 bolts, 14 meters)

Named after the clay Chorten having ashes from the deceased inside a small cave located 2 meters above the start of the route, this climb starts with challenging friction and balanced moves to the 1st bolt. You need to crux between the 2nd and 3rd bolts and use your fingers to reach the ledge beneath the overhang.  

4. Once In 12 Years (6A[6+], rb, 4 bolts, 12 meters)

Rock Climbing

Its first climb of Red Point took place on the day of the grand worship (comes only once in every 12 years) in Punakha. You have to start five meters right of the Easy Peasy (written below) at the belay bolts. You have to pass a number of pockets that are in moderate condition and crux (6A) right above the 1st bolt.  

5. Easy Peasy (5A[5+], rb, 5 bolts, 22 meters)

Climb from the middle of a comfy ledge on the right rock and then make friction moves to the 1st bolt. From here take left 5A to 6 meters to the upward ledge or take right to the flake. Go horizontally over the 4B ledge and walk towards right on the ledge for 3 meters. Follow the ramp up and an easy climb towards the small roof leading to the top.   

6. Friction Dance (5A[5+], rb, 5 bolts, 20 meters)

Starting of this climb is similar to that of Easy Peasy and then you need to cross over the flake so that you can stand on its top. A few challenging friction moves await here before you follow the ridge straight to 3 bolts and join the Easy Peasy route under the overhang. 

7. Reach ‘N Preach (6A+[7-], rb, 8 bolts, 27 meters)

The longest climbing route of The Nose, it offers exposed and extraordinary climb on the left rock’s vertical right pillar. From the tricky beginning, stretch out for the finger ledge on the right side (which can be tricky for people with short height) and climb left towards 1st bolt. Reach the pocket to the left, climb straight to reach the large handhold. Make crux move to the 2nd bolt, stretch your feet higher in a frog-like position to stand using the under-grip for the left hand. After the long run to the next bolt, exposed climb to top awaits you.    

8. Wedding Present (5A[5+], rb, 6 bolts, 23 meters)

Rock Climbing Bhutan

This is an exposed route located 5 meters left of the Reach And Preach route and it passes over two overhangs of left rock. Make crux move at the 2nd overhang and go for rock easy to summit. 

9. Viennese Waltz (6A[6+], rb, 4 bolts, 12 meters)

Derived the name from Australian contribution in developing The Nose into a climbing gym, the route in the first one meter is like a half-moon and then rises around a pillar. This is an airy, athletic and quite easy climbing route. 

10. Half Moon (7B[8+/9-], rb, 4 bolts, 10 meters)

Among the toughest rock climbing route in Bhutan, this starts through the overhang where you can use the under-grips to the left end of the ledge. In Half Moon posture, you have to mantle with the artificial bolt for squatting on the ledge and then back. It is an unclimbed route to the roof.  

11. Striving For Stability (5C[6-/6], rb, 4 bolts, 12 meters)

On the right of the Energy Crisis (mentioned below) route, after 4 meters, this route starts where you have to crux between 2nd and 3rd bolt while maintaining excellent balance. Handholds are in great condition in the steep rocky sections. An exposed 4 meters run will take you to the top.

12. Energy Crisis (6B[7], rb, 4 bolts, 12 meters)

Those with excellent balance and underarm strength can take this route located on the left arête of the rock above the Sergei’s Nose. Overlooking a beautiful picnic spot, the route goes straight to the flake offering great under-grip. Use the big jug to pass through the overhang above the flake.  

Rock Climbing Bhutan

The mountains in Bhutan are considered to be sacred and there is not much scope for mountaineering. Hence, the local youth who have significant leisure time, are continuously encouraged at Bhutan Youth Center to utilize their time by climbing rocks. Discussions are being made and a library dedicated to rock climbing is also on the way.

This post was published by Rachana Jain

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