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Auroville Adventure

Mar 2002

Anybody for mountain climbing in Auroville?

- by Marijke



With the help of friends from France, two climbing walls were built in Auroville.

Climbing the wall in Transition

It was a good example of quick materialisation: a utopian idea became reality in less than two years. Auroville is now the proud possessor of two climbing walls, one indoors at Transition School, the other a semi-natural outdoor one nearby 'La Ferme', Auroville's cheese factory close to the Aspiration community. Aurovilians, both young and old, can now be trained to master different levels of mountain climbing skills.

The idea to create climbing walls in the flat Auroville area is, for most people, far-out. Not so for two French couples and their sons, who have been visiting Auroville regularly over the last few years. Francine and Denis and their son Florian, together with Françoise and André and their son Antoine, all hailing from the Alsace region in France and self-proclaimed climbing addicts, decided to finance and equip two climbing walls in Auroville.
"I realised one day that most Aurovilians have some morphologic elements in common: they are tall, thin, and elegant," says Denis. "We saw a lot of young people climbing trees, jumping from one tree to another, monkey-like, moving freely in nature. That is not only a great advantage for doing hatha yoga and sports, such as Tai Chi, but also for climbing. As we all are mountaineers and adore climbing, what was more natural than offering something of our own hobbies, our skills combined with a part of the needed materials and money, to Auroville?"

Gradually, the idea took shape. Cecilia coordinated the communication and did the leg-work in Auroville. As usual, consultations took some time but then all of a sudden things came together in an almost miraculous way. La Ferme is situated next to a deep canyon where, two years ago, granite stone dams had been built to prevent soil erosion and water running off into the sea. It was then decided to transform one of the so-called wing-walls, the canyon walls next to the dams, into a ten-meter high outdoor climbing wall of natural stones. Olivier was willing to design and build the wall. At around the same time Juan and Aloka judged that one of the five metre high inside walls of their body-awareness classroom in Transition primary school was also eminently suitable to become a climbing wall.

Locations being decided, it was up to the French enthusiasts to find the finances for the work and for the required parts and requisites. Support in France for the necessary and mostly expensive materials (like safety-pins, lines, ropes etc.) came almost for free from main dealers, while the firm of André Muller and company provided technical expertise for the construction of the climbing walls. And so the climbing walls materialised.
Can we now expect Aurovilians to challenge the austere Himalayan peaks? That is not really the point, it appears. The point is rather that climbing develops essential traits of character: it develops courage, resourcefulness, cunning, strength, ability, mastery over fears and power of endurance in a situation of inherent risk.

Another point is that climbing develops the consciousness of belonging to a group. For climbing, to a far greater degree than other sports, is teamwork, with each member both supporting and being supported by the group's achievement at every stage. The first thing climbing teaches is how to save the other. It requires detailed knowledge of the use of the rope, the anchor and the carabiner (a metal loop or ring that can be snapped into an anchor and through which the rope may be passed). It also requires a well-trained body: hands are used for balance, feet for support. The body weight is maintained as directly over the feet as possible, the climber remaining as upright as the wall or rock will permit. A climbing rhythm will develop slowly. It is not easily mastered but when achieved, becomes the mark of the truly fine climber.

The satisfaction then is not only the 'conquest' of a peak but also the physical and spiritual satisfactions brought about through intense personal effort, concentration, ever-increasing proficiency, and contact with natural grandeur. The Auroville climbing walls offer the way up.


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