Weekend Warm-Up: ‘Dhauj Diaries’ Tells Classic Story of A Crag Restored

Any climber who’s earned their stripes will immediately recognize a familiar narrative in the story of Dhauj.

This treasured crag 40 kilometers from Delhi, India, received the documentary treatment with Dhauj Diaries, which tells a history that every dirtbag knows too well:

A climbing area with historic importance from a bygone era faces access issues and lack of development. Then new blood arrives on the scene. The young guns reinvigorate the climbing infrastructure and create a vibrant community based on a shared love of the outdoors.

wide vista of Dhauj's rocky landscape

A wide vista of Dhauj’s rocky landscape. Photo: Screenshot


But when that classic story includes a turban-clad Sikh setting first ascents — it’s hard not to root for the good guys all over again.

“The great thing was that you would really look forward to your every Sunday,” Mandeep Singh Soin says of the crag’s original heyday decades earlier. “A hike and a climb — a super fun day.”

With its hyper-local focus and universal message, Dhauj Diaries proves that the struggle for climbing happened all over the world — not just in Yosemite Valley. These old-school diehards even had their own code of ethics for climbing, with the imperative to lead all climbs from the ground up.

Struggle against the mining Mafia

And they had to fight to protect these rocks. The area’s climbers reminisce about the days of the “mining Mafia,” which frequently blasted apart the rocks before hauling them away to a quarry for sale. Many first ascents were destroyed when illegal miners dynamited the cliffs at night, then claimed the rock had fallen naturally in daylight.

“We were putting up these climbs and then suddenly you would realize that your climb is gone,” Singh Soin says. “It’s been blasted.”

dhauj climbers on two routes

Dhauj climbers on two routes. Photo: Screenshot


The film proceeds to document the successful fight to preserve Dhauj from further damage. A community of younger climbers arrives, creating the infrastructure to attract Delhi gym rats, and the crag regains its rightful place as a hallowed landscape for sport climbers, boulderers, and hikers.

“We realized we have the opportunity to create something where we can benefit everyone,” Tenzing Jamyang says in the film. “And then Dhauj gives us something so close to home with such easy access and high density of good climbing routes…the intention is to inculcate a real love for the place and embrace it as your own.”

If that doesn’t sound like a committed climber, I don’t know what does.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.