Bernd Zangerl has been opening a new bouldering and climbing area for decades: Rakchham in India

After thousands of hours on the mountain, years of detailed work and the goal of opening up the small village of Rakchham in the Indian Himalayas for climbers and boulderers together with the locals, Bernd Zangerl from Tyrol is ready to share his insider tip with the climbing world. For the 42-year-old pioneer of the international bouldering scene, sustainability and strengthening the region are the focus of his project.

It all started twelve years ago with a blurred photo. It showed a small village surrounded by thousands of blocks: Rakchham in the Indian Himalayas. Since Bernd Zangerl started climbing more than 25 years ago, he is looking for the perfect line. He found more than that. 

«It feels like I've reinvented bouldering here for a second time, because there is an almost endless potential of challenging routes and lines hidden here. I've opened the most incredible boulders over the past 12 years. Not many people noticed that, I wanted to carefully publicize this place in the scene, because as climbers we also have a lot of responsibility when we reveal such spots, »says Tyrolean-born Bernd Zangerl.

Video: Rakchham - Bridge Between Worlds

Share your insider tip with the world

Rakchham lies at almost 3.000 meters at the end of the Sangla Valley in the Indian Himalayas. The people there live from agriculture and animal husbandry and have always led a simple, often meager existence. For centuries their lives have been governed by the rhythm of nature and ancient tribal traditions. 

«For me, Rakchham stands for mountains, nature, friends, a simple life in an incredible ambience. The village is flanked by 5000 and 6000 m peaks of the Kinnaur massif, it's an extremely inspiring place for me," explains Bernd Zangerl.

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Rakchham is at 3000 meters at the end of the Sangla Valley in the Indian Himalayas. Image: Ray Demski / Red Bull Content Pool

The region should benefit in the long term

In recent years, Bernd Zangerl has had the desire to make this place accessible to other climbers. It was clear to him that this could only work in respectful cooperation with the locals.

Only when his project also becomes hers, when all the threads come together with the people who live here - only then will it be a successful project from which everyone can benefit. “Rakchham is a very special place for me, the residents are very important to me. That's why I initially only revealed the exact location to my good friends," says Bernd Zangerl.

He wanted to prevent the locals in this small mountain village from being overwhelmed by climbers. "I was the first tourist there and it's extremely important to me not to jeopardize the originality of the place."

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Bernd Zangerl is one of the first tourists in the small mountain village of Rakchham. Image: Ray Demski / Red Bull Content Pool

«The forest, the nature, the location should remain as it is, that's what makes this place special. It is sacred land, it must be protected and therefore only regulated, limited access to Rakchham is possible," emphasizes Bernd Zangerl.

“There is a permit system, only a limited number of people can climb here at the same time. You can only register and book via one Website , where you can also find all information about accommodation such as hotels or homestays. There are only a limited number of these, which is why only a certain number of guests can be here at the same time.”

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In the past 20 years, Bernd Zangerl opened hundreds of new boulders in the Indian Himalayas. Image: Ray Demski / Red Bull Content Pool

Almost endless climbing possibilities

After years of preparatory work with initiatives such as the founding of the Rakchham Mountain Adventure Club (RMAC), everything is prepared so that the difficult balancing act of sensitively and sustainably developing one of the most beautiful climbing areas in the world can succeed.

For climbers, Rakchham is an endless playground of possibilities. Bernd Zangerl and his friends have already opened up hundreds of boulders, but that's just a drop in the bucket. The first ascent potential in the Sangla valley is almost infinite.

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Bernd Zangerl: "For climbers, Rakchham is an endless playground of possibilities." Image: Ray Demski / Red Bull Content Pool

More about bouldering pioneer Bernd Zangerl

Bernd Zangerl saw the light of day on September 23.09.1978, XNUMX in Zams in Tyrol. He grew up in Flirsch am Arlberg and attended elementary school there. His fascination with the mountain world dates back to this early period. 

The "natural born free climber", as he likes to call himself, started climbing in 1994. In the beginning Bernd was on the move in the big, alpine walls of the Alps. At the age of 16 he was already at the top of the Grand Capucin. After a rock fall in the Marmolada south face the Tyrolean ended his alpine career and devoted himself to sport climbing.

Within a few years he could count himself among the elite of the Austrian climbing scene. At his competition debut in 1998, Bernd was already Austrian Vice Champion.

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Bernd Zangerl found his way from alpinism to sport climbing to bouldering. Image: Ray Demski / Red Bull Content Pool

In 1999 the athlete discovered his true passion, bouldering. In the following years he spent every free minute between the rocks and within a short time he was one of the best in this sport. In 2001, the Tyrolean climbed what was then the most difficult boulder in the world, the Dreamtime. That's how he catapulted himself into the international limelight.

Today his first ascents count – Shantaram, Into the Sun, Anam Cara, Memento and Viva La Evolution – to the most difficult routes in the bouldering world and some of Bernd's colleagues are still struggling with it today.

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Credits: Cover Photo Ray Demski / Red Bull Content Pool

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