No fancy paraphernalia or formal training... Jyothi Raj climbs dizzying heights trusting just his bare hands

Jyothi Raj quickly shinned up a 100-ft tall stone-wall at the Chitradurga Fort to jump to his death. Looking down from the summit, the unhappy man noticed a throng of tourists applauding what they thought was a performance. In his late teens then, Jyothi Raj fought back tears and waved to his unexpected admirers. Since then, he has been climbing the steep walls at this Fort in Karnataka to enthral tourists.

The 23-year-old inspires awe in them — going up walls as high as 300 feet at a brisk pace without harness. With magnesium carbonate powder in his palms for grip, he makes use of tiny holds and crevices that would elude the notice of most climbers. He developed his style watching monkeys clamber up the Fort walls.

Staggeringly difficult antics — such as slotting his fingers into two crevices for support for his body, which is balanced at an angle of 90 degrees from the wall — have earned him the name ‘Spiderman'.

Jyothi Raj's skills work at other places too: he has gone up forbidding drops — over 800 feet — at Jog Falls many times. He's carried bodies of suicide victims on his back. He hopes to demonstrate his climbing skills — at Jog Falls or at any peak — to observers from Guinness World Records. His popularity already stretches beyond tourists visiting Chitradurga Fort: he appears in Stan Lee's “Superhumans”, a new series on Discovery Science — to be telecast at 8.30 p.m. on Mondays, from June 13 — that takes a questioning look at people whose abilities run counter to our understanding of what is humanly possible.

The supernatural in Jyothi Raj's life, apparently, goes beyond climbing. “From childhood, I had a recurrent dream, in which I saw myself climbing the walls of a fort. The dream left me for good, when I set foot in Chitradurga.”

A runaway child, he eked out a living as a young construction labourer for years. Loneliness took its toll, and he was driven to taking his own life, when fate intervened.

Having connected with his family in Theni a few years ago, Jyothi Raj visits them twice a year. He can't leave the Fort, nor stop climbing its walls. “From Monday to Wednesday, I work as a labourer at a construction site, earning Rs. 200 a day. The rest of the week I spend at the Fort as a climber and a coach for climbers.”

He may accept the money given by the tourists, but his climbs are primarily aimed at slaking a thirst in his soul.