Hellfire – Freezes Over

I was praying for a warm-up climb but instead I got the opposite for two reasons: there was nowhere to hide from the bone-chilling wind and ‘Burning Ambition’ is no walk in the park! We were there on my request and surely I should’ve known by now that the last place one gets what one wants is in Hellfire… it’s the place where you get to face your fears.

Hellfire colours
Hellfire colours

The quieter part of me that’s a glutton for growth, was thrilled though. Yvette was practically bubbling over with the excitement / nervous energy that goes with doing ‘Burn Out’ (5 star climb) for the first time.

Yvette captures the coffee smiles
Yvette captures the coffee smiles

It was hard for me to tell how the rest of our climbing team were feeling because their warrior skills are honed in ways that I can only dream mine could be. If I had to guess, I would say they were very happy to be outdoors doing ‘fun’ routes!

Yvette, hot stuff on Burn Out
Yvette, hot stuff on ‘Burn Out’

Anton lead the first pitch of ‘Forked Tongue’ for the first time (which was a test of mind over matter, given that it was so cold I was surprised he could feel his fingers).

The base of Forked Tongue
The frigid base of ‘Forked Tongue’

I was fantasizing about hot coffee and wondering what good resolutions I could make that would forgive ever having spoken with a forked tongue and magically make the 2nd pitch disappear (which starts with a grade 23 bat-like move)!

The wind was getting stronger and ‘Burning Ambition’ was less exposed, miraculously we chose it as the more appropriate route for the weather.

After Anton muscled up the crack and did the splits across the traverse, I asked Louis to stay a few metres behind me at all times…. for beta and moral support! Louis was so upbeat about climbing anything, his optimism was infectious!

HF Burning Ambition
After taking a bite of ‘Ambition’

I learnt that redoing a climb really helps with technique and confidence. The only upsetting part was when I bit into the crag under the roof section… I guess I wanted extra protection!

Louis on Fire
Louis on fire

I left Hellfire early but the rest of the team took on ‘Melt Down’ and ‘Wounded Warrior’.

Anton Leading Melt Down
Anton steaming up Hellfire crag

As I was leading the walk-out for the first time, I realised that it’s OK on my own in the wild. You need to lift up your head to check your direction and see there are cairns at every corner waiting to guide you; when you feel insecure there are footprints, of those who’ve gone before you and when you do lose the path, rather backtrack to familiar ground before heading forward again!

Flying over Melt Down
Yvette captures Riaan Flying

Not getting what one wants is often exactly what one needs… I’ll return again unless hell freezes over!

Africa Ledge – Shouts Atlantic

Yvette feeling wistful, captured the essence of the day:

Table Mountain where reality is the dream
Table Mountain where reality is the dream

We arrive at the tea cave and I’m thinking Riaan’s bored (we took a while to wind our way through the blister bush infested paths); so he’s just decided to do some bouldering… Next thing, to my surprise he places a cam in the crack that climbs diagonally to the top of the cave!

Although there’s water dripping down every orifice, I ask Yvette for a few sips because I realise that even though I’ll be following Anton on Atlantic crag, today is not going to be a tea party!

So that’s the start of Oddshouter’s Outing.

Yvette combining strength and grace
Yvette combining strength and grace

I miss the step, that’s set deep in the beginning crack and resort to brute force to join my fellow climbers.  I’m acting fine after my miniature crack ordeal because they’ve swung up after that long rail and haven’t even broken a sweat.

Where Atlantic flows through Oddshouter's
Where Atlantic flows through Oddshouter’s

Anton’s super encouraging, warning me about the slimy sections before I get there. I’m wondering how he lead this when I can’t even fit my fingers in these cracks!

We’re at the dripping nose of the overhang and I’m grateful I’m not leading.

We’re all on Africa Gullet working our way up like reflux, when we hear someone shouting ‘You can’t have 4 climbers on one route!’ No, it’s not the National Park’s Board. There’s only one man I know who hikes and climbs so often he can recognise every tradder from a mile away!

An African escalator called Gullet
An African escalator called Gullet

My heart’s in my mouth now that we’d reached Oddshouter’s final pitch. Now I needed to be the calm one because Anton was leading this for the first time. I took the opportunity to face the harbour and really open up to see the horizons. This helped me expand my courage and for the first time I felt comfortable to hang and belay (the fact that I was anchored in 5 places was besides the point)! He used lots of bridging and kept making sure he had good balanced feet. The rest of our team were checking from above; an entire team effort. Anton slips on the crux and communicates well. I’m thinking, it’s called Oddshouter’s because I probably don’t know enough swearwords in order to get through this one!

I’m ready to do the last part – after the exciting mini crack and the lunge right, the rest is a bit of a blur. My arms and legs were tremouring by the time I got to the crux; not only was I unable to remove the nut, I also got some help from above to  swing my leg up and find something solid for my left hand!

Before the final climb / scramble… I am waiting for Anton’s instruction to ‘Climb when ready’.

I almost waited until the next sunrise before climbing
I almost waited until the next sunrise before climbing

I could hear him a few moments ago, so I can’t believe he’s out of earshot; he did warn me that he might be though. I give the soggy traverse one look and I think… I’m not moving before I get a sign that I’ve got permission. Fortunately Riaan’s midway between us and responds ‘Louise you can climb.’

Yvette captures the window of opportunity that comes from testing our edges
Yvette captures the window of opportunity that comes from us all testing our edges

A great end to a highly emotive and rewarding day!

Table Mountain – Taking the High Road… Upper Africa

If I thought I was experiencing exposure on Fountain Ledge… then this must be over-exposure! The spotlight doesn’t get much brighter than it is on Upper Africa…. the top of the front of Table Mountain. As we scrambled our way down some pretty moist boulders, to the left of the top Cable Way station…. I had ‘there’s nowhere to hide’ on repeat in my brain. That in conjunction with the guilt of having had minimal sleep and a drink the night before, affected my ability to get to the abseil point without assistance! I figured that my concentration could last for at least one climb and so once I’d made peace with the idea of not doing a second one, I was able to move again.

Fortunately I had my experienced climbing partners with me who kept saying (and I could hear they really meant it), we’re doing a 5 star route and it’s a perfect day for this classic beauty! I was guessing that ice on top of the mountain and fishponds in the jugs was all part of the idea of a Winter fairyland climb!

Leaning in to Upper Africa
Leaning into Upper Africa

Anton lead Africa crag, like someone who could do it gracefully in his sleep! I had trouble removing a nut from the open book crack. Thinking about it now… I could have picked it out but I was afraid of over-exerting my arms and what might lie ahead. After that pitch I was told that although I made a meal of the off-width and went a bit too far right before the flakes, there were two places where I did something original that was kind of good beta.

When you’re a novice in a very experienced trad team it’s helpful to hear that when you climb by heart instead of off-by-heart there aren’t only painful surprises… some of it is innovative in a good way!

A brave African face
A brave African face

Apparently, while I was doing the traverse there was a perfect photo opportunity. If I could just hold on for one more second, the cable car was about to pass. At that stage I was wondering how can they be thinking ‘photo’ when I’m thinking ‘pause or my life’!

Avoiding the waterfall on the last pitch
Avoiding the waterfall on the last pitch

Thank God for the waterfall coming down the open book section that made it possible for us to avoid this and the miniature rail for Gosia fingers!

A heavenly climb, once it was over. The high road is the only one worth aiming for!