Doubles everywhere

Dassie pair
Dassie pair delighting tourists

Cute and plump does not equal tame but some Table Mountain visitors cannot imagine that these lazy sun-worshippers aren’t like domestic cats!

I was warned in advance that we’re doing Double Direct and this time there wouldn’t be someone to clean up after me. This five star climb has a ‘roller-coaster-hype’ vibe because of the sound effects one gets from the onlooking tourists in the cable car that is just a stone’s throw away.

The abseil point is very exposed and someone always ties me in before I scramble down. We passed a colourful pair of climbers in pink, with neon new ropes on the ledge below Magnetic wall.

My heart was beating so hard I think Anton could hear it because he kept his distance. The leader needs a calm encouraging team because although there’s life and death risk and responsibility for all, the leader carries an extra dose! Anton made sure I ended up on the ledge directly below the beginning of the first pitch, so there was no need for traversing before the start. He started climbing the roof before I could even begin my usual pre-climb rumbling. I watched his beta very carefully remembering my previous experience of that, ‘I want to go home’ roof.

A no complaints kind of leader
A ‘no complaints’ kind of leader

While belaying my breathing started getting faster and I had to get creative about how to bring back my mojo. You know things have reached desperate levels when you start humming ‘The Eye of the Tiger’!

I was relieved when I reached what looked like a comfortable slab-like seat because Anton had recovered well on it… but after a quick glance I wondered if I was on the wrong slab because it was more like a fax machine! I squeezed the bottom half of my body in there so tightly, there was no room for daylight between the crag and the slab. I was looking at the path to the horn, as if I was about to do ‘Africa lunch’ (in theory this roof only qualifies as a grade 19 snack) when an angel descended from above and said ‘Are you having a moment, should I keep quiet?’

Thank God for angels in pink that can abseil! I begged her to stay nearby while I tried to gather the courage to move again. After asking for some slack, down-climbing back to the slab after my first hesitant attempt, my next attempt was better. I faffed around with a cam because for some reason I felt that having a tidy harness was more important than saving my arms. I almost went passed the horn without unslinging it but fortunately my new-found celestial guardian pointed out my blindspot! My team says that I do better with a ‘rent-a-crowd’… I’m thinking it’s possible to get strong enough to be independent but it reduces stress significantly if I’m not alone.

Of course there's a second pitch Louise, everything works in doubles on the mountain
Of course there’s a second pitch, Louise

The second pitch starts with a tricky traverse. We had one rope so Anton placed a fair deal of ‘pro’. An ‘Aaaah’ exclamation from my out-of-sight-leader had me thinking, I need to ‘take tight’. I couldn’t have been more wrong.. next thing I hear, ‘what a lovely day.’

One day I’ll relax enough on these climbs in order to smell the roses too! Magnetic wall always makes me think of my friend Silke who climbs like a cat…. a perfect style for these tiny crimps.

The day ended for me, with Anton encouraging some little girls to live their dreams, as they quizzed him about rock climbing. This was their first time on top of Table Mountain and they had no idea that girls can climb too! My team was about to do their next climb and in Riaan’s case he prefers climbing quadruples…. 2 climbs are just starters!


Out for a full day Duck on Bombay ledge

It rained the night before and there was a mighty wind, too strong for the cable car to run. We were getting weather reports from above Lower Buttress from our energetic informants who had started their hike at the crack of dawn. Lower buttress was our only option.

Two man expedition material
Expedition material

There are two sections in Bombay Duck that I find particularly challenging. So the idea of following with no one following me, for the first time on this route, was a little intimidating.

The stretch before the abandoned nut was easier this time. The traverse at the end of the first pitch was also better thanks to my focus on looking for good feet and Anton prepping me to find the undercling. When one’s arms or legs are tiring it helps to have some chalk marks to focus one’s progress!

The difference between this and the last time I did Bombay Duck was like chalk and cheese! I put it down to knowing that the buck stopped with me, so I had to prepare my moves in advance and figure out which drop knee would get me to the next hand hold. The side pull next to the roof on the 2nd pitch was a saving grace. Progress feels good on the slow road of personal mastery.

Cleaning the duck
Cleaning the duck

Anton had been thinking about his Dehli Belly project since the last time he flew on that cave. I lowered him and used an off-body belay so that he could work the route. It was stressful to learn this on the fly but seeing as he repeated the exercise three times (!), I had more than enough time to master this new skill! By the time his arms were pumped to the max we were getting flack for taking up permanent occupation on the ledge.

Riaan and Hilton arrived just in time to tie in and join us too. The day ended on a great note because Riaan had a perfect experience of the technique required to sail through Dehli!

Ledge Occupation
Ledge Occupation

Climbing higher than Lego at Bosch crag

I spotted Tony on the Bosch crag before I even realised that that was where we were headed. Well, from the highway, I didn’t know that it was Tony but the emerald green Black Diamond climbing pants made him look like an impressive lizard, in it’s natural habitat on the high orange crag, framed by that ‘Lord of the Rings greenery’ that Montagu folk take for granted! From a distance the routes looked very long! There is one climb there that requires a 70m rope, so it wasn’t just my mind running away with me.

Yvette and her buddies were already there and the atmosphere was electric. Electric is good when you’re going to a party… For me, for climbing, it can be a challenge. Climbing requires a quiet mindfulness which cuts out everything except the task at hand. People like Anton have learnt how to do this regardless of the territory…

We started on Master of Puppets, although I was excited about doing sport leads again, my mind needed a warm-up day. Like a puppet on my thick string I did some sport cleaning after a long phase of purely doing trad.

The Master of puppets or the puppeteer
The Master of puppets or the master puppeteer
I absentmindedly left my symbolic freedom bangles on and almost lost them in the torturous hand / bead jam that caused me to express some hitherto unused swear words. Allowing myself the freedom to believe in me has been an error fraught journey… maybe this was the mountain’s idea of satire; reminding me that the path to freedom necessarily includes painful consequences!
Decadent snacks do not accompany us on a trad route because of the importance of traveling light. Today I benefited from the unusual joy of climbing one pitch and then having nourishment provided ‘on tap’.
Yvette's karate cum ballet move
Yvette’s karate cum ballet move

Yvette had already danced up Sanatorium, in that ballet-meets-karate style that comes so naturally to her! Anton lead it despite his preference for trad. As I followed, I was thinking… As much as I’m loving this and know there’s a leader within, I was glad I could recognise my own need for recuperation and following that day!

Anton, a leader in recuperation and on Sanatorium
Anton, leading recuperation on Sanatorium
As we parted I realized how much I’d been distracted by my hopes and fears… everything I cannot control. The pink sorrels looked like flutes playing compassionate tunes to my insecurities. Wild rosemary took me where I hesitate to go… flooding me with emotions! The bitter-sweet memories, stirred in with the present, left an exquisitely good after-taste. This was unexpected and definitely influenced by the unassuming but essential ingredient, called belonging.

Later we tried out some sport and trad at The Farm and returned to Legoland to play.

Zane says: Hey Come On
Zane says: Hey Come On
Tradding like Three Muskateers at The Farm
Tradding like Three Muskateers at The Farm
All smiles
All smiles
The Farm
The Farm

Flying up Devil’s Peak

Happy to spot my friends in the dark Platteklip parking lot, I was ready for a Saturday with a difference: the rarity of being kind to my fingers and my strained adrenal glands by hiking, was a welcome change!

A bite of dawn
A bite of dawn

There are moments in life when you look at something that’s so beautiful it arrests you. Walking under this massive roof on the damp ledge where the darkness of the cave accentuated the brightness, I had that feeling of overwhelming joy. The type that places an immovable marker in one’s memory… that ‘happy place’ elixir that one can return to, in moments of need.

My breathing was heavy the whole way. The benefit of time pressure was that I had to limit my usual chattiness and focus on efficient steps. The Cape Snow and unassuming Proteas gave the mountain a dignified matrimonial air – appropriate for Winter and sparkling with dew, these buds were the result of loamy earth that’s benefited from this harsh but enriching season.

The currency of playing with Devil's Peak
The currency of not backing off when Devil’s Peak ascent looks like more than we bargained for

The trail runners are eating to maintain their hype… we didn’t come for a picnic. I almost strayed off the path, I was so far behind our leaders. Fortunately Zane was herding from behind, in between his own curiosity-driven explorations.

The mountain’s leaking everywhere and we’re gifted with a spa pool, icy water and rocks inviting one to climb in at one’s own risk and meet whatever’s lurking beneath the dark surface.


Zane was the first to give in to the magnetic waterfall. I was grateful for the opening to do what seemed natural and allow the shower of happiness to drench me!

This waterfall will wash you happy!
This waterfall will wash you happy!

As our workout was reaching its conclusion and I realised my aching knees would in fact make it to the car…. I relaxed and eased into the conversation. It dawned on me that these friends that introduced me to tradding before I realised I’d love it; have also taught me by example the true meaning of generosity…. by the way they and their families live their lives!