I gave the candy floss covered mountain one look and prayed that we’d be doing the Lower Buttress. The weather prediction was good though, so we went up the cable car to check things out. When you need gumboots to navigate the path to the coffee shop, then no one will be climbing up there! The only thing we could do there safely, was get a hot beverage at the wifi lounge. All we could see through the glass chill-out lounge was fluffy cloud… could’ve sworn we were at a ski lodge!
Just as I started enjoying this abnormal M.O. for a climbing morning… I was reminded that there’s never time for chilling when there are crags waiting to be climbed. We made our way to plan B.
Riaan and Louis were on the verge of going to Hellfire in search of drier air when they decided, at the last minute, it was a bit late for that expedition and joined us on the Lower Buttress.
I scored about 10 out of 10 for cold feet… suddenly a tendon that only hurts on long downhill hikes became a huge disability and I was coming up with completely irrational and lame excuses!
Fortunately, Anton had mercy and selected the dry ‘Picnic time for teddy bears’ route that would be fine for me to climb. The moisture in the air was cloud precipitation but has the same effect as drizzle: turning sandstone into marble and chalk into icing! Heaven knows how these guys lead in these conditions… extreme fitness, confidence in one’s judgement and balance are pre-requisites. My damp demons (of the floor being pulled out from beneath my feet at ‘The Hole’) were surfacing and I promised myself that I only needed to complete one climb and I’d be impressed.
Thank goodness Anton warned me about the hygroscopic lichen… apparently the teddy bears consume metres of it at their picnic! It looks pretty harmless but moist air basically transforms lichen into slip-and-slide ‘vet plantjies’!
Anton enjoyed Dehli Belly from the top and Riaan and Louis joined up with us, leading from below.
Riaan and the others followed up with exciting finger locking and roof experiments that involved some ear height heal hooks and horizontal, compressed maneuvers!
This mortal soul decided she’d seen enough of the inside of a cloud while hanging from the side of a crag… and celebrated the end of her workout with some coffee.
Next Louis lead Finger Locking (which is a hard climb in good conditions) and he did well to get past the tricky start. The further he progressed the more the drizzle started to hit that side of the crag!
After Louis had completed the hardest part of the climb, Riaan saw how the water was pouring down the face of the crag and they all agreed that he should down climb! There are many rules that apply when you climb and knowing where to draw the line, is essential.
This was a first for Louis who did amazingly well, by placing and retrieving extra gear in order to make his descent on this pumpy pitch, safe. Despite being completely wasted, he managed a smile when he reached the chossy gully.
I realised that I tend to talk too much when I get nervous… something I’ll try and manage in the future.
It must’ve been a nightmare experience but thanks to many level heads, a great deal of courage and muscle power on Louis’ part – the challenge was overcome.
The ropes had been wet and despite that Anton had done a superb job of dealing with the agility required for down climb belaying. Louis left the mountain with big smiles, saying it had given him what he needed that day! He thanked everyone for the unwavering support.
When a band of climbers are faced with a challenge, everyone suddenly has all the time and the patience in the world. The word deadline loses its meaning in a situation like this because rushing would be the main threat. It’s in these moments that the value of life becomes crystal clear… everything else fades into insignificance!