Arrow through ‘Venster’: Mind over matter

A wise person once told me that when you find an activity that nurtures you, you should treat it like you would have treated an appointment with Nelson Mandela… it should receive top priority! Mira embodied that principle by pitching up for a last climb of the season with us… against all jet-setting odds! So did Riaan because he managed to climb despite having left his shoes behind! Anton has connections with angels who support his climbing to such an extent that they will arrange for a delivery on command; at the designated ‘remote ledge’, bearing a spare pair of climbing shoes.

Riaan leading Manoeuvers by Moonlight... the long name matches the traverse!
‘Manoeuvers by Moonlight’… the length of the traverse does the name justice!

Somehow Riaan managed to lead ‘Manoeuvers’ despite wearing ‘pantoffels’ (Afrikaans for slippers) and Starlings dive-bombing (well over the speed limit) his helmet while he was dyno’ing the hard roof crux! I didn’t even hear a foreign swear word as Mira made her way along the 15m traverse on this grade 20 (in reality harder than a 6b) route on Table Mountain.

Mira rocking the moonlight traverse [photo: Anton]
Mira rocking the Moonlight traverse [photo: Anton]

I followed on Fader’s which has some awkward cracks and corners which make for delightfully unusual pitches; including a dense garden that runs across the last pitch! A black prehistoric-looking lizard was doing push ups while we heard about the ‘Manoeuvers’ adventure.

Somehow, my friends weren’t bleeding and didn’t need recovery time after the climb of the century… Mira aka ‘girl-power-personified’ summed that epic journey up as ‘fun’.

In seventh heaven
Leading on a five star in seventh heaven

Next up was Bombay Duck which Mira on-sited with some experienced guidance from Anton.

Riaan managed to lead ‘Fingerlocking Good’ in loose shoes. It took me a few attempts before I got through the tricky start. I only noticed the great side-pull when it was pointed out to me and once I realised that a layaway was the only way up, I managed to let go of my clingy need to embrace the mountain ‘froggy-style’.

After a very enjoyable vertical wall climb which would have been treacherous on lead because of the dodgy flakes… I made my way up the final scramble. A perfect day of learning about walking cams and trusting in one’s self… I left the mountain feeling extremely satisfied.

Joie de vivre
Joie de vivre on lead!

My climbing friends were picking up litter and generously helping out lost and harassed visitors to Table Mountain whom they didn’t know from a bar of soap. This is all part of the climbing spirit that I’ve come to appreciate… if one wants to fix things one cares about; the trick is just to start by taking any crack of opportunity to make a meaningful difference.

Mira going where few men have gone before
Mira: ‘I’ll be back for more climbing in South Africa’


The wild side of Hellfire

Mira mojo!
Mira mojo!

We arrived in drips and drabs and so did the drizzle! Despite this Anton was set on exploring the Prow which captured his imagination quite some time ago. Somehow, Riaan and Louis had energy for ‘Wildfire’ which I could not have named more aptly!

Anton ignored the precipitation as he started up a precarious crack and despite the biting wind, was determined to do some ‘Sapphire’ seeking! After hearing that my exaggerated breathing was somewhat off-putting… I remembered to be poised and managed to refrain from making a single remark about the polar weather conditions (kind of essential, given that I was not even the one climbing)!

Fortunately a damp and run-out ‘Sapphire’ forced us to switch to ‘Sideburn’. After Anton’s first horizontal move to mount the ledge and then another roof, I realised this would be a good opportunity for me to face my heel hooking and mounting demons. The ‘Wall of Flames’ side of the prow, looked more like a lichen-salad!

I like the way Anton immerses himself in the territory before making choices. His decisions are based on factual observations on the climb and not fear of what might lie ahead. A great way to explore the unknown. The fact that he already has exit strategies lined up, makes trailblazing a responsible albeit risky experiment!

Going skew on sideburn
Going skew on sideburn [photo: Anton]

The wet conditions even tested Riaan’s patience. That roof didn’t seem to phase him though… One needs to move as fast as Wildfire on the flat-wall section and then mere mortals would freeze after a glance at that BF roof. While Louis fought his way up this grade 22 climb, Riaan was wondering how Hellfire in Spring can be so icy!

Riaan chilling on top of Hell
Riaan chilling [photo: Anton]

Louis never gives up and always first thinks independently about what will work for him in the moment.

Louis on fire!
Louis on fire! [photo: Riaan]

As I was patting myself on the back for surviving the gale force and ready to reward myself with copious amounts of food; Anton pointed out that ‘The Burn Out’ was in fact very protected and that we could easily complete one pitch within my deadline.

Saucy brunch - heaven is a place in Hellfire
Saucy brunch – heaven is a place in Hellfire

Burn out didn’t fail to challenge me and I missed a foot that resulted in a bit of a cheat ending which was fine as I’d done much more than I imagined possible.

Busy Burn out wall
Busy Burn out wall [photo: Riaan]
Our friends from Finland joined us and brought with them the most cheery bright energy.

Radical joy!
Radical joy! [photo: Anton]
They took on ‘The  Melt Down’ and ‘Wounded Warrior’ and somehow managed to both lead with a light-heartedness that made if feel like Christmas in Hellfire.

A beacon signalling the dream

Dream material
Dream material

There was a fire raging in the MacClear’s beacon area at the highest point on Table Mountain! The Fire Chief asked us whether we’d give his men a hand. I assumed that he was looking for new recruits! Fortunately he was merely preparing us to applaud when his brave men, who’d been fighting throughout the night, walked past. How does one train to be able to perform on demand when you’re sleep deprived? What kind of person is selfless enough to volunteer for that dangerous and hard job of curtailing the fire damage caused by arson or careless actions by others?

These men bring their A-game whenever they’re called upon to do so. I’d like to be capable of that too and today looked like the ideal time to test it, as we were headed for a 5-star classic that was not on ‘The Dream Ledge’ by accident! Until now, ‘Farewell to Arms’ was not something I imagined that I’d try, in any realm other than my imagination.

Anton assured me that I’d done the first pitch before and then they disappeared to do Double Direct. Riaan’s unwavering faith in my abilities made me feel better about attempting this. After following on the splits-inducing traverse, I reached the 2nd pitch which had been explained to me in great detail. I asked Riaan to repeat the beta about three times; as if, somehow memorising the theory would help me get an ‘A’. Riaan humoured me because warnings about what to look out for, can make a huge difference when you’re doing something above your comfort level. Composure and focus when you’re in the territory, is something you can only get from yourself though.

Riaan... how to do the roof on one's first attempt!
Riaan… how to do the roof on one’s first attempt!

The roof section was awesome! I say this now. At the time, I started off with my centre of gravity too far to the left, to be able to capitalise on the gaston to the right. Anton helped me with some timely advice, despite the fact that he was leading his own challenge towards Magnetic Wall. Third time lucky… I made it up! I will admit that the limit-pushing resulted in some language unbecoming to a lady and some bossy requests for Anton to stay opposite me at all times.

Roof puzzle
Roof puzzle

Fortunately our climbing party don’t take orders from me and ignore all insults that aren’t premeditated! Anton moved on and I was given the opportunity to think imaginatively.

The ‘Touch and Go’ stance is one of the most awe-inspiring ledges… the clouds rolling in, made it fairy tale material! While I allowed the blood vessels in my arms to recover their composure, Riaan explained the beta that would get me over the next two overhangs. How he lead the last pitch, without losing two fingers in the twisted lock; giving up or at least cursing, I have no idea! While watching this athletic feat; I came to the conclusion that silent climbing is not a sign of comfort. It is the reward for practicing so hard that one develops a deep conviction that one has what it takes to finish what one’s started! Mettle and fortitude are earned and the result of mental presence and a history of not giving up before you’ve tried.

The last pitch certainly tested my edges. After three attempts at the final crux, I made a decision to save my arms and climb the rope. This is progress because I managed to do it alone for the first time and realised that there are many options available to one, when you reach an obstacle. The bad part was that although I communicated what I was doing, I forgot to put the walkie-talkie on… so I left my team in the dark while I faffed around with prussiks and slings!

After 75m of hard climbing, I felt ecstatic. I was very appreciative of my team who had all the patience in the world with me. I was celebrating the beginnings of a faith in my ability to solve problems, without buckling under pressure.

I passed on the final climb for the day, ‘The Dream’ because I had reached mine!

A burst of Finnish energy

The weather was perfect, borderline hot according to our new climbing friend who despite being rather unacquainted with sandstone was bubbling over with excitement to explore this new glorious frontier!

This unassuming visitor to Cape Town was lapping up the beauty of Table Mountain, she was thrilled to see the overhanging Roulette. That traverse that turns most hardcore climbers’ faces serious, lit her face up in the most magical way!

Mira 'Reelrock'ing Roulette
Mira aka ‘Reelrock’ – ‘Farewell to Arms’ on the Dream Ledge

As I fumbled through Jacob’s, precariously hanging right because smeering left just seemed way too confident for this wet and cloudy day… Riaan came bouncing along that never-to-be-forgotten Roulette traverse! He was leading it in a weightless way that completely belied the technique required to reach that ledge. Next up was the overhang and the scoop and I had a feeling that Mira would follow in the same effortless way that I imagined she must be able to fly reindeers!

Riaan... when cams fly!
Riaan… when cams fly!

In his meticulous and efficient way, Anton had everything organised for maximum safety and minimum effort for the hanging belay at the base of the 2nd pitch.

Making everyone safe!
Anton, making everyone safe!

We joined up on the last pitch. By now my four layers of wind, rain and ice protection were feeling a bit like overkill!

Climbing FTW!
Climbing FTW!

I let go of my need for self-approval and allowed myself to pass on round two… my wavering discipline will make my life even harder in the long run. Climbing requires dedication and perseverance – I admire that in my fellow climbers. It also requires complete mindfulness; so there’s no room for doubting one’s commitment. Today, it was possible to pass but in order to be reliable it’s necessary to reach a state of ease that only comes from good boundaries that ensure a kind daily life and balancing that with consistent personal mastery! Thinking this, is a good sign because it’s a step beyond focusing purely on survival… it’s more like part of the reason we want to survive.

Yvette Traversing Exposure with a Smile
Yvette Traversing Exposure with a Smile – Cableway crag