Who you gonna call – Cableway Heroics

Anton says ‘Of course you know how to handle the paperwork!”

The day ended with an ice cold Appletiser from Anton’s new found friends who were very relieved that he’d recovered their expensive anchor gear that had spent the night just above Bosun’s chair! Damian deserted it when they got caught in the dark and made the responsible decision to call it a day. What a coincidence for him to be passing just as Anton spotted the abandoned pro and could retrieve it for them. Little did we know that our friend on Arrow Final overheard the entire rescue dialogue!

We started very early because it was that or wait for a late cable car. We passed a group of sunrise hikers on India Venster and the guide pointed Anton out, saying: ‘He’s an example of a purist… one of the few who will walk the whole way up for a climb’. If you have ever felt the weight of a lead climber’s backpack; you will understand why the ones who choose to walk – are a breed entirely on their own! Apparently, we didn’t race up but by the time we got there, I was feeling as if my workout was complete!

The trail runners were out in full force and so were the flowers on a magnificently welcoming Fountain ledge.

Fountain Ledge Beauty
Fountain Ledge Beauty

Tri-eye flora

I’m not sure what the other wonders of the world smell like and I may be vaguely biased but Table Mountain has a spicy perfume that must give it a competitive edge.

Double Direct was the route for testing my new Ocun shoes because you know how much I love that roof! In fact if I’d been given the option to bring along my old pair as a back-up, I would never’ve baptised the new ones. In my musings about whether the shoes were OK, I completely forgot to find feet before trying to pull up on that horn. Half way through my macho, legless effort… I’m calling ‘Take, please!’

As I reached the pleasant part of the pitch, a pair of foreign climbers were looking up Touch and Go and asking where Arrow Final is. Anton pointed them in the right direction… after which they decided that he was so informed he must be ‘the guide book Tony.’

You've got to love Cape Town!
You’ve got to love Cape Town! [photo: Anton]

I made the cardinal sin of clipping in on the ledge instead of tying in. Fortunately climbing involves forced buddy checking of everything (you also have to buddy check yourself)… Anton picked it up immediately, this was a hard lesson to learn and not something to be repeated! When you’re making yourself safe you must tie a clove hitch and anchor yourself! I’d have to forgo pudding to ensure that lesson sinks in for life.

Next up was a long traverse to Bosun’s chair. This was a good pre-Cedarberg ‘learn-to-embrace-traverses’ exercise. The start of that traverse requires smearing because it’s quite sketchy and is also undercut. I watched carefully as Anton did the splits twice and ended up matching on a pebble that he chalked up nicely for me. Fortunately there’s a great rail for hands. Doing it on lead cannot be fun and somehow Anton made time to tie-in and do a photo-shoot.

Belaying from a Rocky Lazy Boy [Photo: Anton
Belaying from a Rocky Lazy Boy [Photo: Anton]

I was relieved once I made it around the arréte and was a bit further from the shrieking cable-car passengers.

Wow, these new shoes work
Wow, these new shoes work

As I reached Bosun’s chair I felt a great wave of relief. I remembered the first time I sat on it, wanting to flee the exposure. Adversity certainly allows for growth! Things that seemed impossible before have become enjoyable thanks to dedicated support and the discipline to progress through hardship.

Fortunately it wasn’t windy because despite the calm, the rope managed to get stuck on one of the chicken heads. Anton had to down-climb to untangle it! The scary part was that the stuck rope actually limited my ability to provide slack on belay! I belayed the last pitch, carefully observing the freed coils of rope below me and preventing the chance of a similar emergency. It had been a lesson in staying calm when things appear desperate.

There’s always a solution as long as you remember to breathe. There were a number of other learnings, that day: turning while you abseil makes it hard to pull the rope down later and you need to feed the correct rope through while rappelling, in order to walk a knot over the edge.

The joy of tossing limiting assumptions
The joy of feeling personal horizons expand

The last pitch was Sagittarius… very appropriate for November. A plump red ladybug showed me the joy of climbing with a wing suit! I was wondering about the different traits of the black ‘semi-armour-plated’ lizard versus the sun gazing brown gecko with its lichen-coloured head. Each with its unique strengths and both entitled to this ‘survival of the fittest’ eco-system. Will there be so many of them around, eyeballing my grandchildren, one day? As I left the tourist-happy mountain I wondered how I can influence that…

Giving a Duck – Lower Buttress

The Watsonias make Table Mountain look like a carefully tended botanical garden in Summer.

Watsonia [photo: Anton]
Pretty in pink [photo: Anton]

Delicate pink as far as the eye can see! So, as we started on Fader’s Frontal, I was feeling the abundance… in awe of the fact that naturally harsh conditions are the ingredients for a miraculous metamorphosis. There was, however, one wild thing that I wanted to subdue today and that was the gusting wind. Fortunately the experienced members of the team helped us choose this protected route.

After committing, by reaching far at the end of that traverse under the roof; the radical joy, that comes from just sitting on that ledge and quietly drinking in that harbour panorama, is hard to  replicate.

Anton lead his way up that smooth arrête.

Launch-time
Launch-time

I witnessed how my climbing partners were always thinking at least two steps ahead for themselves and the rest of us… that’s what it takes to stay safe! Are the ropes crossing and who should follow first to minimise swinging falls? Little checks, that keep things simple and limit risk, is all one should be thinking about.

Merging with the crag might make this scramble on belay, less scary
Maybe, merging with crag will make scrambling less scary!
Getting closer to the arrete for comfort!
Getting closer to the arrête for comfort!

Harmony is essential. That is what I seek in life and what keeps one alive on the mountain. There is unity in the intention to be there for one another, an emphasis on what needs to happen to get everyone to the summit.

 

Everything is done to ensure the most stable, predictable environment when it comes to the things that one can influence.

There is no space for conflict or egos. Generosity as opposed to fairness reigns because each climber offers something unique.

We did a scrambling traverse on belay in order to get across to Frasers.

Halo moments
Halo moments

Quite unnerving (even though we were using pro), to step over the abyss to the belay stance for the last pitch of Frasers. Once there, I had to stop and smell the rose oil… this crag could be a perfumery.

Even though I have all the opportunity in the world to memorise how these routes are lead… I tend to just enjoy the pleasure of following and not having to carry the burden of decision making which is shared by the rest of my team on lead.

Bombay Duck was up next and I was happy to pass and allow Louis some much needed climb time.

Teamwork on Bombay Duck
Teamwork on Bombay Duck

I even had energy to take my friends and children to the Quarry later.

Paradoxically, regular ‘me-time’, is what makes it possible to be generous and then when you choose to care, the world becomes a friendlier place.

Hellfire – when Table Mountain is blowing

‘We’ll head for Lucifer’s Ledge and make that our base.’ I was thinking, ‘for my sins’…. I’d had little sleep and dragged myself out of bed at 5, thinking: ‘all I need to do, is do the Hellfire walk-in for training and then at least I’ll be working towards my goal to be fit enough for full-day country climbs. You can imagine my surprise when I realised that instead of having the option to bail at any time, today there were only two of us climbing and so the buck stopped with me.

In order to adjust my mindset, I remembered something that my trad role model Silke told me:  ‘Just because you don’t feel like you’re in showroom condition; it doesn’t mean you can’t climb.’ It proved to be true because we had a super day of climbing.

Relief when burning ambition is behind you
Relief when burning ambition is behind you

Anton cleverly chose climbs he knew I wanted to return to, as well as ones that would be good training grounds for that mother of a crack on Cedarberg’s Energy Crisis (that I’m hoping to meet come the end of the year).

hellfireburnoutstemming
Like butter on Burn Out
Getting my hands in that little crack on Burn Out
Get high in that little crack on Burn Out

Next we did Burning Ambition which has a cracking start to its second pitch! Following on the layback felt good for the first time and the traverse under that roof feels completely different when you breathe while doing it.

The difference that a bit of oxygen can make
After the traverse: The difference that a bit of oxygen can make!
Fighting a stubborn nut
Fighting a stubborn nut

Anton saved the day by rotating and then retrieving the nut that seemed like it was destined to spend eternity in that Hellfire crag.

Lowering from the anchors for gear retrieval
Lowering from the anchors for gear retrieval
Anton getting some more Burning Ambition
Anton getting some more Burning Ambition

Our last pitch was Warm Up, which I’d seen Mira lead.

Look lots of places to put your hands and feet!
‘Look lots of places to put your hands and feet!’

When Anton puts his mind to something, he finds a way to make it happen…. and three pitches we were going to do!

I loved the bulgy sections that one had to straddle and enjoyed embracing that reliable, solid sandstone on Warm Up.

Jamming myself into a cubbyhole on Warm Up
Jamming myself into a cubbyhole on Warm Up
That awkward moment...
That awkward moment…

The swifts were doing aerial shows and the bewitching Yellowwood Amphitheatre was beckoning, like the Lonely Mountain, across the kloof.

We proved that it’s possible to visit Hellfire and return in time for lunch. The red Heath, purply miniature cottonball flowers and intoxicating wild rosemary celebrated my slightly stronger knee tendons on the walk out. When you keep up the things that build your sense of self and are good for you, you start learning how to make yourself comfortable in any territory!

The Dream Ledge: too pretty for words

Our climbing partners living 'The Dream'
Living ‘The Dream’: Congratulations Riaan and family!

Aimée and Anton were set on doing something worthy of celebrating the arrival of Ava. Our climbing started with a bang on the Dream Ledge: Double Direct is was! Some of the others on the mountain were also planning eco-friendly athletic-fireworks on Dynamite and Captain Hook!

As I appreciated that roof at the start of Double Direct, I accepted that it was time to face that demon. Now, the word ‘demon’ has two meanings: we all know the torment that one can associate with it but it can also mean ‘skillful performer’. I was being ‘gently nudged’ to transform distress into marvel.

I watched carefully as Anton slid between crag and that slab that allows for pancake-type bodies to squeeze in there. Then with high spiderman-like feet, tiptoeing on corners (that were in my blindspot for my last attempt on this roof), he launched up to grasp that beauty of a horn.

Aimée was with me, so I felt calmer than usual which doesn’t really say much. I climbed carefully over an ominous looking, yet unbeknownst to me, completely harmless, mimic of a ‘bee-on-steroids’ fly (with bulbous eyes and Halloween-like transparent black-tinged wings)!

At the risk of getting pins-and-needles I wheedled myself into that ‘toilet-seat-like’ crack. How refreshing to have the opportunity to survey my options while resting! Finding feet is the difference between suffering and wizardry… a small victory for me.

After feeling a hint of the magician inside
A hint of magic inside

Despite the fact that my empathy / concern for Aimée’s  progress was entirely unnecessary (because she seemed completely at home with the idea of feet at ear-height); this broadened awareness was a good sign of me building teamwork muscles!

Next up was Magnetic Wall… or should I say frozen wall! Anton managed to lead this crag flawlessly, despite icy fingertips and me taking tight at the most uncalled-for moment when he only had two points of contact. Taking tight when slack is needed is dangerous, especially on this ‘hard-to-place-pro’ lead. Belaying is all about being 100% in tune with your climbers’ needs. Anton highlighted the crimp and side-pull mini crack that were the difference between climbing and becoming dry ice on that wall.

Amy and the bus boy
Aimée and the bus boy

Given that we were all tremouring from the cold and there was limited time left for climbing: Anton suggested sunny Arrow Final.

We ended the day with the fastest 60m climb I’ve seen Anton do in one pitch (the maternity ward was calling)! Anton shouted ‘off belay’ and we immediately responded ‘that’s us’! Arrow Final has a way of targetting one’s heart and opening up your spirit… I pictured the great humble adventurers who discovered this route in their big boots. Every climb is different, embrace the unique lessons from the one you’re on!

Celebrating Ava - this mountain has a golden lining [photo: Silke]
Celebrating Ava – this mountain has a golden lining, photo: Silke