This day could’ve been the last opportunity for Roulette before Winter… a chance to take up where I left off, about a year ago!
Before I even reached the hardest pitch on my previous two attempts at Roulette, my fingers and my mental stamina failed me.
Today, my guardian angel’s advice was: just remember to breathe! It was de ja veux, there were climbers on Last of the Mohawks, as well as a rent-a-crowd, for some reason. Anton and Yvette were nowhere near us, on Double Direct and Touch and Go! I tried to block out the memories of struggling alone on that ledge below the overhang… today would be different.
Riaan sailed through the first pitch. I remember thinking, how does he manage to hang around on that treacherous traverse for long enough to place gear? Later I found out, he had placed a lucky mascot on the crux that decided it was more into base jumping than hanging around on rails… I found it at the bottom of the traverse. Laughing helped me start.
My mind was so focused on the hard moves that lay ahead that I got lost on the easiest pitch. I spent some time in that vertical crack, remembering how to breathe.
I reached the knee bar and shook out my arms. Next was the big step across and I used the low feet that I noticed Riaan uses. I rested on my toe on that triangle, other leg dangling and imagined myself pulling up past those crimps and up to the top rail. The cam came out! My fingers were tired just when I realised there was one more cam to go! All my gear was hanging on my rope, I reached the end of that traverse on a prayer. Riaan got a close up view of the face of fear as I climbed onto that ledge (I must’ve forgotten I was on a rope)!
The good news arrived. Riaan would wait directly above the overhang and so I would have support if I fell into space. He showed me the hand jam that allowed him to reach the next high jug. I followed and although I looked like Rocky after many rounds in the ring (because of bruised knuckles that had jammed so well), I made it past my previous experience’s multiple fall-induced rope climb spot. Fortunately Riaan reminded me just in time that the mountain was only offering a layback and my froggie position would not end well.
My Roulette mascot had magically made it to the crux before me. I manoeuvered onto this miniature ledge. My arms were exploding. I asked if we could avoid the scoop (the hardest pitch). Why would we avoid it… there’d been no takes thus far? We were doing Roulette weren’t we?
Riaan explained calmly that if I listened to the beta this would be easier than other roofs I’ve scaled. He described it down to the detail of what angle one’s body faces when you lift your left leg to a foot jam at the level of your shoulder!
Then a miracle happened. A camera man appeared from the heavens, hanging from the ledge below Abseil Africa. Jamie was going to do about a 30 m jump from there. I was already struggling with the idea of having to follow Riaan on this hard pitch… I knew I wouldn’t be able to climb while ‘Fear Factor on steroids’ was taking place around us. Fortunately, Riaan was super curious to see this and we agreed to wait and watch. What we saw is on the formal climbing websites, so I won’t give it away here. All I can say is that even though we were only watching, I was amazed I managed not to wet myself!
Riaan led through the roof like a pro. I was grateful for the Hollywood company…. I would not have to do this alone! By the time I set off my arms were fresh. I balanced around the scoop using the miniature crimps. Then I smeared up that crack, found the side pull and the rail for my right foot (I’d memorised this). I faced Lion’s Head and went for the toe hook, cranked my body up to barely reach that horn with my right hand. By now I was swearing like a sailor and giving the camera man a running commentary about how I felt about my climbing partners’ faith in me.
Roulette had taken every last ounce of my energy on each pitch! How these guys lead it multiple times a day, I have no idea. Riaan and Anton went on to do Boltergeist and the others were on Don’t Squeeze.
The feeling of satisfaction that comes from having faced one’s fears is hard to explain. My team knew what this meant to me. It’s incredible what is possible when you listen to and learn from experienced and confident leaders that believe in you and I am very appreciative of all of them.
Having the guts to start, when you know just how hard the route that lies ahead is… comes from deep within. Trusting that you have grown since you last stood in that hard spot helps to drown out the echos from the past and allows you to hear the music.
I will never forget this day and I will try and remind myself that I should never wish I could erase past mistakes because it’s the difficulties that bring the skill and wisdom that make places from before feel different today.