Sultans of Hellfire

‘Pyjama bushes’ wearing pink and purple furry petals [Photo: Jeremy]

The dark and heavy clouds creeping over the mountains on the other side of the river had us wondering what we were doing at Hellfire with trad gear.

As usual we decided to do the walk-in and make a call on the weather once we could inspect the crag.

Arctic Ascent

Polar fleeces are not often spotted on lead but this one was determined to stay on because not even Burn Out was warm, to start off with, today. Riaan and Louis didn’t waste any time before introducing Jeremy to the Burn Out crag.

Anton: Hell or High Water on Burning Ambition

Anton started on relatively drizzle protected, Burning Ambition; leaving the weather call for the ledge above the first pitch. I was wearing gloves and a beanie, thinking that we can always abseil down, if this wind continues.

Bad conditions have a way of honing your attention. You know your fingers are cold and less reliable. You go slower, ensuring you find the best feet that won’t slip. Technique improves with super focus… why don’t I always climb like this?

Anton set up a top-rope for the ambitious crack, despite ominous clouds gathering in the distance. Higher up he even used the left side of the open book for his left foot and that helped to take the strain off his arms. One needs to be planning ahead to notice these things because a layback is the last place on which you want to be reconnoitering. I was grateful to be on top-rope in these freezing conditions and my blind-spot caused a fair deal of layback misery. I stopped after the traverse under the roof, pleased to discover how hanging on  straight arms, makes traverses far more manageable. Anton suggested I climb a bit higher to minimise the swing but I conjured up drizzle puddles everywhere above the roof (in my imagination) and ended up swinging back to safety without the firmness of the crag to guide me.

After that Anton did the whole of ‘Blue by you’. I tried the part below the roof and used every last ounce of strength to get to those few-and-far-between pebbles. When you manage to eak out the centimetres required to get to the next tiny but positive crease; you really start to understand the concept of barn-door potential. I felt very satisfied after I’d finished that tiny-flake vertical wall that required one to keep one’s balance above one’s feet in order to stay on. I swung back to the ledge a little sooner than I should have… another lesson in ‘it’s always better to follow your belayer’s safety instructions’!

Stemming the Hellfire – with cryptic clues

Next Riaan lead Burning Ambition after a quick coffee to recover from Burn Out. Anton basically told him to follow the chalk, in the usual abbreviated way in which they successfully communicate.

A handful of beauty – Burn Out

Jeremy showed his appreciation for this rock by the stylish way he mounted Burn Out.

Sultan on lead [Photo: Anton]

Pictures speak louder than words for the next challenge that Riaan and Anton took on. A very hard, new climb ‘ Crackwore’ which judging from the footage might be about a grade 23.

The crack that cuts like a knife [Photo: Anton]

Riaan taking advantage of a foot jam!

Wedged-in and jamming the rail crack

Streaky sandstone that looks very slippery seemed to be providing lots of satisfaction!

All that glitters is not gold РHellfire  [Photo: Anton]

Riaan was concerned about the thin, slatey flake.

Reaching the light at the end of the tunnel [Photo: Anton]
Boys being boys, Anton and Riaan followed an eerie cave-tunnel and were rewarded with a way to spelunk to the corner crack on the second pitch.

‘The priviledged and the pilgrim’ David Whyte

We wound our way down to the road. I was feeling so happy and aware of how much I had to look forward to.

Look up, your feet will know where to go [Photo: Jeremy]

Epilogue to a memorable adventure!

Samson and the pillars of rock
Splits on caramel icing-sugar rock
Sultans of Hellfire!

A colourful band of merry men – Carpe Diem on this icy day in the Du Toit’s Kloof!

City Rock: Taking a leap of Faith

There was a great deal of excitement about a new route in the indoor climbing gym that involved a diagonal dyno. Not something I would try, if it was up to me. I realised very quickly that explaining the reason I avoid dyno’s and trying to get out of it, would put more of a spotlight on me than just trying it quickly.

Anton had a great time doing it; in fact he kept going back for more.

Anton Flying High

I didn’t even try and resist. I stood on that mantle ledge, aware of a number of onlookers. That de ja vu feeling of ‘I don’t have the strength to face this challenge’ came over me. The difference here was that I couldn’t hide or walk away without having to explain why I was being so irrational. My witnesses were completely aware that I have what it takes to complete this jump safely. With great empathy, they talked me through what was required. Somehow they must’ve sensed my lack of faith in my abilities. ‘All you need to do is lunge’. It sounded attractive but the fears of past injuries were shouting the opposite.

I took a leap of faith; aware that my fears were echos from the past and relevant to a smaller, weaker version of me. I would trust their belief in me and encourage a new mindset. I also wanted to let go of all the foreboding that came from past disappointments and to welcome more adventure and safe endings as viable scenarios.

What a scary joy… elbowing out excuses and trying something that had such an uncertain outcome.

Once again I realised that humility fosters grace…. an opportunity that eludes you if you avoid uncertainty!

Humility Personified – Jeremy