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.
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 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’!
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.
Jeremy showed his appreciation for this rock by the stylish way he mounted Burn Out.
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.
Riaan taking advantage of a foot jam!
Streaky sandstone that looks very slippery seemed to be providing lots of satisfaction!
Riaan was concerned about the thin, slatey flake.
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.
We wound our way down to the road. I was feeling so happy and aware of how much I had to look forward to.
Epilogue to a memorable adventure!
A colourful band of merry men – Carpe Diem on this icy day in the Du Toit’s Kloof!