Stepping into the heartspace – Table Mountain

That moment when you’re sitting on Bosun’s chair, halfway up ‘Touch and Go’ on Table Mountain…. There’s an endless view of sea and beaches, minutely tiny because you’re that high up, infinitely panoramic because you’re THAT exposed. It was too much for me to take in, it felt like I was aware of everything I love, for the first time in my life… taking it all in simultaneously and accepting that I would need to resort to glimpses, in order to survive the assault. I found myself looking away and praying our lead would shout ‘Off belay’, so that I could finish the climb and escape for recovery.

Jacob’s Ladder (grade 16) is a 5 star climb on one of the seven wonders of the world! First we abseiled down 2 pitches from the cable car station. I seconded. On the 2nd pitch Anton did most of the cleaning, as I was already getting tired! As a beginner one tends to over grip and rely too much on arms, so even on this relatively easy climb, my arms were taking strain. I also found that taking in all the new tradding and multi pitch details for the first time, was mentally exhausting for me. I was grateful that Anton was close by, basically telling me where to put my feet!

Then we abseiled down to ‘Touch and Go’ (grade 17), past the world famous Magnetic Wall. Let’s just say I learnt a thing or two about the importance of having a Prussic knot, long slings, listening to one’s leader’s instructions and most of all, observing the length of the remaining rope before deciding to abseil past a ledge!

Louis lead and I brought up the rear. I fell, while trying to navigate the first overhang. Practically frozen and worried about how I’d ever complete this climb, I looked up, wild eyed at Anton. Who calmly told me just to do it again and who, I swear, would have pulled me up if I hadn’t managed to, myself. Knowing I’m with a team that will support me through hardship makes me more courageous.

Anton lead the last pitch and I had the pleasure of untangling two 60m ropes while perched on Bosun’s chair; wondering if I’d ever resolve the birds’ nest so that we could get home! Louis was doing a tiring hanging belay and had to be 100% focussed on Anton’s progress. We accidentally ignored our leader’s instruction to ascend to the left of the block and instead we did a small grade 19 section. Tiny shells and pebbles were all we could use. I begged him not to take an alternate route, so that I wouldn’t have to finish this climb on my own. At this stage of our progress on Cableway crag, I was almost too tired to think and didn’t trust myself on my own. After untangling his rope from a stubborn little tree, a minor delay which at that stage of my fatigue, felt like forever. I finally made it to the ledge, extremely grateful for my team and to be alive!

I left Table Mountain with very mixed feelings. I wasn’t sure I could ever do something like that again but at the same time I was now completely aware of the life force that is within me that makes it possible for me to keep going when everything is falling apart. Deep down I know that I need to step into my heart space despite the heavy lifting that it requires me to do!

Silvermine Style

Can’t believe it took me so long to discover this afternoon shaded Main crag! I should’ve known that climbing with Nick would mean long climbs but Revealyomango (20) felt like it was a direct path to heaven! I only top roped it but that booklike-crack and flat section before the anchors was enough to leave me and Kyle high for the day!

We started on an arête type of exposed 16, ‘Argent’. Aaron and co joined later and shared our bolts while we were on ‘Argentum’, which has the same beginning as the Argent route… It is precious in that it has a lovely pointy overhang type slab that one needs to mount before the top.

Nick and Aaron in their element on Argen & tum
Nick and Aaron in their element on Argen & tum

I lost my nerve and had quite an impressive fall because of fear of the unknown… I couldn’t see where the next bolt above the overhang was and instead of trusting, I hesitated and went flying in the gale force instead. Marie did a beautiful job of completing it and certainly has followed an incrementally fast learning curve since her first climb about half a year ago!

Nick did a 25 (used to be graded a 24) called ‘No man’s land’.

Nick on No man's land
Nick on No man’s land

Impressive overhang to navigate up front, then a very flat wall and another overhang just when one’s entire body is shaking from the sheer concentration of traversing the most minute pebbles.

Born to fly over 'No man's land'
Born to fly over ‘No man’s land’

Nick had no problem embracing this climb that requires feet above head before you even get going and it used to be his nemesis.

I was glowing with gratitude when we left Silvermine and all its splendor! No matter how hollow you might feel when you get there, this place will bring you peace… Vihan and Trixie’s mischievous influence also did a lot to heal my stressed soul.

Get a Life with Disney and Asterix

Pinnacle was looking so lovely, glowing in the morning sun. Even the line of cars at the walk in, didn’t put us off. Fine sprays of purple flowers and the smell of fynbos made my spirit soar.

After a long coffee break I eventually worked up the courage to start climbing.  Mickey Moose (grade 17) has a tricky start and I was keen to give up half way. It looked like it was just going to be one of those days. It’d been about 3 weeks since I climbed outdoors and it felt like I was starting from scratch!
Fortunately Gerhard wasn’t going to let me give up so easily and after a LONG battle and many ‘takes’, Jammy next to us suggested I use the crack to the left of the anchors and lean over.
Given the milestones I’m facing in my personal life… and the myriad of choices that lie ahead of me – I love the clarity that climbing brings. You only really need to focus on paying attention to where you find yourself and your next two moves.
Gerhard also had a slow start… caused by a caffeine induced Grand Prix heart. After we top-roped Goofy’s Gaf (grade 18). We recognized Tony Lourens and his sparkly wife, Patsy. I’d been meaning to email Tony to find out about the elusive Hermanus climbs. I thought it’d be a bit intrusive to do anything but smile at the party but they were so friendly to us, it was easy to ask.
Not only did Tony and Patsy remember us, they also had a good laugh about my reflections about them in the blog! I also found out that a number of my assumptions about their friends had been way off the mark. Funny how one guesses about the lives of others without even realising. This time Tony had a big group with him, including his Godson from France.
I also found out from Tony that the climbs at Hermanus are trad. If there were sport climbs they would’ve been in his Western Cape Rock Climbing Guide book. He also told me about the Garden Route climbs. The one closest to George is Wolverine and all I need to do, is phone and get permission from the property owner Mr Devine. Yay… Something devine to look forward to over Christmas!
Next up was Moaning Minnie (grade 17). Two very athletic women were tradding Crack-a-Doodle-Doo next to us. They were very encouraging and empathetic of my slow progress, suggesting beta when I looked stuck. It never ceases to surprise me, the way complete strangers love to help when it comes to someone struggling on the crag.
Perhaps I appreciate it even more because I’m usually shy to interfere with other people’s climbing or ask for help, even though that’s the kind of generous and spontaneous world I want to live in.
Patsy’s patient and supportive belaying, allowed her sporty Canadian friend to push her limits and make it past the crux to clean Goofie’s Gaf anchors. Aiden and his friend Mike were having a ball on Spotty Dog (grade 17). So we moved on to Getafix (grade 17), while the Roulette-capable ladies enjoyed Jam Crack (grade 19), just right of Undercling.
I learnt the hard way that a very high foot can cause an embarrassing knee crawl when you’re trying to mantel. Also discovered, it’s best to glance upwards before you stand when you’re on an overhanging climb! It was so good that I was leading with a helmet because my head crashed into that overhang ceiling with flair! Pretty symbolic of my current life journey… Many embarrassing hard knocks, yet strangely rewarding.
On the upside, a very cool looking climber in sunglasses offered some sympathetic remarks and somehow managed not to burst out laughing, although he did make a pretty quick getaway.
Getafix... this way down
Getafix… this way down
Gerhard flew up Getafix like the wizard he’s capable of being… a nice bouldery type start, plays to his strengths. Then he disappeared for a good while, while checking out Karlien and Cornflakes, a second pitch above the sport routes! Note for the future: Getafix is a slanting type climb so although it’s anchors are about 15 m above the ground our 30 metre rope was just too short!
The ladies who were tradding since the ‘Crack of Dawn’ said goodbye and I swear they hadn’t even broken a sweat. They merrily announced that they were off to a social… Something I could never do after surviving a morning climb like theirs!
I don’t like redo’ing climbs on the same day but I’m starting to realize why it’ll help me with my technique and efficiency. OK, so I publicly pledge to start my new mission: ‘Get a Life’.. At least try the things that are hard for me, stop fighting and have some fun… Like next time it’ll have to be multi pitch!

Penitent after Pinnacle

Cloud, rain and wind predictions made us sure that Pinnacle was an option because it would be quiet. Imagine our surprise when we arrived in the drizzle, only to meet half of UCT’s mountain climbing society on the crag!
Asterix Wall was tantamount to a Gaul fest… So we chose the company of an older crowd at The Disney Wall.
On the crag it’s hard not to get to know a few things about one’s fellow climbers, as one climbs in such close proximity. An experienced South African tradder and his wifeLouise and the red lake were introducing Pinnacle climbing to an experienced Italian climber, a lovely Canadian woman and a very determined Norwegian. We could see they were passionate about their climbing by some of their homemade climbing accessories and the spirit in which they introduced their friends to these well-loved local crags.
We started on an easy Donald’s Crack (17). We even had a dishcloth lanced by a QuickDraw, to mop up the drizzle puddles.
I overheard the tradder saying that he’s ‘opened’ some of the climbs on this crag! In addition to him being a ‘shit hot’ route setter and bolter, he also proved to be the most attentive husband that I’ve seen in a while… Pointing out that his wife shouldn’t stand too close to the edge of the mountain.
Next up was Mickey Moose (17). There was water trickling down sections of the climb which made it quite a mental challenge to lead. We also top roped Goofy’s Gaf (18) which shares the same anchors.
I asked if they thought Moaning Minnie (17) was do-able for us and the tradder encouraged us to give it a go.
The tradder’s wife’s name was Patsy, which I must say, rang a vague bell. We watched them climb Crack of Dawn and Undercling (19) and I had a feeling that the day was purely planned around giving their foreign friends the South African climbing experience of a lifetime.
Later Patsy referred to her husband as Tony when she offered me some of her water. After I went home the penny finally dropped. This humble and generous climber was Tony Lourens… He certainly practices the ‘climbing brotherhood’ that he writes about in his SA magazine editorials, as well as in the fantastic Bible-like Western Cape Rock guide that he puts together selflessly and in which we all place so much trust.
The weird thing is that before I’d put two and two together about who he was, I’d told my friends that while I was on holiday I read the most incredible article about a guy who started climbing at the age of 13, spent nights in the cable car station bunk beds and climbed 80 metre Arrow Final with very little prior climbing experience or instruction! Well, imagine my surprise when I realised that that boy and Tony Lourens are the same person.
I think I was meant to be inspired by him that day. I was impatient to do Undercling and unfortunately I made my intentions clear, to two lovely German climbers who I’m pretty sure would’ve climbed it if it wasn’t for my over assertive bossiness.
Well, in Gerhard’s words: the mountain makes us humble. I had a good fall just above the middle section of Undercling. After that, I quietened down for the first time that day and managed to finish the climb. Totally exhausted and literally whipped into submission… I returned to Terra Firma, resolving to work on my patient climbing spirit which had alluded me for most of the day.
Gerhard managed to complete Undercling too. He’d been calm, generous and patient all day. Just accepting what the mountain had to offer. Undercling didn’t run away, instead it came to him.
When the mountain has grabbed hold of your soul in a way that you 
Happy Birthday Ryan Rademan, the climber who first introduced me to Pinanacle, leading Magic Potion [photo from a previous visit]
Happy Birthday Ryan Rademan, the climber who first introduced me to Pinnacle [Magic Potion from a previous visit]
absolutely cannot describe to anyone who hasn’t had a similar experience… You just know that the things you learn up there are exactly what you need. I always grow when I’m climbing. This time I learnt that there are great leaders in the climbing world who practice what they preach in terms of conservation and crag ethics… Tony and Patsy Lourens certainly fall into that category!
I also wondered about the extent to which I and also the younger generation live up to and will be able to pass on these ethics to others…
Werner, Roland and the gang were very entertaining but we all have a long way to go in terms of being climbing role models. I realised that the oldest generation amongst us, was clearly in a different league, altogether.
One thing I will say, is that despite the rainbow of diversity on that crag, there was a unifying harmony that the climbing rhythm of things instilled in us. There is always hope, especially because the mountain has a way of bringing a natural order to any form of entropy.

Blowing Kleinmond

 

Kleinmond ocean beckons
Kleinmond ocean beckons

The gale force got Nick’s knickers in a twist and he tried to phone us about 6 times, so we could find a more sheltered destination for climbing. Fortunately all our phones were on silent because this turned out to be a day not to be missed!

Beauty and the king of the beast were already on ‘Spits or Swallows’ (level 17) and Marie was getting her first outdoor belay and climbing 101 intensive course from Nick who was looking super chilled… As if this is the easiest and most common way of introducing someone to climbing.

Despite Marie’s ‘finishing school’ look… She proved to be a very serious athlete and brave climber, who likes to complete her challenges! Just the kind of partner for ‘Gung Ho’ Nick.

Marie on Elementary
Nick guiding Marie on Elementary

In contrast, the rest of us just lazed about for at least half an hour after our walk in. In fact, if I wasn’t encouraged to just start leading ‘Elementary’ (17)… I may have opted for basking on a rock all day, just to avoid the wind and any form of physical exertion. I got Elvis legs about 3 m up! Grant followed with a very focused ‘Matt Bush’-type style that helped me see the benefits of ritual in sport.

It's Elementary dear Watson
It’s Elementary dear Watson

Vanessa and Gerhard also needed to warm up their climbing minds before taking on Elementary again: more relaxed and with better technique the 2nd time around. Vanessa is the smallest but ironically also the most solid belayer that we know!

Joy
Joy from above Elementary [photographer – Nick]
Ryan and Marie embracing the rock
Ryan and Marie embracing the rock

Ryan and Nick didn’t waste any time getting onto Ryan’s favourite Balene (24). Both of them ended up leading her beautifully… Ryan just had to shake off the outdoor climbing cobwebs first. Ryan was in top form when it came to providing a swear word punctuated comedian commentary on the day! We all agreed with Nick that Ryan’s the kind of essential ingredient one should always pack in your back pack if happiness is what you’re after.

Mark pitched up just as Ryan was rethinking Balene. In the time that it takes us to put on our shoes… Mark put down his thin crash mat and ascended Balene like a man who’s befriended that mountain. I’m not someone who believes in free solo climbing but I don’t judge because I know from personal experience that certain unique behavior is sometimes necessary for survival (even if, ironically enough, like it is in Mark’s case, it is life threatening!) Many will say that he could do those climbs in his sleep and therefor it’s not dangerous… I work for a big life insurance company though and my mind is trained to go through all the risk mitigation permutations, so I beg to differ.

Mark Free Solo Mountain Man
Mark Free Solo Mountain Man
Mark, the olive-skinned chameleon (with no rope and belay partner) blended beautifully with the sandstone. I wondered how often he did this workout.. Just a little drive away from his home in Gordon’s Bay. His eyes were interested in something that we couldn’t offer him and unless you managed to engage him on something climbing related, he was more comfortable conversing with nature.
We also gave Run Away (22) a go… I graciously let Mark have the joy of leading it and only barely managed to follow on top rope.
Gerhard and I spent a happy hour on ‘Beers are us’ (21) and probably managed to do it in the hardest possible way. Nick showed us how a few simple arm jams could save a lot of energy.
Marie taking Lady Boys in her stride!
Marie taking Lady Boys in her stride!

Gerhard and Marie enjoyed themselves on ‘The best l’il whorehouse in Pat Pong’ (18) and ‘Lady Boys’ (17) that had beams of magical sunlight dancing through the rock passage. Nick did some horizontal handstands at the top.

Nick inspired to defy gravity on 'The best l'il whorehouse'
Nick inspired to defy gravity on ‘The best l’il whorehouse’

He also ended up climbing more than he had to because similar to my 11 year old, his reflex was to pull at any rope hanging nearby. Needless to say the climber whose rope it was, stood by flabbergasted as the other end started disappearing up the crag!

Lady Boys and Nick
Marie looking after Nick on ‘Lady Boys’

Grant projected 18m Zuchini (19)  and some of us top roped the flakey beaut. Vanessa’s gymnastics and arm intensive bouldering-style ballet was fun to witness.

Zuchini Dancer V
Zuchini Dancer V
Nick lead the tricky and overhangy ‘Bangkok Betty’ (22). Gerhard also had some fun with her but warned me about her dark side, so I decided it’d be best to face her next time.
I wanted to give ‘Lady Boys’ a go but in true Louise character, chickened out at the last minute. It was one of those days that just flew by, before we knew it and despite Ryan wanting to climb more (no surprises there), the lengthening shadows told me, it’s time to go! Unwilling but exhausted I said goodbye to the sparkling waterfall just across the valley and used the Palmiet River to draw me back to the car park and then reality… Something I can face again once I’ve had a day with friends where all that matters is the next small step up the crag!

Hellfire acrobatics

The impressive wingspan of the Booted Eagle soaring up above was an indication to me that I’d made the right choice, dragging my injured coccyx to this merciless but magical mountain.

It was inspiring to me to see how, our climbing god Ryan had come along despite a very serious and agonizing groin strain! He was loving this place, not with the perspective of an injured climber who wanted to climb but couldn’t. Instead he was looking with an eye on the future that he was adjusting to make space for climbing in beautiful places more regularly, something that he could feel would give him the energy he’d been missing!

Ryan doing a Tom Sawyer, loving life
Ryan doing a Tom Sawyer, loving life
Hellfire Prow and Wall of Flames didn’t know what had hit it. Nick lead Flintstone (level 17) and Penguins from Hell (21… not) and had also top roped Sideburn (19) and redid, plus down-climbed Flintstone  by 11h00!
Anelda contemplating the crags
Anelda contemplating the crags

Anelda knocked all of our socks off with her focussed and determined first outdoor climbing effort at Flintstone. Thanks to Crossfit power, mental clarity and being able to follow a few clear instructions in the crux section, she was rewarded with an anchor view of the Du Toit’s Kloof.

Gerhard sprinted to the top with Nick on belay, only just managing to keep up with the speed at which he needed to take up slack.

On fire above the Wall of Flames
On fire above the Wall of Flames

Tammy had come, to find a glimmer of fun and had a good swing and exploratory climb which was somewhat curtailed because the rest of us were mapping out her possible trajectories and made the call that they required some curbing today.

Graceful Tammy flies like Tinkerbell
Graceful Tammy flies like Tinkerbell

Free at heart Tammy, was flying against all odds and it was inspiring to watch!

Candice was having a quiet and relaxed day, satisfied to watch and support in her selfless and adoring way.
Candice and Gerhard in The Pit of Despair
Candice and Gerhard in The Pit of Despair

Next was the Pit of Despair. Ryan was struck by the beauty of it. His commentary on the 30+ m climbs: ‘You’d be pumped if you did these climbs in an elevator!’

It was pretty delightful for Candice, Anelda and I to watch, from the platform above the Pit, how Nick lead the Beast (level 25) over the pit’s opposite ceiling overhang until about halfway up the climb. His inspired knee bar was an athletic achievement that deserved to be recorded.
Knee bar to survive the overhang
Nick, my ‘cousin’ a few times removed, unpuzzling the overhang
one, two, three... swing
one, two, three… swing
David completed the horny and at times, slippery Beast. Finishing off what, I thought, was a fantastic team effort!
David get's the beast to smile, leading us to dizzy heights
David get’s the beast to smile, leading us to dizzy heights
Tammy, Anelda and Gerhard  all did some swinging across the Pit so that they could get a chance to play with the Beast. Anelda and Tammy did some impressive gymnastics on Nick and Gerhard’s shoulders to aim for the point in the climb that they wanted to start from. Watching the siblings have fun together, took me back to adventurous antics that my brother Robin and I used to get up to. Nick lived up to his disciplined image and finished what he started.. memorizing every single move.
You wouldn’t have said it was Winter… The joys of living in Africa… If you plan well enough, you ‘ll find the sun! Ryan and I hadn’t climbed at all and the fact that we needed to leave soon was weighing heavy on us (our injuries were getting in the way of the one sure thing that would help us make it through the week)!

Ryan soaking up the sun
Ryan soaking up the sun

It would take too long to get to the easy climbs at Melting Pot, Nick saved the day for us by finding a boulder nearby, with top anchors.

I basically tickled the boulder before I was ready for my next consoling meal. Ryan was next up. In a flurry of religious and other familial curses, Ryan made one-legged progress with mind over matter!

Bonding at the Boulder
Bonding at the Boulder

Gerhard wasn’t going to miss out on this puzzle although his body and mind were wasted from the weight of responsibility and physical toll that the ever attentive lead belaying had put on him. Against all odds and with a lot of brotherly support from Nick he had a go at it. Nick tried the level 20 section and got far but was exhausted before he started.

Man of the mountain
Man of the mountain
Most of us were so tired by the time we left…we didn’t even want to drive. Anelda, a cross fit athlete, looked like she could’ve handled more and we were glad to hear she’d try and come again sometime!

Swinging across Hellfire trumps despair

The day before was sopping but Hellfire was going to happen come rain or shine. Saturday looked pretty cloudy as we sprinted up the Lemietberg Reserve. The Wall of Flames was drier than the main Hellfire crag which was losing so much water from the cold wind, it looked like it was raining!

 

We started with Flintstone (level 17) on Hellfire Prow. There was a trickle coming down the side of it but one could just avoid that area. Without breathing a word, Nick made leading the 30m climb look like a synch. Nick was humoring us by providing us with something that we could climb. It was a good place to start and I enjoyed the view from the top – tempted to sit on the ledge and stare at the horizon forever.

Hellfire Prow
Hellfire Prow

 

Nick top roped the Sideburn trad route (level 19). Swinging across the abyss to avoid wetness… Nick started what would turn out to be a real go-with-the-flow kind of day. The excitement of the arête and the overhang made it a worthwhile climb for Gerhard too… Who enjoys a puzzle more than an easy climb. I was watching the 2 black Eagles own the valley but one minute of distraction caused me to lose them forever. Where did they go so fast… Probably to what looked like the mountain of Mordor, in its own shadow, directly opposite us. It was great having Nick with us because his flawless beta on parts we’d never climbed, saved the day a number of times; he has that real generous climbing spirit and there were more opportunities to have a break because of our uneven number.

 

Jean Luc, Tammy and Gypsey arrived just as we were sharing some well earned dark chocolate. Jean Luc, as pale as a ghost that couldn’t have breakfast, looked like he could use some sugar after the 45 degree mountain he’d just ascended. While Jean Luc enjoyed Sideburn; Tammy and Nick did the super high ‘Scorched Earth’. Tammy was determined not to cheat and her sound effects made her climb very entertaining.

 

We moved on to ‘Trials and Tribulations’ (level 20) while Tammy and Jean Luc basked on a rock, giving Tammy’s knee some time to recover. The Pit of Despair is like a cave and in Winter it can feel like a refrigerator. Nick made leading it look easy, even though he said he was out of practice. There were many other climbers, so he had to forego the assistance with which his favourite songs would provide his mojo. Gerhard is great at belaying and everyone trusts his firm and attentive style! A climber’s confidence can be made or broken purely because of belay style.

 

Gerhard did extremely well too… His quiet progress also disguised what was really a horrendously challenging climb.

Nick being the positive energy for Trials and Tribulations
Nick being the positive energy for Trials and Tribulations

 

I was dying for my turn until I realized just how hard it was and started insulting all my supporters, indiscriminately. Lots of high legs and horizontal moves. Nick fortunately didn’t hold my insults against me and proved to be a great motivator in times of mental crisis, when one thinks one’s reached one’s limit. I just followed his beta obediently and blossomed in the shower of praise from Nick, Gerhard, Jean Luc and Tammy!

 

Having a group of really special friends makes challenges fun… At least up to the point where you’re tremouring from exhaustion, scared out of your mind because you’re plummeting wildly into the pit of despair… At that point your friends become your survival… My mind went awol and panic set in. My legs were flailing like a trapped insect’s. This caused me to swing wildly, which just heightened my swinging phobia. With nothing solid to hold onto… the anchoring guidance from Nick became crucial. I managed to get to the outstretched hands of Nick and Jean Luc. They guided me into a sitting position because I was besides myself and stood the risk of toppling us all over into Despair. Breathing heavily I allowed my tremours to subside.

 

Next up was my antithesis, Chick Norris… Tammy shocked the hell out of Hellfire when she took a flying leap to embrace the Beast on what was clearly going to be a successful 1st attempt. Although she was obviously on belay we expected some mental preparation for this athletic swing.

Tammy mid swing
Tammy mid swing

She stuck to the crag and immediately started straight up the level 25. As if that wasn’t spectacular enough, when she heard there was a carabiner up for grabs… She traversed over to Down in the Doldrums and merrily retrieved it just before swinging back to safety.

 

Nick did the Beast beautifully. His use of heel hooks was superb and something spectacular for us to behold! His persistence and wisdom to downclimb a little for safe breaks while figuring out beta, showed that a little duplication of effort can be the most effective way to make progress.

 

Jean Luc, in his Legolas elf-like and effortless looking way… Sailed up the beast as far as he could.

Jean Luc enjoying The Beast
Jean Luc enjoying The Beast

 

Gerhard followed with a joyful swing and super technique up the overhanging steps that make the Beast such a formidable and attractive creature!

Gerhard in his element
Gerhard in his element

 

What a day. Everyone wanted me to attempt the swing across to the crags. My nerves were shot. I would face that phobia from another angle on another day. That day and at that point I couldn’t cope with more adventure… I needed terra firma because everything else felt uncertain.

 

A priceless experience which I will hold close to my heart forever. Days like that are one of the reasons I love living in this country and the reason I will start believing in myself!

 

Cracking up: For Robin

Ryan Leading ANC
Ryan Leading ANC

Van Hunks seemed to be in a slumber as we shared a flask of coffee and our favorite trail-mix before attempting a new climb; Another Nefarious Crack.

Earlier that eve, David told me the horror story of how a girls’ head had been cracked open on that climb.  He witnessed it and couldn’t really give me detail as the emotion of that day was clearly burnt into his soul.  Ryan made me feel more at ease – ‘everything went wrong when she attempted it – she went off route and got herself in a precarious position, the rope was behind her leg, she had slack in her hand’…

Yes, we are always aware of the dangers.  No matter if one tries to do everything right, one’s mind is bound to fail you some time or another. The belayer is the fail-safe and it’s up to him / her to keep the climber alert at all times.

We dedicated this climb to Robin Walton.  I never met him, but I had a feeling he joined us, as all fear left the Quarry.

Gerhard Top Roping ANC
Gerhard Top Roping ANC

Ryan lead ANC and set up a top rope with ease. The rock spat Louise off after a very good attempt (Crack climbing is fairly new to us and it’s all about using the right technique.)

This climb requires hand-jams, loads of smearing and good body positioning.  To trust a sweaty rock will take me a few years as ‘I hate this *&^% rock’ is perpetually roaming my thoughts – it even smells bad!

Halfway up the climb I asked Ryan to belay me down as everything in my body was hurting.  He just laughed at me and continued a casual conversation with Louise while I sat in my usual foetal position against the wall, trying to get my heart rate down.

Even though I couldn’t feel my fingertips anymore and my forearms were pumped to the max, I knew I needed to do this…

Come to think of it, I’ve got no idea how I continued the climb, I just remembered a big smile on my face as my friends and strangers cheered as I completed the last move. Shaking, breathing hard and with sweat dripping down my back, I joined them at the bottom – I’ve just completed my first 21+!!

And all thanks to my beloved climbing buddies 😉

As the sun was setting, we made our way to another crack called ‘Digital Crack’. Once again Ryan flew up with ease and this time round Louise showed great determination to face another brand new climb, finishing it off with an impressive traverse to the next door anchors, as this climbs’ anchors have seen better days. We did what we came here for – celebrating life; Happy birthday Rob!

Robin Frederick Walton

1971 – 1989

Our playground – City Rock

I was having the usual annual panic about where my 10 year old could have his next party because it falls in Winter and I’m always on the look-out for fun indoor activities. A colleague of mine suggested I check out the City Rock indoor climbing gym in Observatory.

After the boys had one taste of City Rock, Kieran was adamant that his party had to be there! Although I always say I’m looking for these activities for the boys, I’m a bit hyper myself and was so frustrated that I’d been ‘grounded’ by my plastic surgeon, who said climbing will make my fresh scar look worse. I couldn’t wait to be given permission to climb.

The party was a huge success because even the boys who arrived saying that they’re afraid of heights or that they’d first just like to watch and learn… ended up needing no encouragement to climb up right to the top of the walls. One feels very safe being attached to a rope in the hands of a supportive and friendly instructor.

Gerhard bouldering - Transact for the win
Gerhard bouldering – Transact for the win

I realised pretty soon that I should acquire belay skills if I wanted to avoid having to spend a fortune on my boys’ new climbing obsession. Fortunately Gerhard was looking for a partner with whom to do the lead course. His sister was his belay partner but was finding it hard to balance her brother’s climbing addiction with her demanding Cross Fit schedule.

Louise with sore arm
Louise with sore arm

Within weeks I’d learnt how to belay and was preparing for the lead course. You can’t climb alone and you also need to climb with people you really trust. A climbing partner needs to be super reliable given that it’s a life or death responsibility. I expected to wait about a year before doing the lead course but because Gerhard was on an incremental learning curve and because he relied on me to be his belayer, I was forced to try and keep up. He passed first time.

Ryan Beta-ing
Ryan Beta-ing

Unfortunately my first lead test ended in failure. Gerhard fell at least 3 metres while leading because when he asked for slack I thought he was planning to clip and gave him at least 2 metres of rope just before he did a fall test. Well let’s just say that I lifted off the ground with the force of momentum from his fall and our examiner was just relieved that no one was injured!

Anyway, I like to think that one learns a huge amount from failures and that I’ve become one of the most responsible and proactive belayers that I know.

It was great to be able to belay my boys for free. Lead climbing (once I eventually passed the test) is a huge thrill because you lead above the bolted rope which means that you could fall about 2 to 3 metres. Amazing how that helps one focus on climbing well!

Our climbing home with one of the best climbers - Matt Bush
Our climbing home with one of the best climbers – Matt Bush

My boys loved watching the guys like Ryan bouldering. Bouldering is done without ropes and above crash mats. The fact that you solve the puzzle your way makes it very interesting. I struggle with the overhangs which require extremely good climbing technique and sometimes you just can’t avoid pumpy arm work. We were lucky enough to watch Matt Bush coaching students to climb with tennis balls in jugs, that forces them to rely on legs and avoid pulling themselves up using pure arm strength.

Ryan in foetal position after a memorable bouldering session
Ryan in foetal position after a memorable bouldering session

The rest is history and recorded in my blogs… Soon our instructor friends were inviting us on outdoor excursions and my world changed completely. Since experiencing the miracle of climbing outdoors (Lakeside Pinnacle was my first) and watching the sun set after a strenuous day of challenge and excitement, you’ll always crave that single-minded focus and feeling of tired satisfaction.

Redhill – against all odds

Our gearbox broke on the way to Simon’s Town and I decided that the best way to get us to the closest garage on a street named Paradise Road, would be to pray.
There were ten of us going bouldering, four of whom had gone on ahead. We couldn’t let our tourists from Germany and Denmark down… damn, we couldn’t let ourselves down – how would we get through the next week without our climbing endorphins?
We managed to rent a car and within an hour or two we tore Ryan away from his jungle gym pull ups. We set off with two big crash mats strapped to the top of our scratch free Hyundai!
John and his 3 kids had fortunately kept themselves entertained at Kalk Bay Harbour while they waited.
We used ClimbZA to find Redhill. The walk in was about three quarters of an hour, a very good warm up when you have crash mats on your back.
Gerhard beta'ing Crowd Control
Gerhard beta’ing Crowd Control

 

Crowd Control is impressive… The entire route, except for the finale is done hanging from the ceiling. The Boulder mushrooms out and upwards.

Ryan acing Crowd Control and Vanessa in doll mode
Ryan acing Crowd Control and Vanessa in doll mode

Ryan, in the focussed and disciplined way that only he can boulder, systematically and painstakingly kept getting further. Each attempt requiring a huge amount of physical and mental energy!

Unfortunately we’d forgotten our brush and the rock was very dirty and hard to get a handle on.
Gerhard's drop knee that helped him to the top
Gerhard’s drop knee that helped him to the top

Gerhard and Ryan also climbed up right to the top of the boulder … Making it look like a piece of cake. Somehow despite only having discovered climbing 3 months ago… Gerhard made it look like he’d been bouldering for his whole life. Grabbing the chunky rock like a wrestler and working his way up using leg and arm embraces. Leonard, our very own breakdancer from Germany, was thrilled about eventually making it to the top. I was only able to summit, once I’d tried to down-climb and was forced to jump off the boulder… that reassured me that I wouldn’t die, if I fell climbing up.

Ryan motivating Vanessa on her way up
Ryan motivating Vanessa on her way up

Vanessa gave me some tips without which I would’ve given up the challenge. None of us would’ve got as far as we did that day if it wasn’t for the way we support and motivate one another just by being there to witness each other’s progress!

Ryan comforting Vanessa after difficult climb
Ryan comforting Vanessa after difficult climb

This was the day that I realised, as much as it scares me to face my fears… it also attracts and excites me! I kept going back for more and even when my fear got the better of me, I enjoyed staring it straight in the face and that made me leave Redhill with a broad smile.

The walk back was unforgettably beautiful and serene in its quiet camaraderie!