Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome to Rocklands

After 26 hours of flying and 36 hours of straight travel, I've made it home. What an amazing trip. I don't know where to begin but with the most spectacular view I've encountered at any climbing area I've ever been to:
To say that Rocklands is vast is an understatement. It is literally unquantifiable. "Rocklands" as we know it today consists of the climbing at the northern tip of the Cederberg Wilderness Area, which covers over 360 square miles. Bouldering will continue to be developed as long as people are willing to hike. What makes the development so much work however, is the fact that maybe .5% of the rock out there is the rock you want to climb on. So, more times than not, you will spend a few hours hiking to a new zone only to find a few lines worth climbing. However, new areas are out there, hidden in the valleys, waiting to be found. I'm sure of it.

Early in the trip, the crew went to the Roadcrew area. Psyched to explore, I dropped my pad, put on my small Kompressor pack and started running around. Not more than 100 yards from the super classic v9, Last Day in Paradise, I saw this:
I was attracted to the precarious nature of this boulder, overhanging over a precipice, isolated on top of a cliff, with an amazing view. As you can see from the rope, a fall from anywhere on the line would land you off the cliff. To start, you walk to where the boulder and the cliff meet to grab the start holds. Even a fall from here would be game ending.

Photo: Jamie Emerson

Photo: Jamie Emerson

Photo: Jamie Emerson

Despite the relatively short nature of the climb (maybe 18 feet), the exposure, commitment and the wide open landscape add an exciting element, making you buzz with excitement while on the climb.

Being motived purely by aesthetics lately, this climb was as good as they get for me. Relatively easy physically, allowing you to enjoy the climbing despite the danger, yet totally gorgeous.

I will continue to post more photos as I get them. Until then, I highly recommend you check out Jamie's website, b3bouldering.com, where he is doing an amazing job chronicling the trip.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

South Africa Update

We have been in Rocklands for 12 days now and this only my third rest day. The weather has been unbelievably good. Nothing but blue skies and a cool breeze each and every day. This makes it hard to rest when the weather is so amazing. There are 8 of us in the Ehran house right now: me, Chuck, Sarah, Flannery, Stephanie, Jamie, Nalle and Nelson.

Everyone seems to be hitting their stride and sending hard. Sarah, Flan and Steph all sent Last Day in Paradise, v9. Jamie has done Oral Office, v12/13 and a slew of other hard stuff. Chuck did Green Mamba, v13, totally static and in about 25 minutes and Nelson crushed Caroline, v9, in between days of hauling Chuck's Red One camera around (which by the way is taking amazing footage of all the action.)

I've been totally overwhelmed with the amount of rock here. It's mind blowing. As far as the eye can see is rock. We are at the northern tip of the Cederberg Wilderness, climbing on, and seeing, only a fraction of a percent of what is out here.

We have been visiting the classic, more established areas so far, and even these still hold first ascent potential. Nalle and I found a new sector the other day and he knows of another new area from last year. The amount of climbing to be done here is only limited by your willingness to hike. And hike we do.

I've been trying to balance my attention between repeating classic problems and seeking out new first ascents. I haven't been doing a very good job. Everywhere I look is another striking line. I just love standing at the base of a labyrinth of rock, picking out the most beautiful line I can see from a mile away, and going to climb it. Below are three projects that I have done so far.

The first is a nice tufa-like feature on a gently overhanging wall. What makes it interesting however is its position. The boulder is perched on top of a 20 foot cliff and overhangs over the edge. To get to the start holds, you walk along the base of the perched boulder until you are where the edge of the cliff and the base of the boulder meet. With 30 feet of air under your heels, you pull on and make a long, committing, crux move before continuing up easier yet engaging terrain. I called this one "Welcome to Rocklands" for its position as part of the landscape.

Next up was a nice orange wall at the Roadcrew Area. What drew me to climb it was the awesome natural thread half way up and the fact that in the glowing evening light, the wall appears to be on fire. I think the reason I am drawn to climbing, especially highballs, is because for an instant, a brief, fleeting moment in time, you can be a part of the amazing landscape in which we recreate. Afterward, all that is left is footprints and chalk, which too will fade with time, leaving the boulders to remain as they were and will continue to be for millions of years.

At the top of my project list was a beautiful, 30 foot ships prow at the top of the Roadside Area. It too is sitting perched between other boulders, suspended. Instantly committing, technical, balance intensive, and with a last move smearing crux, this line is one of the boldest I've taken on in a while. Because of the tree and bush filled gully of a landing, it is impossible to protect with crashpads and certainly a solo. After spending two sessions on a rope learning the blind hand movements on the arete, body tension intense foot movements, and sickeningly scary barndoor-smear last move, I was as ready as I was ever going to be. There is a point where if you rehearse for too long, it gets inside your head to the point where you never commit. I find its best to learn the moves, but to leave your instinct in tact.

Listening to John Coltrane's Love Supreme album at the base, I sat, letting the percussion, piano, and bass wash my anxiety away. When I took my headphones off, the air was somehow more silent than before. As always, when I started climbing my mind grew quiet and my senses hummed with acute awareness. There are times to be relaxed and there are times to be aggressive with certain climbs. This line has both. After the technical arete moves is the final crux. Standing on a bad smear that does not stabilize you from the right hand sidepull, you must land your left hand into a slot before your body peals away from the wall. It was here I remember taking two long breaths before letting out a yell and getting it done. I've decided to call it Put Some Bachar Into It in memory of the legend himself, John Bachar. He was a true legend and inspiration.

The list of projects and areas to explore remains long, but at the top of the list now is The Airstar Project. Easily the most athletic, unique, and gymnastic climbs ever, this will be a true gem when completed. It features a gigantic pogo move to cover a huge distance between holds on a beautiful overhanging wall at the Roadside Area. I've put four days into it already and its hard to tell if success is close or not with such a unique move. I am certain it will get done this season, but by who? We will see!

On the next rest day I will try to get some climbing photos up from the projects.

Until next time,