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,


  1. Jeebus Kevin, that shizzle looks amazing! Glad the whole crew is sending, stay safe and have fun.

  2. Thanks for the update. Dude you are nuts! That arete looks very scary.

  3. Wow, despite many gym sessions at vertex, I realize we've never climbed together outside. Hopefully next time we're in the same area at the same time this could change! Well done in rocklands man, stay on point. The place sounds incredible.

  4. lovely stuff! Gorgeous