Monday, 14 November 2011

On rock and ropes

This weekend I was out at Waterval Boven for a wedding and yesterday I climbed for the first time in many, many years.

I've always liked the sport of climbing but it has never been a focus. At varsity I would climb the wall against the library every O Week (orientation week, held the week before lectures began) and it must have been in second or third year when I was tied to the Mountain Club's table until I joined. I did one trip out to Northcliff, which was fun.

Through adventure racing I've been exposed to ropes - up, down, across - so I'm really comfortable hanging off ropes, I know a couple of knots and I'm familiar with carabiners, harnesses, ascenders and descenders... I'm happy to walk or hang off anything - rope attached - and I don't get nervous about it. This familiarity helps, but it certainly doesn't come close to making me a climber.

Yesterday, Gustav from Roc 'n Rope took us out to play. He's well known to adventure racers from his years of rigging ropes sections at Swazi Xtreme (he recalls that he was at eight of the 10 events). It has taken me a while to join the dots but I knew many other climbers at the wedding from seeing them 'around'. They've been on Gustav's crew at the races. I'm usually so focused at races that superficially I'm interactive but I don't remember much later. I recognise the faces, have a good feeling about the person and have no idea where I know them from. The penny is dropping slowly.

So, the first climb, Charlie led, clipping the rope in as he progressed. Gustav followed and set up a top rope - I'm definitely in no position to lead. Goodness gracious. And then up I went; but it wasn't smooth sailing. The route was a short one and is reputedly a 'tight 16' - it verges on 17. Ja, this doesn't meant to much to me except that I found it helluva challenging. Burning hand muscles - totally unfamiliar holds and grips - and burning forearms.

Charlie ascends with infinitely more experience and style than me. Gustav below.
I learned to lay back, where my hands were in a crack, my feet pushing against rock (not away from the rock but parallel) and my body to the side against the face. That was fun.

"I must put my hand where?"
At one point I said to Gustav that he could lower me down - my forearms felt like they would pop if I went an inch higher. Instead, he kindly let me sit on the rope to let my arms and hands rest and the guys shouted guidance as to where to look for next holds. I made the top - not very gracefully.

At the top! Gustav, totally at home on rock.
We moved on to another spot. Here we met up with other wedding guests, who were making good work of more challenging faces. One of these was Peter Lazarus, the guy who 'found' Waterval Boven and opened it as a climbing spot.

I wasn't totally keen to climb because my hands and forearms still felt so whacked, but both Gustav and Charlie said that it was way better than the first one; a solid 16 with a friendlier face, ledges to rest on and more holds.

Again Gustav leads, to set up another top rope on this second climb.
I'm glad they convinced me to give it a go because on this one I had way more fun and didn't feel as much like a trout trying to swim up a salomon's river. There were a few places where my technique seriously lacked elegance and others where I felt like I was doing the right thing, shifting my weight well, using my legs and finding good holds. It's quite a kick.

The wedding was lovely, the weekend was restful as well as social and playful. I also had a lovely forest run with Kyle (he spoke at FEAT Jo'burg in October last year) and a yoga session with Charlie, munched mulberries and even got in a swim - in a swimming pool (doesn't happen often!).

In the driver's seat

Running with Kyle - he's as light-footed as a bokkie
I can spend ages picking and eating mulberries! A favourite summer past-time. Charlie rediscovered this treat (seems they don't have mulberry trees in Cape Town).
It is interesting to compare what I'm used to with the climbing 'scene'. As adventure racing types, when we play we head out for a spot - say a run at Suikerbosrand - and we say hi, go run for a few hours, say bye and head home. Climbing is very much a whole day or weekend sport where the environment is really social. Then there are the multiday trips and expeditions... in AR our multiday races are fun and social, in their own way, but it is different. It's not an 'around the campfire' getaway. I was chatting to Piers about this; he's a cross-over with one foot in AR and mulitsport and the other in this climbing and exploration community.

Boven is an awesome place to go play. It's about a 2h30 drive from Jo'burg, there are tons of accommodation options (check out Gustav's Roc 'n Rope page) and you can run, bike, climb and chill to your heart's content. My first time in the town, even though I've driven past it countless times.

My previous battery recharging only lasted a few days. I think this one will last a little longer.


MizFit said...

new to you.
in awe of you.
off to explore the archives :)

Stijn said...

Hell yeah - Boven rocks! Glad you enjoyed. Lemme guess: the routes you climbed were Grizzly Behrs and Little Bonsai?

Some good quality climbing that.

adventurelisa said...

MizFit - enjoy. Not quite the same stuff that you're doing but plenty fun all the same.

Stijn - the first one may have been one of the two you mention. The second was not either of these names. Further along the wall - maybe 50-100m further down the path? Quite a big section with many routes - some 23s - that other climbers were on. Ours (on the right of the face) was the easiest of the bunch. To the left there was even an overhang. Our route was a one-word name...

Stijn said...

Hmmm... don't think I've done that one. Was it Hey Mama? Cheating with the route guide now... ;-)

Gustav said...

'Lucy' was the last one.