Friday 21 September 2012

The Rocklands Post

Rocklands 2012 writeup,
It has been a while coming, and that is due in large part to most of my time being spent either at work, climbing, training or editing the photos and video from the trip.
Naturally this means that I have a lot of media from the trip, some of which I consider to be quite good, some of which less so.

Now to start this off I’ll begin by saying that the area we were based in is absolutely stunning in terms of scenery, not to mention the quality of the climbing. However, it is only natural to encounter some small (and large) problems when engaging in a long trip (especially to a place as large and sparse as South Africa), but we’ll come to those in a moment.

I didn’t really do a great deal of research into the areas and the climbs that were out there, except for a slight perception of soft grades from quite a few people who have gone already (as you may have seen Michelle Caminati is one of the chief proponents of this point of view, and if you look at his scorecard, you will see this in action)

Anyway, I went out with the intention of doing only 3 specific climbs, two of which were at my current grade cap and the other was well beyond. Fortunately, after a huge amount of effort, I managed to do all three of them before the end of the trip. Which has left me a bit mentally drained for these last few weeks.

The list consisted of:

Pinotage (7B+)
The Rhino (7B+)
And Caroline (7C+)

Everything else was just a bonus after that, although I did manage to find some real gems while I was climbing with the rest of the group.

I don’t really know how to go about writing up the trip, and I perhaps should have tried to write some blog posts while I was actually out there instead of trying to write an overview right now. But now I have a great deal to write about, and I don’t want it all to get too long and boring.

So instead, I will let some of my photos along with captions and the trip videos do the talking.

My first picture is actually of a climb I failed to complete, but I think it does a really nice job of summing up our day to day activity out in SA. We would wake up, dirtbag it out to the crag at whatever time, and climb up way above the plain to climb in the shadows and sit in the sun.
And that is what we did for about 4 weeks.

Another fine example of the scenery that we climbed with every day, the rock has this incredible orange colour to it that just looks super inspiring when you are searching for new problems. The friction on the holds is generally pretty good considering the heat, this is because they tend to be quite incut, which makes for quite indoorsy problems with many sequences.

One day when it was bitterly cold and windy in the pass, we made our way down to 'The Rhino' for a few attempts before heading home. I got some perfect beta from a couple of cool sheffielders, shared some pads and I actually climbed it second attempt!

This was an incredible 7B+ arete called Zanzibar that I did fairly quickly (Caminati called it a 6C but hey probably was a bit easy) After I did it, I got into photo mode and got shooting. Just before the sun went over the hill on the other side of the valley, I managed to take this picture.

Sassies climbing area is a 45 minute hike up a sandy hill, but when you get up there you are greeted by some of the best problems in the Rocklands. One of them was this one - Pinotage.
I had to spend 3 sessions on this in the end, the first was with the strong German troupe of climbers with Julianne Wurm and Jan Hojer. Naturally they both pissed it and I was left flailing around as the sun crept round the arete.
The second session was a bit shorter still, as we had one of those problems I mentioned in the opening paragraphs. One of the larger types...largely involving Doug and an epic trip to the hospital.

Doug fell from quite high, maybe 6 or 7 meters, onto a distinct lack of padding and an unfortunate spotter. After a 4 hour rescue operation (remember the 45 minute hike uphill?) during which Doug was put at ease with a whole one ibuprofen and one paracetamol. When he reached the hospital (after a 2 hour 4x4 ride down the hike. Followed by a half hour ride in the back of an ambulance aka. converted van) he was given some of the worst pain killers known to mankind.
The upshot of this experience is that I have learnt not to break my leg when I am halfway up a South African hill.

Finally, Caroline. This was a huge step up for me, and it took a huge effort to achieve it.
Over about 6 or 7 sessions, I worked out beta, reworked beta, gave up permanently, tried it again, found new beta, reconciled beta with existing beta, made some links, made some attempts, caught the penultimate hold, got a giant split on my tip.

Gave up,



Drove 3 hours,
Warmed up,

I was so happy, I felt like there was an overarching story to the trip that was at risk of going unfinished, and after falling so close to the end - a week earlier - and getting the split that I thought was going to end my trip, I was starting to get a little vexed.

I wasnt sure whether the call to get up early, and drive for 3 hours to potentially fail again was a good idea. But when I caught the top hold and scrambled over the top, any thought of the drive in, or drive back or petrol costs, or time invested were instantly replaced with a combination of happiness and relief at having finally clawed my way up a piece of South African rock.

After this, my psyche left.
All gone.

I had drained myself of mental energy, and I didn't even know it could happen.

The next few days seemed to fly past, I wasnt really climbing much, just mooching and occasionally pawing ineffectually at the rock. On the last day of the trip we drove the 3 hour trip to Rocklands one last time to say goodbye and pick up a friend.

I managed to find a bit of last day psyche inspired by Dave Graham's incredible energy and did a bunch of classics before attempting the highball 7C arete - 'Tomorrow I will be gone'.
Unfortunately it was too hot for it, and I didnt have enough pads, or spotters and the psyche wasnt quite right. But next time we go, I am heading straight to that boulder because it is a beaut.

As you may be able to tell from the previous sentence, I thoroughly intend to return in the future.

The climbing was incredible, the people were not completely unbearable, and the scenery and food were superb.

I'd be interested in going elsewhere as well, but Rocklands is definitely towards the top of my list.

Anthony - we should have a chat about that bigwall idea of yours.

Rocklands 2012 from Archie CB on Vimeo.

Finally, this is the video I put together for the trip.
Some people have said nice things about it, some people have said that they dont like the typeface and that a couple of sequences are a bit long. I dont know because I have seen it all too many times now. If you have any comments, please do tell me, because I would love to make a better film in the future.

Cheers everyone!

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