Monday, October 24, 2011

48 hours of Punishment!

I have had a really cool week. After my grueling training sessions on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, I went to the barn to go do some light bouldering on Tuesday. I set a new problem on the 45 wall at the boulder cave which is really gymnastic and tough. Will hit it again soon.

Wednesday, Clinton and I went out into the kloofs of Magaliesberg for some hard trad. We warmed up on some easy stuff, Clinton did Barbara Streisand, a 23 on solid gear and I onsighted a 21 called Enemy Within. The best description for this line is SPICY. If you place your cams logically on your way up, you end up having nothing for the pod midway up the face. The result of this is a 8m lead out to take you to the 15m mark, where there is still only 1 piece of marginal gear for the next 5m. It's alright after this point from a gear side. Just don't fall off. It is pretty easy ground here with good feet and hands. Don't let the cracks fool you from the ground, there is no where to place gear in them :)

After this Clinton crushed Rhythm of Youth, opened by Peter Lazarus in 1989. Ningo showed me how to do the moves and where to place what. I cruised up Barbara Streisand and then moved into Rhythm of Youth's crux. I placed the pieces just fine, moved into the hard move perfectly and couldn't reach the lip :( on my flash or on any of the rest of the attempts. It is simply too far away, very MORPHO! I told Hector he'll crush it, totally! I discovered a really easy way to do the move if you're one inch taller than me but I'll have to dyno to the sloping crimp, all-points-cut-loose...

We weren't done yet. Clinton and I moved over to Richard Lord's Twist and Shout (28) which was opened in 1990. Heinrich Kahl did the second ascent two years ago, and I lapped up the 3rd that day. As Clinton headed off to solo the first pitch it started to hail! The hail stones were an 5cm in diameter and I was being pelted belaying from below a rock at the base. Clinton came so close to the flash, he was millimeters from gaining the hands-free kneebar at the end of the crux when he couldn't hold on anymore. He came down and let me have a go. I topped it out first go, good times. It made me feel very nostalgic, remembering all the good times I had with Heinrich. I miss you bud!

This was pretty much just preparation for the weekend! Clinton and Hector had plans to go to Blouberg and attempt to free an aid route there, the pitch is a 19A3 with two 22 pitches leading into it. We had a brilliant time. This is the math for the weekend off of my facebook status:
So look at these numbers: in the last 48 hours, we drove 9 hours, we hiked 9.5 hours, we climbed 16 hours, we changed altitude from the parking to the top of the ascent by 1.4km, we climbed a total of 700m, 200m without ropes. That means if you remove the 3 hours we used to set up camp and prepare food. we got 10.5 hours of sleep within that time. 
 So that was what I had to work with. I worked out a bit later that we did a total of 3.4km of altitude change in total! Wow. The climbing was amazing too. I felt like I could do laps on the routes all day and night and be fine, but the hiking was tough. "Silly sport climbers moan about everything" is probably what you're thinking, which is kinda true but at least I got out there and now I'm psyched to go back.
Here's how the whole thing happened...

It started on Friday night when I picked up Clinton from the train stations at 17h00. Hector picked us up at my place just after 18h00. We arrived in Blouberg at 22h00. The hike was quite a grueling pace. I struggled mentally for the first half hour and then I found my groove and the heavy metal (As I Lay Dying) drove me up the mountain. The 8km hike has a 1km altitude change. Some sections were quite steep but it was mostly just a really fast pace trying to keep with Hector's really long legs. He is a true ninja I tell you, especially in the kloofs or on a hike. Don't blink or you'll lose him. Ningo can attest to this. The plateau burned recently so the entire area was scorched and black with ash; we were filthy within a few minutes.
We arrived at base camp at 00h00 and got camp ready. We were in our sleeping bags by 01h00 looking at the stars in the sky. Was a beautiful night and I was tired. I fell asleep fast but awakened around 02h15 wondering why I was up. I couldn't get back to sleep for another hour which was really annoying. 
At 05:30 we were up. Two packs of oatmeal later and we were ready to get the packs and gear on our backs. The hike was just little over an hour long to the base of the route. We gazed upon Dogs of Thunder (30A0) as we walked past it. Clinton reminisced about his past attempts to free the line, coming up one move short of freeing every pitch.
At the base of the climb we stood, I was in awe at the shear magnitude of the wall. Hector and Clinton were psyched. We were in unexplored territory as we added a different start to the route to try and straighten it out a little. 2 pitches and 116m later we were on a big grassy ledge which resulted in a grade 7 40m traverse to the first challenging pitch. Clinton grunted his way up the first 20. The gear was quite sparse and it involved moving left to a roof and then traversing 8m under the roof. It looked great. Hector followed his path and I went straight up the other rope. My route wasn't quite as adventurous but it was significantly harder, perhaps 22/23. I thrashed my way up it, a little less than elegantly, but I think that was the theme for the day regardless. The second pitch of 20 was much less interesting and very straightforward moving through some mild overlaps. 
The fun was about to begin with the first pitch of 22: the midget proof pitch. It was quite a zigzag for 55m but the rope only goes out 35m. The last few moves are really delicate and reachy well above your gear. We were biting our nails watching Ningo, feeling a little happy that it wasn't us out there. The follow felt pretty insignificant difficulty-wise, but was great fun. I didn't walk the move though, I has to downclimb it and restart the sequence.
The Yosemite Pitch is a 22 crack system that had Hector squealing for joy the whole way up. It has perfect gear and finger cracks/hand jams the whole way up! Fantastic.

This brings us to the business pitch 19A3. Ningo and I watch Hector climb/aid his way to the first bolt which was a thoroughly rusted 4mm home-made thing that left all of us chilled to the bone. Hector hand-drilled a new 10mm bolt next to it making the moves safe. There were about 5 hook moves on the pitch. After Hector sorted out a top rope for us, Ningo set off to try and figure out a sequence to free it. It looked desperate. We managed to find a way to skip some of the aiding right away. After the two of us worked the pitch there was only about 1.5m of unclimbed terrain. Neither of us had decent shoes on though, I had brought my old shoes as they are a little more comfortable for the long climb and Ningo's just came back from the Valley. He was convinced he could do the moves with better shoes and I concurred. The thought is that the pitch would work out to be 33/34.
Now we were at the top of the route but there was still a 100m scramble through dense brush and boulders above us. I was a little nervous at first to do it unroped but I quickly understood why we weren't using a rope. It was a nightmare up there. Took the better part of an hour to do this bit and another hour to walk down.
Now we were starving! Hector brought some dehydrated food and I brought a pack of pasta. Between that the three of us were really happy. I think we got to be around 9 and were up again at 3:30. We started the hike to Big Corner (21) at 4:30. We arrived and scrambled 100m (up scary, loose terrain) and were roped in at 6:00. The first pitch was to get us on to the original route (we skipped 6 pitched of 14/15 through the scramble) and it was spicy and loose as Ningo moved up the 16. I led the second pitch at 18 and was fantastic to be leading. I walked it but placed a nut that felt out as I tried to shove my knee in the crack. No worries, I led it out a while and placed a solid nut higher up. It was great fun. Hector led the crux pitch, then Ningo the first of the 20s which ended up going through this awesome squeeze chimney at the end! I led the second 20 pitch and linked it into the 16 afterwards. It was a piece of cake. The 20 consisted of really solid gear taking mostly Aliens and nuts in the finger crack of the slopey open book. I was grinning the whole time. 
Hector took us up to the final chimney which was really fun and casual leading us to the top out (so much better than the other route's top out). At 10h00 we topped out and had a lunch of tuna on provitas at the top and started the hour long hike down to camp. We packed up and by 12:15 we started the hike down to the car. An hour and twenty five minutes later we were at the car! Nice. Jogged a bunch of it. 
Steers outside Polokwane was a godsend. King Steer burgers went down! Two for Hector! Good times. I was home in Pretoria by 18h00, 48 hours later. HOW COOL IS THAT? What a weekend. Now it's Monday and real life just isn't what it used to be!

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