Bouldering. Why the hell would anybody want to go climb short ass climbs with no ropes, only a measly little pad of high density foam on the rocks below to break your fall. You start sitting on your ass, generally have to move through finger destroying moves on beastly overhangs, only to top out on a boulder a couple of meters high. It made absolutely no sense to me. This was partly because I had never really been bouldering outdoors on real rock and also probably to do with the fact that I found great comfort knowing that when sport climbing there was ample air between my ankles and the ground, nothing my nifty dynamic rope couldn’t sort out before I hit the deck. I guess this is an aspect of climbing that I didn’t really understand, could you blame me though, with the complete lack of quality boulders anywhere close to home in the city of Johannesburg.
It was with this complete lack of knowledge, and of course the buzzing excitement in Pauls voice when he said “come to Rocklands ” that Tiffany and myself took the plunge, packed up the car and started the drive to the Western Cape to experience what world-class bouldering actually felt like.
When I first caught a glimpse of Rocklands after winding through the mountain pass that gets you to the right side of the Cedarburg mountains I finally understood why this was the mecca of bouldering in the world. Literally thousands of world-class boulders scattered all over the place, it was almost like your mind was playing tricks as you witnessed the madness for the first time. The only thing better than seeing the boulders was getting to go and actually climb them.
After arriving in De Pakhys campsite early in the morning after a massive party we were greeted by some of the inhabitants of “Klein Pretoria” the section of campsite that all the Pretoria crowd dominate every year. Tents where set up and off to climb, You had to walk about 5 minutes through some beautiful Semi desert terrain to get to the plateau, a perfect place to get started. It wasnt long till I started to understand the high quality of climbing there, you have massive friction and the lines require some of the most outstanding moves to complete. My mind literally blew as we started to try a few of the different routes and got to know the area in climbing heaven.
The rock has got so much friction that after 2-3 days climbing you tend not to have any skin left on your finger tips, this is problematic with the level of psyche drifting around where ever you go. There are literally hundreds of foreign tourists around and you actually have to keep reminding yourself that you are still right here in South Africa. Its great walking up to a route and knowing that people will be completely stoked for you to join them regardless of language barriers, I guess it helps to have an extra pair of hands or two to spot each other as the crux spits off its victims to the peril of the crash pads below.
Rest days are awesome in Rocklands. There is a lot of cool things to go and look at and places to chill, especially good is being able to have a nice warm shower, but only after you have stoked the donkey boiler for an hour or two to get it piping hot. I also learned that the Rocklands rock is so addictive that if you have a rest day and walk out with people to spot them and just mill about, it’s best not to take shoes along or they will draw you in and before you know it you will be standing right there next to everyone throwing precious skin at a problem.
Rest day/hiding from the weather at the Hen House
I could really spend hours writing about this trip and all the crazy things we did and all the crazy climbs we saw get crushed but I really don’t think anybody can sit around all day reading that so I think I’ll just drop some one liners about my experiences in Rocklands..
We went in June/July and it was Cold… Very very cold. Also it was wet being in the cape. Wet and cold are not nice if you aren’t prepared for it.
There is a banging spar in town, which is a 30 minute drive through the pass. Also the only place you will get signal. It’s very nice having a Spar so close to heaven. 🙂
The peeps of Klein Pretoria, you guys rock.. Thanks to all of you for making the trip as epic as it was. definitely would not have been the same without the madness.
The skies.. Oh my god you have never seen stars like you will see in this part of the world. I regret not taking the chance of losing a testicle to frost bite and shooting more night sky in the cold.
The quality of light in general, craziest most beautiful light ever.. must be something to do with being near the west coast. I’m not sure but there’s something special here..
The rock, It shreds your fingers and your core but is the most delicious climbing imaginable, I really am thankful to have such amazing rock in this country. Damn you capetonions and your 2 hour drive to Rocklands.. Luckily we still have Boven!
Camping was amazing at De Pakhuys and I would highly recommend it should you ever be in this part of the world.
The donkey boiler battles, eish.. People stealing your hot water. I guess it happens, I think Tiffany and I may have even stolen a shower from Mo and Michelle, Sorry peeps! But yeah, nothing like having to burn wood to make sure you get a toasty shower.
Do you Barsky?
Falco Filotto taking on “Leap Of Faith” 8A at Sassies area.
On a photographic note, my goal in Rocklands was to actually shoot some video and hopefully make a little edit. unfortunately I learnt the perils of taking on such a task.. It turns out when people are pushing themselves as hard as possible and finger skin is non renuable it’s incredibly tough to get complete climbs. But I did manage to get some super smooth clips and am rather stoked to get cracking on some real video projects in the future. My other goal was to get better with off camera flash. The king of climbing photography in SA Mickey Wiswedel gave me some pointers a while back and I wanted to really push that technique . I am pleased to say that after completely messing up a rather large amount of shots I think I have started to get the hang of it.
A lesson I learned from this trip and Africa Burn is that I really need to commit to carrying a tripod, its way too easy to completely mess up an amazing shot just because you have no way to keep the camera rock solid. I suppose I will just have to break my back until I can get one of those awesome carbon fibre jobs!
Thanks for the lesson Life.
I miss it so much.. I may not be the most hard core climber but the routes I did manage to crush and even the ones I managed to play on were so spectacular. Seeing people destroy their projects and work together to figure out the beta on a stiff route was awesome. There hasn’t been that much stoke in my soul for a long time, I can still feel the ache in my elbows sitting here as I write all this. I really hope the stars align next year that I may once again go back and experience this climbers heaven and hopefully shoot more of those very stars 😛 . I really am a slave to this part of the world, another slice right out of my soul. I guess for now I just have to be thankful that I got to be there doing the things I love to do the most, climbing rocks, creating photographs and absorbing nature at its finest.
Once again thanks to everyone who made it awesome, you know who you all are.. Also thanks to everybody who held flashes for me! Couldn’t have gotten all these shots without all of you.
It was an awesome trip, one that will never be forgotten.