Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Best 7a in Rocklands?
Well that was pretty fucking awesome! I had reservations about heading to Rocklands, but they were clearly unfounded. What an amazing place it turned out to be. I had always wanted to visit the boulders, which so resembled the sandstone of the Grampians that I know so well. But, it was with some trepidation that I booked my ticket to Cape Town for the start of July. 

These days my holidays are pretty restricted to a certain time of year. When you have a business that relies heavily on summer tourism, you'd better believe that you aint getting a break until winter comes around. Well, unless you're a complete moron and then you can take holidays whenever you so desire. And when it comes to the middle of the year, there are only so many places that are any good for crushing purposes… North America is pretty much out, much of Europe is steaming. Switzerland is a go, but I have been there a couple of times now, Norway and other scando nations  seem like they’d be cool, but it’s a long way and bullshit expensive. 
So, anyways, South Africa was halfway for my English mates and I and seemed like the perfect place to meet up. Sam and Lu, however had made a wee life change since last I saw them. They had an 18month old maniac in tow, by the name of Arnold. A little blonde wrecking ball with boundless energy and a new found ability to walk. A dangerous combo. We met at the airport and it was fantastic to be hanging out again. We crammed our not insignificant amount of stuff into our hire car and we were away. We didn’t get carjacked on our way out of Cape Town, which was somewhat of a surprise to me. No doubt, any would be attacker was put off by the fact that they would have needed a crow bar and some lube as well as the usual tools of the carjacker trade to pry any of us loose from our cocoon of infinite squeeze.
Cape Town itself is a really spectacular city, with Table Mountain peering down from above, it’s one of the more picturesque places that you can fly into. But, driving away from the city there is not much to look at. The scenery is eerily similar to Australia in a lot of ways, especially the presence of eucalypts, our very own national treasure, that are scattered wantonly along the edges of the paddocks full of grazing sheep. If that doesn’t bring memories of Australia flooding back, then you have clearly never visited our fair shores.

Arnie, chief hold brusher
Rocklands is about two and a half hours from Cape Town. We stopped in Clanwilliam to get some supplies, mainly beer and meat, probably the two most popular staples in the South African diet, along with copious amounts and indiscriminate use of MSG. From there you head north into the Pakhuis Pass and some of the most surreal and stunning landscape that you will ever see. Boulders start to appear as you drive steadily towards the pass and before you know it you are in amongst a seemingly never ending cluster of rock, not dissimilar to what some, as yet undiscovered, sandstone planet would look like.  
We arrived at our accommodation just after dark and quickly got ready for a big days climbing, by doing what we do best, getting drunk and catching up on the good old days…
We awoke early, mostly thanks to Arnie’s early morning excitement, a behaviour that was repeated pretty much daily for the entirety of the trip. 7 am is not a particularly social time to arise on a climbing holiday, but he didn’t seem to understand, nor care about my objections, no matter how many different ways I phrased them.

Timeout, primo 7c
So, it was out to the boulders with a slightly foggy head, but the usual excitement that accompanies any new adventure into the bouldering wilderness. The fogginess disappeared as we walked in to the first area. I was struck by the beauty of the landscape and how completely different it is to anywhere I had ever been before. Even though the rock resembles closely my beloved Grampians sandstone, it climbed completely differently and it stands openly on flat, sandy bases, unencumbered by spiky bushes and overhanging branches. The texture is grainier and the holds can be surprisingly sharp. It certainly takes a little time to get your skin into condition for some of the problems, something that became sadly apparent the longer the trip went on. Not surprising to people who know me well, I was entirely unprepared for the technical heel hooking and dirty crimps that many of the hard problems contained. I had trained for the grampians. Big moves on good holds with some serious tension. I hadn’t bothered to consult anyone about the actual climbing because it looked the same, it must climb the same. Ah well, whatever, it was still amazing, it just took a little longer than it should have to get into the zone. But, even days where you were not getting much done, it was hard not to be happy just being there. I was in Africa after all. Usually I rant on about some problem that took me ages or some particular line that stood out in my mind above all others, but that seems like a tough ask when it comes to Rocklands. There are so many proud lines and some of my favourite problems weren’t even close to the hardest ticks. And the best bit is that I barely scratched the surface, paving the way nicely for another visit in 2015. I can barely contain my excitement already, thoughts of grippy sandstone overwhelm me at random moments throughout the day. The tough bit is going to be convincing my business partners that a four week break is not nearly long enough!
It’s kind of hard to try exactly pin point what the best areas or the best problems were, so here is a list of some of the cooler stuff that I dragged my batty up over the course of the trip:
Hole in One, 7c+, so much fun!!
No late benders, 8a
Shallow cave, 8a
No late tenders, 7c+
Hole in One, 7c+ (Awesome dyno)
Purple Nipple Clan, 8a
Cedar Spine, 7c (One of the best aretes anywhere)
Minki, 7b
Timeout, 7c
Shadows of Ourselves, 7c
Born into Struggle, 7b+
Stalker on the Horizon, 8a but felt 7c
The Rhino 7b+ FUN!!
Vlad the Impaler, 7c
Last Day in Paradise, 7c Flash
Question of Balance, 7b
The crew, beachside
Some of the incredible rock art on display at Travellers Rest
Day of the Jackal, 7c+
Poison Dwarf, 7b
Arch Babysitter, 7b

Cedar Spine, 7c

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