Whenever you drive out of camp and over the river, you'll see a long, orange mountain right in front of you. To the left lies The Pass and Clanwilliam. To the right there is even more bouldering and eventually the Sea. This is Rocklands.
Why would you go bouldering though? You're staring directly at a sick-looking four pitch trad route high above!
Before Chicken Head left for Pretoria and his politics, he made me a drawing. A hastily scribbled note, explaining where to find the starting point, and how to get up the wall. Head did the multi-pitch last season and claims to remember it well enough to give me an accurate description.
This tiny piece of paper was enough to get Choss (Ryan McCallun) exited. All Head had to say was: Four or five pitches, grade 17, OK protection and a ton of fun. Head also recommended we turn out left on the last pitch, finishing in an exposed overhang. Same grade he promised, "very cool". We'll see when we get there...
One morning, a few days later, we got up before dawn. Both of us pretty psyched and ready to trad. Choss had borrowed Someone's Dad's rack, while I was bringing mine. Altogether, it was quite a lot of gear. We packed some lunch and got in Choss' car. As soon as we turned left past the little school as Head had instructed, I became unsure if this was going to work. The deep tracks in the dirt road made the car's bumper scrape against the sandy ground. An assortment of rigid bushes grew all along the path, and of course, right in the middle between the tracks.
I was secretly very glad we hadn't taken my car as Choss drove bravely into the first bush. Loud scraping noises continuously roared beneath our feet, as we flattened plant after plant. We had gotten to a point close to our destination when Choss (and the car) had enough. The plants grew menacingly high in front of us. We decided to park right there.
The approach began. Bushes, trees, rocks and dirt. There was no trail and no sight of any cerns. We just headed upwards in the general direction of the wall. After what seemed like hours in the sun, we finally reached a big ledge on the bottom of the wall. Soaked in sweat from the hike, we sorted out our nuts and cams and geared up for the first pitch.
Choss took on the first stretch, didn't place a lot of gear, and quickly fixed up an anchor. We were climbing on twin ropes, as Head had warned us about frequent traverses. I never used twin ropes before. When it was my turn for the next pitch I got onto the much-anticipated flake. I placed a few cams on a large, loose rock resting behind the flake and started chimneying up inside. (I'm making myself sound braver than I did during...) When I finally got up and around outside, I could place a nut in an actual solid crack. Phew! But then there was the under-cling traverse. I got back under the flake and placed the largest cam under the overhanging rock. Unfortunately, by then the ropes were already tangled. Barely managing to pull myself up with the rope drag, I eventually made a sketchy anchor just above.
Choss disappeared up behind the next block. After a while, when the only thing we could hear from each other was distant echoes, Choss ran out of rope. No problem though, he was just about to make the stance. I followed. "This is kind of hard." I thought as I undid the only piece of protection for a good while. On the blue rope, a nut came sailing down towards me. What are you doing Choss?
A little further up and I could finally see him again. Ten meters to my left. "Ugh, long traverse." I thought as I did the coolest lay-back section. When I got up on the ledge and looked over at Choss, I noticed there was no gear placed between us. He said: "Oh by the way after you take out that cam, don't fall." Sure... I made my way nervously towards him on the slabby ledge. It was fine.
Before doing the last pitch, we sat down to eat our lunch with a brilliant view. Good day!
Hey Chicken Head, that note worked out surprisingly well.
From the camp bar, Rocklands, South-Africa.