Ticking the Projects

Sometimes it takes a long time to do something you expect to be easy. I’ve experienced this on a few lines over the years but one that stands out heavily is Stormwatch in Fernkloof. When I climbed the original line, it took me ages! But I did it in a season and was happy.

It took me considerably longer to climb the direct version. There were some other factors that played a role in this, such as psych and injuries, but all in all, it took me a really long time.  I remember the day that everything started to go pear-shaped, it was last March. I warmed up on Stormwatch Direct and fell a move from the chains, above the last hard move. That was the first time I really dorked a project. Grivin sent the original version after that. He and I went up to Aqualung, where I fell above the crux — Griv sent. STRONG!

After that day, my confidence seemed to disappear and life got in the way. I had to watch all my friends tick it Direct before me. First was Ivan

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Photo by Zele Angelides

Then it was Ebert

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Photo by Eraine van Schalkwyk

 

Then Grivin

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Grivin on Hoodlum (7b+). Photo by Leslie McNicol

Then James

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All these guys started working the route after I did and all of them ticked it before me. It was awesome to see the progression happening around me but a bit hard at the same time. I’d lose my psych and then it would come back, then it would be gone again.

In the end, I just needed a bit of focus and a lot of strength. What finally did it for me was walking away so I could put in a few weekends on Sheer Force in Boven. I was getting to the last move. It motivated me to train hard and eat right, well, maybe eat a little less at least.

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Taking a step back and enjoying the view from the top of Sheer Force — Photo by Claudia Ziegler

I had not been on Stormwatch in months and when I wen to Fernkloof for a day trip with James, I did not have any expectations. James sent and it was glorious!! And that was when I dorked it, again. I made it through the pinch moves I struggle with so severely and fell off with my hand wrapped around the jug underneath the first roof. I felt really stupid but was sure it would go next try. But it didn’t.

I came back the next weekend with James and fell in the same spot on the Saturday. I woke up the Sunday morning feeling sick. I trudged into the kloof and felt weak on my first try, didn’t even manage Faberge (7c) — my standard warm up. My second try I slipped. But then, in the midst of the weird euphoria, and slightly dissociative state from being sick, I pulled myself together and made to the rest. I could hear James cheering me on from below! The psych was contagious! I sat in the kneebar for a few moments before cruising up to the chains without a pump.

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Setting up for some of the hard moves on Stormwatch Direct (8b) Photo by Michelle van Aswegen

It’s funny sometimes how ticking one route can put you into the right state of mind… I found focus again, trained hard and stayed psyched. Went on an amazing trip around the country (more on that next time). Even dusted off the trad rack for a climb or two.

Alex

Alex Bester opening Fear and Loathing (7c+) Photo by Michelle van Aswegen

I’d been psyched to do Fear and Loathing (7c+) in Mhlabatini for a long time. In fact, it was the first route I tried after my knee op! Granted, I tried it on top rope with Andrew and Ebert, but I made me excited. The second time I tried it, I was with Ebert. We got OWNED! Neither of us could make it to the chains. Embarrassingly, we had to cheat out way up, using a long stick and a nut taped to it. Not a proud moment.

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Setting up for the crux — Photo by Ockert Joubert

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Thankfully, Andrew got a hold of me a few weeks back and was keen to try it with me. We made our way through the icy water and found ourselves at the base of the climb.I went up first and found some simpler gear placements but still couldn’t get to the top. Good thing Andrew was there, he figured it out in no time at all. This got me thinking that I needed to climb the route my own way, rather than relying on Alex and Andrew’s jumping sequence.

So I shook things up, I found the kneebar that I pointed out the second I saw the route for the first time. It took a bit of effort to work it out without a pad, but it went easily enough for sure. Didn’t mean that the route was easy. It took me 4 tries the next weekend before it finally went and the send was pretty desperate. Pretty solid at the grade 7c+, that’s for sure.

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Fear and Loathing (7+) It’s pretty steep!

The next week, I went back to get some footage. Was pretty cool to be there with Alex

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Alex and me — checking out my placements and looking at the project that will go up the face right of Fear and Loathing

All in all, I really loved the line… We shot a pretty cool sequence. Hope you like it!

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