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

Ivan on Direct.PNG

Photo by Zele Angelides

Then it was Ebert


Photo by Eraine van Schalkwyk


Then Grivin


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

Then James


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.


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.


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 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.


Setting up for the crux — Photo by Ockert Joubert


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.


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


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!

Ups and downs, lots of downs, but ups too!

The past months have been interesting to say the least. I went from a state of absolute power, to feeling really unhappy about my climbing and then back to a state of complete elation. It’s hard to describe the reasons behind this large swing, in fact, I’m really not sure what caused it. The only thing I’m sure of is that I went through something. I was finding it very difficult to find motivation to train, to eat healthy or even to wake up in the mornings. Good news is that it has passed and I’ve renewed my psych!

Andrew getting ready to approach the crux of Fear and Loathing

Trying to keep the ropes dry isn't that easy

Why aren’t the ropes on the tarp???

The initial trips to rock started off pretty awesome, went trad climbing actually. Andrew, Ebert and myself went to try to do Alex’s Fear and Loathing (7c+) in Mhlabatini. Very fun. The line is really classy, takes good gear and is quite bouldery on sloping holds. Now as one could imagine, sloping holds in Magaliesberg are not pleasant, more like slippery and polished. Here’s bit of Andrew trying it out…



I guess it all started after my trip to the Wow Prow in April. Everything seemed to be going great. The previous weekend I was really close to doing both Stormwatch Direct (8b) and Aqualung (8b) on the same day. Aqualung was opened by Paul Brouard ages ago and had been unrepeated until recently. It’s seen an onslaught of ascents starting with Grivin, then Andrew and Dylan. I’m finally back in good enough shape to head back there an capitalize on it. Also back at a fighting weight of 69kgs instead of 72kgs (massive difference on power endurance).



Here’s a great example of how not to send an 8b. MAJOR FAIL!


From this point on, things just didn’t really get that much better… Went to the Wow Prow to try to finish off Future Life (8b) but got shut down. Got a high point on it over my previous year, but still didn’t quite work out the way I had planned. Got to stay in an awesome cottage down there with Grasshopper and his family.


Grasshopper (aka Grivin Roering) went on a sending spree shortly after this trip and proceeded to do Stormwatch and Aqualung on the same day! Very impressive feat indeed. We can see the Grasshopper having a “not so good” day at Choss where fell off his onsight attempt of Gollum and crawled into a cave to hide from the harsh reality that he fell at the second bolt.

A Grasshopper in hiding

A Grasshopper in hiding


Yvette has recently gone through a knee surgery of her own. Luckily it was only the PCL that was done, but still unpleasant for sure. As any good husband would do, I dropped as much as I could so that I could take care of her, even over the long weekends.


Definitely tough to juggle work, training and caretaking but it was short-lived and now Yvette is well on her way to recovery and I’m back on my path to beasthood.

I guess you could say that I’m in a performance phase at the moment. I’ve been training with bouldering sessions twice a week focusing on power endurance and finishing with 4x4s or long add-on problems. It paid off for the Origin festival!

Down in Umgeni I went on an onsight rampage!

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My onsight of Hyper Diamond (7c)

Setting off on my onsight of Thunderstrike (7b+)

Finishing off Thunderstrike

Finishing off Thunderstrike — photo by Roger Nattrass

I fell off of this one and then went directly to the chains… FAIL!

Haibo (7b+) photo by Adrian Sanders


What a great bunch of people to spend time with. Illona put in such an amazing effort organising the event. I’m really looking forward to next year. The UIAA was there this year with cash prizes for the comp. Pretty much unheard of in South Africa. We hope the support is there next year but even if it isn’t, I’ll certainly be climbing in the next festival!


Paul! What a legend!

Paul! What a legend! He just sent Blue Horizon (8b)

The tales of the wall discovered!

The tales of the wall discovered!

Dinner time

Dinner time

Secret Ninja, with the not-so-secret ninja in front

Secret Ninja, with the not-so-secret ninja in front

Our pad! before the monkeys covered it in polenta

Our pad! before the monkeys covered it in polenta

Andrew Pedley working Blue Horizon (8b)

Andrew Pedley working Blue Horizon (8b)

Awesome group!

Awesome group!

Second place isn’t half bad!


So where does that leave me now??? In really good shape…. I’ve been hanging out in Boven the past few weeks getting really close to nabbing my ascent of Overlord. Hopefully, will be able to finish it off this coming weekend!!!

Ending off the Year with a Bang

So! 2013 is almost finished and it’s been a very strange year for the most part. It’s been a year of change: new job, new sponsors, new projects and new friends. At my last count I spent 112 days on rock so far this year. The year came to an end for me on the 27th when I heard a pretty loud pop and my A2 pulley on my right ring finger popped. I’m hoping it’s a partial tear and not a complete rupture.

The year started off with a stage of (f)unemployment with about a month of solid climbing. I used the time to work out how to climb Boa Rodeo in Boven which has remained elusive for the remainder of the year. It’s been a tough one because it is very seasonal and is wet in summer for 5 days after rain but in winter it is in the sun by 8 and goes out of the sun at 5 as the sun is setting. Note to self and anyone else who wants to work the line — either climb this in April or in October so that you can optimize conditions.

Exiting the rest on Boa Rodeo (8a trad)

Exiting the rest on Boa Rodeo (8a trad)

Then I started my new job on 18 February and that was great. I started earning more money than last year and was able to do more with my time. Work has been great this whole year, even when I’ve been really busy I’ve been happy to work rather than feeling like it’s been a drain for me. I feel as though I’m able to work hard, give a great deal of my time to my job and still have enough time to climb and train. It is a bit of a balancing act and occasionally I have been going through periods of “forced rest” when I have deadlines but it’s probably the only way that I would ever rest voluntarily. It’s all been a bit of a balancing act at times, kinda like walking the line…

Slack lining in Boven -- Photo by James Barnes

Slack lining in Boven — Photo by James Barnes

The biggest change that happened for me this year (in my climbing life) was in May this year when I  made the transition from Edelrid and Vaude over to La Sportiva, DMM, Wild Country and Roca. It was not an easy decision to make but the time had come when it was necessary.

My Bling

My Bling (not Roca ropes though)

I had some fun in the Black Diamond Tradathon earlier this year where I climbed Twilight Floozie and a few other cool lines. Was a great day and Brendon Salzer was there to snap some pics.

In Bed with Madonna - Photo by Brendon Salzer

In Bed with Madonna – Photo by Brendon Salzer

This year has been a year of power gains. I wrapped up the majority of the lines in Wigwam this year (most of them on the same day actually). I’ve been focusing on shorter lines that have required a great deal of effort and less endurance. I think that the main reason for this is that I’ve always been weak with a lot of endurance 🙂 As a result I’ve taken this year to build my power with ascents like Frazzle (8b+) which was a second ascent, Axewound (8b), Death by Chocolate (8a+ in a day), Pit Fighter (8a+), Betamax (8a/+) and Twighlight Floozy (8a). I spent a lot of time projecting Shadowfax and Frack It at Chosspile but ran out of time as the summer conditions arrived. I have a feeling both of them will go down quickly next Autumn. I met this really cool photographer who has tonnes of talent! She made a plan to join me for the day at Chosspile and took some sick photos of my on Shadowfax. Zelé Angelides. She is fantastic and psyched.

Setting up for the crux of Shadowfax - Photo by Zele Angelides

Setting up for the crux of Shadowfax – Photo by Zele Angelides

Composing myself before the crux on Shadowfax -Photo by Zele Angelides

Composing myself before the crux on Shadowfax -Photo by Zele Angelides

The crux move on Shadowfax -- Photo by Zele Angelides

The crux move on Shadowfax — Photo by Zele Angelides

My major project at the moment has been Aqualung. Aqualung was opened by Paul Brouard at 8b in 2000 and it is currently unrepeated. I have been working this few a few sessions (3-4) and I’ve been psyched for the pure power of the line. Andrew Pedley got on the line with me on Saturday and eliminated 4 moves off of my beta resulting in me linking all the sections and doing the route in two parts!!! Very psyched to get back there when it is not dripping wet and my finger has healed. Below is video of me attempting Aqualung.

Working session on Aqualung

Training this year has been going through an evolution. At the beginning of the year things started off being really structured and I put in a lot of time into planning my periodicity; but as the year progressed I found that I was putting in less “training” and more “climbing”. I think it was in August when I had enough of it and realized that I needed to make a change and I joined the Virgin Active. Since then I’ve been splitting my time more wisely and I’ve been feeling some serious gains. I feel that the complementary training that I have been doing at the gym allows me to punish my body a little bit (yeah yeah masochist). I bought a heart rate monitor so that I could track my fitness levels and see exactly what impact climbing and training have on my heart rate. I’ve had some really interesting training sessions where I’ve been able to track my calorie consumption vs my  calorie burns and it’s been really good for understanding my energy levels and also where my weaknesses lie.

I’ve been using a High Intensity Interval Training program recently (for about the last month) which has been fantastic! Basically it is doing 800 reps in about 35 minutes with a total of 6 minutes rest in 45 second periods. I’ve noticed a remarkable improvement in my general fitness, my recovery times, my core strength and my burl. I have been able to execute far more hard moves in sequence than I was able to in the past. This coupled with with some maximum power bouldering has been part of my ongoing 8 weeks of power training.

Till I’m recovered from my finger injury I’ll keep myself nice and fit at the gym and slowly get myself back into climbing for my trip to Milner at the end of February (I hope). Oh well. Out with the old and in with the new.