New Countries, New Sends

I guess you could say that the training that I have been doing for the past months certainly paid off. It was a lot of time doing my own thing, before work and after work, many days a week.

I had never been to Switzerland before, but I had been dreaming about it for years. It did not disappoint! Chironico was amazing and Magic Wood was, well, MAGIC!

Chironico’s weather was a little less than perfect though. As soon as I got really close to sending some 8A projects, it started to rain, a lot. It just means that I need to go back for more. I managed to send a really cool technical boulder called Fat Boy (7C+) in a session, first 7C+ in a session! Kneebars for the win!!

Fat Boy (7C+)

Magic Wood was really fun too! In a day, I managed to do two 7C, a 7B+ and a 7A. Not bad at all!

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On the send of Supernova (7C) in Magic Wood

The bouldering was not the only highlight of the trip. It was amazing to spend time with great people! There was never a shortage of psych or laughs. Tobi made a fantastic movie about our time there, in between sending 3 8A boulders in a week.

Some very cool highlights of our time in Switzerland

After being rained out in Swizz, we made a quick stop back in Austria. I managed to tick off a side project of mine Die Rose Der Zeit (8b) at the Geisterschmiedwand.

Morocco

Sitting in the airport… I wonder where we are going now!

The next part of the journey found us in Morocco. This was absolutely incredible. The team was a really good mix. Said Belhaj, Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll, Inbal Katznelson, Mehdi Allam and of course Claudia Ziegler.

The following section has photos from Claudia Ziegler Photography

The culture in Morocco was really special. Said, being a very talented musician, took us to a private performance of some incredible artists. I was thoroughly impressed and well-fed! We had home-made couscous from a tagine and it was incredible!

The crack climbing in Tafraout is really good. I would certainly recommend it. Just do not forget to take the really big cams if you want to feel safe.

This route was the highlight of my trip, we had to wake up before 5am in Tafraout in order to catch the good temps, it went into the sun around 7 so it was a tight schedule. Said did the first ascent followed by Sean and eventually me. Very proud of this one.

In the end, we drove through to Agadir and spent two nights at the coast. We even did some surfing and I figured out how to ride the waves! It was certainly a very good trip overall.

The team! Group photo!

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!

It’s All Uphill…

Last time I was punching my keyboard for this site I was really upset because of my A2 pulley rupture… Well, it’s been 12 weeks since then and the finger is recovered. A lot has happened since then. The worst part of the time involved a 5 week break doing NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING. No running, no gym; just computer games and parties. It was a really weird break from climbing. In the last 12 years, I have not had this much time off. So, the result: I gained 4 kgs and went through a considerable number of hang overs XD

BUT at the end of that all, I started working out again. I started coaching a little and I getting back in the swing of things. It all started off in Durban with a day at Kirk Falls with Illona and Candice. Was a lot of fun For my first day back I didn’t do so bad: 6c+, 7a and 7a+ all onsight. That was great fun!!! By the way, Kirk Falls is a gem! Get down there and climb!

The week following this I found myself climbing in Waterval Boven trying hard to regain some of my form. I had some fun in the process. I climbed a few lines and tried to climb Big Butterfly (7c) only to be foiled by wet cracks in the crux. I did have a lot of fun climbing some lines in Super Bowl that I haven’t been on in quite a while, like Karfoefeling (7b).

Climbing Karfoefeling in Boven. Photo by Gustav!

Climbing Karfoefeling in Boven. Photo by Gustav!

I received quite a big box of gear from Outward Ventures  which included my new Roca Dominator 9.2mm 80m rope and La Sportiva Solutions!!! Amongst gear were a couple dinner packs from Back Country Cuisine! I can tell you right now, the Cottage Pie is amazing! If you need something that is light weight and quick to prepare while you’re on a camping trip you can’t possibly go wrong. Most of the packs involve adding about a cup of water (more or less depending on the meal) and waiting 10 minutes until you have a fantastic meal. They also have some new dehydrated fruit snacks that are FANTASTIC. Make sure you grab some for your hikes or climbs.

The view from Arjan's place! Breath taking!!!

The view from Arjan’s place! Breath taking!!! He was kind enough to give me a place to stay on the way into and out of Cape Town.

Making the trip possible

Making the trip possible

Good stuff!!!

Good stuff!!!

The climbing I had been doing was all preparation for my trip to the Western Cape to climb sport lines in a place that everyone knows about but no one may write about (no comment). Really cool climbing in this place but unfortunately I can’t post any pics for anyone else to look at except maybe the hike in.

Hiking into you know where to do you know what

Hiking into you know where, to do you know what…

By the time I actually got to Cape Town I was ready to do some bouldering, but not before going for Sushi with Beth, JT, Sean, Colin, Jen and Jono at Harry’s! Unbelievable sushi! The Yellow Tail Sashimi was so fresh it was fantastic. It was Beth’s birthday so we had to celebrate.

Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi at Harry's! Best Ever!

Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi at Harry’s! Best Ever!

The next morning I drove through to Outward Ventures to see where I was going to be staying. I was sleeping in the store room on the floor and it was great 🙂 I was really happy to be there and nothing would make me unhappy at this point. After a short greeting session with Rob and Geoff, Jono and I departed for Echo Valley so that we could meet up with Steve Bradshaw to get in some bouldering. I didn’t realize how tired my body was from the weekend until we started the walk up to Echo…

Initially when we got to the boulders Steve and I were really disappointed because of the weather and the fact that they were actually dripping wet. Surprisingly enough, the wind changed and in less that an hour Steve was trying Skobbejak (8B) and having fun. When his skin was done we headed down to Mintberry Crunch (8A) for me to figure out what I needed to do.

Arriving in Echo Valley. Photo by Jono Joseph

Arriving in Echo Valley. Photo by Jono Joseph

It was not easy for an out of shape Brian. The crux for me is getting my right heel locked into place. I tried it for three sessions and on the final session fell dabbed the rock underneath my ass. I also slipped out of the heel at least 6 times. So the final result was a lot of fun but not success!!! Damn.

Working Mintberry Crunch (8A) in Echo Valley. Photo by Jono Joseph

Working Mintberry Crunch (8A) in Echo Valley. Photo by Jono Joseph

Trying to hit the crux hold / finish hold on Mintberry. Photo by Jono Joseph.

Trying to hit the crux hold / finish hold on Mintberry. Photo by Jono Joseph.

I met up with Marijus, Rowan and Maciek while I was in Cape Town. Maciek and Rowan were working the stand of Cthulhu when I got there. Rowan walked all over it and started working on the 8A+ sit. On our last day when the weather set in, Arjan was doing laps on Mintberry Crunch, which he flashed when he first tried it.

Cthulhu (8A+)

Cthulhu (8A+)

When Squeaky and Sheldon arrived we tried a 7B+ called Lonely Boy. It is a really cool problem though conditions were inhibiting me from topping out due to the wet / damp undercling slots at the top of Los Muisenbergers (8A).

Working my way up Lonely Boy (7B+) with the spotting arms of Sheldon and Sqeaky. Photo by Jono Joseph.

Working my way up Lonely Boy (7B+) with the spotting arms of Sheldon and Sqeaky. Photo by Jono Joseph.

The next day we headed up to TM where we had a really cool day at the JIMBO WALL! I’ll be honest, I was scared shitless trying to work out Tripple Jeopardy (8a+ trad) ground up. My skin was slippery and I hadn’t climbed trad in quite a while, maybe 5 months or so, and climbing that sketchy 7a+ start was a bit more than scary, particularly when I had to take the wingers off of tiny Wild Country Z3 and Z4 cams. SMALL anyone?

This trip was really amazing for me. I just wish that I hadn’t just recovered from a 5 week break. I felt like I was weak for a lot of it. But that’s alright, I’m more psyched than ever. Since I’ve been back in JHB I haven’t had a rest day. So that is somewhere along the lines of 15 days, sometimes with two training sessions a day.

I’ve also been coaching Tristan and Alistair in their preparations for the U13 Comp at the Rory Lowther Memorial Competition. I was going to compete when I heard about the difficulty competition which was 4 routes, however, upon discovering that the difficulty was linked to the Saturday’s proceedings I couldn’t participate. I don’t mind. It’s going to be a great weekend.

My next installment happen much sooner as I discuss the Rory as well as the training program that I’ve set out for myself. Till then, here are some pics from Table Mountain.

Lunch on TM after a hard morning on Triple Jeopardy (8a+ trad). Photo by Jono Joseph.

Lunch on TM after a hard morning on Triple Jeopardy (8a+ trad). Photo by Jono Joseph.

Squeaky getting bendy on Jeopardy (7c+ trad)! Photo by Jono Joseph

Squeaky getting bendy on Jeopardy (7c+ trad)! Photo by Jono Joseph

The view from TM with Jono in the corner :)

The view from TM with Jono in the corner 🙂

Jono offering the dassie a cigarette... That little guy had not fear (I'm talking about the dassie, the rest of us were a bit worried).

Jono offering the dassie a cigarette… That little guy had not fear (I’m talking about the dassie, the rest of us were a bit worried it would eat our food).

The Jimbo Wall on TM with the Jeopardy routes!

The Jimbo Wall on TM with the Jeopardy routes!

Looking out at Lion's Head

Looking out at Lion’s Head

Sends and New Arrivals

I’ve had a really exciting weekend, again! Andrew and I headed off to Boven with the intention of doing Boa Rodeo, an 8a+ trad line. Both of us tried it for three days but had no sends. We discovered how hard it is actually is to place the gear! Wow. We ended up finding a good nut placement backed up by a Wild Country Z3 cam to protect the crux… Basically, for anyone who isn’t familiar with WC Zeros, this is a black Alien cam — it’s small and we’re falling on to this gear with from a pretty descent run out above it.

All pics are by Jahne Theron — Thanks bud!

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The gear is all great but I think that both of our heads weren’t quite in the head space they needed to be in.

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Two much cooler things happened this weekend… I finally made time to climb with Andrew on his Shear Force Project down in the Right Wing and holy 5h!tb@lls, it’s amazing! We are guessing it will weigh in around 8c/+. On the first day on it Andrew and I managed to piece together a sequence that seems to work; on the second day we both did some great links on it. The route is sick! It overhangs by about 8m, it’s 28m long, but it zigzags so get ready for about 35m of climbing all-in-all. The best part: the holds are not too bad on the skin and the rock will never polish. Photos and video are going to be shot when Jono from Outward Ventures makes his way up here early July for an awesome chance to take some pics and vid of La Sportiva Ambassadors Paige Claassen and Jon Glassberg. I met them at the airport today and they are psyched to be here! Enjoy your trip you two! See you in Boven!

Andrew demonstrating how he is going to kung fu Boa Rodeo

I had the opportunity, or stubbornness, to get back on Frazzle this trip. Now admittedly, I’ve been working this in (not so) secret by building a simulator problem at the gym and making the holds worse and worse. On Saturday by the time I got on the climb I was tired and couldn’t even hold on to the holds to start the crux. Not a good sign, but at least I had a chance to put the draws up and climb to the anchors (VERY LUCKILY).

Monday afternoon came around, Andrew put in a massive effort on Shear Force and I was totally psyched to climb it, but I really wanted a good shot at Frazzle, although I felt like I was miles from the send. I set off from the ground and had forgotten that I removed the first bolt so I needed to do some funny business to safely get to the second bolt before coming back down to remove the biner I used on the first. Not a smooth start, hmmm, maybe I’ll go to the shake and just sit there for a few minutes, brush holds etc. Well, I got to the rest, not in a particularly efficient manner but I’m here. May as well try the crux before I brush the holds.

I reach up to the sloping crimp and it feels amazing; my skin is just locked on to the hold. I mantle to get my foot high and then lock off to the horrid intermediate….I stabilize for a split second, and snatch to the crux crimp! WTF?!? I’m still on! FOCUS BRIAN! Hold it! I reach my right hand up to a good hold and scream! Andrew is cheering at the bottom! Now I’m starting to panic! I have only been to the chains once or twice and there is a bunch of tough climbing ahead, nothing hard but definitely tricky enough that I could blow it… I compose myself, chatting with Andrew for some psyche, and then set off. I almost come off at the next bolt but refuse to let go. I do a few more moves and I’m on a monster jug. I think I shook out for about 5 or 6 minutes, could have been longer, it felt like forever to be honest. But I was pretty confident from this point that I could get to the chains.

The rest of the route went down smoothly enough. I climbed to the last bolt before I started screaming again. I was psyched. Frazzle 8b+, second ascent. I know that Paul opened it at 8a+ more than a decade ago but it is the hardest thing I’ve climbed by far. I guess that’s where a personal grade has to come in. I know a bunch of strong guys who have tried this line and none have had success on it.  Whatever grade it is, it’s hard, fingery and a hell of a bouldery crux!

The only pair of shoes I used all weekend were my Pythons. Now, this was a big surprise to me. I did not expect them to work on a vertical wall. I figured they’d work in the cracks on Boa Rodeo and the steepness at Choss, and therefore the Shear Force line too, but on Frazzle?? That was confusing. Maybe they’ll surprise me on Rodan too (doubtful).

Now…. Off on a completely different tangent, I did the weirdest thing last week. I joined a gym. I’ve decided that bouldering just isn’t enough anymore, so I’ve started a training regime at the gym.

Yesterday was pretty tough:

  1. 20 min run @ 11 km / h at 3% gradient on the treadmill to start
  2. 12 min rowing
  3. About 10 one arms L & R
  4. 5 x 6 pull ups with 20kgs load
  5. 1 lap of the “super circuit” –> weight training with stepping intervals. Generally 30 reps of moderate weight.

The whole point of the exercise is to push my comfort zone a little further than what I’m currently used to. I feel like I can climb 6 days a week and not be making massive progress. So maybe I need to climb indoors 2-3 days a week, gym 2-3 days a week and climb on rock 2 days a week on a set program. Currently I’m busy with a 4 week power cycle at the wall; I’ve been working shorter, powerful routes at Chosspile and even in Boven. The idea is to raise the bar so that when my power-endurance cycle starts Rodan will go down. I have a date with Rodan from 6-14 July! Can’t wait. Hope to share the experience with a bunch of my buds!

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