A visit to South Africa is not complete until I’ve spent a day climbing at Paarl Rocks. There are many reasons why its special to me but these things cannot be explained, only experienced. We drove out in high spirits… but rain soon joined… we soldiered on hoping… luckily for us it stopped just before we arrived up at the rocks…
Walking through the forest and having a closer look confirmed it, my project for the day was wet. A little deflated I thought I’d go and have a look at a couple of classic trad lines that for some reason I’ve never found the time for.
First was A Splinter in a Mind’s Eye, a beautiful layback flake feature that looks easy enough to climb and has good protection, problem is, the expando flake is extremely thin and the thought of falling on the gear is chilling. What a fun climb! I’m kinda glad I waited for this one as the style you climb trad in is almost MORE important than getting to the top.
Just around the corner was Umkhonto we Sizwe (named after the armed wing of the ANC, and translated as Spear of the Nation) which starts easily then some hardish crack moves and continues up the other side of the flake to A Splinter in a Mind’s Eye. During the 1st ascent the crux moves were protected by 2 bolts as there is no good pro to be had. For some reason another bolt had been added to the first easy section which actually has perfectly good gear. So if anyone is wondering, i took it off! Don’t worry it’ll be put on a new route…
By now the wind was PUMPING and making delicate trad climbing tricky… so we headed down to the boulders near Ilearth Stone. I had never climbed on the, as I call it, the Pilgrimage Boulder – the lone standing bloc on the rock slab. I had forgotten the boulder topo but could see the cleaned line of Gripped. As I gained height I realized I needed to get down afterwards… not sure the conventional way as there is a bolt on top but I down-climbed the same way and dropped on the pads. Luckily my brother was there to hold them down as the wind was blowing them away The sit-start proved much more difficult but eventually I figured it out and managed to link it into the stand – Gripped sit-start 7b+ – stoked!
edit: 18th Sept
A spur of the moment decision ended with Jay & I hitting up Paarl on my last day in ZA before flying back to Europe. We drove around to the Parklife wall as I was hoping to finally get the chance to try this impeccable looking line! But as luck would have it it was still wet. Looking around I spotted the faint line of Shadowlands a route my brother had rebolted a few years back and we decided it would be the perfect warm as it was graded 22 (6b+). The climbing was classic Paarl Rocks, just off vertical with rounded holds and distance between the bolts adding a mental aspect. It tends to be consistent with nothing to make you feel totally secure at any point and the crux is actually believing in your ability and just keep going and not giving in. For me a proud send independent of the grade given.
With Parklife wet and the previous trips fun bouldering we drove back around and walked over to the Pilgrimage Boulder. First was Uxbridge Road, a 7a that climbs an arête/corner feature. Took a few test tries to figure out the beta but soon we both topped it out and at the same time found an easy way down. The next line was a strange 7b with a name that explains the problem quite well, Get up, Stand up. It was now getting late and we knew the gate was closing soon… as the clock ticked we both threw ourselves at this technical ‘stand up’ move… Jay sent 1st and I thought then that I only had a few goes left before we had to rally out of there to catch the gate. I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to climb it again for a long time so I focused and gave it a Hail Mary go… sticking that hold felt SO good – such a rad move!
What a great end to my Africa trip! Thank to all those people I met and who made it that much more special! Take care and hope I see you there again next year!