Around the month of May as the temperatures in Europe and USA start to rise, on the other side of the hemisphere South Africa's winter season begins. Boulderers from all over the world flock to the world class bouldering area of Rocklands and the season of 2009 was no different, well slightly, as this year saw a noticeable increase in the number of visitors to Rocklands. As usual Rocklands attracted many international visitors and a few dedicated locals who would make the trip up the N7 every weekend or in Scott Noy's case set up camp for the entire season.
This season Rocklands played host to a number of different nationalities. There was a huge influx of Germans throughout the season, most notable were Flo Schiffer, Stefan Brugger, Tom Thudium and Axel Perschmann, who along with Scott Noy opened the Basecamp area. This area features a stunning high-ball problem called 'Serenity, 7C' opened by Stefan Brugger which will surely become a Rocklands classic. The group also joined Scott to develop the Hoeksonderkoffie area where Scott made the first Ascent of 'Swine Flu, 7C' a powerful compression problem and which he says feels like trying to climb an upside down fridge (sic).
Left, Scot Noy making the first ascent of 'Swine Flu' 7C at Hoeksonderkoffie and right, Liam Desroy climbing 'Black shadow' 8B at the Tea Garden.
There was a strong team of British climbers which included Liam Desroy and Susan Dudnik. Liam made an impressive repeat of Fred Nicole's classic Cedar Rouge roof problem 'Madiba, 8B+' and Susan made the first female ascent of 'Tea with Elmarie, 8A+' at the Kliphuis Campground. Both problems were the first of the respective grades for the climbers and impressive achievements. That was not the end of the attention for Madida this season, Japanese climbers Keita Mogaki and Kensuke Hamada also repeated it, Keita Mogaki also made a rare flash of 'Black shadow, 8B' at the Tea Garden area to join the short list of climbers who have managed to flash that grade.
Chuck Fryberger returned for his 3rd consecutive season armed with a fancy new camera. He spent time with Nalle Hukkatavial who focused on new development. Last season (2008) Nalle discovered a high-ball striking arête whilst hiking around the Kleinfontein area and this season he returned to see if this impressive line could be climbed. After a lot of hiking trying to retrace his steps 'project real big' was born. It took Nalle 12 days of intense effort to complete the project and it was named 'Livin' Large, 8C' and is certainly a strong contender for the hardest line in Rocklands if not the world. Chuck described the problem as, 'the single most daunting boulder problem I've ever seen in my entire life.' This area was dubbed the Champagne area and certainly lives up to its name playing host to many other fine boulders including 'Spud Web, 7B+' and 'Mrs Balls, 8A+'. It's a great addition to Rocklands and anyone willing to make the long hike will not be disappointed.
Left, Nalle working the moves on the mid section of 'Livin Large', 8C at the Champagne Sector and right triumphant at the top making the first Ascent of Livin large. Images courtesy of Chuck Fryberger Chuckfryberger.com.
In Late July the annual South African sports climbing competition, The Rock and Road Trip took place in the Eastern Cape. This year the MCSA invited the young Czech climber, Adam Ondra to open new routes. After the competition Adam and some other contestants headed to Rocklands. In his 5 day trip Adam made an unbelievable list of ascents including flashing both the 'Vice, 8B' and 'Armed response, 8B' in the same day. This may be the first time two 8B's have been flashed in one day. On his fifth day Adam completed his visit by dispatching 'Derailed, 8B' at 8 Day rain area. Anyone who witnessed Adam's mastery will most likely agree that he is 'on another level'.
Left and right Adam Ondra working the moves on Amandala 8B+ at Roadcrew.
Earlier on in the season Tommy Caldwell pulled off the crux hold while attempting 'Mooiste Meisie, 8B+' at Riverside. Whilst it was feared it would become impossible to climb, Austrian Emi Moosburger managed to repeat it, he felt it now to be solid 8B+ grade.
Whilst the season was in full swing Rockland's legendary local, Justin Hawkins organised the annual Rockstock party. This season was certainly the biggest Rockstock party attracting more than 100 party-goers. It was a fantastic party with entertainment in the form of a guitar air-star competition won by Team Norwegia, a delicious dinner including a spit-braai, music, lights and a smoke machine. A good night was had by all and after a day of recovery (not for Jon) the bouldering continued.
Liam Desroy's shoe showing what happens if you fall asleep next to a fire.
Team Norwegia's performance win them the trophy
Left, Justin Hawkins standing proud with the Rockstock trophy and right Justin making his performance at Rocktock as Michael Jackson.
Throughout the season a long standing project at Roadside received a lot of attention. The line is located on the right of 'Schwupp' and features a huge dyno to a tiny flake followed by another dyno to the top of the boulder. The bold American climber Kevin Jorgenson put some effort in it, using a technique known as the 'Moon Kick' which requires throwing your leg in the direction of the dyno, the theory being where your legs go the rest of your body will follow, he got close but never managed to stick the flake. Strong from the world cup circuit, Austrian climber Kilian Fischhuber also worked the line. After a few days of effort Kilian somehow managed to stick the tiny flake even though his entire body flew out horizontally behind him but there was no way he was letting go. Triumphant he then made the second dyno to the good holds on the top with ease and made the first magnificent ascent of 'Airstar, 8B+'. Kilian was joined on the trip by his girlfriend Anna Stoehr. Anna impressed everyone by making what looked like effortless ascents of 'Nutsa 8A,+', 'Pendragon, 8A' and possibly the first female ascent of 'Out of Balance, 8A'.
Left, Kilian Fischhuber making the first Ascent of 'Airstar 8B' at Roadside and right Anna Stoher making a fast ascent of 'Out of Balance 8A' at Roadside.
Later on in the season another major development took place in Rocklands, the opening of the Hen House coffee / breakfast café. Located on the idyllic banks of Alpha Excelsior farm it's a first that one can order a meal or even a coffee and cake in the heart of Rocklands. Of significance was The Hen House opening night; a full house, lots of dancing and a great amount of fun and revelry.
Becky at the Hen House
Above, The Hen House.
In terms of South African ascents the most notable were those of Ben de Charmoy who hit a new personal level dispatching 'Green Mamba, 8A+', 'Oral Office, 8A+', 'Pendragon, 8A' and 'No Late Benders, 8A'. Earlier in the year before the season began, Marjius Smigelskis made an ascent of 'Leopard Cave, 8A+' as well as a quick ascent of 'Royskopp, 8A' at Roadcrew.
Above, Ben de Charmoy climbing 'Green Mamba, 8A+' at Roadside.
Meanwhile development at Rocklands continues. Most significant was the discovery by local South African, Guy Howill. It didn't take him long to find De Hagen, which marks the start of a huge band of rock that offers almost limitless potential. To date, most of the boulders opened at De Hagen are of moderate grades but this band of rock is definitely high quality rock.
While many new areas were opened this season some development took place in long established areas. A perfect compression boulder, 'Witness the Sickness, 8A' was discovered a short walk from the De Pakhuys campground. Alexander Förschler got the first ascent and this will most definitely be another Rocklands compression classic.
Colin Horvat climbing 'Blue Skies, 7B' at the new De Hagen sector
As previously mentioned the season of 2009 saw many more visitors to Rocklands than any previous year and these increases will always bring access issues to the spotlight. Certainly the increase in litter was noticeable and the more popular areas like Roadside became somewhat crowded. Fortunately for Rocklands development of new areas is ongoing so that the impact of more visitors can be spread out. Cape Nature has taken a keen interest in preserving their land and rangers enforced daily permits. One can only hope that they use these funds to maintain and protect their bouldering areas.
Throughout the season the tarring of the R368 took place and some might say the tar road is only the start of the changes and development that are taking place in Rocklands. This may be true, but to date the Rocklands spirit of adventure still lives and one can only hope that this continues no matter the number of visitors or developments that take place.
Here a few online videos added by this seasons visitors. First up is a strong Japanese team featuring Kensuke Hamada and Tatsuya Muraoka.
Next up is a series of videos from Oliver Lebreton and Vincent Pochon.
Finally, 2 videos from Emi Mooseburger featuring just a few of the problems they climbed during their 2 month trip.
Brought to you by Rocklands Boulders
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