We arrived in Rocklands in December 2007. After leaving the UK mid-winter we were met by the heat of the African summer. This made the climbing difficult at times, but we were so inspired by the beauty of the Cederberg mountains and the amazing orange sandstone boulders it didn't matter. We would climb in the early morning and late afternoon and when it all got too much there was always a roof to escape under.
The temperatures finally began to drop in May and as conditions were improving in Rocklands, Europe and the United States were heating up and so the climbers began to arrive.
Left, Amy Varga climbing the classic, 'Up the Spout' , 6A+. Right, Jon Reading climbing 'Pendragon', 8A.
First to arrive was Tony Lamiche and his wife Isa Carrier. Tony was a regular visitor to Rocklands and his aim this trip was to open new problems. He started with 'Barracuda Direct', 8A+ at the Fields of Joy. Whilst looking for new problems Tony also had time to put to rest some old ones, making the second ascent to Fred Nicole's test piece 'Amandala', 8C. Unfortunately Tony injured his leg not long afterwards while trying to add a sit start to 'Shozaloza', 8A+. Credit to his character, he did not let it get him down and he could still be found hiking up to the boulders on his crutches and even working the 'Sky' project at Klein Fontaine which, apparently, did not require the use of his knee.Tony Lamiche working 'Baracuda direct', 8A+
Next to arrive was 'Team America' consisting of Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Lisa Rands, Wills Young, Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden and Noah Kaufmann. They joined Tony and Isa in the 'Sassy house', a huge house on a tea farm and the setting for many a BBQ. They were later joined by Cooper Roberts and Josh Lowell from Big Up Productions who were filming a segment for their upcoming feature Progression. With this team of climbers and beautiful settings they couldn't fail to get great footage.
Daniel and Paul ticked off all the classic hard problems including 'Amandala', 8C; a feat Paul achieved in under 2 hours. The team also spent a lot of time opening new problems; Klein Fontaine was discovered a couple years ago by an Austrian team and this year the Americans set to work adding some new lines and finishing off some old projects. 'Scoop of Marmalade', 7B was opened by Wills Young. Noah Kaufman was first up 'The Hatchling', 8A which as the name suggests looks like a broken egg shell balanced precariously on a pedestal. Before attempting to climb it they wanted to be sure it was safe so they tried to move it. They found they could actually rock it backwards and forwards, but climbed it anyway; some lines are just too good to miss! Klein Fontaine was also home to Tony's 'Sky' project. Daniel got the first ascent followed quickly by Paul and they suggested a grade of 8B+. The guys were not the only ones hard at work, Lisa Rands put in a strong effort to make the first female ascent of 'Nutsa', 8A+.
'The Hatchling', 8A (Frame taken from PURE: A Bouldering Flick by Chuck Fryberger. www.ChuckFryberger.com)
In July fresh from the World Cup circuit Nalle Hukkataival arrived. He joined a strong Finnish team that were developing a new area on De Pakhuys. Nalle teamed up with film maker Chuck Fryberger to work on his latest feature Pure. Nalle sent just about everything including 'Sky' and 'Amandala' confirming the grade at 8B+ rather than 8C.
'Sky', 8B+ (Frame taken from PURE: A Bouldering Flick by Chuck Fryberger. www.ChuckFryberger.com)
Meanwhile the local scene was thriving, with many groups making the long drive up the N7 every weekend from Capetown. Marijus Smigelskis got his first 8B, 'Black Shadow', making him the second South African to attain this grade. The first was local legend Justin Hawkins whose reputation precedes him. Justin was around for part of the season, but spent more time in the bar than on the boulders. No one was complaining though as he organised Rockstock 2, an annual party for climbers at the local bar, 'De Kelder'. The party was a great success and good times were had by all.
Left, Marijus Smigelskis climbing 'Black shadow', 8B. Right, Justin Hawkins enjoying a drink at Rockstock .
One issue that affects many climbing areas is access. This came to a head this season (2008) with the newly developed Finnish area being closed as the land owner was not consulted on the development of his land due to vague land boundaries. Other land owners were also becoming disgruntled with climbers accessing their land without permission. Thys Kruger, owner of De Pakhuys, became proactive in helping to remedy the situation by beginning the process of mapping out land boundaries of the surrounding areas. He also organised a presentation at the annual 'Veld dag' agricultural meet allowing visitor climbers to give a presentation introducing bouldering to local land owners. The response was positive and opened lines of communication between land owners and boulderers. Access is sure to be a hot topic this year (2009) and visiting climbers should be sure to obtain permission (or purchase permits) to access all bouldering and land, stick to existing paths and discuss any new development with land owners. There is also talk of developing an Access Fund and it will be interesting to see how this progresses.
In October the temperatures began to rise considerably and by early November climbing became very difficult. We decided to escape the fierce South African summer and spend 6 months in Europe. We return to Rocklands in May to continue chasing the winter. This season is just round the corner and we will keep you up to date with all developments and news as its happens.
For more information about Rocklands including photos, videos, topos and crash pad hire visit the Rocklands Boulders website at http://www.rocklandsboulders.com.
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