A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

South Africa Travels

After two weeks more climbing Cassie's finger was still hurting her, that coupled with a prediction of rain for almost 4 days in a row caused us to hightail it out of Rocklands to do some tourism.
Driving the Garden Route

We decided to drive what is known as the Garden Route. It starts near Cape Town and travels along the coast east until Port Elizabeth. Our first night we stayed in Hermanus which is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to watch whales from the shore. Alas we saw no whales probably because they are only just starting to arrive in the area. Closer to September would probably have been best. We moved east to Knysna and stayed at a wonderful victorian b&b/backpackers lodge, where we met a couple from Holland who we spent some time talking with. They told us of their travels to Addo Elephant Park and showed us some pictures and we were very excited to go. The following afternoon we were in the park. The park has a interesting setup in which you are allowed to drive around on the roads and watch the wildlife, but are not allowed to get out of your vehicle except in certain designated areas. We started driving through and just as we were told we immediately started seeing Elephants.
Elephant watching us
mother and child
Mother and Baby

And I'm not talking like we saw them through binoculars and they looked cool, I mean they were right up next to the car, in many cases only a few feet from us. They were huge impressive beautiful animals and we spent many an hour just sitting there watching them eat and walk around. Truly magnificent experience. We saw plenty of other wildlife as well, though not all the "big 5" that are so sought after. The park did have lions and leopards and rhinos, but not very many. We're considering doing a safari to make sure we get to see the rest of the big ones. That being said for $20 each per day we certainly got out moneys worth. The second day we went back into the park and spent a full day exploring it.

cape buffalo
Cape Buffalo
dude you've got something in your hair
Vervet Monkeys

We saw a lot more animals than the previous day and were thrilled with our time there, though as it was drawing to a close we were saying to each other "i hope that wasn't the last elephant we get to see". Well, you know how sometimes you wish for something maybe just a little too hard? and when you get it it's a lot more than what you bargained for? As we were driving out to exit the park we saw one more elephant eating and pulled up about 50ft from it to watch him eat. He was just munching along paying us no mind when he slowly pulled away from the tree. When these behemoths move they are very slow and you have a lot of time to see what's happening so as he started walking towards us both of us held our breath because he seemed to be looking right at us. He started waving his trunk around and flapping his ears and kept coming toward us. Now, let me say that all the elephants in the park are huge, but this one in particular was massive and when he decided to stand right in front of our miniature tiny insignificant little rental car with our even smaller insignificant bodies inside of it we indeed felt very small. He looked directly at each of us with his huge eyes and used his trunk to check out the bumper. Sometimes I hear people use the expression "about shit myself with fear" but I tell you I was so tense that couldn't have happened. I think we both didn't breathe for at two solid minutes as he sat there watching us and seemed to be considering if it would be a good idea to total the car by simply stepping on it. Eventually he just got tired of us and walked off to another car giving us the chance to pull away. We were both very happy to have had that last encounter and decided that being humbled in front of such a majestic animal was probably the best experience of all the ones we had in the park. We'll always remember his presence in front of us and listening to his breath. Truly magic.

roaming the grasslands
In the grasslands

After that we headed back west and checked out Cango cave near Ootdsthorn. We've seen a lot of caves so and didn't have great expectations of it even with many of our south african friends telling us how amazing it was. We were stunned when we went into the first room. It was huge and amazing. Absolutely wonderful cave and the best we've even seen. Truly stupendous place.

Cango Cave
Cave Closeup
near Oudtshoorn
Driving to Oudtshoorn

Tomorrow we head back to Rocklands to start climbing again. Cassie's finger has improved some, but is still sore so we'll see if she can climb much. Truly a frustrating injury when you're on a climbing trip. She's had the bulk of the injuries on the trip and it's tough to have fun when everyone else around you is climbing and you're not. We'll try to stay positive and keep hoping for a full recovery soon.

Oh, btw I sent a super cool roof climb just before we left called "Minki" it's a 7b which works out to v7/8. So, the strength is gradually returning. Many climbs we are excited to go back and try. Time to return to Rocklands!!!
Minki 7b v7/8

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rocklands South Africa

Back at it in Rocklands South Africa

We arrived in Capetown South Africa after three flights from Bangkok Thailand. It was a fairly brutal 14 hours of flying but when we were descending into Cape Town we were just in time to watch the sun set over Table Mountain and see the clouds of the South Atlantic swirling in the valleys below the coastal peaks. It was one of the most beautiful vistas we have seen flying into anywhere and it really got us excited for South Africa.

the flight into Capetown

After clearing immigration and customs without issue we picked up our rental car and I got my first experience of driving on the right side of the car, with a manual transmission. That by itself was exciting enough, but then to add driving on the left side of the road was a little bit nerve wracking. For our first night in Africa we decided to splurge a little bit and stay at a cozy little bed and breakfast. It was built in the early 1900s and was absolutely perfect. We slept like rocks and woke up to an excellent breakfast. After that it was off to the climbing shop to pick up our bouldering crash pads and then north on the N7 for a three hour drive to Clanwilliam for groceries, and finally due east for about 30 minutes of Pakhuys pass to our campground at De Pakhuys. The campground had about 15 climbers there when we arrived and everyone was super nice. The scenery from camp made our mouths water for bouldering and it was pretty hard to wait until the next morning to do our first day of climbing. We checked out the Plateau area for our first day since it was just a short walk from camp. The weather was quite warm (around 70F) and we were sweating on the hike in. Our first taste of Rocklands helped us understand the description of the rock as "sandstone with quartzite". The rock was very very much like a cross between Ibex and Joes with lots of quartzite holds intermixed with sandstone holds. This makes for some very interesting climbing as both of these holds require slightly different types of power to hold onto. Quartzite has more flat crimps and the sandstone has more slopey crimps. One thing is for sure though, this place is crimpy.

consequence boulder
consequence boulder 5c/v0
plateau stem v0
The rock has horizontal breaks every 2-3 feet or so with either crimpers or sloper rails, then a big move to the next horizontal rail. Our crimp strength will certainly have to get much better to make progress here.
Given that we hadn't really bouldered in over two months our lack of strength was not suprising and we spent the day doing mostly easy climbs that still felt quite hard. All in all we had a great day and were convinced we made a good decision to spend two months here.

That night we met a bunch of climbers at the cool little bar in the campground. One of the climbers was named Florian (Flo) and was from Germany, he had been to Rocklands the previous year and after talking with him we realized he had met a climber we knew from Austria named George whom we had met 2 years ago in Joe's Valley Utah! He then proceeded to tell us that George was arriving the next night!!! We were very excited to see our old friend again. The coincidences keep growing though, just yesterday we met some climbers from the Gunks (new york) who know our friends Ian and Nikki, who we met in Utah and Tennessee. To top it off we talked to a french climber named Tristen who we had met in Albarracin Spain. Small small climbing world indeed.

Flo invited us to go over to a nearby farm to pick olives the following day and get a home cooked meal. We were exhausted from our first day out so a rest day sounded excellent and a free meal sounded even better. We picked olives the whole next day, met some local workers, and a few donkeys. The dinner was outstanding and we made a bunch of friends quickly after picking olives all day with them. Plans were made for climbing the next day and we went back to the Plateau area with a local climber from Capetown named Clara.

getting the olives
picking olives
dinner at Alpha Excelsior
Climbing the second day went better than the first and we sent a few things that we really enjoyed such as "Girl on our Mind" 6b/v3 and a few other v3 ranged problems. We weren't totally suprised to find our strength left us quite quickly and we got trashed trying to climb many problems. The holds here tend to be very sharp and since we lost our callouses in asia we are finding our fingers quite sore. The weather forecast predicted two days of rain so we climbed as hard as we could until we couldn't hold on any more.

girl on my mind 6b v3
The following day the rain arrived as predicted so we decided to go with a small group to a nearby hotsprings. It poured the whole time we were in the springs but the water relaxed and soothed our tired bodies. We will certainly be going there again. The next day it continued to pour on us, resulting in the bridge to the campground flooding and waterfalls appearing throughout the mountains. While a second rest day was probably what we needed we started going a bit stir crazy by the end of theday. for our third day of climbing we went to one of the bigger areas called "8 day rain" and tried a bunch of problems though we sent very little. Our strength is still just not quite cutting it, but it's okay since all of the climbs we tried were outstanding and well worth coming back to.

playing chess (george and flo) with cassie reading in the background
For our fourth day we headed to higher elevations in the pakhuis pass to an area called Road Crew, though it was anything but right off the road. It was a good half hour hike, but again we were rewarded with excellent climbing. Still very much struggling on 6b-6c (v4-v5) we are working hard to get strong again. We didn't send anything super notable but had a great dayon quality rock. We walked right past Amandla 8b+ which works out to something like v14-v15. It is truly a staggering line.

the pass
sunset on the pass
We took a rest the following day and headed out to the coast which is only about 30 miles away from Clanwilliam. We explored tidepools an saw dolphins. The sun felt good on our faces and we ended the day with fish and chips for dinner before heading back to camp.

Cassie is nursing a strange finger injury that we are hoping will go away quickly so she wont be climbing for at least another day (after 4 days off) which she is understandably bummed about. Hopefully her finger will feel better soon so she can start climbing again. I'm continuing to climb and am starting to feel stronger again
so I'm trying some harder problems and making some progress though no sends to report yet.

Hopefully we'll have more sends to report in the next post as we continue to get strong and hopefully as injuries heal quickly.

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