When the Tradathon was first announced I vaguely toyed with the idea of attending. I needed to rack up more trad mileage and it could be a fun event. Besides, how often do we have events in little ol’ KZN? As the time drew nearer, the buzz grew and more and more people contacted me saying they would “see [me] there”. So it was a no-brainer when Dave “fancy pants” Drummond mentioned that he was looking for a trad partner. I signed up the same day.
Dave “fancy pants” Drummond
The morning arrived of the event and I wondered why oh why it had to start so early. But they made up for it by serving free Jetboil coffee. What a win.
Coffee with a ….. smile
The morning was spent spotting familiar faces and listening to briefings about the day’s event. Soon it was time to rack up and head for the cliffs. Monteseel boasts almost 300 routes and stands proudly towering over the Valley of 1000 hills. This venue, which dates back to the 1940s, gives you a real sense of being in the great outdoors even though it is a short drive from suburban life. With the sounds of farm life hazily drifting in from the distance and the wide open spaces below you it has that freedom of exposure that lets your city life melt away as you clamber up some superb routes.
Monteseel is an ideal venue for trad climbers of all levels of ability. With a walk-in that is so short it makes Legoland look like a hike and protection so good that even my 2 yr old niece could confidently place a bomber cam or two, it is an ideal training ground. Black Diamond Equipment took advantage of this and ran workshops for beginner traddies throughout the morning. Experienced hands such as Gavin Raubenheimer and Julia Wakeling took the bright and shiny climbers through their paces, teaching them how to safely tie in, place and retrieve gear and gave them a whirl on some of the classic routes.
Our little team of climbers spent the day on the Eastern Buttress, cursing the blazing sun and brambles but ever so smitten with the great quality of rock. When we got hot and thirsty enough we returned to the main area where we found a hive of activity. Over 100 climbers were laying siege on Monteseel. We took a lunch break in the shade, soaking up the sight and threw “useful” comments from the peanut gallery.
It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling to so many climbers in my back yard. That warm fuzzy feeling only grew as we listened to the slide show that evening at the Hacienda. While climbers quenched dusty throats with drinks and filled their tummies with lamb from the spit we were entertained and educated by Mike Roberts, Roy Gooden, Steve Bradshaw and Roger Nattrass.
Enjoying a beer at the Hacienda
“Microbe” gave an historical account of the climbing at Monteseel and we soon realised what a crucial part our little home town crag had played in the development of climbing in the country. Not only was it the origin of our current grading system but it was where the hard men of the day came to test their abilities and push boundaries. Why they did it in such horrific fashion is beyond me. The home spun harnesses that caught them already looked debilitatingly uncomfortable. They then chose to use the least protective of all materials, lycra, to come between them and severe harness burn. Nutters, all of them. And perhaps that was the secret of their feats of daring, the intense desire to not fall. Roger entertained us with many eye-searing pictures of skinny lycra clad hippies, inspiring their generation to push their limits.
Some colourful characters still visit our crags
Spot prizes were thrown out to the delighted crowd for categories such as “coldest ears” and “most sun burnt”. There was nearly a lynching over the raffle for the highly desired trad rack but all in all it was a friendly atmosphere. My hat goes off to Black Diamond Equipment for a well organised event. I’m sure many happy memories and aspiring new traddies were born that Saturday morning.
Sunset belaying at Monteseel