Girl power

One of the most alluring things about moving back to Durban and climbing here was that there was such a strong girl climber contingent.  And I mean that in all senses of the term.  Not only was it a closely knit group of many more girls than I had seen up North but these chicks were strong.  And determined.  And could give me girl beta.  It was a huge boost to my climbing.

That was about 8 yrs ago.  Slowly but surely the ladies moved away and I was left to tackle KZN climbing on my own.  Until recently when Faye moved back.  The strongest of the lot.  I’m not ashamed to say that I have a bit of a climbing crush on my dear Faye.  And anyone watching her glide up the rock face would feel the same.  It doesn’t matter what else life throws at her, Faye is a born climber.  And it’s rad that she has come back and is keen to mission.  Plans are being formed and dates are being booked.

And speaking of booked, my sister emailed me this morning with the itinerary for her birthday.  I was firstly shocked to see that it was in the beloved Umtentu.  And secondly more shocked to see that it was a 4 day bicycle trek.  Married life has certainly changed my very corporate sister.  I’m excited for this upcoming adventure for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is the bonding time with my sister which has been seriously lacking of late.  And utterly grateful that she gave such advanced warning.  I should be able to not fall off a bicycle by October right?  Right????

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Tradathon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunset belaying at Monteseel

Resistance is Futile

RIF

It all started when Steve Bradshaw Snr came for a little climbing trip to our neck of the woods. I didn’t get to join them at the crag that day but I believe Steve was swept away by the magic of Kirk Falls. So much so that when Kulula offered him a voucher due to a delayed flight it took less than a moment’s thought for Steve to book another little climbing trip back to KZN.

On his return trip I was there, quietly working Resistance is Futile. Supposedly a 29 yet it felt at least 2 grades harder than the 28s next to it. And it was shutting me down big time. Perhaps an 8a for the Vertically Challenged…..

I had only just started to stick the post box move. Great, only 3 more cruxes to go. ;p Steve found the already placed draws all too tempting (and perhaps it was the alluring way that I fell off every big move) and soon joined me on the proj. Thank god. Because it was more than a little sad when Scott came along and waltzed up it. At least with Steve there I didn’t feel like the only girl at the prom without a date.

The whoosh move didn’t daunt the others as it did me. Sure it was still a pumpy few moves over the roof, leading into the crimpy gaston on bad feet, setting up for a whoosh up into the roof. But their length was directly proportional to their probability of sticking it. My attempts were far more dramatic. And then it was the next long move and the pumpy bar fight to the final draw.

Neither Steve nor I had any success that weekend, other than refining the beta. So off we went in our separate directions with our separate strategies. With the Tradathon 3 weeks away Steve already knew that he was returning. “How much weight can I lose in 3 weeks?” he mused.

While Steve opted to lose as much weight as he could I opted to …… well I had no strategy really. The friendly competition wasn’t my kind of motivation. These days I climb for the sake of the journey. I used the gym to my advantage and set up routes that mimicked the big moves. The fact that I couldn’t stick the manufactured moves either meant that I had mimicked them perfectly. ;p

Steve sent me pictures of his training wall and of sad looking plates containing little more than lettuce and a few tomatoes. I responded by sending him selfies of me eating bacon and mentioned the chocolate I ate for breakfast.

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The wall Steve trains on

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Sad little plates of lettuce

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Nom nom nom

One week to go before Steve returns and I haven’t even been able to milk the home town advantage and squeeze out a few more trips to Kirk.  Oh well, let’s see what happens.

We find meaning where we seek it.

Lately the theme of my life seems to be how challenges make us grow and re-align our identity. Life challenges and stresses push us out of our comfort zone and we quickly learn if we will sink or swim. And what are climbers other than challenge-seeking beings? We go out of our way to push ourselves out of our comfort zone so that we can grow as athletes. Our most difficult sends have often been those that we remember the most fondly once we found the way to overcome the difficult move. And those challenge-seeking molecules are bound to attach themselves to the rest of our lives.

Those faced with adversity get given the choice of seeking meaning (that feeling of “everything happens for a reason so……why is this happening?”) and forming new identities for themselves. Children born different from others are taught from a young age how happiness is internal. To ignore the taunts of less “developed” individuals as they find their own worth that does not fit in the square shaped peg society has laid out for others.

This morning, driving to work I realised that because of all the trials we have faced lately, a simple evening of sitting on the couch with my boyfriend was suddenly treated as utter bliss. Because simplicity has been so lacking. It strikes me that all the chaos of the go-go-go in our lives makes those moments more special.