“Not many women are bolting routes.” Roger remarked one day as I was gazing up at my most recent line. “And the thing is, you just get on with it.”
It took me a moment to take in what he had said. I’ve been intrigued by the reaction from the climbing community over my previous article. The one describing the first route I opened. Was it really that surprising? The more I thought about it the more I realised that there weren’t that many gals wielding drills. And the local names I could think of all seemed to come from durbs (KZN! KZN!) I find it surprising that more climbers don’t eventually gaze upwards at something new and think “that’s a gorgeous piece of rock. It must be climbed.”
Throughout my life I have sought something to bring me peace, bring stillness to my ever restless soul. When I was very young I found those moments solving puzzles or maths problems. Geometry was my favourite, being the more visual branch of maths.
As I grew older I found that stillness in drawing. I loved the added depth of creating something. And the deep bubble I would sink into as I concentrated on every line, every nuance of angle and shade.
And then, far later in life I finally found the perfect blend of movement and thought to truly bring me those moments of peace. The problem solving and intricate concentration patterns appealed to the scientist in me. The restless hippy in me was satiated not only by movement on the wall but the ever wandering spirit of a climber, traveling the crag, the country and the world while seeking that next challenge.
But now, on weekends like this where I am trying to force myself to rest after 3 weeks of non-stop activity I fully see how much the beast needs to quietened. How much restlessness my chosen outlet lets me quench. It’s been a difficult adjustment, even for this short period. I must be challenged somehow, in mind, body or spirit or the beautiful union of all 3.
The last 3 weeks have ranked among the top most physically taxing weeks of my life. A mixture of rather physical work and play and some illness chucked into the mix have meant that I have been running close to exhaustion for close on a month. I have gotten over the big humps now and am looking forward to some time off. I’m currently in this blissful state of “I made it” and having gained new perspective. Once I get some time off (oh yes please) I will come back stronger both mentally and physically. It’s a pleasing space to be in, to have conquered all those challenges. And in the wake of it all, so much progress has been made.
Forgive me for the crypticness of it all. But there is so much yet to digest. I am excited for the new lines I have bolted, for the new strength and fitness and for the new prospects on the horizon. And oh yes! I get to do a little bit of road tripping soon. It has been a long year of being far too stationary for my liking. Stay tuned for more folks.
I’m fairly new to climbing. With a mere 8 years under the belt I am often reminded of just how little time I have spent on the rock when I go to slide shows, read old magazine articles or, like today, get to meet one of the legends of our climbing history and then make the faux pas of knowing absolutely nothing about how they have contributed to the rich history of our wonderful sport.
Sure, I’d heard the name, I’d seen it written in various guide books. And recently I’d heard it bandied about when Roger mentioned that his ol’ friend Mike was coming to town. Um, okay cool.
This past week I have exercised myself to exhaustion. 3 days in a row of bolting was more than I thought I would ever take on. But then again, as I explained to Faye, bolting doesn’t take so much concentration so you can just drone on. Once you’ve done all the recce work and figured out where you want the bolts you just put your nose down and do the grunt work (and keep your eye on the prize of a beautiful new route).
Not your average shopping list
By the end of the week I was sporting very rough hands that were bleeding in random spots and a full body exhaustion. How and why I got onto an exercise bicycle on Friday afternoon is beyond me for my legs were the most exhausted from all the jumaring.
Come Saturday morning I was in no shape to go climbing. Not with a mere 1 day’s rest to refresh me. But there is always more than one reason for going climbing. Sometimes it is just the need to get out, to be social, to escape. Sometimes you feel other people’s need to get out and that is enough to twist your rubber arm.
So I dragged myself to the base of Gypsy Queen. Another one of those routes on my epic tick list. I fell in love with this route a number of years back when it was first opened. Seeing the Gypsy Queen herself make her great comeback to climbing by opening this route (and then sent another route of the same grade the same day) blew my mind. So too did the sting in the tail at the top of the route. I hadn’t been climbing long enough at that stage to know how to deal with it. So the route was left alone. Till now.
As promised, the strange and gymnastic moves had me laughing and contorting my way up the corner before tackling the meat of the route. On this day I barely made it up the corner. My legs were giving in, begging for mercy. Weak as day old jelly they had no push in them – disastrous when you’re stemming up. Yet I made it through to the glorious reach to the bucket and composed myself. Before I knew it I found myself at the final draw, trying to get something back for that final desperate clip of the chains.
How had I made it here? On my previous attempt I had been so pumped on those tiny little crimps that I had zero hope of having the fitness to get through that last long move. Or was that just what I had told myself? As I brought my breathing and heart-rate back down to normal I mused how an alarming majority of my sends had been when I thought I was too exhausted to even tug my climbing shoes on. What was up with that? Was it the zero expectation? Did I stop over-gripping and start putting more weight on my feet? Was every move a bonus when I thought I wouldn’t be able to step off the ground so I just kept moving, clocking up more and more bonus time till I’m living in stolen time? It is probably a magical mix of the above.
What ever the answer, I know one thing for sure. I need to finish this round of bolting and take a week off to recover. Mozambique is calling. But that trip is too far away. So how do you distract a climbaholic for a week?
Ev bought a new drill this past weekend. With 4 lines in mind and one of them already half drilled I was frothing at the mouth, dying to try it out. This little baby was far lighter than the old ska-donk I was using and would certainly last longer. Besides that, it drills so quickly that the drill bits don’t even have time to heat up, so they also last longer. What bliss.
With Ev away it was a great time to exhaust myself with a few bolting missions in a row and I was keen to get that first line sorted. I had been struggling to suck myself into the scoop in the middle. The steepest part of the route with the fewest options for gear. I finally figured out how to get in there this morning but by that time I had used up the crucial pieces of gear. Bummer. Well, at least it is 99% done and will make bolting the line next to it easier. And then it is on to the 2 straighter (read:easier to bolt) lines and hey presto, a whole bag full of new routes to play on. Yippee.
And to think, I was looking up training programs earlier in the week when all I needed to do was bolt to exhaustion. Hell, I gave up before the drill batteries did (and time was not on my side). It’s that good kind of exhaustion.