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PETZL / MCSA Rock & Road – Table Mountain Time

The wind blows itself out sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, round about 2am. I know this because a group of climbers only return home at this time after a night out with Marijus. I turn over and go back to sleep with the knowledge that we’d have some rather bleary-eyed competitors in the morning, and we would indeed be able to go ahead with day two of the PETZL Rock & Road Trip Western Cape 2010 on Table Mountain.

At 8am the crew were handed Table Mountain Cable Car tickets, and pretty soon we were traipsing off after Clinton Martinengo who was in charge of showing us to the tea cave. The day was bright, cloudless and probably the epitome of picture perfect. We couldn’t believe our luck considering the gale from the day before.

A brisk march down to the tea cave, wise instructions from Ant on prudent mountain behaviour and a particularly amusing lecture from Julia on how to poop and ziplock – and we were ready to climb the access routes to Upper Africa Ledge.

Julia giving the Ziplock bag speech "and one time... it was this big"

The whole point of today’s mission was to expose the sport climbers to Table Mountain’s classic test pieces, which are of course full-on trad climbing. The words that inspire a nervous sweat in all those who worship the bolt, trad climbing on Table Mountain is something of an institution in the Cape.

Due to the disastrous wind the day before, the Rock ‘n Road riggers weren’t able to place lead gear on the men’s second route. I am pretty sure that piece of news was greeted with an internal sigh of relief from all our male competitors, as Clinton’s Huge Big Monster is scary enough on top-rope.

One of the big long top ropes

The ladies were given two routes to climb, Africa Arête pitch one – (25) and No Longer at Ease (25). Africa Arête seemed to be the much easier climb, with most of the girls flashing the route on top rope. No Longer at Ease, however, proved a lot more challenging with only Tessa Little making it through the crux to gain her second flash. The end results were as follows:

1. Tessa Little

2. Monique Bermeister

3. Rachelle de Charmoy

4. Illona Pelser, Faye Brouard, Heidi Rower, Ilse Labuschagne

5. Candice Bagley, Naureen Goheer

The men had Dynamite (26) and Huge Big Monster (31) as their projects for the day. Dynamite saw a range of top rope flashes, but Huge Big Monster was definitely the one to watch. Clinton repeated the route early in the day and gave the boys a chance to see how it should be done, but dutifully shouted beta all day long after that.

At the Tea Cave

It has to be mentioned that Yunus Davids was on fine form in the entertainment stakes. On his Huge Big Monster attempt Yunus managed to knock his helmet pretty much off his head! This is probably the only case in which falling head protection requires wearing head protection. Not content with this little performance, Yunus waited until he was on belay duty on the same route to execute his superman 15m flight into thin air. Not aware that there was a pulley at the chains instead of a regular biner, when Wesley fell – Yunus shot all the way up to the crux…and Wesley was very much closer to the ground.

Matt Bush was pretty much the star of the show though, pulling a ridiculously impressive top-rope flash of Huge Big Monster. It was a lovely way to wrap up such an unbelievable day, watching Matt perform the seriously powerful moves following Clinton’s beta being yelled up to him in a precise monologue. Clinton knows this route backwards apparently.

The full results were:

1. Clinton Martinengo and Matt Bush (Clinton will be scored differently due to his previous knowledge of the routes)

2. Wesley Black, Phlip Olivier, Donovan Willis

3. Paul Bruyere, Guy Patterson-Jones, Mathieu Schneuwly, Dylan Vogt, James Barnes, Brian Weaver

4. Dirk Smith, Yunus Davids, Marijus Smigelkis

5. Harry Crews

The climbers headed off to Oudekraal Beach near Camps Bay for an exceptional Spit Braai and a few beers, but I think none were more deserving of it than the event organisers. The amount of rigging that had to be done and the effort involved in making this day safe was quite a task, and all the competitors were fully aware of this. Just getting the +- ten ropes and all that gear up Table Mountain is a mission, let alone setting it up!

One of the most interesting and positive things that came out of this experience were the amount of people saying ‘Man, I just want to get back here to try that route on lead!’ While some might argue what the point of doing top topes on trad routes was, the trad world is often one that is really hard to break into and can be extremely intimidating. This was a very fresh approach to tackling the inexperience that many of the sport climbers have with trad, and the quality of the rock, the amazing lines and obviously the phenomenal surroundings of Table Mountain are something that many of the climbers would never have experienced without this kind of accessible scenario. Let’s hope they come back for more.

Many thanks to all the volunteer belayers who worked literally all day and to Ant, Gosia and Julia for pulling this one out of the bag!

Looking down Table Mountain from the cable car

Monday see’s the mentor day with kids from Khayelitsha coming in to spend time with the Rock & Roaders up at Silvermine. This should be a really good experience for the kids and climbers alike, after which we all head for Montagu.

Text and Images Kath Fourie

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