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Climb ZA: Firstly, congratulations on getting married recently!
Andrew: Thanks, it’s been bliss so far… home-baked cakes and biscuits for the crag, a hot bath and supper ready when I get back, etc. I recommend it.
Climb ZA: You recently sent your project Rodan!?
Andrew: How do you know about that?! Yes I did, it’s at Waterval Boven, a crag in Mpumalanga.
Climb ZA: So where does the name come from?
Andrew: Rodan is the arch-enemy of Godzilla (a monster) in the 1950’s Japanese movies and the name of the climb to the right of Rodan (8b). In all the films its just people screaming and running from giant plasticine monsters, classic stuff. (Ed: Andrew has already opened two other impressive lines called ‘Monster’ and ‘Godzilla’)
Rodan wins by the way, he can resist Godzilla’s nuclear breath, of course.
Climb ZA: When did you bolt the route?
Andrew: I started bolting it in early 2009 but only completed the bolting late that year. I then started working the climb in earnest during June 2010, after returning from a 3 month climbing trip in Spain with Micky and Arjan. I managed to do it in two halves after only a few days on the route, but it took much longer to do in one go!
Climb ZA: We’ve been hearing rumours of grade 34, is this true?
Andrew: Yes 34, I do not climb 8c+, never will, I am too weak (really) so despite speculation that it might be harder… its not. I should never have even been able to climb 8c (I have never even bouldered 8A and rarely train), but with Rodan I made a special effort, it’s such a class line.
Comparisons..? It feels about the same difficulty as Streetfighter. The moves are probably easier than but the hard climbing goes on for longer. I don’t think it can be 8b+, based purely on the amount of time it took me, but maybe if I’d found that drop knee on the crux sooner..time will tell.
Climb ZA: Tell us about the route, endurance, power, small grips, exposed, length, etc
Andrew: My description in the guide (new version soon to be uploaded!)and sums it up nicely; ”.. At the ledge 8 metres up, look out over the forest, take a deep breath then immerse yourself in 25 metres of pumping orange rock-karate.”
It’s pure endurance superimposed on endurance. There’s nothing exceptionally difficult on it, just lots and lots of moderately difficult moves and no real rests. The meat of the climb is an 15-move sequence halfway up on smooth rock, positive finger holds but really poor feet.
Climb ZA: How long did it take you to send and what makes the route so hard?
Andrew: Plenty of time! I thought I was going to get it much more quickly but kept falling at the crux, a hard section moving slightly left, high on the climb. Take a wide left crimp, paste poor feet and move right hand over for a good hold then semi campus up some side pulls to some jugs. I got past the crimp move twice a while back but lost my core strength on the side pulls.
Overall I think it took between 80 and 100 redpoints! Insane! Really it was too close to my limit, perhaps if I had trained a bit or worked the route with someone I would have snagged it sooner. I learnt a lot about projecting at your absolute limit, I could write a paper on it! Anyway, I sent it on Jan 12th. It felt desperate even on the send. The screams (from me and the guys on the ground) were probably heard in Nelspruit; I think the local wildlife has fled to the next valley.
Climb ZA: Did you train specifically or do anything else to up your chances of doing the route?
Andrew: Not really. One think that helped in the end, was not trying the route much; I was mostly doing other stuff, including a few new routes (Welcome to Ovamboland, The Bovenator, Just Behrly). I just hopped on Rodan now and then. I took a month off and did no climbing in November, my wife and I went to northern Namibia where I just ate lots and enjoyed being in the bush and got psyched and refreshed.
A week before sending the route I was reading Jerry Moffatt’s autobiography (a must read!); he goes on about how power is the key, so I spent a few days bouldering (on a couple of short hard climbs). I think this helped, I had an extra 2% strength on the route and hadn’t lost my endurance (which becomes a problem if you do too much power training).
The days before the send I went for a walks down to the Waterfall crags and the Island, did some easy climbing and just enjoying myself and the place, which is super important, gets the mind off the climb and keeps you from getting into a mental funk. Boven is so beautiful in summer, despite the rain it’s my favourite time of year and the humidity makes the rock stickier (if you have dry skin like mine).
Climb ZA: Just how good is this route, compared to other top graded routes you’ve done?
Andrew: Look at the pictures! It’s really as good as it gets – a sea of small holds on a big blank leaning orange wall. Climbs definitely get better the harder they get, less rests, more complicated moves up blanker rock.
I could gaze at that sweeping line of little holds for hours. Every time I fell off, I’d look down over the route; the thought of being able climb such a stunning piece of rock is what motivated me and kept me tying in for more.
Climb ZA: Has anyone else been working the route / close to it?
Andrew: Marc Efune played on the moves a while back, did them all without too much trouble and I think is psyched to try it now. No one else has tried it.
I actually really think it’s important to let mates try your projects, they work out beta and the little bit of competitiveness helps; you can really cut down the time it takes to open a climb. I wish I had had more help on Rodan!
Climb ZA: So, will it be repeated any time soon?
Andrew: Probably, I am sure people will want to try it. Paul, Arjan, Matt could all do it pretty quickly, maybe a few days max.
It would be great to see their psyche for the route. If Adam Ondra comes back I am sure he would do it 2nd try; he’d better not Onsight it though!
Climb ZA: What other ascents of note have you done?
Andrew: A few new routes at Boven over the years. This year I did 10 routes of 8a+ and 8b including the second ascent of Adam’s route ‘The Emperor’ at Waterkloof.
Climb ZA: What can you tell us about the new crag in the Northern Cape (the one that we’ve been seeing pictures of, on the home page)?
Andrew: Firstly, it’s in the Freestate, there are only a 3-4 climbs (a 23, a 24 and a 26) and a project I bolted (Digital Warfare) which might be the best line I have ever seen… It’s realisation on sandstone. Maybe 8c ish. It’s open for anyone to try. If anyone wants to go there, email me, only one condition, you have to wear a sack over your head for the last 100 kms to maintain the secrecy of the location. Hector Pringle found the crag whilst at a party down there. He found wigwam whilst strolling around in Magalies, thanks be to Hector and may yee continue to look kindly upon our sport climbing ways. Hector, Dirk Smith and Marc Efune have each opened a route there.
Climb ZA: You spent a large amount of time in Boven this year. What is your relation with Boven (from over the years), tell us how the season has been for you?
Andrew: My car is called ‘The Bovenator’ and I have driven the equivalent of 5.8 times around the world in it. Between Joburg and Boven over the last 6 years, rad! I never tire of it, I am going there tomorrow! It’s not just the climbs it’s the scenery, the vegetation (Highveld meets lowveld), the ‘special’ locals.
I am on first name terms with the Butcher (the back country one)! It’s far and away our best sport climbing area and is probably in the top 5 climbing destinations in the world (along with Ceuse, Red River Gorge, Rodellar, Frankenjura). I started climbing there in 2002 but in 2006 I woke up and realised the potential of the place. I saw the opportunity and took it!
I engineered a lifestyle focussed on opening new lines there. To be able to open world class routes at the relatively lowly grades of 8a to 8c is almost impossible elsewhere in the world. The next wave of development at Boven is going to have to be at new crags, of which there are 1-2 and I will leave it to the next generation. Finding something leaning like the God No! Wall is unlikely though.
Climb ZA: What gets you psyched?
Andrew: A beautiful line and a good climbing scene. The Joburg scene is pretty quiet (they all have careers!) but the scene at Boven is cool as it attracts climbers from all over. The Pretoria crowd rocks these days. Opening new routes is my number one passion. It’s not an ego thing, but just pure love for it; if I was the last climber on earth I would still do it.
The most fun I can have is abbing down a new line, exploring. 10 metres of rock can contain as much adventure a 100 kms of mountain. Checking out moves and those first few tries on lead, linking sequences that didn’t look possible; before the pressure of the Redpoint kicks in, that’s the best. I normally equip routes in abseil, asking someone to toprope me for 5 hours at a time is unfair! Besides I like being alone on the wall, hours can go by without me even noticing.
Climb ZA: What projects are you working (Boulder / Sport)?
Andrew: I bolted a steep 3-bolt wonder in Boven, normally I don’t go in for micro routes but the holds are perfect; it would be a 5-star boulder but the landing is total sloping death blocks. Also, whilst looking at some photos of the God No! Wall last week, I spotted a really cool looking ‘feature’ that I’d like to climb, if there are any holds. I will update you soon. There is also a line at Wigwam I want to bolt, I went there in the rain yesterday and was inspired. Wigwam is amazing, move for move I think it’s the best climbing in SA.
Update – 25 Jan: Andrew opened ‘Psyche Ward’ (the 3-bolt wonder mentioned above) “Great route, really cool deadpointing up a steep face“. The route is still awaiting a grade confirmation, but Andrew reckons it goes at about 30/31.
Whilst posting this interview up yesterday, Andrew was busy bolting ‘the really cool looking feature‘ (also mentioned above) and reckons it is the most majestic line yet… ”The Overlord Project”.
“Nature has provided a rising line of tiny holds across that blank orange face, incredible. Its bolted and ready to go! Will be back there before I get a job..I hope…“
Climb ZA: Do you have a 5 year climbing plan?
Andrew: No. I will start a new job soon, the last 2 years have been mind blowing but life’s too easy just climbing and chilling. However, I find 9 til 5 jobs in the city like stepping on conveyor belt to old age so I am not interested in that either.
I want to work somewhere far out for a couple years, to sharpen the spirit then dedicate the rest of my life to making babies and climbing. My wife is also an Exploration Geologist so we will work together, maybe West Africa where the culture is rich and the gold deposits are the best. I won’t climb, for me climbing is about doing it 5 days a week and being in top shape, not feeling weak and climbing now-and-then.
It’s either on or off.
Climb ZA: Do you have a climbing sponsor?
Andrew: Evolv shoes are the best if you want to stand on tiny holds, the Talons especially, yes I sent Rodan in them. Next best are the 5.10 Dragons but not quite as precise. Bluewater ropes last longest – I had to give my last one away as I got bored with the colour. After 1.5 years of continuous proper lobbing it only lost 5 metres.
Andrew: Things are moving, new strong youngsters are entering the sport. One thing that holds us back though is lack of really good climbing walls. That’s where talent is grown oversees. Joburg needs a kick ass bouldering gym. Within 6 months you’d have an unknown kid ripping up hardest problems and flashing 8b’s within 2 years.
Pretoria is putting out some strong new climbers, they have a decent wall at Tuks and also The Barn. One thing that might limit us is new crags, in SA we really don’t have much sport rock; quartzite is extremely stubborn! It prefers to form rambling crags, not 30 metre high compact leaning walls. I think the area around Boven still has some potential.
Climb ZA: Who are some of the up and coming climbers that you’ve seen around?
Andrew: Wesley Black is the best new talent I have seen and he likes trad too which is great as it develops a better understanding of climbing. It would be super to see him tick some of the hard lines at Boven, if he does Rodan before end of 2012 I will buy him several crates of beer, if he does it in 2011 I will buy him a rope!
The young Guy Paterson Jones from Cape Town sounds like a real natural, he will crush. Someone should take him to Boven soon!
Brian Weaver is extremely psyched, more than anyone. I guarantee that he will send Rodan within a few years or less.
Then of course there’s Arjan, he is on another level and he has a game plan, if only we had more steep long cliffs he would take us to another level. Hmm, Arjan…Rodan in a day, that would be good to see, even if a little depressing, he could probably campus the crux!
Climb ZA: How many routes have you opened?
Andrew: Not that many, but its quality I seek, not quantity. I will always be 100% proud of my climbs at the God! No Wall.
Along with marrying Irene, they are the best things I have ever done, I wouldn’t swap a million rand or be famous in exchange for them. When I am 80 I will wheel myself to the top of the God No! Wall (I will try to convince Mike Behr to build a viewing deck) and enjoy watching the climbers on those routes and be as psyched as they are, even if I am peeing in my pants!
Climb ZA: Would you let your wife belay you after you’ve had an argument?
Andrew: Irene prefers to sleep at the crag, she has a hammock. While I was sending Rodan she was sound asleep; she only woke up when I started screaming with joy! She does a little climbing, she did her first toprope 16 the other day and soon I will put her on Monster. But if she does get into climbing, who’s going to bake the cookies?
Related article: Andrew Pedley on Axewound / Pitfighter