Fantastic Time at Yellowwood

There were sounds of dread wafting up from below.  Lamentations and gnashing of teeth could be heard.  There were horrible grunting and grating sounds.  My anxiety levels were increasing as the sounds grew louder and the tone became a deeper rumbling sound.  Was this time for the dirt nap?

A helmet appeared 5m below followed by an apparition covered in lichen and dirt.  It grunted and growled up to the ledge where I sat spooked and it then flopped unceremoniously onto the grey rock next to me.  It looked scary and awful with arms larger than my thighs.  Massive deltoids, pecs and biceps and lats bulged huge, cicatrised with distended veins making the Octopussy tattoo appear grotesque and intimidating.

The apparition then melodramatically stated: “I am gonna vomit”.  I turned my head away bemused but held the belay rope steadfastly as Farrell was still climbing on the other one.

Dark Horse fortunately did not spill his guts on the ledge but after the big man whimpered a little more he composed himself and once Farrell joined us on the ledge we were all ready to face further fearful climbing above us.

We had climbed the first 6 pitches, of a route that I had previously dubbed Full Time, especially, as the 6th pitch is really a “Full Time” experience.  It entails scary climbing on an overhanging thin fin of yellow rock with move after tricky lay back, stemming, and crimpy moves on dodgy looking holds.  No move was harder than 21 but the climbing is relentless at this grade and gripping to the max.

This was my previous high point with Dave Vallet some months ago.  The description of that attempt (called Almost Time) follows on below.

Fantastic Time, Yellowwood

The View out

Ahead were 2 options:  on the left was a very overhanging recess with no gear placements visible – I had rapped down this way with Dave 2 weeks previously.  And on the right was a vegetated crack leading up to an overhanging jamb crack at 10m or so.  Farrell wanted the lead and he trashed around for 90 minutes before snatching defeat in the now burning sun.  I went to his high point and somehow gained the overhanging crack with the odd “take” on gear to clean off loose veg and rock.  I was pumped and started aiding the crack when a cam popped and I went flying down a few metres till Dark Horse halted my further descent.
I gained a small ledge and brought the other two up.  Dark Horse and Farell sort of freed the pitch on TR!

Fantastic Time, Yellowwood

Dark Horse sort of freeing the 6th pitch

There were no takers for the next pitch so up I went again on steep lay backs to find myself in a left facing corner filled with a semi-detached block weighing about a ton.  I aided up it as I could not see myself possibly taking a fall and yanking the block off in the process.  Although it is keyed in, it still did not inspired confidence.  Both Neels and Farrell freed it on TR, although resting on the rope at times, so the route does go free.

Fantastic Time, Yellowwood

Dark Horse and Farrell belaying me on the last pitch. (Yes the rope is tight! But notice how steep the route is).

Dark Horse and Farrell belaying me on the last pitch.  (Yes the rope is tight! But notice how steep the route is).
We topped out and rapped “Down Time”.
Back at the base my companions were not having anything to do with “Full Time” and they wanted a name that befitted the climbing.  Somebody said something about it being a fantastic route and so it is now “Fantastic Time” and it awaits an all free ascent on lead.
Yellowwood again did not disappoint.  There is another great route up the main amphitheatre.  The route has some seriously heady sections but unlike some of the other major routes there are no x-rated pitches and also no run-out sections.  The block on the last pitch requires further assessment and management (watch this space.) The gear is by and large bomber and another ascent will ensure that all the loose rock on pitch 6,7 and 8 and also the pesky vegetation and lichen on pitch 7 will be removed.
Grading the route is difficult using the numerical South African System.  It, like “Prime Time” is probably British grade E4 6a.  (It is not as hard as Prime Time Direct which I would grade E5 6b.  Alternatively, I would give the route an overall South African Grade of 23 with a Severity 3 grade until the block on the last pitch has been properly evaluated.  Unlike Prime Time and Armageddon Time, there are no “stopper moves”.
There was no fixed gear used and none needed.  All the pitches were climbed ground up with-out pre-inspection.  (Although Dave and I tried to inspect the top 55m, we were in the wrong place and to the left of where the final pitch goes).

“Fantastic Time”  23 S3  (E4 6a)

Half Time

Half Time, in its own right, is a great outing of 4 excellent pitches that gets you relatively quickly to the Half Way Ledge.  It is the equivalent in length of doing a route on the Chess pieces but without the extra walking and there is an easy 2 rap escape using Down Time which should be easily spotted by walking left for about a rope length.  Remember you need 60m ropes to use Down Time.

Pitch 1 19 30m

Start a rope length or so to the right of the stepped corner system of Armageddon Time.  The start is marked by a stone cairn.  Climb easily to a short left facing corner topped by an overhang on the left.  Pull through into the crack and continue to the good ledge in a left facing recess.

Pitch 2 21/22 20m

Stem up the recess.  The hollow sounding flakes on the right are quite stable but use with care.  Move up right to below and overlap and pull through using the jambed block.  Climb diagonally left to stance on the arête.

Pitch 3 22 45m

Climb straight up 12 or so metres tending to stay on the left arête avoiding the dodgy rock on the right.  Step round left at the highest overlap visible and do airy steep lay back moves on small holds to good holds and then exit to the right.  Continue up 3m and exit right past the overhang to gain a ramp.  Climb 20m up the ramp to stance on the highest ledge on a cantilevered block.

Pitch 4 19

Climb the left facing corner and exit diagonally left to gain the Halfway Ledge

Full Time now starts.

Walk left about 30m to belay below the huge left facing corner system.  Or walk another 15m to stance below a right leaning thin crack system in gray rock.

Pitch 5 16 or 19 20m

Either climb diagonally left on the grey rock to a large ledge if starting below the corner crack system.  Or climb diagonally up right the stance on the same ledge if starting on the left.

Pitch 6 23

Step left off the ledge and climb the yellow overhanging fin on lay backs and crimps and stemming moves.  Continue into the lichen covered rock and past the slightly grotty groove to exit to a good ledge.  (This is a long and intense pitch and a nice big rack is useful.)

Pitch 6. 22? 20m

Step right off the ledge and climb the crack above to attain the obvious overhanging jamb crack.  Climb this to a small perch.

Pitch 7 22?  35m

Climb up the an obvious short right facing recess on lay backs on lichen covered rock.  Place good gear before attaining the recess clipping both ropes on the right as there is, at present a large block keyed into the recess that is dodgy.  (If the block should fall away it will fall to the left).  Climb the recess and one has to use the block to easier ground and follow your nose to the top.


If you know what you are doing walk up and over to the left and rap Down Time.  (Anyone who climbs this route will have no trouble rapping Down Time but be careful not to twist your ropes and keep them well separated when pulling them down the 3rd rap (that gets you to the Halfway ledge).  Or walk to the gulley on the left and do the normal descent.



Most of the Time 23  10 June 2010

Yellowwood enticed me yet again to further my apprenticeship of exciting, scary and bold climbing.  With Dave Vallet I returned yesterday 10 June 2010 and we did a clean free ascent of Half Time and then in luxurious sunlight and near perfect climbing conditions we explored the next two pitches from the Halfway Ledge.

Fantastic Time, Yellowwood

Dave on Pitch 2

Dave led off from the halfway ledge up a perfect Yosemite style lie back crack situated about 20m left of the main left facing corner system.  The crack then exits right onto grey face and then up easy rock to a short left facing corner and then to a nice stance.

I then led the next pitch, one of the most outrageous and scary pitches I have ever done.  It is 45m of continuous stoncking grade 21+ climbing with almost nowhere to compose oneself.  The rock quality is mostly excellent once tested but intimidating in the extreme with move after move of technical lie back moves on dubious looking flakes, followed by a complicated series of body position changes on tiny holds to get – more or less – on balance to take a hand off, shake out and place gear.

The pro is nothing short of excellent but a little run out at the top where the climbing eases a little and becomes a little grotty.  I used virtually a whole rack of gear that included extra cams and nuts.
I was stumped at one move at around 30m and could see how to do it but could not gain the height to reach to lie back.  But after cleaning off some vegetation I found the perfect jug that allowed for the move to be done.

It is difficult to grade this route using the South Africa numeric system as there is barely a move harder than grade 21 or 22.  But it is so consistently brutal, physically and mentally, that an overall grade 23 is appropriate or 22 S3 or at least E4 5c in the British system.

This is pitch is as demanding to lead as anything I ever done on-sight including the 23 and 24 pitches of Prime Time Direct and the Harding Slot on Astroman.  It is a serious test of resolve and one must keep and exceptionally cool tool to do it.

It probably took me almost 2 hours to lead it and I then rapped off cleaning as I went to find that it overhangs by close to 10m.
Exhausted we rapped off.

6 Responses to Fantastic Time at Yellowwood

  1. coool Feb 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    ha, wow. that looks epic. awesome line, great photos too.

  2. Dark Horse Feb 22, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    It was some of the scariest climbing I’ve ever done, I felt the 1 ton block move and if it did by chance come off there would probably just have been a smear left as evidence that I was there as you have to use it for hands and feet. There were actually a couple of places that I pulled on stuff with my heart in my throat.

    Snort’s head might just explode but it was some very bold leading that he did.

  3. Snort Feb 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Dark Horse it wasn’t that bad. You just don’t climb at YW enough. Shall we go up tomorrow and free those pitches? Am working hard on getting at pass.

  4. Farrell Feb 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Tried to clean the route today, bit of a mission. Managed to knock the loose block off, well almost off…. Whoever climbs it next should be able to pull it off, unless you hold your breath….and whatever you don’t sneeze.

  5. Frederick Feb 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Is that an 8pussy tattoo or just one or are you just climbing like one?

  6. Jacques Feb 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm #


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