Of Teeth and Hunters – Progression in Motion

Many moons ago I found a new line on TM.  It’s proper hard.  The Moon Flakes project began.  I figured that 2 months in Boven should provide the necessary improvements in finger strength needed to give it an honest go. Although, in this case ‘honest’ would mean with a small, yet possible chance of success.

Much like trying to score the hottest girl at the club: you need to pull out all the tricks of the trade (without resorting to rohypnol).  Well, at the time when I had planned to be at peak strength, the project had changed.  Now the goal was to hobble 15m on crutches without wanting to pass out from the pain…

Moon Flakes: IP. Pic: Jono Joseph

The notion of climbing 30+ on trad now seemed totally and utterly preposterous.  Ever walking again without a limp seemed like a good deal.  Being able to stand long enough to make a cheese sandwich has been nice.  Knee buggered, life changed.  While I was dosed up on pain-attempt-killers, Joe emailed me the following quote: “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs, but by how high he bounces when he hits the bottom” General George S. Patton.  Thanks dude. While it would be many weeks before the borrowed crutches could be sent back North to Gustav, the process of how to bounce started in the playground of the brain.


Phases of the moon came and went.  The body started to heal.  The mind dreamt faster.  Hobbling became walking.  The ideas of new lines grew, I explored parts of the mountain I had never seen before, albeit rather slowly and awkwardly at first.  My note book started to fill up.  My gait become more normal.  More physio. Abseiling and brushing.  Choss and gold.  Lichen in the eyes.  Some swearing.  More patience.  Waxing and Waning.  More stretching, less stumbling.  Scrambling.  Leading.  Seed planted, nervous. Go!

Scoping out the steep cracks on Fang Fighters P1 (21)

The steepening arete on pitch two of Fang Fighters (23)

And then, all of a sudden, rather jittery, unfit and untrusting of my mostly-recovered limb, I found myself high up in the mist: mid crux with major winger potential.  The Hollywood slow-mo kicked in, and if there had been music, it would have stopped.  Which would have made it easier to hear the the sound of a sewing machine threatening to start up in my left leg.  This was the test: am I back in the game or not?  Hopefully not back in hospital.  The sidelines are safer, but you can’t score from there.

Fear and Launching in Cape Town. My unnecessarily hard sequence at the crux of Fang Fighters. Oh, and the bomber gear is my smallest cam – the pamplet says “for aid climbing only”… and aid my climbing it did!

“Off belay!”, – and in that instant a committing (temporary grade 25) trad line was born and a question that had been rattling around my wee head had been answered.  Of course all good stories require a twist… and this one does not include roofies.

Warren followed the pitch, fell off at the crux, found better beta and voila!: the dreaded downgrade.

So 7 months on the couch may have dulled my powers of sequence finding ever so slightly, but on the sharp end at least I was getting back on track. And damn it felt good.  The psyche was fuelled, and a few days later the wild (and definitely harder) Orion roof pitch was solved elsewhere above the Mother City.  Hopefully it will go soon, and then the psyche will be over flowing like Dolly Parton in an extra small tank top.  And maybe, just maybe, it won’t be too many lunar cycles more before chalk dust appears on Moon Flakes again.

Yeha! How high psyche looks – Utah or South Africa, makes no difference.

Progression is awesome.   I highly recommend it.  In the past 4 months I have gone from not being able to walk properly to climbing mid-twenties grade trad.  Previously that took over 20 years! (or 8-12 hours if you include climbing after a big night out).  Either way, if I can just find a way to keep this current rate of improvement up, then I will be onto something…

Elsewhere on TM: more work to be done…

And BIG thanks to Brenna, Mom and Dad for nursing/tolerance/awesomeness, Mark for physio, friends for encouragement.


8 Responses to Of Teeth and Hunters – Progression in Motion

  1. Paul Jan 15, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    A great piece of writing Richard, well done !

  2. Phlip Olivier Jan 15, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    Great read! Good to hear you’re back in the game. Keep those FAs and RDs coming. The TM saaik is high! 😀 “the pamphlet says ‘for aid climbing only’… and aid my climbing it did” – my new favourite quote.

  3. Warren G Jan 15, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Great read man- was fun to be part of, and sorry for finding the beta: was still a fun day out.

  4. Yvette Jan 16, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Great write up and well done! Gotta love that quote yes! (“the pamphlet says ‘for aid climbing only’… and aid my climbing it did”)

  5. Cathy Jan 16, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Brilliant Richard! as always a great read!

  6. illona Jan 16, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    An entertaining read as always. Good to see the determination.

  7. Mokganjetsi Jan 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Nice one Squeeks! You should have written at least ten articles during your off-time. Bad form hippie. Now keep ’em coming.

  8. JuliaW Jan 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    RAD Squeeks! Well done for the recovery and keeping the psyche high!!!! Love from Patagonia!

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