When did you spot the line?
I spotted it in December last year but I only started working it properly in February and then opened it in April.
How long did it take you to send (how many tries)?
Quite a while, probably about 8 days over a period of 6 weeks. I abseiled down it to find where the line would go and to clean the holds, then spent about 5 or 6 days working the moves. After that it took me about 4 or 5 redpoint attempts before I sent it.
How good is the gear – small or big stuff?
The gear is really solid and there is plenty of it. The bottom half takes lots of smaller cams; some of which are powerful and tricky to place. Higher up the cams get bigger but so do the runouts.
What makes placing gear so hard? (that you needed to head point)?
Generally the gear is straightforward enough to place but I didn’t know that before I checked it out. The holds on the lower crux section are small and it is steep, so for the most part you need two hands just to stay on the rock, which makes placing gear challenging. You need to fiddle in the lower crux cam using a tiny crimp and really bad foot holds so you need to stay calm and not panic. A couple of times I bottled out and grabbed the gear because I took too long to place it. If you fall placing the lower crux cam or it rips out, it might be a touch exciting.
To answer your question about headpointing (i.e. working the moves and gear before redpointing placing all the gear), I used that approach because the route was too hard for me to do it any other way. I had to have the moves pretty dialed to be able climb it, which required a lot of working sessions. It seems like most of the harder routes on TM were opened this way.
Did you toprope the route to work it?
Yeah I did a bit when I first had a look at it to figure out where the line would go. Mostly I worked it on lead because I wanted to learn how to climb it placing the gear. It was actually easier that way because it is so overhanging. The problem with working it on lead is that I destroyed some of my small cams by hanging and falling on them so much.
What makes the route so hard?
The lower crux section is very technical and feels scary because the gear is hard to place; but it’s probably safe. Really nice moves though.
The main crux involves a super powerful pull over the lip of a roof about half way up. It took me about 5 sessions before I could even link that move and I fell off it a bunch of times on redpoint. After that the climbing is sequency but eases up a fair bit. I still managed to take a few 10 meter falls from a committing move higher up and there is a sting in the tail.
Who belayed you?
Double Jeopardy has become pretty popular of late so I had no shortage of belayers. Douw belayed me when I sent it but I also climbed there with Willem, Phlip, Danie, Clinton, Squeaks, Snort, and Gosia. By the way both Clinton and Douw recently climbed Double Jeopardy.
What turned you onto trad at the end of last year?
I am pretty bored with the sport climbing in Cape Town so climbing on Table Mountain is new and exciting for me. Climbing Double Jeopardy definitely played a big role in getting me psyched on trad but it was finding the new routes that kept me coming back every weekend. The climbing on this wall is brilliant and opening new lines is super rewarding. Another big part of it was that I learnt to trust the gear and started becoming more comfortable taking falls. That was a huge transition, which completely revolutionized trad climbing for me. It means you can focus more on the climbing and less on being terrified of the unknown.
What other routes have you opened on TM? + grades?
I opened The Squid and the Whale in February which is to the left of Double Jeopardy and also goes at about 31. It is quite similar in style to The Last of the Mohawks but is a little more sustained with an easier crux.
I only really got used to the idea of falling on trad gear a few months ago. I think what taught me to trust the gear was dogging up these hard routes to work them. By hanging and pulling on the gear I learnt pretty quickly what is likely to hold and what would pop. That way you feel a lot more comfortable climbing above gear and falling on it.
My first ever trad fall was also my worst. It happened in Hermanus about a year ago. I fell from about 8 meters and ripped out a small cam. A nut that I almost didn’t place stopped my fall. My coccyx brushed the rocky ground but I didn’t hurt myself. It was a valuable lesson for me but I don’t like to think about it too much.
Do you wear a helmet when trading?
Yeah I usually do if I am onsighting or climbing multipitch climbs or anything that I think is risky. I didn’t (wear a helmet) at first, but I had this strong feeling one day that I should climb with a lid so I listened to my intuition.
Where have you been trading mostly?
Mostly Table Mountain, some at Tafelberg, and a little tiny bit at Wolfberg and Hermanus. I also did a bit of sea cliff climbing at Swanage in the UK.
Do you have other trad projects that you are working on?
Nothing new but I want to try to onsight some routes and am keen to get on some of Clinton’s routes on TM. – Mary Poppins and Huge Big Monster.
You recently started a thread about ‘Grading a trad climb‘ – How did you go about grading the route.
I was trying to get a consensus on whether trad climbers grade the difficulty of the climbing as if it were a sport route or whether they take into account placing gear and the severity of the lead. There were mixed opinions so I settled on 31 although it might be 32 if you take into account the trad factor. We’ll see.
Any other routes of note that you have sent lately?
Are you sponsored?
No, which makes damaging cams all the more disappointing!
Related: Jimbo Smith 2008 Interview