This is a tale of triumph, Whoa! and reflection. Mostly the latter.
Triumph - ground-up, onsight, first ascent of a long, tricky country route. Booyakasha! Returning to the soil before the daily solar farewell only broadened our grins.
Whoa! – Glancing down mid crux: trees tiny like pond algae covering the slope below.
Reflection: our ropes multiplied, my foot is intact. Neither by choice.
In the parking lot, we had only two options, but don’t think this made it any easier. Granted, the repercussions of our decision were not as severe as, say, pulling the incorrect toggle on a parachute. Not even on par with getting her name wrong. You see, in this case there was no ‘wrong ‘ selection; either had the potential to trump a great day in any office, but which should have be better? That, my friends, is where it’s at. The agonising quest for what we think will give us the best day out, despite the minimal control we actually have on how the scorecard will read at the close of play.
We all do it. Spending vast, indefensible amounts of time flipping between weather websites and guidebooks to see what combination could give us weekend warriors the highest return on investment. Hours (or days) later you emerge with victorious revelation. Psyched to the max, bags packed, brownie points called in, you bust out! However, with the right mindset it really doesn’t matter where you go, the trick is to unwittingly steer past the gremlins. Guises are plenty – transmission failure, family emergency, sprained ankle, swarm of angry bees, lightning strikes and alien abduction. Most of which you can do sweet didly dick about, except choose how to react – the most important choice of all…
Back to the parking lot (and our binary dilemma) outside Du Toit’s Kloof Lodge. Cooking at Hellfire on routes we know to be good, or chilling in new territory? Gazing across the N1 to the familiar red stone, then up to some arbitrary buttress on the Witteberg. Potential overheating vs possible epic. Known vs unknown all wrapped in the fear of making the less awesome call. Certain quality vs comfortable conditions. Middle class commitment paralysis simply because we abhor second place. It is said that cash is king, and indeed a coin would have been pretty darn handy…
Eventually we crossed the Rubicon, or in this case the Molenaars River, and toiled uphill to a nameless chuck of hill. Then it started again: with about 21 000 square meters of rock, where do you begin? Start at grey corner or brown face? Aim left or right of the arête? Aarrggghh! Fortunately, this one was less gruelling: always gun for the prime line, regardless of estimated grade. A new routing mantra if you will. It’s mostly gut feel, and thankfully, is usually less taxing on the mental faculties.
Pitch by pitch we gained height, but that story is for the RD. Suffice to say country routes dish out bad rock and bushes, the key is to weave between them as straight as possible. Some candidate choss to the left of pitch 3 was cause to position myself and our ropes far to the right before Anton started off. Smart hey! Well, pre-hindsight it was, but then the unexpected happened. Out of view, above and way right, a not-so-little piece of mountain succumbed to gravity. Dislodged by local fauna, or simply its time (geologically speaking), said mini-boulder ended its flight bang on our ropes, violently brushing my leg on the way past. WTF! Given that steel toed boots are not currently in climbing vogue, I was quite pleased that my foot was still recognisable as such, and not a messy challenge for an orthopaedic surgeon. Then I noticed that our orange cord had undergone a sudden mitosis to leave us with non-identical twins. F!
For the rest of the route the shorter section was trailed or carry-coiled – a reminder of what some may call bad luck. Or was it? A chopped rope beats a chopper ride to the ER. So, justifiably the impact of rock on gear rather than flesh could be dubbed good luck. Personally I go with neither. It was an event – nothing more, nothing less. How you view the outcome is entirely up to you. As for the rock, well I doubt it cares for this debate, but its new location may provide shelter for a six-legged critter of sorts, if the bug chooses to dwell there.
Which pseudo-brings us back to the carpark. While our choices may have had more cognitive backing than that of an insect (we hope), they are still just choices. They do not guarantee anything. So although planning and decisions are indeed important, a positive attitude will go a long toward having a good time regardless of what happens along the way.
Richard is sponsored by La Sportiva, DMM, Roca and Wild Country