From the first time I visited the Pit I was intrigued by this 37 meter long line with its intimidating crux that glares at you as you walk past.
The crux is between 8-10m up from the bottom of the pit, but exactly at “ground” level. It is right there, the chalkless holds… frustratingly close, though just out of reach. It is the only line that starts right at the very bottom of the pit.
One day, a couple of years ago, I bumped into Malcolm Gowans at Truitjieskraal and asked him about the route.
He mentioned that, back when he was working it, all the moves went and a spark of hope ignited! It was then that I knew I had to try this line.
So finally, this year on the 7th of May I jumped on the route for the first time (it was not pretty!).
On my next session Danie Moolman joined in and together we attempted to ride this beast, taming it bit by bit. The route at times left me feeling totally frustrated, although always completely compelled.
It starts with a harder than pleasant campus-type traverse into an awkward, trad-like boulder problem ending with your entire body scooped up in a horrible corner rest.
From there you launch into the amazing but brutal crux sequence that took us no less than four sessions to unlock.
If your core can last all the way through the crux you get to (literally) sit down and have a rest, but then the mental strain really begins.
Before I get into that, let’s go back to the man who had the vision and led the mission to bolt this awe-inspiring line.
“For many years when we were climbing at HF (Hellfire) I sat at the pit and wanted a route to start right from the base of the pit.
After Pete Mortimer said HF didn’t have any hard lines, I was inspired to show them :-) The line was there and all we had to do was work out the moves and bolt it. First Greg Hart helped me first top rope, mark and bolt the lower half. Then Ross (Suter) and I did the top half so the work was very much a joint effort.
The name was Greg’s (Hart) idea.”
So, to the pioneers: the true firsts; the first to attempt this dragon; the first to try tame and ride this beast – the one living in the pit of despair, close to the fires of hell. We found the key to riding it was to steal its “Heart”…NOT!!
The “Heart” was located at the very top, providing the only good handhold for pulling to the chains and/or top out. On an epic adventure, where it luckily did not cut any ropes or crush any belayers, the “dragon’s heart” ended up at the bottom of the pit. It left behind what can only be described as a very crappy and disappointing pinch. We were disheartened and depressed, for the end was already an unnerving and tricky sequence.
Now it was just downright difficult!
On the send, pulling through the bottom (true) crux for the first time, I was met with wildly mixed emotions. Elated for pulling through, but at the same time totally shaken and unsure of what lay ahead. The easy section up to the the top of the route had never felt as desperate!
As I got higher I descended further into the pit and closer to the dragon’s lair.
My whole body was shaking as I latched the crappy pinch. I had to dig really deep, almost missing the shitty ‘jug’ and barely holding the resulting barn-door. Fortunately the echoes of encouragement thundered down deep into the pit of my struggles just in time to carry me on for one last move.
A big thanks to Malcolm, Greg and Ross, the fathers of the crag, for pioneering this amazing route.
We feel truly blessed; riding on the shoulders of those that came before us.
About the grade:
When we started working it, I was sure that it would clock in at a hard 31 as it felt super desperate.
However as time went buy, we unlocked more and more micro beta. In fact on the day of my send we unlocked some key beta that we could not believe we missed! This cut out 3 hard moves just after the crux move and this is what I believe resulted in the unexpected send.
All in all it took me 8 session. The day I sent was this past Sunday (27th of June) and it was my 2nd day on. I was super tired, but gave it one last burn. I sommer jumped on while it was still in the sun, so that Danie could have a proper go after me (in the shade). I thought he had a better chance of sending.
My low expectations probably helped me through mental strain of the route.
Afterwards Danie indeed pulled through the crux move, but fell on the last hard move of the sequence.
He will probably send it this weekend, then we’ll have a proper 2nd opinion
But with all that in mind I hazard a guess that the grade is around 30. Who knows, it might even be easier. As always I suppose time will tell. Its definitely a worth while route to do, so I hope more people jump on it.
Danie and I both agree that sticking the crux hold is one of the coolest moves you can do on a rope