Crowds are fine at rock concerts and soccer matches; in fact they are pivotal. An empty arena except for five mates going bos befok at a Pearl Jam concert just doesn’t cut it. However, when going away on a trip, I find crowds a pest. Overflowing campsites and droves of squealing kids are not why I gap the city. The admin of successfully booking anywhere worthwhile over peak season requires either forethought or luck, and I can’t always rely on the latter. Planning in advance with climbers also has the curios trend of simply not working out. This was part of the motivation to go to Turret Peak over Easter. As an MCSA property in the Koue Bokkeveld, you don’t have hordes of holiday makers or biker gangs disturbing your stargazing. Carting your katunda uphill for 2 hours may poke your legs, but has the distinct advantage of keeping the rif-raf out. Also, it is frikken awesome once you reach the high plateau festooned with crags in all directions. But more on cardinality later.
As it panned it, this became a dudes only mission. Recent voyages have ended up as theme events: Starwars and Scottish being particularly humorous. Ably fueled by whisky of course, particularly over New Years, when you could have been forgiven for thinking we had forgotten our kilts and sporrans at the bottom of the barrel from which we were sprouting all manner of Scroot-ish filth. So in keeping the ‘S’ pattern, and to bring on some laughs, the Easter bonanza quickly became the Sausage Fest. This broadly encompassed all things phallic. In the car, while barreling up the Gydo Pass we had already christened as yet unclimbed routes with a good selection including: The Bratwurst Boa, Russian Rinkhals, Sausage Charmer and the much feared Diaper Viper.
Now, my number of visitations to this lovely part of the Cape could be best approximated by counting my photo folders which have inspirational titles like: “Turret Sept 2014”. However, to be honest, I haven’t bothered and for the purposes of this wee recollection, let’s assume it is just shy of ten. Perhaps because of the orientation of the cave, or direction of the summit, or lack of imagination hitherto; we have pretty much always explored north. Much like blinkered stallions we had hardly considered a U-turn strategy. Perhaps stallions is a bad analogy, as they tend to bolt, which we did not. This is trad country. A few had ventured 15 minutes south to the valley immediately behind the Turret, but that is where our knowledge ended. However, a brief perusal of Google Earth prior to the sausage convergence, showed many potential rock features to the South.
Undeterred by disconcertingly low temperatures, the Sausage Seven bumbled along in their down jackets past the edge of previous reconnaissances into what quickly became paralysis by analysis. The pork-sword squadron kept finding great little crags to dangle their wares on, but in almost every case, just a few minutes further away, was something that might be… better. While I fully support seeking the best, at some point you need to rope up, otherwise by sunset you may have just taken your toys for a long walk. My knees ain’t what they used to be, so moving backpacks of gear around should have an end game.
Since Boreas had evidently decided to come out of retirement as the deity providing freezing winds, climbing took a back seat on day two until we finally found the one sheltered alcove. The animals played well in the de-virgined Terrarium and with the fading light left their bags at the proudest crag, hoping for calmer weather in the morning.
The penultimate day was slightly less like liquid nitrogen, so without fear of snapping fingers, the sausage crew retraced their steps to the fine crag they had spied out the day before. Quickly the Butchery, the Abattoir, and The Sausage Factory were filled with routes – some beefier than others. A busy and productive morning, all members of the sausage gang got stuck in at the prime crag with smiles all round. In about the most touch and go fashion possible, I sneaked an onsight FA of The Russian Rinkhals (24), which tires you out before striking at the last move. Somewhat chuffed, I decided to push the bacon out a bit after lunch, and proceeded to get well spanked by the Cryptic Cobra (25?) until the bizarre sequence eventually uncoiled itself amidst cries of frustration and painful finger locks. That’s why this sport is so good, just when you get cocky, you get slapped right back into place. Warren bagged the fine thin seam of Grizzle ‘n Bone (21), and young Luke at a whopping 13 years old, helped bail three thirty-pluses out of a protracted battle with a devious serpent that threatened to them out after dark.
As a bit of maths nerding on the side, Luke can climb about 10 grades above his age, on trad, which is at an age almost 10 years before I even started climbing, but which I have now been doing for 5 years more than he has even been alive. #thatprobablydoesn’tmakesensethefirsttimeyoureadit.
Halsey’s musing of relativity could be simplified by saying that this is one talented kid, who can hold his own with folks who have decades under the belt. On just this trip, he probably opened more routes than a number of trad climbers in Cape Town have done in their whole careers. Watch this space.
It seems my sausage thread has gone a bit soft, which is fine as I am mostly vegetarian. None the matter, we can still conclude our story, as like a kid saving the best for last, I had left a treat for our final day. A whopping 8 minutes’ walk from the cave is a striking orange wall I had threatened to check out for quite a while. As luck would have it, there were just enough holds to blast straight up the most aesthetic transition between grey and orange: if you have a wingspan of 6 ft 3’ or more. Now I am not a population statistician, but that cuts out a whole chunk of people. Probably not as much as the long walk into the wilderness and the desire to climb grade 24 with a potential ground fall, but then I have never really claimed to be normal.
We do what we do that makes us happy. While it is a pity that Copperhead is essentially impossible for shorter folks, as evidenced by the Great Southern Sausage Fest of 2017, there is no shortage of stone for folks of all dimensions, ability and sanity. It’s like the Mecca for single pitch trad exploration, but your sausages don’t need to be Halal.
In fact, the best part of having taken our meat further south that it had ever been before, is that the very edge of our exploration marked just the start of another untapped plateau. We may be but tiny fleas on the crust of the earth, but we can jump for joy at the prospect of having so much to suck on in the future.
If you enjoy the frivolous adventure of climbing in (and into) the unknown, we have the mother-load on our doorstep, and that is seriously exciting shit.