I wasn't sure where to put this, so seeing as it was my first time on rock I decided to post it up in the beginners forum. After 5 months of hanging on plastic holds, I finally got the chance to get onto some rock! I wasn't sure what to expect in the day or two leading up to it as I'd heard so many opinions on how different it is to a artificial wall. Eventually I gave up trying to imagine the differences and got down to the business of getting excited about what was to come instead.
My girlfriend and I met Roger at the Hilton hotel and then we followed him to his place where he had a small snack and sorted his gear out. During this time we got chatting about what he had planned and where before he asked what gear I had, and what I still needed to sport climb. I replied: "Everything but quickdraws" and to my great surprise, he lent me an old set of his, until I could buy my own. Thanks a million Roger!!
We then took a drive to the Umgeni valley crag, walked in and threw a ground sheet down. Roger decided to start us on a 17 which my girlfriend and I both top roped after Roger lead it for us. It was a great introduction for me, the rock was easy and the top rope allowed me to focus on getting to grips with the rock. While I sailed it, my girlfriend had to fight through a bit of "Elvis leg" at the top to finnish off. From there we moved right to a 19 which Roger lead and we followed on top rope, on which I learnt the main difference between rock and a wall the hard way! I am used to looking up and seeing a multitude of wonderfully coloured holds above me but on rock its just different shades of brown and grey! On my first attempt, I tried a sequence without thinking about it first and ended up on one good foot hold and pathetic excuses for holds that my hands were trying to hold onto. Not suprisingly, I came off the rock and after another fall or two after some desperate hanging onto poor choices for holds and some thinking, I smoked the first crux and finnished off the climb. My girlfriend then had a shot at the 19 and unfortunately couldn't get past the crux about a third of the way up, but all credit to her, she kept trying until she couldn't hold on anymore and eventually she cut her finger open and I asked her if I could let her down and eventually, reluctantly, she agreed. Talk about drive to succeed!! I then asked Roger about the next climb across, a crack I had had my eyes on since the beginning, a 23. I started off fine and then the wheels came off. I hadn't climbed in a month because of work and the had left my fingers terribly weak and for the most part useless after the first two climbs but I carried on anyways, fighting to hold on until my fingers gave up on the crux that Roger is adamant doesn't exist as he see's it as a sustained climb. I cheated a bit at what I thought was the crux and moved on and got to the last move where Roger tried to show me how to use a knee bar which I couldn't get because I was using the wrong sequence yet again and as a result, I was facing the wrong direction. I then finnished the climb and decided to belay Roger on a 25 further right to rest my hands. He sailed that, after which I offered to clean the 19 to taunts from Roger that his wife has climbed a 25 and I wasn't even going to attempt it. I can't say I didn't deserve it! From there, we went our separate ways after thanking Roger for the day.
To say the effect it had on me was huge is an understatement, for a person who doesn't dream, I dreamed the whole night and couldn't think of anything but climbing at work the next day! From there, I spent a torturous weekend away from rock until a friend of mine got hold of me after seeing my Facebook status and suggested we climb at Hilton college.
We met on Monday and made our way out to the crag. Not suprisingly, he hadn't changed at all from his days jumping off balconies to get water at school and was only too keen to abseil off into the abyss after setting up a top rope. We then climbed Bolts From The Blue(18), which he struggled with a bit and I sent on my first attempt. This route does need a re-grade as the jug that is mentioned in the guide book had been pulled off at some stage leaving a flat, clean face of rock in its place. We attempted Bolts From The Blue Direct(21) which is also affected by the missing jug which made it impossible for us. We then took a walk to see what other routes we could try our hands at but alas, nothing presented itself that would not have required lengthy projecting that we didn't have time for as the clouds were rolling in and we did not want to get caught on a less than perfect wet dirt road it a Ford Fiesta!! With this in mind we made a note of the climbs we wanted to attempt in future and made tracks. Not all that worth while in terms of the amount of climbing done but more than worth the time and effort because I now know a new crag to climb at!
All in all, a thoroughly awesome experience and I will be doing everything I can to get onto rock as often as possible! The bug has bitten and now I'm an addict!!
For all you budding climbers, if you're wondering what the difference between rock and your gym wall is, here it is from my limited experience.
1) The holds aren't obvious and as a consequence, neither are the moves. You can't see how good the hold is either. It may look good from the bottom, but it might not be.
2) Foot holds are tiny! Unlike your indoor wall, rock generally has very minimal foot holds, tidy feet is a must!
3) I wouldn't know if rock is rougher than plastic holds because I have climbed some very rough artificial climbs but if you don't slap your hands onto holds, but rather place them, you should be fine.
If there are any indoor climbers starting out that want to get onto rock but have questions, PM. On the same note, if anyone at all needs a climbing partner in and around Durban, give me a call on 0827793413 or PM me.
Last but not least. Special thanks to Roger Nattrass for getting me out of a gym and onto rock and being patient enough to deal with my whinging and moaning and Sharma-esque shouts on routes that really didn't deserve them! And thanks again to him for lending me some of his quickdraws to get going before I could buy my own.