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Universal Energy Theory

Jahne and Andrew's Universal Energy Theory Grade '28', 5 Pitches - Rensbergkop (Swinburne), Free State Province, South Africa. A pretty spectacular and challenging five-pitch climb taking mostly excellent good rock all the way to the top of the 160 metre high cliff.
Universal Energy Theory
Universal Energy Theory bolting
Bolting machine Jahne Theron…errr no batteries Jahne. Pic by Andrew P.

Jahne and Andrew’s Universal Energy Theory, Rensbergkop (Swinburne), Free State Province, South Africa

Thanks to Gustav Janse van Rensburg (Gus) for jumaring on his holiday and taking the lekker photos. Thanks to MCSA Johannesburg and Magaliesberg Sections for providing 50% of the bolts.


A pretty spectacular and challenging five-pitch climb taking mostly excellent good rock all the way to the top of the 160 metre high cliff. Only 1-2 sections of poor rock on the entire climb.
15 minutes walk from Spearhead.

A ’28-climber’ will have a hard time as grades feel stiff because they are on a big cliff! Ideally you should be comfortable on 30’s to have a reasonable chance of succeeding quickly. Onsighting it without chalk on the holds would be like onsighting 31 as the rock is very featured and hard to ‘read’.

Unless you are a rockstar, my advise would be to spend day 1 chalking, dogging and working out sequences on all the pitches. Then try send on the 2nd day in fine style. An ‘all in a weekend’ ascent would be an impressive feat. For the most part bolts are close where needed and spaced where climbing is easy. All belays except for the top of the first pitch are on comfy ledges.[divider_flat]

Universal Energy Theory Route Description
Andrew Pedley on pitch 1 and the wonderful ecosystem at the base of the wall. Pic by Gustav Janse van Rensburg



See map. From the accommodation either drive (4×4 ideally) or walk to the Spearhead boulder. If you are walking you can cut the corners and takes about 10 minutes. From the Spearhead boulder, follow the obvious trail south through the bushes then steeply up to the big boulders where the trail levels out. Keep on the trail until you reach the ‘Wale Rock’ sign (that is how it’s spelt) and a small grassy area between the boulders. Pass the sign and a cairn and follow a trail through the bushes at the ‘back’ of the clearing. You will clamber out to a wonderful view of the Tempest Wall (the smooth brown face) and the line! Follow the cairns across the meadow (we call it Puffadder meadow…! You have been warned) and up the grassy slopes to the base of the wall. You will see bolts on the single pitch routes on the right of the wall. At the left side of the wall is the line of ‘JAUET’ starting behind a small tree. It’s about 15-minutes walk from the Spearhead Boulder.


Just a 70 metre rope (a 60 will not get you down), 15 quickdraws plus biners/slings for the anchors. Plenty of chalk (the rock soaks it up). 1 litre of water between 2 is fine. ATC (or similar) each. Wear helmets. Light windstoppers ideal, it’s easy enough to get off the route if the weather caks out and the cave at the base is 100% dry in a storm.


The lower pitches are in the sun until about 11 am. It took us 7 hours from base to base. If it’s a clear summers day the first couple of pitches will feel harder in the sun so either start very early or at about 11 am. In winter it would probably best to be in the sun or its going to be very cold.


Universal Energy Theory route description

Pitch 1 (Skinks on a Shady Day pitch).
Length: 25 metres.
Grade: 28
So good, worth doing without the other pitches if you are not up for the full thing. Start behind the tree in the obvious large pocket and then a hard move to the 2nd bolt (slightly high sorry!). Then truly splendid climbing on rounded pockets to a no-hands rest at half height. Then some awkward rightward cranking onto the belay ledge.


Pitch 2 (crimp-master crux pitch).
Length: 15 metres.
Grade: 28
Boulder problem low crux (with a high clip) followed by some pumpy climbing on slightly hollow crimps (we pulled hard on them all) to a nice belay atop the ‘Grey Pillar’. The stuff low down is probably the hardest climbing on the route. Solid at the grade?

Universal Energy Theory
Andrew on the crux move on pitch 1. Or you can dyno. Pic by Gustav Janse van Rensburg

Pitch 3 (a pitch of two halves).
Length: 45 metres.
Grade: 25
Superb and long. Take all your quickdraws for this one. First half is orange and leaning (and superb!), second half is grey and with thinner moves on somewhat furry rock. Long leadouts in places but easy (ish).

Pitch 4 (the hero pitch).
Length: 30 metres.
Grade: 26

Up the obvious easy corner. Pass the roof by the hollow flake (we yarded on it) to a couple of big holes. High clip then an exposed cruxy section (which isn’t as hard as it looks). Be sure to cut-loose and scream for the full-hero effect for your worshippers at Whale Rock. Move left then up non trivial ground to a lovely ledge for a pee and your belay.

Pitch 5 (the scary mantle shelf in the sky pitch).
Length: 25 metres.
Grade: 25

Easy climbing from the ledge with a runout here and there to a clip on a bulge. Then a frikken hard little pull with a slopey foothold, to a break. Another bolt would be nice as the slopey ledge is not a nice prospect but I took the fall and was OK. Send your strongest man up this one. I plan to add the bolt. Then very easy climbing up the summit slabs to the anchors and high-fives or fist-pumps or whatever you like to do.


Getting Down:

SIX easy abseils with a 70 metre rope. A 60 will NOT get you down most of the abseils. Keep a bit of a swing as there is a (small) chance that you could lose contact with the rock on some of the abseils. Abseils use the same anchors as the pitch belays EXCEPT FOR THE 3RD ABSEIL as pitch 3 is too long. For this one, abseil about 30 metres, to separate anchors to the left of the line (the anchors are in-line-with and about 3 metres to the right of an obvious tree in a corner) about 15 metres above the anchors at the top of pitch 2.
From here abseil to the top of pitch 2 then again to the top of pitch 1 and to the ground.

Andrew is sponsored by:

5.10 logo Flashed Quickdraw logo


Andrew adores his 5.10 Dragons and 5.10 Camp Fours and loves grabbing the chunky slings of his ‘Flashed’ draws after lobbing onto a 70 metre Mammut Rope. Really, all excellent kit thanks to the Mountain Mail Order crew.

Related article: Andrew Pedley Interview

Universal Energy Theory Route Description
Rensbergkop. Not for pus%ies. Pic by Jahne Theron.
Universal Energy Theory
Andrew Pedley and Jahne Theron departing on a 5 pitch first ascention to find a Universal Energy Theory (29), Swinburne, Fresstate. Pic by Gustav

GPS: -28.395232,29.276758

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