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Free Solo of “Body Parts”

Matt Grunewald free solo
Matt Grunewald free solo
Matthew Grunewald at Cleopatra’s Wall. Photo credit: Shawn Marsh Photography.

Following the opening of “Noose” (proposed grade of 33) by Matt Grunewald (aged 17) at Cleopatra’s Wall, Port Elizabeth in November and a solid result of 8th overall at the African Cup in December, he has been questing for the next challenge.

On Sunday 17th January 2021, Matt quietly sneaked away from everyone gathered in the main cave at Howison’s Poort near Grahams Town to free solo a sport route he’d had his eye on for a while.  “Body Parts” is a short (approx. 15m, 5bolts + chains), two stars, overhanging grade 29 in the small cave of Howie’s with one or two relatively big moves to some small-ish holds.

This is not the first hard free solo this crag has seen.  An Italian climber in the late-90s, Alfredo D’ Matteis, flashed “Fat Boys Aerobic Workout” (grade 29, recently downgraded from 30) and then later soloed it.  He also soloed all the other routes in the main cave.  I suspect this inspiring piece of history may have had something to do with this young man’s aspirations.

I managed to get there just in time to witness this sick send after I noticed his sly disappearing act.  On the send I am sure I was more freaked out than he was calm!  Solidly in the zone and flowing, his climbing was impressive; each move was precise and well controlled.
He comfortably pulled through the crux without cutting free, which he hadn’t managed to do before.

Matt has sent almost all of the hard sport routes in the Port Elizabeth/Grahams Town area. He has previously free soloed a sport route in the main cave at Howie’s (only a 21 but as steep and a good 8m higher than “Body Parts”) and I believe this spree of free solos and hard sends is coming from a place of adventure and the need to push his abilities and begin to find his limits.

As a result, this year we’re planning some sick climbing trips to new places where the adventure is tangible, he can feel more challenged and hopefully climb harder! Stay tuned…


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