Team America: We’re Number Three!

The Americans I met at the climbing gym last week organized a trip to Roc Rally in Boven.  It’s a big climbing competition, hosted at Waterval Boven, in Mpumalanga Province.  The climbing area has over 700 bolted routes.  It was gorgeous; and the climbing was amazing.

The event received a lot of talk among my South African and American climbing friends who went last year.  I expected the Woodstock of climbing.  But, while there were some interesting and unwashed characters, it was actually pretty mellow.  The climbing community, both in the US and in SA, is a very welcoming group.  Almost everyone is happy to share their knowledge and gear.   I enjoyed the atmosphere.

Friday was a day of firsts for me.  A group of us took Friday off from work and left Pretoria around 6:30, getting us to Boven three hours later, in time for a full day of climbing.  I decided I wanted to lead climb a grade 15 route, which is relatively easy in the grand scheme of things, but would be a bit of a challenge for me.  I was then going to clean the route.  I had never led or cleaned a route before.

So, “Chick’s for Free,” as the route is named, was a bit of a struggle at the crux.  I froze up several times and stared down at the last bolt thinking, “This is going to suck when I fall.”    But, I didn’t fall, I didn’t rest on the rope, my belayer helped me only with encouragement and ideas.  Then I cleaned the route.  And this was all before the competition began.

That afternoon, one of the diplomats decided she wanted to compete.  I was without a climbing partner and so Team America was born, with much Texan accentuating.  We briefly toyed with the idea of hollering, “F— yeah!” from the top of every completed route, but decided against it when we saw 12-year-olds climbing the same routes as us, and climbing them better.  It’s best not to share too much of American culture with impressionable South African youths.
The Rally started that night with a night climb.  That’s right, rock climbing in the dark, by headlamp.  Brilliant idea, huh?  But, Team America got points for it.  And that’s what’s important.
The next morning started with aseiling.  Again, hurling myself off the top of a cliff with twenty pounds of gear on my back is not something that had occurred to me before that moment.  Anyway, we climbed four routes that morning, ending the morning with a personal best for both of us, a grade 16.   The afternoon slowed us down.  We had trouble finding the next route we wanted to do.  By the time we did, we were both mentally and physically exhausted.  We called it quits on an easy one, not wanting to make mistakes, especially with regards to safety.  Besides, this is all for fun, right?  No, that’s what Team Russia says when they lose in rugby.  Burn.

Team America took third in mixed team competition (largely due to our amazing handicap).  We took home some cool climbing gear.  However, despite receiving an award for mixed male-female team, the organizers decided to award us with two women’s, fleece, v-neck vests.  The one for me was colored “Bright Peach.”  Team South Africa strikes back.  Touché.

For the climbing uninitiated.  Grading: Climbing grading systems never make sense to me.  The South African grading system starts at 5 and goes to 36.  I guess it dates back to when mountaineering, hiking and rock climbing were all the same sport.  One through 4 were a walk in the woods up to a scramble.  Actual rock climbing thus starts at 5.  A grade 36 is only accomplished with suction cups attached to your hands.  The American and French systems make even less sense.

Aseiling is literally hurling yourself off the top of a cliff.  You belay yourself as you rappel down the face.  “Don’t worry,” they told me, “Jumping off the top is the worst part.”  Oh.  Really.

Lead climbing:  How to scare yourself.  This is when the climber clips in his own rope as he ascends.  This means that you can be as much as 2 or 3 meters about your last clip point, potentially allowing you to fall twice that distance.  It’s safe, but scary.

Cleaning is taking all the equipment down when the group has finished climbing a certain route.  It involves untying and retying yourself at the top of the route while dangling from the chains.



Filed under Awesome

3 responses to “Team America: We’re Number Three!

  1. Linda Goodenough

    awesome, but where’s your helmet?

  2. Sorry to my readers. I had a bit of an editing issue with WordPress and should have proofed my post after I published it! It’s fixed!

    And mom, I didn’t have a cute helmet like my partner, so I strapped it to my pack for the walk back. Love you too!

  3. Pingback: Boobs Make Life Worth Living | The Blog of Topher

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