South Africa Part 2: Waterfall Boven (and a general exploration of the appreciation of a good holiday)

After returning from Patagonia in 2013, I didn’t so much feel my love for mountaineering dwindle, but die. Being that this had been my ultimate aspiration for so many years I felt somewhat dismayed, this wasn’t meant to happen…

Thinking back, the damage had been done the year before when Jack Geldard and I went on an expedition to Nepal to attempt the North Face of Peak 41. The trip wasn’t a great success from a climbing point of view and it made me question many of my presumptions about great range mountaineering: the time, the danger, the investment – was it really worth it? I had always believed that answer would be ‘yes’, in fact I’d believed it so strongly that I’d never even considered the possibility of an alternative. Everything had led up perfectly to that moment, this was it, this is where I should be – I should have been enjoying it… But no, I really wasn’t enjoying it and this was definitely not it.

Until that point I had always prided myself on being an all-rounder, but for the time being that was to go on hold. All of that time I had anticipated reserving each year to visit remote peaks in Nepal, Pakistan, Alaska, and Patagonia would now be channelled into visiting the most far flung rock climbing destinations I could think of.

And that is what led me to here to South Africa…

Alex Haslehurst looking chiseled on Ubrisk the Rustic Brownie (23)
Alex Haslehurst looking chiseled on Ubrisk the Rustic Brownie (23)
Katy Whittaker ballooning around above the abyss, on Ubrisk the Rustic Brownie (23)
Katy Whittaker looking ridiculous on Ubrisk the Rustic Brownie (23)
Mina looking casual on Ubrisk the Rustic Brownie (23)
Mina looking casual on Ubrisk the Rustic Brownie (23)

Waterfall Boven is regularly cited as being one of the ‘best sport crags in the world’. From the pictures alone you know it’s going to be good: it’s that deep, red quartzite littered with perfect crimps, cracks and edges. Were the rock at Arapiles and Grampians ever to reproduce, Boven would be their child… As if the quality of the rock wasn’t enough to lure you there, its aspect/climate will add to the appeal. The crag faces East (or at least many of the best parts do) and comes into the shade around midday, so there’s some soul enriching late starts with plenty of time for tea, coffee, reading, relaxing and stretching – quite a long way off mountaineering.

Alex Haslehurst almost definitely NOT dreaming about mountaineering...
Alex Haslehurst almost definitely NOT dreaming about mountaineering…

Ordinarily I’d have written up a destination article for UKC, but Sam Hamer put one together one after his own trip there last year (click here to see it). In recent times I’ve found it quite fulfilling to write up these articles upon my return home, they have the habit of making you actively remember some things that you might have otherwise not noticed or, worse still, forgotten… The process of writing them – at least for me – adds to the overall experience of having been away somewhere: it gives you time to think, reflect and appreciate the place you’ve just been.

Mid-crux on arguably the most famous route in South Africa, Lotter's Desire (27) / Photo: Nick Brown
Mid-crux on arguably the most famous route in South Africa, Lotter’s Desire (27) / Photo: Nick Brown
Locking down at the top of Monster (29), the classic pump-fest on Boven's 'God No!' Wall
Locking down at the top of Monster (29), the classic pump-fest on Boven’s ‘God No!’ Wall / Photo: Nick Brown

But it doesn’t stop there, because it’s no use writing something post-event if you haven’t truly engaged yourself in a place whilst you’ve been away. Obviously climbing has a huge part to play here, it is – at least for me – the reason why I go away, but it can often lead to a blinkered attitude that focusses all attention on the rock (or at least it does for me, particularly whilst redpointing (project, project, project…)). In an effort to undo this effect and engage more with the place I’m in I have begun to read books topical to the area I’m visiting: in Catalonia I read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia,  an account of the author’s time and experiences in the area throughout the Spanish Civil War; whilst in Australia I read The Songlines  by Bruce Chatwin, in which he explores the rich, yet troubled complexity of the modern Aboriginal culture.  On this trip I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography The Long Road to Freedom. Having been born in 1985 I was not alive throughout most of his struggle during the apartheid and only five years old when he was freed on 11th February 1990, hence was more interested in train sets, hide and seek, and running around the garden than of freedom fighting in South Africa. To add to my own personal ignorance of the events that occurred we were never really taught about it school either… Hence reading the book filled the gaps in an area of history that I was loosely aware of, but not educated or well-informed about. Being someone that thinks about climbing 99% of the time, it’s good to take the blinkers off once in every so often and reading allows me to do this.

Taking photos is another facet of climbing that has evolved over the past few years: thinking about light, composition, and exposure has all added to the detail in which I look at a place I might otherwise not have given a second glance. Even writing this blog has added to the overall experience. I find putting these sorts of collections of thoughts quite a stressful experience whilst I’m doing it, it’s far easier just to get back and upload a few photos on Facebook, have a chat about it down the pub, then – in effect – forget about it. Reflecting upon it, writing about it, really thinking about it…I guess it all means a bit more…like you’re extracting something extra from the experience after the experience itself has taken place.

And I guess that’s what I’m looking for from my holidays these days, something that will kick my mind out of it’s rutt and get me thinking. Back at home I spend hours browsing the internet, checking social media channels, the news, and lots of other random/unimportant things. But it doesn’t really have to be like that, because holidays aren’t so different from day to day life back at home – it’s just a question of attitude as to whether you let them be…

An ancient grinding stone, tactile and impressively smooth to touch
An ancient grinding stone, tactile and impressively smooth to touch
Roots and vines spread out every which way: sometimes curved and sometimes straight, sometimes together and sometimes apart...
Roots and vines spread out every which way: sometimes curved and sometimes straight, sometimes together and sometimes apart…
Staring endlessly into the smoke and fire during one of the trip's many barbeques
Staring endlessly into the smoke and fire during one of the trip’s many barbeques
Spring-time in the southern hemisphere, leaves begin to blossom on the silver birch
Spring-time in the southern hemisphere, leaves begin to blossom on the silver birch
The long shadows of the late night sun
The long shadows of the late night sun
Looking into the lilac sunset
One tranquil evening
And on other nights electrical storms fired up the night sky
Another less so…
Storm clouds and weather fronts moving overhead
Storm clouds and weather fronts moving overhead

To download the FREE PDF Guidebook CLICK HERE and for even more information check out the useful ClimbZA Website.

Advertisements

About the post

Sport Climbing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: