With a call from my friend Jacques Lourens on Monday, letting me know that he’s keen to go exploring for some new trad climbing routes in the Outeniqua mountains, I hastily confirmed with a ‘Hell yeah!’. We both got tired of driving over the Outeniqua pass looking at these towering unclimbed faces, stating the same old lines – “We really have to go check those spots out” or “There’s so much potential, we really have to go explore it at some stage”.
So when Jacques asked me to join, there was no hesitation from my side, even though I knew that we might not like what we find. I thought that maybe it might be out of our climbing ability seeing as though we would have to trad an unclimbed route and THAT in itself, can lead to a situation where the infamous statement comes from “Between a rock and a hard place”, or in my case “Between a doggy placed wire, an insecure sling, a runout pitch with nothing to work with in the form of placing gear, tired and pumped forearms, struggling to hold on” whilst saying to myself, “You dumbass! You knew you were going to get yourself into this situation”, but to my friends i say – “Ya no, this looks good, i’ll give it a go”! What the Hell???
So, about two hours before we were set to leave on our journey of discovery, I whatsupped my parter-in-crime Branden Hair, always keen for any mission, with the usual , “Hey… keen for a mission?” to which I received the usual reply, “Ya, so keen”! So the three of us were off, my apologies, the four of us, not excluding Jacques’ best friend Lola. Calling her a dog would be an insult not only to her but to myself and Jacques too!
Long story short – After all my years of working and playing in the outdoors, the first rookie error came up – Note to self: When going on exploratory outings, always wear long pants because bundu bashing through fynbos is not a good idea with shorties. Also typical of George, we had an overcast, looking like rain kind of day, so we could not actually see any rock faces. Luckily for us, Branden has been looking at these faces for so long, so like a true climbing fanatic, he told us boldy that he knows were to go! At least we were going up, so why not, worst case scenario, we don’t find anything, so we just bundu back down and call it a day.
As the thick cloud cover disappeared and the rock face became apparent, it was like the opening curtains revealing a majestic start to a spectacular show. We all knew we had found what we were looking for! All of us could not keep the excitement in. We walked and almost jogged towards our gift from the mountains.
Pristine, weathered and exposed sandstone, with all the features you could hope for. Lots of lines to choose from and loads of jugs, inviting us to come and climb this piece of virgin rock.
With Jacques manning up first to take the bold steps up to infinity and beyond, we geared up, with an arsenal of cams, wires and slings for this epic feat of a first. Making it look easy, he quickly made his way up to claim the first route and make his mark in the history of climbing the Outeniqua mountains and for that matter, the greater Garden Route. Branden, not being able to keep himself in, as he was watching Jacques have all the fun, he free climbed up an easy section, to get rid of some jitters and warmed up. Next up was my number, lucky number sleven! So, after discussing a couple of different options, we opted for a nice crag route and after a quick nod, I started climbing before I could back out and psyche myself out (a tactic I have been using for years in my fearless adventures of doing things that scare the living daylights out of me). “Just go for it, I said to myself.” Lets just say that, thanks to Jacques and Branden’s motivation, I did not fall on some not-so-well placed gear. I found the best seat to rest, setup protection and enjoy the view. I was able to top out and let out the sound of being stoked! Only a climber knows how that primal screech sounds. It confirms that you just did something stupid and awesome at the same time, and that you are still alive! 🙂 After that, Branden came up cleaning the new route, making it look so much easier than I did and gave it a modest 18, later to go down to a 16. For me, this climb was one of the highlights of my climbing days to date!
Last virgin route of the day belonged to Branden, as he chose an obvious overhang to start off with (classic Branden style!). With only some sling protection, he made quick work of the route, all of this while the mist and clouds were coming and going every so often revealing the absolute beauty of where we were engraving our names in the rock (pun intended).
Everyone was overjoyed at the day achieved. Few climbers can call this less than perfect! We took in the last few moments of the magic of this secret spot, that would be ours forever and packed up to head down! All safe and sound, feeling like true pioneers in our own right, at doing what we love so much… Climbing with friends 🙂