Hello again PG community!
Josh Levin here again, reporting all the way from Cape Town, South Africa. I just finished off an incredible 1-month trip to the legendary Rocklands bouldering area, which is located about a 4-hour drive north of Cape Town. Here is a quick summary of my trip and some recommendations if you’re interested in heading out there yourself!
I first heard about Rocklands by watching the classic climbing film Progression, in which Paul Robinson, Daniel Woods, and Tommy Caldwell explore the sandstone area to repeat the classics and establish some of the hardest boulder problems in the world. Besides the phenomenal climbing footage, one of the lines from the movie that really hit home for me was a quote from Paul Robinson describing his mentality towards finishing up school and embarking on climbing adventures:
“For the past two years, I’ve been dreaming about coming out to the Rocklands. I’d sit in school
and I’d think, ‘Oh man, I wish I could be going out climbing now’. Finally, I’ve made it to this
part in my life where I can go and I can climb in amazing destinations all around the world, and
this a dream come true for me.”
Well said, Paul. Now that I’m done with my mechanical engineering undergrad degree, I feel just the same way. This trip is a dream come true! I headed out to South Africa late in June, arriving in Cape Town a couple days before the rest of our group showed up to do some exploring of the city with my girlfriend Megan. We toured the Waterfront, checked out Table Mountain, went to the climbing gym and ate some delicious food!
After Cape Town, we met up with the rest of our group, which included a mix of Bay Area and Boston area climbers and set sail for Rocklands! Upon arrival, we stopped by the climber’s popular watering hole Traveller’s Rest for some dinner and to feverishly fantasize about which boulders we should get on first.
Waking up the next morning felt like a fantasy. The boulders lived up to all expectations and beyond! Out of literally the dozens of sub-areas of Rocklands, we chose our first stop to be the popular Roadside crag. Roadside includes classics such as Hot Flush, (V2) Creaking Heights, (V4) A Question of Balance, (V7/8) Nutsa, (V11) Airstar, (V13), & Monkey Wedding (V15). Clearly something for all ranges of ability! The rock felt amazing – a perfect blend of texture, rigidity, and color with some of the wildest shapes on earth.
Over the next several weeks, we lost ourselves in the rhythm of Rocklands. We explored new areas, revisited projects, and enjoyed the company of climbers from countries and cultures spanning the entire globe. One such project that caught my attention was The Vice, a popular V13 in the Fortress sector. I had seen plenty of videos of The Vice prior to my trip, and figured it might fit my style of compression and power endurance the best out of some of the harder problems. I spent several days sussing out beta for the moves, collaborating with many other climbers to figure out the perfect sequence that would work best for me. At first, I could barely do a single move, but over time I pieced the body positions together until I could do the entire climb in two parts! The project was possible.
Excited but nervous, I returned with a small group of friends to try to climb the entire problem cleanly. On one of my first attempts of the day, I surprised myself by climbing through the bottom crux moves, the tricky heel-hook in the middle, and the powerful move to the last left-hand before the finish. My heart was beating quickly and I felt a surreal lightness in my body. Staring the finish jug in the face, I could hardly believe it; I was one move away from sending my first V13. I set my feet, gritted my teeth, and…
My foot slipped. I collapsed unceremoniously onto the pads. In my right hand, I imagined I could still feel the finish jug clutched in my grasp. The lightness that I felt earlier had gone; it was now replaced with bitter disappointment and physical exhaustion. I tried a couple more times that day, but kept falling lower and lower due to fatigue. I called it a day.
The next day, I rested while everyone else climbed. I kept running the beta over and over in my head, willing myself stay relaxed and composed. To make things easier, I broke down the 16 movements of the climb into 4 groups of 4, muttering to myself again and again and miming the moves as I went. I knew I was ready. It all came down to execution.
Early next morning, I headed back up the well-trodden path to the Fortress, perhaps a little more fatigued than the previous days, but in high spirits. I proceeded to stretch, warm up, and mentally prepare for The Vice. After giving the holds a good brushing-off, I laced my shoes, chalked my hands, and pulled onto the wall. Immediately I felt tired, my muscles burning with exertion. I fell about halfway up after trying to move my right heel to a precarious position before the crux. After a 20-minute rest, I tried again, falling at the same move. Frustrated and exhausted, I was certain my climbing day was over. “Maybe you should try moving your heel up higher,” Megan recommended.
I decided to give it one more go. As I pulled on the wall, I noticed I was more fatigued than ever, but I felt that I might as well give it one more shot before taking yet another rest day. As I approached the move I had been falling on, I knew it was going to take everything I had if I wanted to move the heel without it sliding off. I tensed my core and aimed several inches higher than before. To my surprise, the heel stuck! Yelling with concentration, I pulled through the next several moves, feeling the pump starting to cause my grip to weaken. At last, I was staring down the finish hold once again. I found the new spot for my heel that I had missed on my previous trip to this move, pulled as hard as I possibly could, and stretched my hand towards the finish. It stuck! I topped out the climb, completing one of my long-term goals in my climbing career. It felt awesome.
After completing The Vice, I was then free to have as much fun as I wanted the rest of the trip! I visited as many areas as I could, enjoying my remaining time in Rocklands. Some favorites climbs of mine included Sex Etiquette, (V4) Pinotage, (V8/10) and The Amphitheater (V11). Some other highlights included checking out the waterfall at De Pakhuys, tasting local seafood at Lembert’s Bay, hiking Lion’s Head, and of course seeing the penguins at Boulders Beach. One one of my last days, I also got to go bouldering at Echo Valley in Cape Town! Definitely recommended.
If you plan to visit, the month of July is the most popular (seeing as it’s winter time) and there are many places to stay, including Die Poort, De Pakhuys Campground, and Alpha Excelsior. Next up on my list of adventure destinations, I’ll be heading to Jerusalem for a week and then to Germany and Italy for some world cups. Stay tuned!
Guest Post by PG Athlete Josh Levin. Photo credits: Image 1- Megan Jones; Image 2 & 3 – Kevin Parker; Image 4 – Shauna Coxsey