words by JEROME MOWAT
pic by DAVE PICKFORD
A VISITOR’S PERSPECTIVE TO CLIMBING IN SA
The very bottom of Africa – an entire continent perched on this inverted triangle of land. How did it not just topple over? My understanding of geography has come on a long way since childhood, but my fascination with the place has not. And now that my training as a paramedic in London was complete, there were two good reasons to visit South Africa: it held the promise of immaculate sandstone, and of terrible bloodshed. I had a month in which to immerse myself in this land before starting work back in the UK.
The first couple of weeks were spent scaling the sheer orange faces of Waterfall Boven. The routes there, like the people, had strong names and stronger personalities; to name but a few: Monster, Beast, and my personal favourite, Banging Bridget Jones. As sorry as I was to move on, I was curious as to what the Western Cape had to offer. It would have to be pretty special to match Boven. I teamed up with fellow UK climbers Dave Pickford and Ramon Marin on their own month-long sojourn. They’re on a long-term mission to visit the best sandstone sport destinations across the globe, the only pre-requisite being that it has to have hillbillies. They told me of an amazing place in the Cederberg Mountains – we took it in turns to read out the name: ‘Rudy’s car?’ ‘Druid’s kale?’ ‘Trudy’s cruel?’ Jamie Smith, our host and local guide, walked in. ‘Do you mean Truitjieskraal?’ Pronounced tray-keys-kral it’s famous for not only being the most mispronounced crag in South Africa, but also for housing some of the most well-preserved ancient cave paintings.
Not long after, we were speeding along little dirt roads, three grown men in a comically small hire car. Collections of stacked blocks littered the horizon like some drunken game of Jenga the giants had played. ‘It must be that one,’ we said after every bend, only to find another more likely venue further up the track. This continued until we passed through the correct sequence of barriers, junctions and bends described in the Western Cape Rock guidebook. Wrenching on the handbrake in a cloud of dust, the car ground to a stop. We had arrived.
IMAGE: Jerome swinging out on Route the Brute (25), Truitjieskraal