Lost World Revival Trad Festival

By Tony Lourens

Pics by Tony Lourens and Ed February

This weekend past (September 11 and 12, 2021) marked a milestone in trad climbing in South Africa. The iconic Lost World Crag in Montagu – which has been closed to climbing for decades – was reopened for an unforgettable event which drew 40 passionate climbers from around the Western Cape, and some from further afield, to experience the delights of this beautiful and magical kloof, with its soaring rock walls and golden crags.

Many classic routes like Find the Cost of Freedom, Heart of Gold, Stone Magic, Nuclear Waste, Skyline Crack and many others saw multiple ascents. The classic multi-pitch Jay Walker also saw a few ascents. But the main event was undoubtedly centred around the steep and intimidating Wall of Darkness, where there was always a group of hard men and women psyching themselves up for a red point of the classic AdK test piece, Technicolour Darkness (26), an elegant 30-metre curving crack, demanding solid concentration throughout, the crux at mid height, and an unrelenting head wall, keeping you focused and pumped right up until the very last move. Needless to say, the spectators were kept well entertained with some exciting climbing and some really sensational whippers.

But 100 metres up the kloof, away from the main stage is a little hidden gully which is home to one of the best grade 19 hand cracks, and another super technical test piece, the 5 star vertical slab of Sea of Existential Teddy Bears, which had some attention on the Friday, but due to its technical dominance and somewhat runout nature and fiddley gear, only fell to the determination and perseverance of the KZN God Father, Roger Nattrass, who managed to pull off an impressive send on his fourth attempt. Touching down after his successful send, he confirmed that it was definitely pushing the boundaries of 24 to its very limits!

Back at the Wall of Darkness, things were not slowing down. The scary and super runout Night Fright (24), saw a rare ascent by Richard Squeeks Halsey and Technicolour Darkness dished out some flying lessons to Douw Steyn, Gosia Lipinska and Clinton Martinengo before strong man Willem le Roux managed to get the first send of the route. We thought that was it for Saturday, but in the dying rays of the setting sun, in typical hard core Polish fashion, Gosia snuck back up the kloof and pulled off an incredible and well-deserved red point, giving her the first female ever ascent of the route!

That night, at the plush Galenia Estate, with sweeping views overlooking the charming town of Montagu in the fading twilight, wine and beer flowed, as we all compared notes of the days climbing. Ed Feb introduced the inimitable Andy de Klerk, who gave an excellent if somewhat philosophical talk about climbing and life, past and present, leaving us with no uncertain idea of the ethics and values of trad climbing that shaped his life and which he still holds dear to his heart. The evening continued with excellent food and more wine, until curfew put a stop to proceedings.

Sunday saw a definite slackening on the eager beaver proceedings, with most climbers going for their second and some for their third full day of demanding cranking. But never-the-less there was still some top class action. Once again the Wall of Darkness drew the crowds, with Clinton and Douw both managing to bag ascents of Technicolour Darkness and Garrreth Bird giving it a really determined go, before enthralling us all with probably the whipper of the weekend, ripping some pieces along the way, ending up sucking in about 12 metres of air.
And Willem le Roux, once again pulled a good performance out the bag with the second send on the weekend of Night Fright.

Meantime, on the other side of the valley, history was in the making with a young Clea de Klerk taking her first trad lead fall on the testy first pitch of Heart of Gold – a route opened by her dad nearly 40 years previously. And very aptly, Andy was the one to hold her 5-metre fall.

All in all, many of the classic routes were climbed, and we saw some epic ascents and some epic airtime. A truly great time was had by all, and most of us came away with some memorable experiences. But one thing is certain – Lost World remains one of the iconic trad venues in Africa. The climbs are unique, demanding respect and most agree that the grades are as solid as one can get, if not a little too solid!

A huge thank you to Galenia Estate for unlocking the doors of paradise, so we could host this event. And to all their wonderful and friendly staff who did an outstanding job with the accommodation, delicious food, well stocked bar and looking after all 43 of us so well on Saturday night. It was a full house, but everything ran so super smoothly. A huge thank you also to Black Diamond South Africa for their generous sponsorship of the event and continuous support for all things climbing. And to all the climbers who came, saw, enjoyed, conquered, flew, drank tea, laughed, took pics, spectated, encouraged, and most of all share in the deep history of trad climbing and the iconic Lost World in Montagu, at the tip of Africa.

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