by TONY LOURENS
pic by LORD COLLECTION
Looking back we really had such an amazing social scene going on . . . road trips to Monteseel, Montagu, and Blouberg. I think we just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Nicad batteries unlocked the blank canvas. There was a paradigm shift in looking for new lines. The gold rush was on . . .
– Richard Lord
Anyone who has climbed on the God No! Wall, or even walked beneath it, will know that it is the most immaculate wall in Waterval Boven. It is comprised of the most stunning deep orange hard sandstone, and bursts out of the trees for 30 steep and intimidating metres to end on the serene plateau above. The crag was created and chiselled in such a perfect way for climbing that one could easily believe there was divine intervention when his crag was laid down millions of years ago.
Although riddled with many desperately hard, world-class routes today, 25 years ago the God No! Wall was a bare stretch of rock waiting to be explored. It stood proud above the forested valleys of ’Boven, beckoning mockingly to any climber who should dare think about climbing her beautifully sculptured faces and cracks.
Then in the early 1990s, visiting American climber, the legendary Todd Skinner, spotted an outrageous line blasting straight up the middle of the crag. Steep, direct and very thin, the proposed line looked all but impossible, but Todd stuck to his guns and inspected the route on abseil, and subsequently bolted it. But unfortunately he had to return to the States before he could lay down any serious attempts on the line.
At the same time, a group of adventurous Jo’burg climbers were also sniffing around for new hard lines, and with Skinner’s departure, the ‘line’ was declared an open project. They all seemed to shy away from the route except for a bold young climber by the name of Richard Lord. Fuelled by his peers, the beauty of the line, and also by the fact that Lord was looking for something hard, he made the route his own. He started working the route over the ensuing months and eventually sent what would become the famous Jabberwocky, arguably the hardest route in the country at the time, and still ranked as a serious test piece among the top climbers today, having only seen a handful of repeats.
For some time now I have been meaning to chat to Richard about his climbing life, and in particular his relationship with Jabberwocky. Eventually I tracked him down, and this is his story.