Sending Genevieve

Published 2014

Now that “Genevieve” was finally bolted, I needed a rest day after all the bolting and hiking to the mountain top, so I lazed about the next day, went for a short run, cruised about on the bike and generally tried to relax my tired hands. It turns out one rest day wasn’t enough. Tom and I set off nice and early the next day to climb. I attacked pitch 1 with some nerves, as I was excited to open this wall. But by a third of the way through the first pitch my hands were already cramping, then my pec started. I pushed on but had to rest before the end of the pitch. So I came down and Tom went up and opened this pitch in good style, it is a long, 35m, slightly overhanging line, which goes at about 6c+. This meant pitch 2 was now mine to try, I managed to open this pitch, only about 6b+. Tom joined at the second stance and we were now getting excited, despite the hand cramps. Tom’s turn, pitch 3, the long parallel tufas. These gave us a good run for our money. Tom managed to get the draws in, but this pitch was far from open. I gave it an attempt, made some progress, that is, right up to the crux….I tried and tried, but was just losing skin on my finger tips and not progressing. I really wanted to at least figure out how to do this section, so that when we returned to try again, we would know what to do. After much cursing, I figured out a good sequence, using some less than ideal crimps, but they worked, so did my fingers, and I got through. We descended and went home, worn out.

Another rest day was needed. This meant we only had 1 day to send the climb before our holiday ended. Nothing like a bit of pressure to get things done. We returned before sunrise the next day, everything obscured by a thick mist. I set off on pitch 1, managed to send it, Tom joined me at the stance. He set off on pitch 2, fell at the anchors when I hold broke. I shot up it and we found ourselves back at pitch 3. Tom was hurting, his skin was worn out, not in a good space to be sending the crux pitch, so I geared up for it. I knew I only had enough skin on my fingers for 1 good attempt, but I took some strong painkillers before climbing, hoping that this might dull the pain in my finger tips and allow for a second go, should I make any mistakes.

Fortunately it didn’t come down to this, I climbed it well, made it through the crux, not without a fight though, and nervously cruised the finishing sequence, worrying about a hold breaking and ruining my attempt. I happily clipped the anchors and belayed Tom up to join me. We gave this pitch a grade of 7b, time will tell what it settles at. I offered to climb the next pitch, Tom didn’t argue. This pitch proved to be an amazing piece of climbing, pulling through a small roof, standing on tufas with open air below, great stuff, at about 6c. The final pitch now waited. Tom’s turn, I was expecting nothing more than 6c, hoping for less because we were both pretty damn tired by this point. Tom went up about 3 bolts and it became very clear that my predicted grade was a bit off. He tried various sequences but wasn’t progressing. He came down to the stance and we were both a little quiet. Worried that after all the excitement and work, we wouldn’t get to finish this climb.

I tried to put on a brave face and positive attitude, I think Tom saw though it. We had some whisky with us, so we each had a shot or two and I geared up. Tom said something about it being a time for someone with more experience, someone who really wants the climb, can grit through the hard sections, dig deep. It was a general statement, not necessarily referring to me or him in particular. His words rang true. I fought my way up that pitch like I have never fought for a climb before. Maybe the whisky helped. It was relentless and not obvious, it just kept throwing cruxes at me when I wanted rests. But in the end, after about 30 minutes of sweating and whimpering I clipped the final anchors. Such an amazing feeling. I graded it 7a+, but have no idea what it might really be. Tom dragged himself up, topped out and slugged back the whisky like it was water. Our final bit of excitement was to launch an “AP BOOM!” off the top of the mountain, basically a little stick of dynamite. Our friends climbing in an adjacent valley had no doubt what the explosion signified as they were climbing a multi-pitch of their own.

At about this time Corlie texted to ask if I liked the name Genevieve if we had a girl, I mentioned this to Tom and we simultaneously decided this would be a great name for the climb.

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Bolting Genevieve

Published 2014

It all started with the big plans for Tom and I to bolt a huge sinkhole out in the hills beyond the Getu Arch. We were well equipped, I had shipped my motorbike ahead of us, to be collected in a nearby town and driven through, giving us easy access to the sinkhole and allowing for the carting of gear back and forth through the hills. We had about 200m of static line, more than 100 bolts, drills, bits, all sorts of gear to help with the bolting and weeks of pent up energy! Once arriving in Getu it soon became clear that the sinkhole was to be put off for a while longer, road closures, massive rains, flooded rivers and generally bad conditions for missioning into large pits convinced us to look elsewhere.

I spotted a large orange face in a nearby valley, with easy access and dry rock, I couldn’t believe nobody had developed this wall yet. I set off slightly possessed (Tom hadn’t arrived in Getu yet), hacking paths, carting gear (along with a few trusty “Sherpa friends” – Vanessa and Douw) to the top of the mountain, bolting rap anchors, stashing food and water, getting everything set up and ready for bolting. It was not without some trepidation that I slowly lowered onto the face, with the trees blowing in the wind far below me, to set the anchors for the climb. I pulled off a few microwave size blocks and watched them free-fall for an eternity before exploding into the valley below. This was a little exciting, and a little nerve wracking. Once I’d set the anchors I got into the swing of things, it is quite a free feeling being all alone on a big wall, swinging about, cleaning of loose rock, placing bolts, choosing the line to climb.

Envisioning the path that the climb will ultimately follow is probably the hardest part of opening a route like this, that is if we ignore all the sweaty hours of carting gear back and forth. I had spied out the line using a pair of binoculars and made mental notes of stances, features to aim for and features to avoid. In the end this proved a good method and the line moved almost straight up the wall. The first session of bolting was slow, mistakes were made which meant I had to jug up and fetch things, come back down, rap further down to check the line, jug up again, place a bolt. This cost me a lot of time and resulted in me being rather tired before I had even finished the first pitch (that is, the first pitch of bolting, which would be the last pitch of climbing).

But in the end the pitch was finished, I made a stance, had a snack, stashed some gear, set the static lines and prepared for the next pitch. This went smoothly until I ran out of bolts. I’d left a bag of bolts at the top! More jugging, more sweat, more cursing. Now my batteries were flat. The drill batteries, not my personal life batteries, though these were nearing empty as well. I decided to rap off the wall in one long rappel. This way I could see the line as I descended. I have since read that it is not recommended to do rappels of more than 30m at a time using the gear I had, off I set on a rap of more than 3 times that. It got a bit scary as the devices heated up and my sweat started to steam as it dripped onto the devices. I slowed down, spat on the devices, and blew on them constantly. At least the slow descent let me get a good look at the wall as I went past. Eventually I made it down, tired and a little demotivated as so much of the wall remained to be bolted. I happily cruised through the farm lands on my motorbike and got back to the guesthouse. A quick coffee got me perked up and I decided to charge my drill batteries and shoot out to complete 1 more pitch before dark. A bold plan as I was very tired, but it paid off, I completed the first pitch from the ground, fed many a mosquito and headed off home as the sun was setting.

Up at sunrise the next day, hiked back up to the top of the mountain to rap in, as this was likely easier than jugging up 100m of rope. This time round I was quite efficient, and set to it with fresh energy. I completed a couple more pitches, including a pitch with a stunning roof section that made me really excited to try the climb, and another pitch following 3 long parallel tufas, which proved to be the crux of the climb. I came down at lunch, with only one pitch left, the second pitch off the ground. Tom had now arrived and was keen to contribute, so I happily let him go up and bolt this pitch, which he did in good style, with only the odd “Tom placement” here and there…Now it was done, bolting and cleaning complete, all that was left was to climb it!

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