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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