Waterval Boven, about 100Km’s from Nelspruit in Mpumulanga, South Africa, is a haven for sports climbing. It’s world renouwned to be one of the coolest spots to climb, and for a very good reason. There are currently more than 600 sport routes to climb in the area, and there are also a ton of Trad routes as well. Currently, I hear from some climbing buddies, that they’re planning on opening another new crag to the public. Negotiations are currently underway with a farmer who owns the property. Obviously access is needed. Once this process is complete there will be even more routes opening up at Boven. For the future, there are something like 20Km’s of additional crags to add to the equation, so as you can see, it’s rather insane! There is something that makes this place unique, the color of the rock. You can always tell if a picture is taken here because the rock is red. It’s really awesome!
Currently there are an impressive number of open crags, namely, the Waterfall, the Restaurant, Sports Valley, the Island and Wonderland (my personal favorite and the main focus of this article). Each of these areas plays host to many additional crags with hundreds of routes to be climbed, ranging from easy grade 9’s for those who are only starting out all the way into the 30’s for those who are complete addicts.
Places to stay are also great! There are two places for climbers to set up base for their stay, namely the Climbers Chateau (in the town itself) and Tranquilitas (the camp grounds just above the wonderland crags). Both are run by Gustav and Alex who own the Rock & Rope, and then there is the Elandskraans resort for those who are looking more for a Luxurious stay just above the Resturant crags. We chose the Campgrounds. This, on our part was a wise choice as it provided easy access to the wonderland crags and was full of fellow climbers.
The trip from Pretoria is about 240km’s. It usually takes one about 2 or 3 hours depending on traffic and the pace you wish to travel. We opted for a rather speedy trip there but had to stop for food along the way. We decided to take two cars because Tinus was planning on an early retreat. With our gear checked and packed, and supplies bought at the local supermarket, we headed off for a weekend of opportunity and learning and fun! Our crew – myself (climbing for 3 years now), Ernesto (climbing for 3 months), Hannes (an avid climber but never on real rock) and Tinus (a climbing virgin). Our aim was to have fun on the rock this weekend. We also needed to get Hannes and Tinus onto rock so that they could have a go at this awesome experience.
We arrived in Boven close to 5pm. Before heading to the camp grounds we had to check in at the Rock & Rope. Alex said that she was at the camp grounds so we could just meet her there and she’d assist us with anything we needed. We then headed up the mountain to the grounds. The road is really bad. Due to the fact that it’s a dirt road up to the grounds, you’re often travelling up a road that is frequented by regular runoff from the rains. This leaves the road in a terrible state, as we were to experience first had a little later over the weekend. In all honesty, i don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about his car as much as I did with Tinus up that road! It was rather funny. I did feel bad about not telling him about the road but i knew that he wouldn’t have joined us if he knew about it, so it was a bit of a necessary evil… hehehe…! Sorry Dude! This would also have proven to be a detrimental mistake as it’s taken me the better part of 3 years to get him to come and climb with me.
Anywho, We arrived at the camp grounds and met up with Alex who we paid and got additional info regarding the renting of a harness and shoes for Tinus. We could pick it up in the morning from the Rock & Rope. We had two cars full of gear and tents needed to be pitched and food needed to be made, but we opted to head off to Hallucinogen wall for a bit of climbing before the sun said good night! We ended up taking a really long walk through dense shrubbery and forest to get to the wall. this could have been avoided if we walked around the top of the crag though, but it was fun none the less and we got the chance to get some ideas for routes we’d like to do over the course of the weekend. We got to the first route, Cenotaph Corner (Grade: 3-star 16). Time to Gear Up!
Ernesto was the first to lead as he was a little worried that if he couldn’t make it then i’d have to get the gear back. The route starts of in a little chimney and then flares in to a little crack to climb all the way to the top. Hannes was up next but he opted for a Top Rope as he’d never been on rock before. We were ok with this for the time being! Tinus was keen to try but the sun was setting rapidly and we never had headlamps with us so I headed up the route to clean up and top out! All in all, it was good to be back in Boven!
After the climb we headed back to camp to pitch the tents and prepare dinner. At camp I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Barry and Adinda, two friends from the Climbing Barn. I hadn’t seen them in about a year. it was great to catch up, and we ended up spending alot of time with them. We also met up with Chalk and Suzan, and their dog Linus (the coolest dog in the world, he even climbs)! After pitching tents, Ernesto and I had a date with the new climbing boulder at the camp site. We worked on a few really interesting problems as Tinus and Hannes prepared our HUGE bloubull steak (thanks guys). Climbers will be climbers after all! Hannes joined us after dinner and we spent the rest of the evening working on some rather interesting boulder problems together. I really think Hans enjoyed the experience and got to see what we do when we’re not climbing… climbing… 🙂
After a night of uncomfortable rest, we were all up at around 5am. I’ve now decided to invest in an air mattress as my foam ground mat is still uncomfortable. We had a little bite to eat (rusks and coffee, tea for Ernesto) we headed out to Tranquilitas wall for a day of climbing! Our first route was Little Bonsai (an awesome 4-star 16). What a route. It’s called little Bonsai because there’s a little tree growing at the bottom of the route on a ledge. it’s pretty cool! Needless to say, Ernesto went up first. There are two Cruxes on this route that are quite an interesting challenge. Needless to say we all made it. Hannes was up next but Ernesto and I decided that Hans should lead the route, which, after a little argument, he agreed to do, and he did it well! Hans has really good technique on rock. He’s got the reach as he’s rather tall, and is pretty good at spotting interesting footholds, and finding decent hand holds as well. We were all thoroughly impressed to find how easily he flew up the route. Tinus did the route on top rope as he never had climbing shoes. He decided to give it a shot in his Merrel’s though. Man, if I had a dime for every time he fell I’d be a rich man, but he made it to the top and we all began to realize that the climbing bug was beginning to bite! hehehe… Almost there dude!
I decided to go last to clean up after everyone else. I found the route to be a challenge but I enjoyed the climb. I love the movements when climbing. They just flow as you progress up a route. Hand here, foot there, other foot there, stand up, reach for that under-cling, press off that horn, legs up again… it’s really something to behold. I love it!
From here, we headed down to town to get some gear and pick up more supplies (lots of noodles and a can of peaches for dinner)… Man oh man, this was awesome. We also needed to get a few bowls as we all forgot to bring cutlery, silly us, i guess that’s what happens when one is spontaneous in their decisions. So we got what we needed, headed back to camp, made breakfast and then off to the crags again. Ernesto and I decided to play around on the boulder again. it was warm so we ended up playing on the overhang over the pool more than anything else. A great laugh was had by all and, as always, awesome memories.
[flv:http://www.themadtraveller.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/bouldering.flv 512 348]After eating, we headed back to Tranquilitas wall, the Crèche was our stop as we’d heard from Barry and Adie that it was a good place to teach people to climb, and considering our company, we needed to get Hans and Tinus climbing quickly. Tinus was also keen to try out his climbing shoes. We arrived to meet Barry and Adie and their kids. Their eldest daughter was learning to lead climb (impressive because she;s only like 11 or something and she’s already pushing 16’s on lead).
We had a few great laughs and managed to watch Tinus lead his first climb, Crouching Tiger (a 3-star 12). He was a little stressed but determined. He made it up the route and loved every minute of it. Hans then had the duty of topping out and cleaning the chains. I was on another route a little further down, topping out for Adie, namely Me Tarzan You Jane (a 6-star 16 and Barry’s daughters first lead climb at this grade). I ended up talking Hans through the process as he was doing it. He was really stressed about it (as one should be the first time you top out). He made it ok and once down, the satisfaction began to settle and he was happy again. I still don’t think he was impressed with myself and Ernesto about the whole business of cleaning.
Once we were done in the Crèche we sought a few harder routes. Tinus and Hans had left to go and relax at the pool so Ernesto and I decided to stay and do what we love best! We were looking for a route that Barry and Adie recommended but ended up on Jacky Chan (a 4-star 14). We enjoyed the climb but it wasn’t challenging enough for us. We managed to find the route we wanted after a little searching. Consistency is Fashion (4-star 17). This route stars out with a crack on one face and then, after two bolts, moves around an arete to a more slabby route. Something for the both of us.
Ernesto doesn’t like crack climbing as he’s never really done it, and I don’t like slab much. Needless to say, after a little battling through it, Ernesto reached the top. While there, Adie was pushing a rather nasty route, Excuse me while I kiss the sky (4-star 19). Due to a few accidents she had a short while back, she was a little scared to face the massive lead outs on the route, so Ernesto had to help out by clipping her into the chains at the top. Once this was done he came down and belayed me up the route. I had fun with the crack at the bottom of the route but struggled a little towards the top with the slab. I still loved the climb though. Once down, we decided to do a chimney near Little Bonsai called Chimneying Tammy (4-star 15). Ernesto was terrified at the thought but what better way to learn than to do?
Ernesto lead the climb and I followed, in the hopes that if he couldn’t do it then I could get to the top and help him up. We also decided that this would be a great place to top out from the crag. I managed to loose my sun glasses though, so i had to run around trying to find them. I eventually did and then climbed up to meet Ernesto. We had to haul up our gear first, which was a little hectic because we had a lot with us. I proceeded to climb up and we headed back to camp to relax for the evening.
That night, after a few bouldering problems over the pool (the weather started to move in so it was a little cold), we prepared dinner and relaxed and chatted about the day. Ernesto and i spent a lot of time chatting to Chalk and Suzan about many different climbing topics and adventures we’d all had. They really are awesome people! After a great nights sleep (far more comfy than the first night, we awoke to an early morning.
The weather was not looking very good so we waited a little. Tinus decided to leave (just in time in fact). When he left we decided to head off to hallucinogen wall for a day of climbing. There was hectic mist in the valley and the rock was wet. there were short little bursts of rain and it was just plain nasty. Ernesto, Hans and I managed to get up another route though, Smokey the Bear (a 2-star 16), despite the really wet rock. Hans top roped it though and I decided to top rope it as we needed to get the gear down quickly because of really bad weather. Just as I got to the top of the route there was a burst of heavy rain. I cleaned as quickly as I could and he headed for a nice overhang to wait for it to stop.
Once the rain stopped we decided to try it again. We headed off a little further down the crag looking for a crack to climb, we found Chicks for Free (1-star 15). Ernesto decided to lead in case he couldn’t make it. He managed the first bolt and the rain came again, this time in buckets. The clouds were a nasty gray (which had come in since we started). We decided to head back to the overhang and decide on what to do from there. at the overhang we packed our gear away and decided to head back to camp. This was probably a good idea as the rest of the day turned out pretty much the same… really nasty buckets of rain.
Back at camp, rather soaked, we spent the afternoon under a roof behind the bathrooms. We decided to make a fire in an old rim that we found and had lots of coffee and rusks. We attempted to dry our clothes and shoes and read for the better part of the afternoon. We also ended up playing poker with a couple who had arrived the night before from Pretoria. Needless to say, it was a huge downer as we needed to leave the following day. That evening we were invited to join Barry and his crew for dinner, a wonderful poitjie. This was the first time we’d had a decent meal since we arrived.
Strangely enough, Barry had been there for 2 weeks and he’s always had an interesting view on camping. He eats as he would at home whereas we were roughing it, eating the bare minimum. He literally brought his whole house to the camp grounds and their camp was pretty well stocked with Booze and food, even a laptop for the kids to watch movies and keep themselves busy. He really loves entertaining people and invited a whole group of climbers for dinner that night. We all had a great time kuiering with them. Ernesto and i were jumping between some of our fellow climbers chatting away. Hannes decided to have an early night. After everyone headed off to bed, Ernesto and I decided it’d be a good idea to do the same. I loaned him a book with some technique for climbing cracks and I passed out from exhaustion.
The following morning was not looking good. We were supposed to leave but the roads were too muddy and we would have probably ended up stuck in the mud or in a ditch if we headed down the road. Barry offered to take us down to town in his 4×4 to check out the road, and if needs be, get some more supplies. The trip down was rather exciting. The 4×4 had Dif-Lock on and it was a roller-coaster ride down to the bottom. The car was sliding all over the road. We wouldn’t have made it down safely in the car.
[flv:http://www.themadtraveller.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/4x4ride.flv 512 348]Paul, the owner of the Climbing Barn in Pretoria joined us at the Rock & Rope. I haven’t seen Paul for about a year or so. i thought it was great to see him again. I headed up to camp with Paul! We caught up, as climbers do, talking about climbing and arrived at camp after another really interesting trip up the mountain again. We packed everything up and waited for the weather to clear up some more. Paul and his team headed to the crags for the rest of the day, we opted to play Poker for a while and then, when the sun came out, promptly headed to the crags for some more climbing. Baboon Buttress was our destination.
The rock was still wet, but we tried anyway. Our first route was Grizzly Bhers (a 4-star 16). It’s a crack and I decided to lead it first. It was rather nasty. i hate climbing on wet rock at the best of times. The lower part of the route was soaked but I made it up ok. The middle section of the route was awesome. Great lay-backs and lots of hand and foot jams to get up the route. I got the the roof just below the chains and couldn’t go further. i still can’t decide if it was the fact that the rock was soaked that forced me to bail out or if it was a,bit of fear, but I had to bail.
Ernesto went up after me to go further and he managed it safely. He top-roped what I had done and finished up the route. Hannes was up on top-rope next. He managed to get half way before bailing out. It was up to me to clean the chains this time, so i lead it again. At the same spot where I got to before I bailed, there’s a rather nice flared crack that becomes a bi of a chimney. Lots of awesome jugs this time when i looked a little more. I managed to get into the flare and clipped myself into the bolt. Once this was done it was smooth sailing over the roof to the chains just above. I still don’t know why I bailed out but it was actually easy. i think it was the weather that made me rather despondent about the climbing.
I cleaned the chains and came down. Ernesto had done his first crack climb and we were all back to normal. We then progressed down the crag to our next climb, the first pitch of Wheit Watchers (2-star 17). This route’s start is like a slabby kind of route but it’s overhanging. Very nasty. I still maintain that this was the best route that i did the whole holiday. Ernesto went first, he tried a couple of Dyna’s which proved to be unsuccessful. Eventually he got up and it was smooth sailing from there. Hannes top roped it and I lead it. After a little discussion with Ernesto about how to do it, i found it to be awesome yet again. The motion so fluid and perfect. i felt like a pro! Needless to say, some fellow climbers pointed out that we needed to fall more often. That would definitely help boost our confidence.
Outr last route that day was called Jumani (3-star 19). This route is an overhanging crack all the way to the crux, which is a nasty little jug. Unfortunately this is where things went bad. Ernesto, as he reached the 2nd bolt and was ready to clip, took a fall and had a bit of a Ledge out. i managed to catch him just in time before falling further down to the rocks below. He landed on his heel and was injured rather seriously (Fortunately, after a day or two he informed me that x-rays showed no damage to the bone). He’s gonna be fine. This freaked me out alot though.
I tried the route and managed to get to the 3rd bolt. From here I was a little screwed as i just didn’t have the energy to push myself anymore. My fingers were buggered and i was tired, so I practiced a few falls. They were rather scary but now i think I know that it’s not gonna be that serious if i take a fall. the gear will hold safely. I practiced a few more falls, tried the route again but I just couldn’t. I was pumped out and dead tired. i came down. Hans decided not to give it a go, which was understandable. We headed off to camp, cooked dinner and got an earlyish night.
Much later, while reading, Barry came to call me to have a smoke. I sat outside with him for about an hour, chatting away about everything from work to life goals to adventure and climbing accidents and technique. It really was awesome!
The next morning we wanted to go climbing but Ernesto’s foot was not doing well, so we decided to head home. The road down was much better, despite a slide here and there but we got down safely. We then headed off to Milly, our traditional breakfast stop, for a decent breakfast and a great chat about the whole weekend. All in all, it was Awesome. One we’ll be talking about for a while to come, and certainly the beginning of many more adventures.
For more info on Waterval Boven and the climbing adventures one can have there please check out Rock & Rope Adventures