There have been many time’s I’ve said that a route that I’ve done has been awesome, but nothing can compare to Red Column in the Tonquani Complex. Since I was introduced to Trad Climbing a few weeks ago, i’ve grown to love it more an more each time I go. Needless to say, i still have many more years of Trading to do, this is one of those experiences that will stand out for a long time to come as probably the best climb I have ever done!
We departed Marlo’s place at around 8am on December 6, to head out to the Mountain Sanctuary for another great day of climbing. This time we had our Rope safe and sound in the back of a car instead of the bikes (due to the almost near bailing on our bikes the last time we were there). The road in was pleasent as always, with lots to talk about and lots more excitement! A few good laughs and some great discussions about climbing and music and pretty juch anything that came to mind.
We were a little cautious about the weather as there was a rather disturbing forecast for a thunderstorm in the area in the late afternoon, so we needed to get into the kloof quickly for the climb. We really did not want to get stuck on a route which is nearly impossible to bail out on in the middle of a thunderstorm. that could prove to be a rather dangerous situation, but, as it turned out, we were ok.
The first part of the walk in was the same as the last, checking into the mountain reserve and then taking a nicely placedd walk to the abseil point. We decided to gear up at the car this time to make our travelling light and fast. This definately helped us alot the whole day as there was far less hauling to be done. We also decided to abseil in this time, as we couldn’t the last time due to Marlo’s rope having a rather nasty nd expensive accident with his bike’s exhaust. This time e were determined to get onto Red Column and make it to the top!
Red Column isn’t far from the HUGE 60m abseil (which was awesome to say the least) so we promptly made our way to the base of the column to get ready. From there, we decided to have a little snack (bananna bread) before starting the climb. Thereafter, all the final checks on the gear and rope before the start of the 1st pitch.
The 1st pitch is a rather easy scramble up to the top of a few boulders but it’s still a little more vertical than most scrambles, hence the rope. Not a bad frist pitch. The stance at the top of this pitch is extremely safe. Here you really do have alot of space to walk around and relax for a bit! The safety’s were in and marlo was ready to climb. This is where it gets interesting and a little scary! You have tos tart the 2nd pitch off a HUGE boulder facing a slabby kind of face. This face you have to traverse around (enter the exposure). It’s a rather interesting experience when you’re rather high up and have very little to hold onto while having to traverse around an Arete (corner) to get to a tiny little ledge with a few rather akward hand holds that you really need to trust to get up to the 2nd stance. i must admit that this was definately the scariest part of the climb for me. i really don’t like little handholds at the best of times and I was feeling a little bit intimidated by an immense verticle drop below me, but it was an exciting rush!
From here on out it got rather interesting. The stance is rather small but still comfortable. There’s a really nice ledge that you can sit on and even a little roch to use as a little seat. A huge crack behind you offers ample protection and also a tree (which we never really used, but that was ok. the view gets infinately better as you get higher. Marlo headed off the traverse (yes, another one) which was a little more scary (not because there was little to hold onto, but rather because there’s a HUGE rock that looks like it’s detached form the rock face and you have to climb over it. From this point there is an AWESOME Dihedral (open book) that you need to get up. Lots of awesome laybacks and a little roof to navigat over (needless to say, i don’t like climbing over roof’s because they just plain scare For me, this part of the climb is what climbing is all about! This was the most spectacular part of the climb and i still have crazy dreams about it!
At the top of this pitch, i think i managed to half scare myself to death! There’s a tiny little ledge that you have to sit on. It’s just plain nasty! But, I guess that when you’re up there you can’t really be scared. Marlo says that I went a little quiet there… yes, ok, I was a little scared of this particular stance but i promise, I did begin to feel better about the whole situation after a little time out. Eventually it was quite exciting (yes, it returned). It was rather funny to watch a group of people heading down the kloof while I was sitting about 60m abouve them. I don’t think they had any idea we were above them. There were a few monkeys running around as well and at a stage I was a little worried that they might have found my bag with our bananna loaf. There really is no telling what would have happened if they found it. I think we could have starved.
This is where it gets a little more interesting. There’s a rather interesting traverse you have to do to get to the next part of Red Column. Once you manage the traverse, you get to a nice little grey slab you need to make your way up. this leads into a nice crack to climb (I love climbing cracks). This was just plain awesome! The crack is a little intimidating because you’re already so high up but wow, i really don’t think there are many words in any language that could describe the feeling. I think this is where my climbing technique really showed. Lots of interesting hand holds, ‘gotta get that foot higher’ and ‘that looks like a bomber hold’… Climbers will understand what I mean.
There’s another roof at the top of this last pitch. This one is a rather nasty one though. There’s a crack in the roof and you’ve gotta worm your way up this one. Lots of smearing with your shoes and a little fear because the slab is loose. As you grab it you can just hear that loose sound. Needless to say, with a few body bars and some rather interesting moves that only a contorionist could do, you get to the top of the route only to feel the greatest sense of satisfaction one could ever imagine! Wow. i really don’t think i’ll ever enjoy another climb as much as I did this one! It took us the better part of at least 4 hours to get up, but we managed it rather well.
To get down this route one needs to descend slightly to the opposute side of Red Column From here, there is a little gully that you need to prep an abseil from. You’ve got to throw the rope over a tree that’s rather akward to get over, but then it’s another 60m abseil to the bottom! All in all, great fun. From here on out it was a walk to Golden Balls for ascent out of the kloof! As with my last Tonquani Kloof climbing post, this was an awesome climb, slightly easier than before though, due t me knowing the route this time.
The scramble out was fun, once again and we made haste to the Jacuzzi for another great refresher. Before we made it to the Jacuzzi though we had the fortune of walking through a group of baboons. This was rather interesting as they were perched on boulders all over the place around the main troop. Needless to say they let us pass without incident, which was nice of them.
Obviously, the traditional after climb beer is a must at the reception building of the mountain sanctuary, so that’s just what we did. All in all.. a great day was had and we weren’t rained on at all either! can’t wait for the next Tonquani mission!