Last year at the Longtom Marathon Event in Sabi, AJ, a fellow volunteer, asked one of the staff from the backpacker, “Is there any good rock climbing in this area?” His response was, “if you want serious rock climbing in South Africa, bra’, you need to check out Waterval Boven.” So that’s exactly what we did.
Rhonda, Craig, AJ, Susie, Benjamin
Initially our party was only only AJ, Susie and myself but as soon as Rhonda heard word of rock climbing she was all in.
After backpacking in the Drakes we asked everybody what were their plans for Christmas. Craig said that we was going to be with his host family at a game park for a few days before Christmas but on Christmas day he may just be hangin’ in his little thatched outside room. This was unacceptable! Even though Craig had never rock climbed before and was a might concerned by heights we convinced him that he needed to make the hour journey from his home in Nelspruit out to meet us in Waterval Boven. More new outdoor adventures for Craig with the Barr-Wilsons!
A beautiful hike we took around Waterval Boven… it was an adventure; ask us about it sometime
This time our gear was truly thin. Suz had her harness and shoes and AJ would have had his shoes, harness and chalk bag but he had some complications on his way back from climbing Kilimanjaro the week before. When I say complications I mean Tanzania Air went bankrupt and shut down. AJ and his little crew of three had to find other means to get back to South Africa from Tanzania all so that he could come out climbing with us. Needless to say it took him a few extra days to get back, but he made to us right on schedule.
Getting ready to repel down into the Tranquilitas Crags
We rented what gear we didn’t have and hired guides to show us the ropes… and rocks for a few days. After getting acquainted with the area we chose to make our own way out to the crags to climb. We even went climbing on Christmas day, now that’s a Christmas to remember.
Susie and Rhonda showing us the way
We didn’t forget to celebrate. Suz and Rhonda found some cute toys and decorations at the local mart in town, unbeknownst to the guys, and on Christmas morning we awoke to find four Christmas sacks duct taped to the mantle. We enjoyed a Christmas breakfast, played with our toys and waited for the rocks to dry off after a night of light rain.
We climbed all afternoon and then came back to the backpacker to prepare our Christmas feast. AJ and Rhonda made curry and rice, Susie made fruit salad, and Craig and I attempted to make candied yams (or squash). Let’s just say we didn’t have any measuring tools so we had butter, cinnamon, squash, marshmallow soup but it still tasted good as long as you used a slotted spoon to get out the “yams”. Craig also did a number on our Christmas decorations so the table looked fabulous.
Christmas morning… Santa even found us here in South Africa
Enjoying our Christmas morning
Our Christmas feast
AJ, the most experienced climber of the crew, led the way, but we were quick learners and both Suz and I did our first lead climbs. Rhonda challenged herself on slabs of the like she had never faced before and Craig… well he made his first assents ever and truly mastered his fears as he enjoyed some fabulous climbs.
Rhonda on “Little Bonsai”
Craig’s first crag
We managed to stretch ourselves with our greatest attempt at a 5.10a. Suz, AJ and I all managed a full assent on a 5.9 and the rest of the crew was able to solidly climb a 5.8.
AJ attempting the “Endless Blowjob”
Benjamin chimney-ing up “Jackie Chan”
Suz climbing to clear “Little Bonsai”
All in all we had an awesome time and wish we were still out on the rocks. I know that I for one am hooked. There just is something about being out in the beautiful wilderness and getting up close and personal with mother nature.
Check out the entire photo album at Rock Climbing 2008