A few weeks ago, I returned from my trip to the Rocklands; a trip of endless bouldering, delicious steaks and massive pizza's from the coveted Elephaunthous, romantic walks in acre-long flower beds, and lions devouring donkey's that had just been assassinated for our super-sketchy safari. Instead of going through every boulder problem and memory, I'll leave behind on this blog what stood out as the most poignant of them all: a post I wrote a few days after my send of The Vice.
Rocklands: The Vice - Dave Wetmore
Note: The pictures attached are from previous attempts. However, there is one photo attached I took from my phone on the rainy day it went down.
"Last Friday, around 7:00am, I peeked out through the oddly colored, dusty curtains of our rustic cottage to see what looked like a scene from Steven King’s The Mist: a milky white, heavy-set mist and dark, rolling clouds suffocating the mountains and blotching out the horizon. Not good.
Despite less-than-ideal bouldering conditions, we headed up to the Fortress to try our project because we had nothing better to do—aside from eating chocolate cake and drinking Ginger Beer all day (my favorite South African soda). The parking lot, usually packed to the absolute brim with small, shit-box rental cars just like our own, was completely empty—not a soul in all of the Rocklands came out that morning. We laughed to ourselves while hiking up as if to bring some brevity to a situation that already seemed unmistakably flawed.
After warming up like usual in the Duck Cave, we headed over to The Vice (V13) to start playing; a boulder problem known as one of the most classic test pieces around—one of those climbs that keeps you up at night as it permeates through the very fabric of your soul like that one mystical girl that got away. It was our 4th day of projecting on it. I had no expectations: ‘Not a thread of hope in all of Hell would get me up this thing today’ I thought.
The rain began to pick up as the clouds sifted eerily through the notch. Every boulder was soaking wet—dripping from the rain that slowly, but inevitably drenched every nook and cranny. The only thing that remained dry was the cave we were huddled in. Fortunately, that’s where The Vice is located. But since the condensation from the clouds (we were literally inside of them due to our altitude) was so thick and dense, every hold began to soak up moisture. I looked at the skin on my palms to get a read on the air quality. Within seconds, I could see hundreds of little dots blotting out the chalk—water droplets from the air making a visual imprint on my skin. The air was wet. Consequently, our pads were drenched within minutes.
Climbing was a bitch because as soon as you stepped on the pads, your shoes would get wet and subsequently the foot holds. After falling on moves that should have been easy (many of the crucial smears were wet), I decided that starting from the bottom of the problem would be the easiest solution. You could walk over to the start, take your boots off, quickly put on your climbing shoes (after generously chalking up the rubber tips to soak up the dew), and climb before your shoes and hands got too wet.
On my first try from the start, I fell at the last move utterly surprised; a grotesque understatement for the shock that enveloped my brain and body.
The rain was picking up as the clouds grew thicker. It was like climbing with a massive clock hanging over head. If you listened hard enough you might have heard the razor-sharp clinking of time echoing in the distance—Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock. The magic window of opportunity was quickly vanishing as the weather deteriorated, so I pulled on from the start once more. My mind was blank, like a chalk-board that had just been erased. There was no thought of ‘maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t—there was just climbing. Brian later told me that he looked at Rob right before I pulled on and gave him a quick, furtive smirk as if to say, ‘Look at this crazy numb-nut climbing in the rain.’
While I climbed, Brian (thank you so much by the way) tapped every hold on the arête with chalk a few seconds before I grabbed them to soak up some of the dankness aggressively invading our cave. Within a minute I was holding the dripping victory jug—fully dumb-founded. I blacked out for the majority of the boulder and woke up at the finish beside myself. The guys told me later that I turned around with a look on my face like I had just seen a ghost and muttered, “I can’t believe this is happening right now,” before climbing the last 30-feet of slab in the rain.
I’ll always remember that rainy day up at the Fortress with my good friends as one of the best climbing hours of my life."