Words by Ines Papert.
I see myself more on exposed faces than on single move problems. South Africa is more or less famous for its exceptional bouldering and sport climbing, but only very few climbers choose the enormous potential for trad climbing on perfect quartzite, sandstone and granite.
Table Mountain in Cape Town is, without a doubt, one of the most well known and best destinations for trad climbing, thanks to an easy approach and a high concentration of routes in all difficulties, all without the use of any bolt. That’s the place to learn about the ethics and history of local climbers; you meet them here.
I contacted local climber Hilton Davies (56) before we left for the trip. He was part of the team that opened the only existing Route on Slanghoek ,”Private Universe”, back in 2002 . He became our local host and we became friends.
Slanghoek in Du Toits Kloof Mountains is 550 meters high and the most sustained and highest big wall in the country. It caught my eye for its exposure and red colour well before the trip.
We are all experienced in alpine terrain, but we rather embarrassingly got lost while approaching in the dark, since the days in winter are short. As soon as we noticed we were in the wrong canyon and almost stuck in the jungle, it was too late to make it back to the right canyon in time.
While Canadian explorer Paul wanted to finish the probably ‘unclimbed’ canyon, the rest of us seemed more psyched about climbing on Slanghoek, especially myself. Full of dirt and wet, climbing from trees back into the moist gully, I felt more like being on a Tarzan Mission than a climbing Mission. But we had lots of laughs about ourselves. This project stayed unfinished but Paul is psyched to come back.
The next day, after 3 hours of bushwhacking, we finally arrived to the base of the climb ‘Private Universe’.
While bivouacking half way up on a perfect ledge, we received a huge gift from mother nature with a colourful sunset on the horizon. The smile in our faces stayed put until we fell asleep. On day 2 we finished our first big climb of South Africa, always with open eyes for a new line on this large cliff.
There was no question that we had to visit Hilton in Cape Town to share our plans with him. He was psyched and we received the most support we could get.
The weather on Slanghoek just confirmed our plans to visit some other climbing spots, like Rocklands, Montagu and to climb the best trad lines on Table Mountain, one of them with legendary Hilton Davies. His modesty did not allow him to show up with his climbing skills and victories in earlier ages. But we figured out that he opened the first 7a Route in South Africa back in 1979, no doubt on trad gear.
Luka and I had the chance to climb African Arete and a new link of ‘Cool Cat’ and ‘Scaredy Cat’ with our new friend Hilton. The name of the link is simply ‘Cats’.
He appreciated the day as much as we did. While descending, an other amazing sunset, where the indian and atlantic oceans meet.
The storm of the century passed the Western Cape, uprooted trees and left chaos behind. Cape Town was without power for a day. Once more, we appreciated Hilton’s friendship as he easily convinced us to be guests in his house. Another evening next to the wooden fireplace, listening his stories of climbing, learning more about the culture and ethic of the climbers’ community and enjoying best South African red wine, while already creating ideas for our next common project. He revealed his long term dream to climb the famous Eiger north face. Without any doubt, Luka and I offered to take him there. This was the smallest gift we could offer.
We finally got the weather window we needed to finish our new Route ‘Ruby Supernova’, a jewel of rock on Slanghoek. We were unexpectedly able to find the most logical line with the use of only mobile gear: not a single bolt was needed during our first ascent. Within two days, we managed to on-sight every single pitch to the flat top of Slanghoek.
We were joined by photographer Franz Walter to document our road trip and first ascent on Slanghoek. Stay tuned for the movie about a journey to South Africa, which will be shown during the Arcteryx Academies in 2018.
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