Rolihlahla, Waterval Boven


IMG_3437Friends, projects, baboons, and braais have made the past week in Waterval Boven a blast! Staying at Tranquilitas right next to the crag means very little driving, one of my favorite attributes of any climbing zone. We hike to the wall, go for morning runs with the farm dogs, and drink Rooibos tea all day. And we climb, a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sore so many days in a row. But with hundreds of routes to climb and plenty of hard projects to go around, we have to get the most out of the short winter days.IMG_1725

Rolihlahla, 32 (5.13d) Photo by Jon Glassberg (lt11)
IMG_3509 Andrew Pedley approaching the roof on Rolihlahla, Photo by Jon Glassberg (lt11)

After three days of work and five attempts, I made the fourth ascent of Rolihlahla, of which Sasha DiGiulian made the first ascent about a week ago, proposing a grade of 34 (5.14b). Since then, Capetown boulderer Arjan de Kock and Johannesburg local Andrew Pedley, who bolted the route in 2008 and called it The Overlord Project, have made the second and third ascents. Rolihlahla is another South African masterpiece, a beautiful route featuring a little bit of everything – mantles, no hands rests, crack climbing, a traverse, and a technical face. I’m suggesting a personal grade of 32 (5.13d), based on a few factors.First, I think the FA of a route is always the hardest (unless holds break), because the first ascentionist must figure out their own beta, rather than relying on the intricacies previous climbers have found.  Although Andrew had worked Rolihlahla prior to Sasha’s ascent, he was not there to provide beta, so she was working through very technical moves on her own. I can certainly say that Sasha put more effort into the route by working it in this manner than I did, simply because I had both her and Andrew’s beta to choose from, in addition to my own.Second, Rolihlahla is exactly my style. I love thin, technical climbing with poor feet and slightly runout sections. I don’t excel at gymnastic climbing, in the sense that I prefer delicate footwork over powering through moves. I also typically enjoy the mental puzzle of working through technical routes more than the physical challenge. Rolihlahla caters to my preferred style, rather than the physical, gymnastic skill required for longer, steeper routes such as in Spain and the Red River Gorge.As for my proposed grade of 32 (5.13d), I feel that the style of Rolihlahla is comparable to To Bolt or Not to Be (Smith Rock, 5.14a/33), Grand Ole Opry (The Monastery, 5.14b/34), and Third Millennium (5.13d/32) routes that I’ve sought out in the past for their technical nature. For me, Rolihlahla required slightly less effort than Third Millennium, and has significantly more positive holds and a much shorter crux. If I had to break it down, I would say Rolihlahla is as follows:Five bolts of 25 (5.12a) > two consecutive no hands rests > a five move bouldery crux off of extremely poor feet, probably 7B(V7) > a thin, slightly insecure traverse, probably 26(5.12b) > two bolts of crack climbing at the top (which I honestly thought was the hardest part of the route, because I have no crack climbing skills).Each of these pieces alone are perfectly manageable, but climbed from the bottom, they require precise execution and some serious trust in small feet.IMG_3628

Rolihlahla, 32 (5.13d) Photo by Jon Glassberg (lt11)

Regardless of the grade, Rolihlahla is an absolutely gorgeous line and I’m so glad that Sasha caught the fire to establish the route so the rest of us could follow suit! I know that many locals, especially women, have been inspired by new ascents in the region. I don’t get to climb with Sasha often, but it’s always incredibly motivating to pull down with strong ladies who put their heart into every attempt and contribute to the group’s motivation at the cliff. Thanks to Andrew Pedley for bolting another stellar line, and to Sasha for chalking up all those small grips!We also had the chance to check out Boven’s famous waterfall, where Jon and Outward Venture’s photographer Jono got some awesome photos and video. It’s pretty crazy to climb next to a roaring waterfall, and I hear it’s a whole different story in the summer when the water is really flowing! Other than that, we’re just trying to keep bumping our endurance up in hopes of finishing a few other projects before taking off for Russia in a few weeks!IMG_1150IMG_3139

Unlimited Power, 28 (5.12d) Photos by Jon Glassberg

In other news, Andrew wrote up a little guide for the Wow Prow – whether you need some light entertainment or are looking to visit, check it out HERE!To help us raise $10,000 for Room to Read, visit