Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mallorca Deep Water solo trip

Well, what an absolute blast of a trip I’ve just been on to the beautiful Mediterranean island of Mallorca! I remember one of the first ever climbing films that I bought over 10 years ago called Dosage II. It documented a wide range of climbing all over the world and the episode that really caught my attention was shot on the island of Mallorca showing a load of strong guys Deep Water Soloing on amazing looking cliffs above the sea.  Ever since I saw that clip I knew I just had to visit the place and try it out for myself.

DWS Team: Me, Ed and Al

Your damn right!

Over the last couple of summers I’ve got more and more excited about this weird and wonderful sport of Deep water soloing (DWS), doing a number of small trips down to the south Coast of England to try it out, such as Lulworth Cove, Swanage, Ansteys and every time I come away I want more! Its an amazing experience to be climbing free, with no ropes or harness with the ocean to catch you if you fall.

So I knew that Mallorca is the undisputed capital of DWS in the world so with time on my hands and two other partners in crime Ed and Alistair Corbett we booked our cheap Ryanair flights and off we went on a cold, wet November afternoon. After an uncomfortable two and a half hour flight across Europe we landed at the capital of the island Palma. It was dark and we picked up our bag and car hire and drove east across the island to the small town of Sa Coma on the East coast.
The following day we were greeted by beautiful sunshine and it was about 20 degrees! We coudnt get back in the car quick enough and drove the long 10minute drive down the coast to where the main cliff for DWS is on the Island called Cova del Diablo. This is the Holy Grail for DWS in the world! A pristine piece of rock architecture over 100meters in length, 18meters high and around 7-10 meters water depth. The first view of it was utterly inspiring and I quickly got my boots on and got involved! I took it fairly steady to start off with some nice easy traverses just above the ocean and then started heading upwards.  The routes felt amazing, super steep and pumpy but with huge holds all over the place for your hands and feet. Each time I reached the top of the wall I couldn’t stop smiling with excitement. It was awesome!

Highlights from Diablo: Every route! But in particular...
 In the night, every cat is black 8a, Ejector Seat 7c, Afroman 7b+, Surfin bird 7b, Iguanodon 7b, Superwomen 7a+, The Lobster 6c+, Surfin Dead 6c+, Blue Tuna 6c+.

Cova del Diablo

First day psyche

Ed on camera duty 

Our plush apartment in Sa Coma

Home from home

Basecampo at el Diablo

Corbett senior on Surfer Dead 6c+

Hamer Junior on Surfer Dead 

Freezing temps in the Med!

Me on The Lobster 6c+

Abseil swing 

Ed on the crux slap of Ejector Seat 7c

Me on the same move

So along with Diablo we also spent much time at the less intimating but stunning Cala Barques further down the coast. Here were beautiful coves and beaches with slightly smaller limestone caves and cliffs to climb on. A great place to really push yourself without being too scared of falling off! The rock was covered in amazing formations of Stalactites and tuffas designed for climbing on and some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. So the next two weeks we threw ourselves at as many routes as possible climbing some incredible lines and taking some BIG falls all with a soft landing.

Highlights from Cala Barques:
Smash it in! 8a (flash), Bandito 7c, Strangers in Paradise 7b+, Metrosexual 7a+, Big XXL 7a, The Might of the Stalactite 7a

Al on Metrosexual 7a+

Drop Shadow Diseases 6c+

Transversal 7a

Bandito 7c

Transexual 7b

Strangers in Paradise 7b+


We also managed to drag ourselves away from the sea cliffs and have a day up in the hills above Palma, checking out the premier sport crag on the island Fraguel. It did not disappoint! A clean limestone wall covered in amazing formations and with out a doubt one of the best cliffs I’ve been to in Europe. You could definitely have a great trip here just sport climbing.

All in all it was a fantastic trip and a great time to visit the island due to it being out of season and so very few tourists and even by late November the climate was still perfect being in the mid 20’s each day. Could not recommend a trip more!

Here's a couple of videos from our time out there...enjoy

Monday, 15 September 2014

South Africa July/August

We have just returned from an amazing 6 week trip in South Africa and what a trip it was! It was the first time back to South Africa since 2001, way before we had got into any sort of climbing.

Team psyche leaving London town!

We headed out mid July and arrived in a smoky Johannesburg after a quick change over in Cairo. After a long wait for the other team member to arrive Jose, we got in our Fiat Punto and headed off east into the night. Thankfully the drive was fairly straightforward along the main highway as it got dark quickly. There were few nervous moments when we pulled off the main road in the town of Waterval Boven and couldn’t find the dirt road up to the camp. After a while driving around in the pitch black we stopped and asked for some directions and was pointed  the right way. The tarmac road quickly changed to dirt as we then realised why everyone drives 4x4 pick-ups in Africa! After a rather bumpy 7km up the hill side we arrived at the Tranquilatas Adventure Farm where we would camp for the next 2 weeks. We pitched our tents and quickly fell asleep.

Freak On at the God No sector in Boven

Shaking out on Monster 7c+

Jose crimping for life on Godzilla 8b

Tranquilitas team! Ed, Philip, Me and Jose

Alwyn showing us round

Tranquilitas Campground 

Jose feeling the psyche!

The next day we awoke to this amazing campite, perched on top of the escarpment overlooking the cliffs. It was truly spectacular and we couldn’t quite believe our eyes! We were greeted by a great Africaans farmer called Alwyn who managed the site. He was happy that we were staying and in no time at all we were in his bakkie (africaans for pick-up truck) getting a ride around the site as he showed us all the different cliffs. It was a brilliant start and a true African welcome.

After seeing some of the crags that were just below the campground, we couldn’t get our bags packed quick enough and headed straight down to the cliff. We were greeted with some of the best climbing I've ever experienced. Bullet hard orange sandstone rising above the hillside for a good 30m. It was seriously impressive!

We then got into a great routine of 2 or 3 days on, one day off. Mixing it up between the God No sector and the Superbowl, two of the steepest and most impressive sectors in Boven. We basically threw ourselves at as many routes possible and climbed some of the most inspiring lines I’ve ever done. It was a sheer pleasure to be climbing such quality routes in the wilds of Africa with just a few other local climbers. Rest days were spent in the Kruger National park and mountain biking round the hillsides. Nights were spent sitting round a huge fire with a braai, eating large amounts of bourawors. It was perhaps the best 2 weeks climbing of my life!
We climbed so many awesome routes I could list them all but here were a few big hightlights :-)
The Beast 8a+ , Hypertension 8a (flash), Jack of All trades 8a, Snap Dragon 7c+ (os) One of the best routes I've ever climbed! Lotters Dersire 7b+ (os) Pure quality, Monster 7c+ What a MONTER!, Tokolosie 8a (well hard!), The Bovenator 7c, Condor 7b+ (true sandbag!), Rude Bushman 7a, Bikini Red 7b+ and the list goes on and on...
Ed climbed a load of hard stuff including the mega pumpy Godzila 8b and Welcome to Ovambaland 8a+and Jose crushed the incredible Rolihlahla 8b on the last day. Awesome effort from the whole team. 
It was also brilliant to hang out with some of the local climbers who have put in so much effort bolting and sending the routes such as Andrew Pedley, Brian Weever (B-dog!), Gustav, Dirk, Flex. 
Also Alwyn, Philip and David at the campsite who were brilliant and kept us company.

Ed hanging out

Lotters Desire 7b+

Ed on Lotters 

At the Waterfall crag

Unlimited Power 7c

After our time in Boven we then drove back to Johannesburg and caught a flight south to Cape Town. On arrival it felt like we had just flown into another country, as it was pouring down outside!!! The first rain we had seen all trip. A complete change from the extremely dry, arid environment up north.

After picking up a rather dodgy looking hire car we then drove a couple of hours north to a small seaside town of Yersfontain where we stayed a night on route to the bouldering mecca Rocklands in the Cedarburg Mountains. This is the place that every climber knows of, where the name represents the area so well. Boulders as far as the eye can see! Even though I don’t consider myself as a boulderer we couldn’t come to South Africa and not visit the place.

We then spent the next two weeks exploring the endless amounts of boulders dotted around this beautiful region. From small ones to huge house-sized boulders, we climbed and climbed and by the end of the two weeks I had literally no skin left on my fingertips! Rest days were spent in Lamberts bay and the hot baths.
Bouldering highlights were the amazing Cedar Spine V9, Weichie V9, The Rhino V8+, Un petit hueco dans la rocklands V8+, Sunset trav V6.

First day at Roadside

Pads and sandy walk-ins 

Sunset traverse 

Ed on Pendragon 8a

Riding the Rhino 
One of the coolest boulders!

Ed riding the Rhino

Sunset Trav

Big easy highball

Rest day at Lamberts Bay 

Beautiful fields in the Cederburg  

Our final leg of the journey was spent in Montagu, a brilliant climbing area 2 hours east of Cape Town. A beautiful, quite spot cut through a steep gorge with rock walls on both sides. It's one of the main climbing areas in the country and a real mecca for the sport climber. We only spent three days there, climbing as many routes as possible to finish on a real high after such a successful trip. 
Montago highlights;
Cool like that 7c+, Monkey Wedding 7c+, First Starter 7c+

The last few days were spent whale watching, wine tasting and eating large quantities on the harbour seafront in Cape town. It was also brilliant to meet up with an old friend and a bit of a legend in South African climbing Ed February. Shared a lot of great stories.  

It was one the best climbing trips I’ve ever been on and really opened our eyes to the amazing quality of the climbing in South Africa. We also had the privilege of meeting some of the most friendly and psyched people I’ve ever come across. A real joy to be around.

Waterworld sector at Montagu

Your damn right :-)

South Africa roads! Long, straight and empty

De Bos Campground in Montagu

Amazing warm up wall

Steep or what!

Dark Matter at the Scoop, Montagu

Tough 7b+ at Waterworld sectur 

First Starter 7c+ at Waterworld 

First Starter crux

Hypoxia 7c+