Monday, 10 April 2006
S.A. Extreme Sport How To's: Climbing
By Jacques Marais
Classic rock abounds in southern Africa, and it is therefore no wonder that you’ll find the climbing crowd heading for the mountains whenever the weekend kicks in. Although this is an activity oft regarded as a sport for those with a death wish, it is statistically one of the safest activities on the adrenaline menu.
Ask any purist and you will soon understand that climbing has very little to do with scrambling up a mountain. The sport may simplistically be divided into five very distinct disciplines or genres, but you will find that many climbers cross over between these. Most beginners start off with sport climbing along pre-bolted routes, before moving on to traditional (or ‘trad’) climbing (where temporary protection, bolts for example, are placed by the lead climber during the ascent).
Bouldering offers a cheap, safe and sociable alternative entry into the climbing game. Shorter climbs, usually less than 10m in height, are taken on with the aid of a chalk bag, rock shoes, helmet and a drop mat (the latter offer a soft fall zone when you come off the face). Way up on the extreme scale is big wall climbing and free climbing, but these disciplines are generally the preserve of expert mountain men.
Joining a club is probably the best way of getting into climbing, while various events around SA will allow you to get high for a day. The annual Roc Rally at Waterval Boven is huge, while many Cape climbers get their first taste of vertigo at the Mountain Mania Festival in Montagu (info at firstname.lastname@example.org).
GET HIGH DIY:
Training for climbing should focus on both endurance and strength, and competitive climbers stress the importance of a high level of aerobic fitness. At the end of the day it is all in the mind though, and the only way to get your head right is by gaining your confidence out there on the rock face.
Getting into the sport won’t cost you the proverbial arm and a leg, but it is important to invest in quality equipment you can absolutely trust right from the beginning. Start off with a chalk bag, harness and a pair of good shoes (fit is imperative on the latter items, so try them out beforehand). Additional gear could include a drop (padded) mat, a sturdy gear backpack, 50m or more of dynamic rope and a range of friction, ascender and descender devices. Carabiners, gri-gris, figure 8s and belay plates are just a few of the shiny toys you could add to your wish list.
RAM Mountaineering (Cape): Everything you need to get high - www.rammountain.co.za
Mountain Mail Order (Web): Shop from your computer – www.mountainmailorder.co.za
Roc ‘n Rope (Mpumalanga): Shop, climb, lodge, train, guide, rent … - www.rocrope.com
SA Mountain Magazine: Definitive local climbing publication - www.climb.co.za
MCSA: Mountain Club of SA offers a huge range of benefits to members - www.mcsa.co.za