Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 9th - 11th, 2016 - Edinburgh

After spending a couple of days in the Peak District climbing we headed to “The North” ..... 
to spend some time in Edinburgh. The day we got in we tried to check out the local climbing wall but only arrived as it closed, then got dinner to go from a small restaurant in the “Old Town” called Oink!, where the only make one thing but do it quite well. Edinburgh is a fantastic city and where J.K. Rowling lived while writing the Harry Potter books. We did our usual walking tour of of the city and also checked out the Edinburgh Castle on our first day. We headed to the cemetery to visit Tom Riddle’s (Lord Voldemort) grave across the street from the above mentioned cafe .....
and the views of the city from the castle were quite amazing .....
so amazing that Dylan felt a need to stand guard over it .....
In the evening we headed to The Witchery for dinner, the only “fine dinning” night we had in our entire 6 week trip ..... 
The food was quite nice with Dylan getting his usual, whatever is closest to a hamburger .....
While Linda and I shared the lamb wellington. We had tried to check out the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena the day we got to Edinburgh but got lost since all forms of sat. nav. take you to the wrong place, though different places depending on the app you use. Instead we made a day out of going there. We first checked out the “New Town” part of Edinburgh, getting lunch at a restaurant called The Dogs where the food was reasonably priced and quite good, comfort food, and again Dylan with something as close to a hamburger as possible .....
After lunch we headed out of the city to the climbing arena where Junior Worlds has been held on several occasions. The facility is enormous and makes anything I’ve been to in the US seem tiny ..... 
There are 5 main walls that are all 60+ feet tall including a section that is 100’ tall and an angle adjustable competition wall. Before we headed home Dylan wanted a snack so he headed to the vending machine and returned with .....
Guinness chips, apparently they start them young in Scotland.

We quite liked Scotland and Edinburgh in particular. There are lots of nice homes just outside the main part of the city where it does not seem that crowded but you are still really close to the restaurants and shops, you can also quickly get out of town and to the hills or ocean. All in all it just seemed a bit easier to navigate as a traveler and more homey than London.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

July 2nd - 6th, 2016 London

We arrived in London in the morning after yet another overnight flight, so far all our long flights have been overnight in which case Dylan is the only one who gets any real sleep. I’ve got to say I’m jealous of people that have the ability to crash out anywhere in any position. Needless to say, arriving in the morning means needing to stay awake for the majority of the day to keep on schedule. Once we made it to our flat across the street form Kensington Garden (part of Hyde Park), we headed back out to the London Science Museum. Before we got there Dylan was already intrigued by things he had never seen before .....
We eventually managed to stay awake through the day and bought groceries at the largest Whole Foods I’ve ever seen. 

The next day Linda had signed us up for a free (except for tip to guide who actually pays Sandemans to be able to lead the tours) Sandemans walking tour of Westminster. Before the tour we had breakfast with one of Linda’s college friends, Dawn and her family, who has lived all over Europe and has been in London for the last 8 years. Among the many things we saw were Westminster Abbey, the changing of the guard .....  
St. James Park, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster with Big Ben .....
Dylan really enjoyed our guide, Lars, who told stories of the London/British history in a pretty engaging manner .....
, he earned a nice tip. It was a pretty long day. It is also worth noting that we had just traveled from the Southern Hemisphere where we were for the winter solstice and day light lasted from 8am to 6pm, to the Northern Hemisphere one week after the summer solstice and day light lasts from 4am to 10pm which is wreaking havoc on our internal clocks. The below shot is sitting on out porch looking out at Kensington Garden at 9:30pm .....


On the 4th of July, ironically, we visited the Tower of London, being where the royalty resided up to about the time the British were planting a flag in the US. It was pretty cool to see the whole castle and all the different items housed there, including the Crown Jewels (holy 530.2 karat diamond). Then there were the Beefeaters (guards of the Tower), after doing the audio tour we lined up for the free Beefeater tour. Yet again, Dylan loves listening to the tales that are told by these guides and they are quite interesting ..... 
After the Tower we headed to a climbing gym to pick up the bouldering guide book. After a little searching we decided to go to The Castle Climbing Center, because how can you say no to a climbing gym in a castle.

On the 5th we headed to The British Museum. The museum houses an amazing collection of art and artifacts from around the world and is just enormous. We focused on the highlights like The Rosetta Stone, sculptures from The Parthenon (though we still need to go to Athens at some point), other Greek works, the Easter Island figure and Egyptian artifacts. For many of the items though I’m left feeling that maybe they really belong in a museum in the country of origin while in others if they had remained there they would have likely ended up in someones private collection. To finish off the day, we headed to Kings Cross Station because of its association with Harry Potter and to see the Platform 9 3/4 shop and tourist trap, we did not partake in anything because of tomorrows planned activity.


Our next day, after struggling through the Underground with our luggage to the airport and picking up our rental car (yes, no car while in London) we drove out to the Warner Bros. Studio for The Making of Harry Potter tour. This was a really cool experience and highly recommended for any fans of HP. They give a lot of background for the making of the movies and talk about how certain scenes were made. All the props and sets were the ones used in the movies themselves (though at times there were multiple versions). Here, Dylan and Linda wand shopping .....
Linda on her way to Hogwarts .....
Dylan is waiting to see the headmaster due to poor behavior .....
 then waiting to run away on the Knight Bus .....
 Once the tour was completed we headed to Sheffield for a couple more days of climbing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 28th - 30th, 2016 - Final Days in Rocklands

After our rest day we were psyched to get our and try to get back to some areas and try problems that we had not had an opportunity to try earlier. We started by heading to 8 Day Rain with Craig and Natalie, and made our way to the Crazy Leg area. With several problems from 7a through 7b+ on the boulder we all had a good time climbing on various lines including Crazy Leg 7b (VIDEO), Secret Ascent 7b+ and Silky Natural 7a .....
After that I headed over to the Golden Virginia 8a, which looks reasonable but will require a bit more time than I had for me to do. I then risked the skin on my right hand to do the Skink dyno 7b, apparently most people wrap their hand in tape so as to not tear skin when jumping to the hold at the lip. Not knowing this I just loaded up and jumped, luckily sticking it and only roughing up the skin but not ripping any flappers (though it was close). In the afternoon we headed back to Arch Valley so that Linda could get back on a 7a+ she had previously tried, Director’s Cunt (yes bad word and all) and try another 7a that I had done the last time we were there, One with the Freaks, which she sent on her 2nd or 3rd try (photo by Craig Faulhaber).....

The next day I woke up early to try a few things while it was still cold and shady out, though with no success, projects for next time maybe. After I returned to the house we all headed out to find fun stuff for Linda to climb and ended up meeting up with Craig and Natalie again who were taking Aubrey, who works at Traveler’s Rest, out for his first time climbing. Linda climbed several 6’s including these two on the Middle Plateau boulder .....
and on the Consequence boulder .....
though ultimately Linda was left feeling a bit unfulfilled with the day. In the late afternoon I headed back up to Fields of Joy with Craig and Natalie to get on a couple of lines that I really wanted to do and felt like I had a good shot at. After re-warming up we moved to Macho King 7c+ which had a whole host of pads because there was another group of 4 guys (3 having done it and one still trying it) there, perfect a sea of pads. On my second try I made it to the lip and fell off with the move feeling really hard and a bit awkward. The next time up I bungled the roof sequence and dropped off a bit earlier, then on my 4th try this happened (photo by Natalie).....
SUCCESS, certainly one of the best problems I did on the trip. Natalie also started trying the problem and made great progress through the roof section. After that Craig and Natalie spent some time working the Dirty Lies roof 7a+/b before we headed over to the Barracuda Rail 7b, which is basically a 15m or 50’ traverse on a sloping rail with the crux coming at the end as you make the transition around the arete at the end. I put my route climbing skills to use and hustled across the rail and turned the corner on my first try. Finally it was off to the Kiesl boulder to try the sandbagged classic of the same name at 7a. Being the gentleman that I am I let Natalie go first, then using her beta barely scrapped through (photo by Craig Faulhaber) .....
We did a final problem, Gegen den Wind 7a+ as the sun was setting and hustled it out of there to get back to the cars right as it got dark which was good since the approach is one of the most involved and technical that we did in Rocklands.

As I said, Linda was left with a somewhat empty feeling after her final day, while my skin was screaming. After packing up our house we headed to the Hen House for breakfast where Linda got a mochachino (2 shots with hot chocolate). Apparently caffeine makes everything better in her eyes. We stopped at the Kliphuis Campground to check out the Teapot boulder and so Linda could get a couple of hours of climbing in and hopefully leave feeling happy. Wether the quality of the climbing or the caffeine our goal was met. Linda loved the problems on the Teapot boulder including Up the Spout .....
and did a few other problems in the area including an Unnamed 6b arete that she really liked and Soggy Teabag 7a+ (which would be her hardest problem ever), but in her opinion not that hard. Dylan also had a good day doing 3-4 boulder problems, 2 of which would actually be quite nice even for adults, here he is on his proudest climb of the trip .....
All in all I think we would definitely be interested in another trip to Rocklands in the future, we each have things that we tried and did not finish or saw but did not have an opportunity to try, not to mention that the rock is endless out there.

Friday, July 1, 2016

June 25th - 27th, 2016 Rocklands and Rest Days

On the 25th we finally made it out to the Muisbosskerm, an open air all you can eat fish braai. The restaurant, between Lamberts Bay and Eland Bay, is built right at high tide line and only serves when they have reservations for 15 or more people. We had reservations for Lunch which did not start until 1:15 so to pass the time we wandered the beach as the morning fog burned off.....
Dylan is really into shells when he can find them and was very excited to find several complete sea urchin shells .....


The next day we headed out to the Rhino boulders with Craig and Natalie. After warming up a bit we headed back a bit further to do the amazing looking 6c Tiger Claw, which we all did, here is Linda .....

I also climbed Stalker on the Horizon 7c/+ on my first go. After a brief rest we headed back to the main Rhino boulder to climb the iconic profile of the Rhino. It is interesting as the beginning moves vary dramatically based on if you can reach a particular hold with you feet still on the pedestal under the climb or not. We all had a good time with Craig having 2 particularly good attempts and Natalie making progress while I managed to flash the problem after watching video of it countless times on a previous night when I could not sleep. We then moved back to the Tiger Claw area so Linda could wrap up the 7a Bols Island, her first of the grade for the trip. After that was done, we headed up the road to the Roadside boulders where Craig sent the classic 7b Question of Balance which I had tried our previous time out and after several attempts I was able to climb it as well with some slight changes to my beta based on how he climbed it. To finish off I climbed the classic highball 6c Creaking Heights (photo by Craig Faulhaber).....
of course I did this while Linda was off out of site trying another problem. This started a long line of about 6 people then climbing the problem with a couple of big but clean falls from the crux. With a long day at the boulders we hiked out to a beautiful sunset, here Craig humors me for a posed shot .....


On the 27th it rained leading to a forced rest day. At this point in the trip we were not disappointed to have a break from the 2 days on 1 day off theme to let sore muscles and thin skin heal. We spent the morning at Travelers Rest plotting for the remaining two days of climbing and having a lazy breakfast. Then headed over the pass into town to do some house keeping items and get souvenirs. We visited a couple of Rooibos tea houses .....

, picked up house slippers for Dylan and did more grocery shopping. After we had a nice dinner with Craig and Natalie at our place and went to sleep with high hopes for the coming days.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 20th - 24th, 2016 Middle Days in Rocklands

After our rainy rest day we headed to the 8 Day Rain area which is typically the first to dry out after a rain to climb with Jan (the South African Ocun importer) and his son Jeremy who is 7 and got along well with Dylan. After warming up a bit we headed to the Beckoning boulder and did the steeper problems with the ones on the right being quite soft (Linda climbed the 7b+ in a couple of tries which is a couple of grades harder than she has ever climbed). After that we headed to To Siemay which is a very pretty looking 6c+ that a couple from Denver (Craig and Natalie were looking at getting on) and everyone proceeded to take turns with most of us climbing it at some point, here Linda puts in an attempt .....
Finally to round out the day the 7 of us headed down to the Vanity boulder to climb the classic 7a+ Vanity, topping out (photo by Craig Faulhaber).....
It was crazy as by the time we left there were about 20 people at this single boulder, but we still managed to climb many of the problems including this fun arete .....

The next day Jan and Jeremy headed back to Cape Town and we climbed with Craig and Natalie again, this time at the Sassies, home of the highball and roof climbs. We all played on the 7a Maties, here Linda works through the roof (photo by Craig or Natalie).....
and some of us climbed on the 7b+ Un Petite Hueco dans Rocklands, here I'm topping out (photo by Craig Faulhaber) .....
After that we moved over to the highball, 7a+ Springbok which we all climbed on using the alternate static beta as opposed to the jump move,  here is Craig .....
After I climbed the 7b+ arete of Olifantshuis (photo by Craig Faulhaber).....
During the day Dylan did a nice little boulder problem (photo by Craig Faulhaber and featuring his foot)..... 
and tried to help out with carrying the crash pads between problems .....

After a rest day we headed up to the Roadcrew area and after a fairly disappointing time there, a few of the “classics” were not so classic and some other climbers were kind enough to throw one of our pads in a mud puddle so that they could stand and lay on it to take photos of each other, we headed across to the Cedar Spine Gully. Once in the gully we found the awe inspiring highball Cedar Spine, but being alone there were not enough pads or spotters (falling with only Linda below is not real appealing) to attempt it. I headed of in search of the Last Days boulder and fell victim to the guide book. The book is not particularly detailed an I ended up in a completely different area before reorienting and finding the correct rock. On the way over to it I climbed the pretty slab of Playing in the Fields of the Lord .....
Once there we did several little problems, here is Linda on an arete .....
We hiked out to a beautiful sunset, viewed through thatch grass (yes, a real thing for making thatched roofs) .....

The next day we climbed at some of the same areas as on our first day as well as a couple of the nearby areas as well. We largely climbed by ourselves and as such don’t have any photos but still had a productive day. Highlights were the 7b+ roof of Born into Struggle and the 6c jump line of Sex Etiquette.

A few random shots, typical South African brands .....
and breakfast of champions .....



Monday, June 27, 2016

June 17th - 19th, 2016 - First Days in Rocklands and Rest Day

Our first day in Rocklands we had our friend Greg for a guide. He took us out to the Plateau Areas in the morning and to Fields of Joy in the afternoon. We started the morning at the aptly named Warmup Boulder which has several nice easier problems to get used to the stone and the blood flowing, which after 8 days of sitting in cars and on airplanes was a good idea. Here Linda climbs the 5c, Ice, Ice Baby .....
Linda also attempted the classic 6b+, Girl on our Mind but without success as the headwall finish was giving her trouble and she kept starting from the beginning without figuring out how to climb the end. I managed to climb the 7b, Poison Dwarf on my first try, not a bad start to the trip. We then headed to the far side of the Plateau Area to look at the 7b Minki which is quite an interesting roof problem where your feet are doing much of the work to keep you on. There was a whole group there working the problem so I sat back and watched all the different ways they were working through the roof. When I got on for a burn I chose the method used by the 5’ 2” girl which worked perfectly for me since it involved tying myself into an upside down pretzel and I pulled through again on my first try. As we wrapped up the morning we hiked out past Girl on our Mind and we stopped so Linda could pull off the send. Here she is pulling through the headwall that had shut her down all morning in the full sun .....
In the afternoon, between staining my back pulling Dylan up a rock step in the approach trail and Linda slipping on a rock and landing on her chin (she had a habit of landing on her face when she falls) I managed to climb the 7a+, Dirty Lies and the 7b, Maniac, both on my second try. We then proceeded to hobble our way down to the car.

In the morning on our second day we said good by to Greg after spending our time in Kruger and Cape Town with him and his family it was sad to see the last of the Crum’s go. We then headed up the pass to go to the Roadside Area, which is a bit of a misnomer as the approach is 35 minutes long. While it is alongside a road, the road is closed to vehicular traffic. Once we got to the area I took some shots of a few guys trying the 7a, Sunset Traverse .....
which I climbed shortly after. The day ended early when Dylan was sharing snacks with another little boy at the boulders and had some chocolate with a cashew coating, leading to a rushed hike out and quick drive back to the guest house to get Benadryl into him. Other than a pissed off stomach and hives all over he got through fine.

On our 3rd day we took the day off of climbing to let tired muscles and thin skin recover. We chose to check out the Sevilla Rock Art Trail just down the road at Travelers Rest. Here are Dylan and I at the entry area .....
and a few examples of the rock art to be found along the trail, Zebra ..... 
Dylan checking out a well covered panel ..... 
Several different characters with a particularly detailed archer .....