BD athlete Adam Ondra reports from the boulders of Rocklands, South Africa
Black Diamond athlete Adam Ondra recently traveled to the famed boulders of South Africa’s Rocklands where he pulled off a host of impressive sends, including the third ascent of Monkey Wedding (8C). Below is the trip report he sent us halfway through his trip along with some great photos by Scott Noy.
[Adam on Vanity (7A+)]
I have never been a boulderer, sport climbing has always been the most important thing for me, but I told myself why not to try to spend half a year just bouldering and see how it would be. Change is always good for motivation. And Rocklands is one of the reasons I made this decision—a place where thousands of boulders are spread as far as eye can see.
I was here for a couple of days two years ago. Back then we made a trip on southern coast of the country and the last days we spent in Rocklands. Unfortunately, we could not make the trip any longer, because there was a stage of World Cup ahead. At least I saw the vastness of the place and found out I had to return. There was no way of escaping it.
After hard endurance training (a bit monotonous) for the World Championship this June, I could not wait to solve some bad-ass hard moves, but Rocklands has more to offer than than good climbing. It is the landscape. When we were arriving this year at sunset, it was as impactful as arriving for the first time, seeing so much rock bathing in the orange light of sunset is what I could stare at for hours. For the next 3 weeks you will have no more worries in your mind but climbing those great sandstone boulders.
[Adam on The Arc (8A)]
First day, we headed out straight to Roadside, where was my goal of the trip, Monkey Wedding (8C). I thought I will not make my skin and body sore with some easier problems and jumped straight into it. All I can say is that it felt hard. I did all the moves but the ascent felt far away. The next day, we headed out to Roadcrew. It was warm, I took it easy and in the afternoon I went to try this awesome-looking 8B called The Power Of One. I remembered the moves from the video I watched the previous night and just gave it a go. I was close to giving up in the second move—an awkard matching gaston—but my friends encouraged me loudly and I mustered power I had not even known I had and made it through and then just did not fall off. 8B flash, what a great start of the trip! With full pack of motivation, I tried Amandla (8B+), where I struggle. But I could see it might go with fresh skin and power.
After a rest day, spent with an incredibly cold bath in the ocean in blazing wind, I was back under Amandla at 8:30 AM to get good conditions before the sun turns onto the wall. It went better, I found a better way to grab the almost non-existent holds on this 30 degrees overhanging wall. At one point I managed to stick the rail but I dabbed a bit into the hand of my spotter, so I was to forced jump down. The next try, I stuck the rail, but fell off the move onto the lip, being way too nervous. The next go was decisive, now or I would have to go here again, because the sun was just knocking from arond the corner. Everything clicked just perfectly and I ticked off another world-class problem. In the evening, in the light of headlamps, I tried Monkey Wedding again, and again struggled, unable to do the last stab into the crack even as a single move.
[Adam attempting Livin' Large (8C)]
One day was enough, I had to take a rest and heal a cut from Amandla. It rained and the temperature dropped significantly. What a difference it was to be back on Monkey Wedding the next day. First serious link, fell off the second last move, the crux. The third go, fell off the last move, heinous cross-over stab into the crack. The next try I made a cut and it was over for the day.
The next day was again chilly and windy, just perfect for bouldering. My cut had not healed properly, but I tried to convince myself it would enough for two or three tries. Two or three tries a day on a nine-move problem, that is not much, right? Considering the difficulty of the moves and how much precision they require, one gets nervous. First go, I was super fluent, strong, my skin was sticky, but tiny bit of bad luck remained and I didn't stab my fingers inside the final crack. The worst thing, skin on right index finger was considerably thin. I took half an hour rest and gave it another go. This time it is not as perfect as before, I almost slip off at the beginning, miss the crucial pinch with my index finger, but doing the crux span nevertheless. The last move ahead, but I am much weaker than on my two tries when I failed. I bring mindlessly my left foot up and go for it, never minding the result. The more surprised I am when I stab my fingers in and stay on the wall. From there, I can easily make my way up to the top of the hardest boulder problem I have ever done. The third ascent after Fred Nicole in 2002 and Paul Robinson last year. It is amazing to realize that Fred sent it 9 years ago and it was overlooked accomplishment at that time. Maybe because of Fred’s unnecessary honesty since he proposed mere 8b+.
The afternoon after I did Monkey Wedding, everything was easy when I am in a good mood after great accomplishment. I wanted to enjoy the movement and climbed much stuff. Oral Office (8A+), Green Mamba (8A, flash) and being close to flashing Madiba, former 8B+, but even 8A+ according to few and tried unsuccessfully some more. Every single problem was of incredibly high quality and I cannot wait to uncover more of the Rockland’s best problems.