Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Finding and Establishing of "Shosholoza"

Ahh..., to say i had a hand in the finding of the one of the best and hardest boulder problems in the world would be silly, when it fact, it's funny really.

During our second week in the rock lands Chuck, Keith, Andy, Cedar and I were invited by our host farmers, Lafras and Marakka to go on a 4 wheel drive tour of the farm we were staying. On Back roads only Lefras new about from being a boy growing up there, he promised to show us amazing undiscovered Bushmen cave paintings. Cedar and Keith jumped into the cab, while Chuck, Raether, and I (along with the farmer's two dogs) hoped over the tailgate and into the bed of the truck. Looping around the farm through mazes of valleys and cliffbands, not much in the way of stellar boulders were to be sighted at first. I mean there were boulders, but no Huecos, ya know? From the house we were renting we could always see a group of large boulders, what seemed like miles away, fixed on the horizon and had hoped the tour would find its way there. As our personal tour of the farm winded down, we turned an unseen corner into a shallow gully. This gully had potential, and we were passing it fast. Andy and I started banging on the top of the cab at Lefras and yelling "Stop Here!" He pulled over and we went to have a look around.

It seems quite magical indeed that the first boulder hidden over the hill was this one. I didn't even know Fred at the time, and no way even for a second thought I'd be back to show him this boulder six weeks later.

And so the Sassie Boulders were born. After finding the shortest path from the house, an hours hike brings you to an untouched boulderfield, and possibly the greatest concentration of problems in the rocklands. So as it goes, we hiked up there everyday, also passing the first boulder we saw, on route to finding and developing other stuff. Hell, we only took one look at the boulder problem going up it's 60 degree face, before almost writing it off completely. It was so beautiful though, ahhh, you can't imagine it's grandeur! I would walk up to it now and again, pawing the starting holds and looking up at it's seemingly blank face.

A pair of perfect sized double D holds at shoulder height led into 6 feet of blank rock, into, if you squinted your eyes fuzzy, can be imagined as a 2 or 3 finger side-pull which led into another 6 feet of blank rock to a credit-card sized flake on the outside edge of a massive untextured hueco right below the lip. Absolutely no foothold the whole way. 3 moves and the more you looked at them, the more the problem looked v4! I mean I could see the holds now. If I could reach them, I could practically chalk-up on them. So it looked to me.

Now play god for me a minute OK? Pick me up from Colorado, with your big hand of fate, and drop me in front of this problem at "no-wheres-berg", South Africa. OK, now pick up the world's greatest climber, you'll find him somewhere in Switzerland, and drop him right next to me on a beautiful sunny winter day. Let's continue...

I'd show Fred what i thought are the moves and the holds to the finish. "Want to warm-up first?" He asks. "Yeah", I said, "will you come spot me on this thing first real quick?" "OK" Fred shrugs his shoulders and complies. After doing my project second go, (when Fred is spotting you, you try....hard. "Keith, did you get that!?" I yell as I'm topping out the boulder. I imagined the picture of me dynoing to the final jug with Fred spotting me, half-way through the move! I imagined how it would look on my mantle at home. I even considered it for this year's christmas cards, even before I could find the downclimb of the boulder i had just climbed. It turned out that Keith was over setting up to shoot the project boulder when it came time for Fred to give it some goes. Oh well, I thought. Christmas Cards? Fred and I circuited the areas better warm-ups with his girlfriend Mary and settled back down under the project to have a smoke before his first burn.
"Pretty nice huh?" I said, speaking of our little secret area. "Yes, it is very nice", Fred said. (He generally will say this about everything when you ask.)

Then I set up about 20 feet away from the boulder to run sound for the attempt, and cue up with Chuck, who is filming on top of another boulder 100 feet away. Fred takes him time chalking, sometimes regaining focus that he needs to climb takes 5 minutes or more, so count on using more film than expected.
His method for climbing the problem, he decides after 5 failed attempts, is this;
Find the sweet spot on the DD slopers. Lever into a fetal position, right foot between the hands.
Pull into wall tight and let go your right hand. finger crawl into sidepull and snatch it with only pinkie. Then use pinkie to gain the other inch needed to get into the hold. Let off left hand and hold on. One-arm pull-up and stab for Credit card sized flake. Swing out all 170 pounds of Swiss Beast on it. Don't breath. Establish and Campus to lip.
So it went next try. In perfect form. The best problem I have ever seen and the hardest problem i have ever seen. Time stood still as he looked down at me from the summit. He lets out a scream at the summit, for it is his last day in the Rocklands, and likely his best. We smoked a couple cigarettes that he had rolled between his final two attempts and laughed at the improbability of the first move. I will never forget the moment. I even carry the brush he used to clean the holds between attempts as a reminder that anything is possible.

Fred named the problem "Shosholoza" It is the name of a traditional Zulu folk song meaning, "Go forward or make room for the next man." After giving a tour to Bernd Zangerl before we left he set his sight on repeating it. I just got news that he did indeed send it and it sparked me to reconsider my photos from this day. Bernd says, "the grade for Shosholoza can be V13/14. It is awe-inspiring and one of the best problems I have ever climbed." Word Bernd, glad we could point you in the right direction.
photos: me


chuffer said...

thanks for the story Andy. I look forward to seeing this on video in a couple weeks.


Anonymous said...

I love this climb!!! I can't wait to do it!!