Monday, January 8, 2007

Sneaky Tuna

When I asked Andy Raether what his goals were for a summer's worth of exploring South Africa's boulderfields we were about to get off the 2-train and walk out into downtown London's Museum District for Fish & Chips and a Guiness Drought. Only half-way to Capetown, our group including Keith and Chuck, were trying to activly break-up our 20+ hour flight. Andy is flipping through some trashy British newpaper that someone had left on his seat before him and all I can see of it is the bare-breated blonde on the cover. He is laughing and shaking his head at it's ridiculusness. "This is our stop bro." I said as the train came to a hault, and we quickly got off the subway. We found the nearest Pub, as planned, and sat down at the smokey bar for London's finest cuisine. "Your Goals, I said, What are they again?"
"I don't really have any." He said. "None?," I pried. "Not really. Well, except that I would love the oppurtuntiy to establish the hardest sport route on the continent. "The whole continent bru!?" I said praticing my Dutch-African accent. "Well, what is the hardest climb on the whole continent?", I wondered. Andy said 5.14-something, and after establishing several of that grade or harder this year alone, I knew he had a real chance of doing it.

Four weeks later we were having dinner on the farm we stayed at and looking over a list of names he had set aside for establishing climbs this trip. The names were as random as they were funny, and our favorite was, without a doubt, "Sneaky Tuna." (fast foward)
It is now six weeks from our discussion in London and I haven't even seen a rope come out of his bag yet! But every day that we went bouldering at an area called "Roadside" (which held the largest developed concentration of problems and was no where near the road for that matter) we would hike past a giant 60 foot overhanging boulder with a dozen or so bolts in it. I asked him one day if he knew of that particular climb. I hadn't the chance to ask while passing it before because Andy hikes twice the speed of me and is usually already warmed-up when I arrive. But, I was feeling fresh this day and he said it was still a project. "Damn", I thought, "nice fucking project." "Yeah", he said, "today, I think, is the day I'm gonna try it."

I watched him intensley for the two days it took to do all the moves: an all points off sideways V10ish dyno (with ground fall potential) led into a section of steep pinches. Then a no-hands- bat-hang led right back into another V10ish dyno and was followed by another 20 feet of overhanging terrian and a no-chains top-out awaited far passed the last bolt.
Before his successful red-point attempt Andy and I sat on a ledge and chatted at an amazing view of endless valleys of winerys and boulderfields with fading light. We both agreed how lucky we were to be living our little meaningless lives there and how importsant each day in the Rocklands really is. This seems to be Andy Raether at his very best, moments before climbing something very hard and beautiful he often already seems content, stress-free, and satisfied by the process. He is a peaceful man in hectic times. He rolled up his dirty blue jeans, put on his worn out Mad Rocks, and cruised it. It goes something like: V10+>5.12+>Bat-hang>V10+>5.12+>Top Out.

"What are you going to name it?", I asked him on our long dark hike out. "It was very sneaky I thought," he responded. Indeed it was.

Sneaky Tuna, First Ascent, 5.14a.
photos: me
actual First Ascent of Andy Raether on "Sneaky Tuna" 5.14a

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