Climbing: my vertical journey

Disclaimer: the following blog will have an unnecessary amount of climbing jargon 😉

For the past year and a half, I’ve devoted myself wholeheartedly to sport climbing. I was always pretty clunky when it came to technical rock climbing. As a good friend once told me, after my first climbing trip to Montagu ( I’d already climbed Mt. Kenya at this point, by the way), “Kai, I’ve never seen someone climb with such little grace!”, he said this as I used my knees and head to jimmy myself to the anchors. I may not have been particularly delicate, but I loved it and I’d get myself to the top no matter what.

After I blew my knee in 2013, I lost my psyche for technical climbing and didn’t clip a draw for almost 3 years. I went big mountain climbing (not particularly technical) and travelling in South America on the K2A’14 expedition,  got a job catching caracals and jackals on the Karoo Predator Project, started studying and got deep into my trail running. Honestly, the thought of getting onto a rock face scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want to hurt myself again, fearing the possibility of being retired to my trusty set of crutches for another 9 months.

Then I fell in love with my KPP boss, Marine, who had dabbled in ice-climbing back in her home country of France. while she finished up her PhD she want to get into a bit climbing along with her running. I was reluctant at first, but she nagged me enough so we eventually went out. I was crap, my technique was shabby and I was petrified of falling, nonetheless, the fire inme for this sport was reignited.DSC_7432.JPG

We started going out more and more and then I got some mental and technique training sessions with a friend of mine, Matt Bush (he’s a badass free-soloer-type, so he’s a pretty good bet) and I started a training program. I was in the gym 5 times a week and to deal with my studies I was getting up at 5 am to hit the small and chalky dust bowl of the UCT gym.

By the end of last year, I went up 3 grades. The work I put in physically and mentally (especially, trying to control my anxiety and dumbing down my ego) was paying off and I was loving every little bit of the sport. The crag days, the familiar and new areas and the jam-packed weekends. I got back into our small S.A community, made a few friends and kept on chipping away and this addictive verticle game. I’ve jumped up in the difficulty since then, however, climbing has become a lifestyle for me and an activity that calms my mind, especially with what my family and I have gone through this year.Climbing is something that grounds me and the beauty of the sport are the many disciplines within it-  it’s a lifer-type of endeavour which I want to stick at.

Krakadouw wet my pallet for big walls and more traddy adventures, however, I have one destination that I’ve been longing for- Climbing the limestone walls of Spain. Operation: Train 4 Spain (and France) is on! At the end of the year, Marine and I are going to Spain and France to experience the snowy peaks and technical overhanging walls of the birthplace of modern day climbing and I’m frothing with excitement.


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