Layover downtime in London.
Andy Mann is a professional photographer and film producer who has been working his way onto the rock-climbing scene in the last couple years. Last year, he nailed feature covers for Climbing and Urban Climber, produced the documentary film Rocky Mountain Highball, and was recently featured on at Momentum Video Magazine (momentumvm.com) for his work. Right now he is on photo assignment for Climbing, and for the next seven weeks will be living in the heart of the world's greatest bouldering destination, South Africa's Rocklands, with over a dozen of the world's best climbers.The pieces are in place. Jet lag isn't even the word. Summer, Colorado > nine-hour flight > London, England > eight-hour time difference > 10-hour layover > 12-hour flight > winter, Capetown: I get into the car on the opposite side, shifting gears with my left hand as I slide into rush-hour traffic, and drive north on the other side of the road.
No sleep. The only thing that could make it seem farther from home is the fact that I cannot recognize a single star in the sky as familiar. I am here in South Africa's Rocklands once again, this time as a photographer.
Group poker with pasta.
But let me back up first. I had an epic couple weeks leading into this. No shit; Sheyna and I pushed “The Station Weapon,” my badass Ford Escort Wagon (also known as "Puff the Tragic Wagon"), over Powder River Pass, Wyoming, in a whiteout blizzard. I had the gas floored and we were going about a half a mile an hour approaching the summit of the pass, when Sheyna jumped out in her flip-flops and single-handedly pushed us over the hump by inches. We would have been toast had the storm left over three feet on the pass. So, we coasted down into Ten Sleep Canyon, where we played in the rain, finding dry crags for over a week. Crazy, but overall, it was an amazing trip. We found miles upon miles of perfect limestone walls, and we didn’t see another climber until our final day. As we made the long drive back, I began to prepare myself for what was sure to become another amazing day at the office.
Our house at Rocklands.
OK, where were we? Oh, right, the Rocklands. OK, just so you know, this blog will be an unedited session of streaming thought. This won't be a “take to my opinions,” or “analyze my words” type-of-thought either. This is a “tag-along-with-me,” if you care to, to a most magical place for a summer (actually winter, as I will explain to the geographically handicapped later).
We'll be living in a giant farm house in Africa with a few of my fun friends: Lisa Rands, Wills Young, Paul Robinson, Sarah Owens, Daniel Woods, Laura Griffiths, Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, Tony Lamiche and friends, Noah Kaufmann, Randy Puro, Courtney Hemphill, Cooper Roberts, Josh Lowell, and many more. Yes, it is a big farmhouse. In fact, we have over 15 rooms with beds, three kitchens, and many bathrooms. I'm going to shoot some photographs and assist with video production. It’s what I do.
Paul Robinson Noah Kaufmann playing chess.
Yesterday it seemed that we started to hit our stride. Paul, Daniel, and I, headed up to an area called the Alpha Farms where Daniel finished off Ray of Light (V13), and likely opened an electric line immediately to the right called Blood Money (V13). It is impossible to explain the sheer beauty of this place, with its mass of perfect boulders, and the thought of being intertwined with it all for such a long stretch of time. Today when we arrived to Ray of Light Cave, there were fresh leopard tracks in the sand under the problem. Feel the stillness, the breeze, the sand, Africa. It is like I never left.
The previous day, we went for a tour of the new sectors that Wills and Lisa developed the previous year. The "Eight Day Rain" sector makes the North Mountain, in Hueco Tanks, Texas, cower. I came extremely close to sending Crazy Leg (V9), and would probably have pulled it off if only I could shake the jet lag from those attempts. Tony Lamiche sent Amandala (V15), at the Roadcrew Sector, making a repeat of one of the world's hardest boulders. We have been passing our time in the evening playing poker for dry pasta curls, playing chess, and drinking lots of tea (wine).
Unfortunately, today there were a few setbacks. Tony has pretty much ended his trip with a knee injury while playing around on the first crux move of Shosholoza. He had done this problem many times out of boredom and is kicking himself for it. Now, he cannot walk without assistance and most likely will not be able to climb for the remainder of the trip. What a shame, as he was really on his game. Also, I badly sprained my ankle (again) and will need a few days rest before going back out and shooting. So Tony and I have been sitting around the house shooting portraits and playing chess until the others arrive home. Paul had an impressive day today, flashing Oral Office (V12/13) and ticking a few more on top. Daniel is really close to sending his nemesis Monkey Wedding (V14/15). He fell on the last move.
More updates to come…
Thanks for listening. Cheers!—Andy