Rocklands Wrap-up by Adam Ondra

Adam Ondra working Livin' Large. Photo courtesy of

Adam Ondra working Livin

9/12/11 - Adam Ondra has had a successful trip to Rocklands, South Africa, this year. He made the fourth ascent of Monkey Wedding (V15) and repeated several other hard boulder problems, including Golden Shadow (V14) and Madiba (V13). Below is his final report from the Rocklands trip, including his efforts on Nalle Hukkataival's tall, scary Livin' Large (V15).

Psych was high after the ascent of Monkey Wedding. The other hardcore line in Rocklands on my ticklist was Livin' Large, a huge arête climbed by Nalle Hukkaitaval in 2009. This is definitely the line that cannot be missed in Rocklands. I was stunned when I first saw it. But everything is quite complicated on this problem, not merely pure difficulty and awkwardness of the moves. You need a lot of pads, persuade a lot of people to go with you, the access is long (45 minutes) and it is SCARY.

On my first day, I quickly figured out beta for the whole problem except the crucial one—slapping of the arête while crimping almost non-existent sloper. It gets hot on this problem. The only good conditions you can find on this problem on sunny days are found early in the morning, until 8:30 a.m., or in the evening, though when it is too hot during the day, the rock is like an oven since it has been baking on the sun all day long. Therefore I decided to get up 6 a.m., go by myself, get there at sunrise and try to solve the crux on the toprope. This was an amazing experience, to be alone at such a wild place in the dawn when everything is calm. The result was that I figured out the crux move and easily managed to link it all the way to the top of the boulder on toprope. I felt the send had been close, hopefully following days. By 8:45 a.m., I was back at the chalet.

After the rest, the psych was high. The wind was blowing like hell, that meant it had cooled down the air, but I had doubts if it was even possible to do those delicate moves high above the ground with such horendous wind. We had only 5 pads. Close to the wall we put double layer and further, just in case, a single one which did not belong definitely to the thickest pads available. First couple of tries were not successful, the worse was I split my fingertip. I kept trying though with the tape, and fifth go, I managed to make it through the crux move. From there, it is not extremely difficult, could be V10, but finicky, insecure and bold. The wind was blowing. I felt my skin is drying so much the it felt like glass. At that moment, I knew I could slip at any time, but I felt confident about security with three people spotting and continued. Getting closer to the top, three moves below the lip, there is high step, and I slipped at the very moment of bringing my foot up. I was falling backwards, far off the wall and hit the ground hard on the single thin pad. OUCH. I felt all the power of the impact going into my spine and it was not pleasant feeling at all. I was worried about my back, muscles around backbone felt stiff, but it turned out be that stiffness is the only consequence of the impact and even stiffness disappeared the next day. Nevertheless, at that moment I had no interest to return for that problem.

I climbed some other stuff, brilliant problems like Black Shadow (V12), Brown Shadow (V12) and Dirty Epic (V11, flash), all of them excellent to climb, pure indulgence in climbing and what I love. I also tried an unrepeated problem from Fred Nicole: Oliphant's Dawn. Fred never rated it, just saying it could be something between V13 and V15. Well, I can say it felt ridiculous. It consists of three moves on incredibly small crimps on a 30-degree overhang and after one hour of sessioning I walked away having done none of the moves. And I heard that bunch of people walked away with same result. All my esteem to you, Fred!

Ondra's Livin' Large toprope rehearsal. Photo courtesy of


I was scared to return for Livin' Large, but psych was high and my brains were weaker. Back there again, with nine pads this time (thanks to all you guys for the help carrying them) and rather warm conditions and lack of any wind at all. The first go, fell off and middle finger split open. The second go, fell off and index finger split open. The fifth go, slip off while have so much tension on ring finger since I had a tape on index and middle one and peeled off my upper layer. I almost knew my chances on Livin' Large are gone having only 4 warm days to go until the end of the trip. Frustration hurts, especially on this problem since it is complicated to have conditions, skin and pads. It is hard to keep your head calm despite eagerness and pressure to send it. But frustration cannot go on for a long time in Rocklands, there are so many more great problems to try!

The next was Sky, perfect V14 with just enough holds to be climbable. But I don't meet success and found out I must go campusing way more to become strong enough to stick the second dyno. The same day, I went for Golden Shadow, a bit neglected V14 by Fred and repeated by Arjan De Cock last year and recently by Mickey Page. After two hours, it was done!

The last hard problem I haven't tried is Black Eagle. I went to try the second last day. The history of this problem is quite complicated. It was opened by Fred in 2001, standstart at V13, sitstart V15. Some holds broke off and it was reopened by Paul Robinson in 2010, giving it V14 from stand start. Later that season, a heel hook deteriorated and made it even harder. Mickey Page stuck the crux move recently, but made an exit to the right avoiding some spicy moves. The sitstart must be around V16 nowadays, though you never know if something could break again. I felt quite close to sticking the crux move, but with time I realized my attempts are only getting worse and abandoned it. Instead, I climbed some easier problems, lots of them. I was like a small child that I could enjoy such world-class problems despite sore skin and three fingertips taped. The highlights were Leopard Cave (V12, flash), Steak House (V12), Barracuda assis (V12) and the most memorable moments of topping out in the light of headlamp of the last day Gliding through the Waves like Dolphins (V11) and an epic battle on Deep Turtle (V11).

My trip to Rocklands was definitely a success. I sent my hardest problem to date, climbed beautiful, world-class problems, and had a lot of fun with other guys along. Climbing in Rocklands did not disappoint me, though I had hoped it could have been even better, but it is a RAD climbing area nevertheless.