Taking a step back and enjoying the view from the top of Sheer Force -- Photo by Claudia Ziegler

Ticking the Projects

Sometimes it takes a long time to do something you expect to be easy. I’ve experienced this on a few lines over the years but one that stands out heavily is Stormwatch in Fernkloof. When I climbed the original line, it took me ages! But I did it in a season and was happy.

It took me considerably longer to climb the direct version. There were some other factors that played a role in this, such as psych and injuries, but all in all, it took me a really long time.  I remember the day that everything started to go pear-shaped, it was last March. I warmed up on Stormwatch Direct and fell a move from the chains, above the last hard move. That was the first time I really dorked a project. Grivin sent the original version after that. He and I went up to Aqualung, where I fell above the crux — Griv sent. STRONG!

After that day, my confidence seemed to disappear and life got in the way. I had to watch all my friends tick it Direct before me. First was Ivan

Ivan on Direct.PNG

Photo by Zele Angelides

Then it was Ebert


Photo by Eraine van Schalkwyk


Then Grivin


Grivin on Hoodlum (7b+). Photo by Leslie McNicol

Then James


All these guys started working the route after I did and all of them ticked it before me. It was awesome to see the progression happening around me but a bit hard at the same time. I’d lose my psych and then it would come back, then it would be gone again.

In the end, I just needed a bit of focus and a lot of strength. What finally did it for me was walking away so I could put in a few weekends on Sheer Force in Boven. I was getting to the last move. It motivated me to train hard and eat right, well, maybe eat a little less at least.


Taking a step back and enjoying the view from the top of Sheer Force — Photo by Claudia Ziegler

I had not been on Stormwatch in months and when I wen to Fernkloof for a day trip with James, I did not have any expectations. James sent and it was glorious!! And that was when I dorked it, again. I made it through the pinch moves I struggle with so severely and fell off with my hand wrapped around the jug underneath the first roof. I felt really stupid but was sure it would go next try. But it didn’t.

I came back the next weekend with James and fell in the same spot on the Saturday. I woke up the Sunday morning feeling sick. I trudged into the kloof and felt weak on my first try, didn’t even manage Faberge (7c) — my standard warm up. My second try I slipped. But then, in the midst of the weird euphoria, and slightly dissociative state from being sick, I pulled myself together and made to the rest. I could hear James cheering me on from below! The psych was contagious! I sat in the kneebar for a few moments before cruising up to the chains without a pump.


Setting up for some of the hard moves on Stormwatch Direct (8b) Photo by Michelle van Aswegen

It’s funny sometimes how ticking one route can put you into the right state of mind… I found focus again, trained hard and stayed psyched. Went on an amazing trip around the country (more on that next time). Even dusted off the trad rack for a climb or two.


Alex Bester opening Fear and Loathing (7c+) Photo by Michelle van Aswegen

I’d been psyched to do Fear and Loathing (7c+) in Mhlabatini for a long time. In fact, it was the first route I tried after my knee op! Granted, I tried it on top rope with Andrew and Ebert, but I made me excited. The second time I tried it, I was with Ebert. We got OWNED! Neither of us could make it to the chains. Embarrassingly, we had to cheat out way up, using a long stick and a nut taped to it. Not a proud moment.


Setting up for the crux — Photo by Ockert Joubert


Thankfully, Andrew got a hold of me a few weeks back and was keen to try it with me. We made our way through the icy water and found ourselves at the base of the climb.I went up first and found some simpler gear placements but still couldn’t get to the top. Good thing Andrew was there, he figured it out in no time at all. This got me thinking that I needed to climb the route my own way, rather than relying on Alex and Andrew’s jumping sequence.

So I shook things up, I found the kneebar that I pointed out the second I saw the route for the first time. It took a bit of effort to work it out without a pad, but it went easily enough for sure. Didn’t mean that the route was easy. It took me 4 tries the next weekend before it finally went and the send was pretty desperate. Pretty solid at the grade 7c+, that’s for sure.


Fear and Loathing (7+) It’s pretty steep!

The next week, I went back to get some footage. Was pretty cool to be there with Alex


Alex and me — checking out my placements and looking at the project that will go up the face right of Fear and Loathing

All in all, I really loved the line… We shot a pretty cool sequence. Hope you like it!


Aches and Pains

When it all comes down to it, the last few months have been really tough. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the last two years with injuries and psych as a result. I’ve had two pretty major injuries in the last few months. The worst part is that I have been climbing at just about my peak before each of the injuries. The first injury happened during the fifth round of the NBLs at CityROCK in Johannesburg.

I was just hitting peak form again and was really psyched. I was at the gym 4 days a week and really focusing on my strength. I really felt like I was unstoppable.


Training at CityROCK

When I hurt my hamstring was really upset. I remember the sound. It reminded me so much of the day I tore my knee! It really scared me, I felt completely faint and the more that I was asked if I was ok, the more I knew I was not. I remember lying on the floor at CityROCK for what felt like hours. Eventually I conceded and called Yvette to come and get me.


Sucks to be hurt. Grade 2 tear hurts a lot!

For the next two weeks I could barely walk. I could really not sit for more than a few minutes without being in terrible pain. The only saving grace was that I could have physio twice a week and start to feel human again. I got quite upset with everything around me and was cursing my luck.

Injuries never come at a good time. At least this one was not so bad, 5 weeks off wasn’t terrible. Got some time to focus on work and to play with some of my photography skills.


I traveled to a few places while I was still sore, including Blyde River and Boven. I had a lot of fun trying out some long exposures on my camera and it was a decent distraction. South Africa keeps reminding me that it is really an amazing place to live, at least in the terms of the natural beauty around us.

Once I could think about climbing again, you would think I took it nice and slow right? Wrong. First thing I tried on rock was Shear Force (8c). At least I took it easy and didn’t push myself too hard. The idea was to be there for Andrew more than anything. He’s hitting the very last hard move on the route before coming off, so I wanted to be there to help with the psych.

Since then I’ve been back in the groove of things. Got in some trad climbing on an amazing project that will be 7c or so, about 50m+ in length. Could maybe do it as a single pitch but will be damn hard. Need so much gear to make it to the top.


Hanging around on the proj! 7c?


We had such an interesting approach to get to the climb but at least it was out of the sun.


Managed to onsight a sketch 6c+(R) the same day. The was fun, I guess. Normally I’m not too happy about a 6c+ onsight, but when you’re scared shitless on the way up and you control it to the top, it’s worth writing home about.

I managed to recover pretty much completely from my hamstring injury. So since then I’ve been getting focused.

From April Choss season wass open again. I’ve been on Shadowfax (8b+) a few times again, already linked to the crux move on my second day on it. Have done the crux to the chains and I think I’m in with a chance in the near future. Going to make sure I get it done this year! Here are some pics from Zele Angelides from a few years back. I fell off last week at the point in the last pic.

The crux move on Shadowfax

The crux move on Shadowfax with the elicit toe hook — Photo by Zele Angelides


I even got some beautiful new clothing from Outward Ventures! Thanks so much guys, I can’t wait to actually get some good photos for you with me in the new stuff from Wild Country and DMM. Big thanks for the helmet and new shoes as well! Been amazing.

The good news is that I’ve really been able to get myself back into a great training regime. Over the last few weeks I’ve been averaging 3 hangboard sessions and 4 climbing sessions during the week and then both days on rock!


My small crimp! 6.2mm sloping. Ouch

As a result, I got a high point on Sheer Force (8c) in Boven. I’m linking up to the last move in the crux at the top. Unfortunately, that move is extremely hard on its own which means I have a lot of work to do before I’m going to tick it! But I’m so excited and motivated I’m sure I’m in with a chance.

After all of this positivity, I was climbing at CityRock JHB and I twisted my knee. I’ll tell you what. After the latest injuries, I’ve become hypersensitive towards injury. When I heard my knee pop (twice) and I my face turn pale and white, I knew something went wrong. I was really worried that I tore my ligaments, now in my other knee!

I was bleak. IMMEDIATELY. The thought of losing another 9 months when I was just about to do my first 8c was devastating. For a few days, I was struggling to get out of bed. I made an appointment with my surgeon and found out that it was probably a meniscus tear. He was pretty surprised when I was celebrating. But, the timeline for a meniscus is a few weeks versus a few months for a ligament. Big win.

I had an MRI as few days later and within two weeks, I found out that I had a grade 2 sprain of the popliteus tendon. It was such a rare injury that it was barely visible. I asked what the next step was and the surgeon told me, “Don’t do anything that hurts. If you re-injure yourself, I’ll take your photo off the wall.” We had a bit of a laugh, especially after I suggested I could give him a second photo. BUT! The point is, I’m ok. No time off, other than the two weeks between the injury and the diagnosis.

Up next for me is a new level of psych and travel. This weekend I’m in Fernkloof, trying to wrap up some old projects. Next week, is Wow Prow to try to finalize Future Life (8b). Then Boven for a few days and Rocklands, Montagu and Oudtshoorn after that.  A friend of mine from Austria is coming to South Africa to join me on the trip. Her name is Claudia Ziegler, author of The Young Savages. She is a world-class photographer with cover shots from Rock and Ice. Claudia has spent time with some of the best climbers in the world and shared their stories with the world.

I’m excited to have the privilege of showing her around South Africa at the end of June!



It’s been about 6 weeks since I got back from my amazing trip to Spain. I was going through some of my pics and came across a little video that I had shot while I was climbing a really cool 7c+ in the L’Olla sector and I thought I needed to share it. Was the first 7c+ I tried there and I managed it 3rd try. It’s completely my antistyle, short and bouldery and culminates in a big dyno and then a mantle onto a slab at the top, which you can’t quite see.

Brand new! How pretty is that?!?

The Prodigy Lives up to its Name


Trust me! I’m an expert!

IMG_20151213_201237I picked up my DMM Prodigy when I landed in Spain and I was instantly impressed. At 61g/m it is lighter than most of its competition. It is the same weight as the Beal Diablo 9.8, 1g/m lighter than the Edelrid Heron and 3g/m lighter than the Mammut Eternity range of ropes. The thing that impressed me the most was that the rope does not feel heavy when you’re tied in! The finish makes it glide through quick draws like its not even there!

Dmm Prodigy

Brand new! How pretty is that?!?

The majority of the lines I was climbing in Spain were 40m+ and I never battled with the rope. I onsighted several 7cs that were really long and steep. Each of them left me feeling really pumped but when the time came to clip the weight of the rope was never an issue!


The author onsighting Kameleon (7c) in Montsant. A 50m climb on tenuous pockets.

The sheath of the rope is durable! Next level durable! For a month, 4 guys climbed on my rope almost every day on every type of climbing. We thrashed the Prodigy and it put us in our places. I have a lot of respect for the engineering of this beauty!


The crew! We put it to the test…

Brian's Fingers

Trust me, I climbed a lot

Between the 4 of us, we logged over 220 attempts on the rope, varying from really short, harsh falls to 15m+ whippers! We dogged routes. We projected. We fought through endless battles with the Prodigy and at the end of the month, all we had to show for it was a little fluff on the one end. That’s it. A little fluff.

In conclusion, I would like the thank DMM for making it possible for me to climb all the beautiful long routes in Siurana! Without the Prodigy, it just would not have been possible!


Getting ready to try Photo Shot (8b) in Margalef


Photo Shot (8b)



Living the Life…

I’ve been living in a tent for the last 3 weeks in Camping Siurana. The journey up to this point has been a very interesting one. Before the trip began I was in Cape Town with Yvette for a week.

It was really special to be at two of my really good friends’ weddings so close together. I felt very privileged to be able to spend the time with Yvette and witness two unforgettable occasions!


I worked out of the Cape Town office during the week but thanks to the long days was able to get in some bouldering up in Echo Valley.


I got back to Joburg after the time in the Cape feeling a bit stressed. Things weren’t quite where I needed them to be before going off for a month. With some sort of a miracle, I managed to fix everything that needed to be fixed before saying good bye to Yvette and starting the journey to Spain.

Grivin and I flew to Abu Dhabi, where we had one of the longest layovers in history. This was my fault, but I couldn’t do anything about it. 19 hours in the airport really was unpleasant. By the time we finally arrived in Barcelona, I’d been up from Thursday morning till Saturday afternoon. I was starting to fall asleep on the drive and I was driving.


Hmmm, I’m in the airport and this is all I can think about!

It really was a full on epic to arrive but we are finally here. We found the ultimate campsite and poached as many chairs as we could find so that we could be awesome. Besides, no one else was here.

Grivin and I started our climbing bright and early on the Sunday morning, neither of us were capable of climbing on the day we arrived. We started off climbing some easy stuff, up to 7a+. Then we got to check out this awesome sunset!


It was fun to be able to onsight a whole bunch of new stuff. I quickly found my rhythm and was onsighting 7b+ and 7c in no time at all. There have been a bunch of close calls on 7c+ onsights but nothing just yet.

I have met a bunch of cool guys in Spain, one of which is an 18 year old Scotsman on a gap year. Callum, is onsighting 8a and 8a+ on the pocketed rock at Montsant and is quite a beast.


Expert belay skills coming through


He was there when Grivin gave us the fright of a lifetime. I think he took a few years off my life when he reached up to that first draw and came tumbling down to the ledge and then rolled off it. I thought he was simply dead, but then he started screaming violently. By the time Callum and I reached him, I feared the worst. He was laying in a very contorted position with his arms and legs twisted behind his back. I rushed off to get my phone and call for a rescue. He had just fallen 12m and done a backflip off the ledge in the process, the madness!!!


Some of the locals came around and were amazing in the assist. The Catalonia Fire Department came in a blazing and very dexterously dealt with Grivin, who was now sitting upright and joking with us. He was carried out in a basket and rushed to the hospital for x-rays. 



After a ride in the ambulance and a scintillating time at the St Joan Hospital in Reus, I drove Grivin back to the campsite where we drank beer and celebrated life with no major injuries for the Grasshopper, now known only as FIRST DRAW. The legend of first draw has spread far and everyone now thinks of the young blond guy before removing their draw from anything they climb. The legend even reached South Africa where people are now saying, “Don’t do a Grivin, be careful at that first draw.” I’m just glad he’s ok. The only thing that is still bothering him is his heel, but it’s ok, we’ve got an Ausie to help with that!

20151231_132151Enter Les McNicol, a very cool climber who’s spent the last two years working in the UK. Never have my sides been so sore from the hysterics in the campsite. He’s the stuff that legends are made of, and he brings the psych with him! Talented photographer and all-around good guy. Fantastic to keep the psych high on a trip like this. 12486103_10153847575416613_4843680125270005195_o

It’s been fantastic to be based in one area, we have spent a few days in Montsant as well and I find it very challenging. A sea of pockets on 60m walls on which one can drown in waves of pump before sinking on to your ropes, screaming. I tried to onsight an 8a and 8a+ there and found myself way out of my element. The technical 50m 7c on the other hand was right up my alley and Les was there with the lens to capture the moment and the sunset.


Kamaleon (7c) — 50m of technical pockets and slab at sunset



Falconetti (8a+) – Burly!

This brings us to the New Year, it was strange indeed for us foreigners — not a single bar or restaurant opened till after midnight. Fortunately for us Camping Siurana was open and leading the way for the celebration. At midnight we ate 12 grapes and shared in sparkling wine to toast in 2016. I started to feel absolutely rotten that night, I think I caught the plague from our Ausie friend! Fortunately, the beer and huge shot of warm tequila killed the plague and brought me back from the brink!


This is how we prepared for the new year!

I met a few awesome people at the party! Great contacts that I really hope to host in South Africa someday! Got to love Facebook! Well, now I’m about to wrap up my post and go try one of Toni’s new projects with him — So much for resting. Psych is just too high to handle the down time.



When Life Gets in the Way

Work has been pretty mad recently… Unfortunately it has made it pretty hard to do any good climbing. I’ve been getting out and having a bit of fun but definitely not climbing at the peak levels that I am used to.

What I have been thoroughly enjoying is the new CityRock gym in JHB. The routes have been phenomenal and the bouldering at least as good. It’s become my home away from home, that’s for sure!

I recently did a slide show about mental preparation for climbing. It was fun to be able to share my knowledge with a group of people who really wanted to hear it. It was a group of about 40 people from the MCSA and admittedly it ran a bit longer than I anticipated.

I really enjoyed the experience so I’ll try to share it with you…

I started it off by giving a bit of history of my life, starting out with the mental preparation that I was able to achieve through shooting.



I had to develop focus so that I could clear my mind an visualize the outcome. This came in handy when I started doing this!

cycling training


This level of mental focus has been so important for climbing. Knowing that is it possible to achieve a goal, know that if you’re dedicated you will succeed.

Explo picthe rise of training

When I started to get serious about pushing myself past grade 30/ 8a I needed some help!


I asked Paul Brouard, one of SA’s top climbers, to give me a hand… When I got his training program, this is how I reacted!


His training was intense, really intense.


He trained almost every day, scheduling rest days when life got in the way. The trick that he recommended was to schedule a heavy training day followed by a light training day, these would focus on different aspects of training.


I’ve met a lot of cool people along the way!


Alex and Ebert

Alex and Ebert2

I’m usually very structured in my approach to climbing…


plan 3plan5


I’ve spent a lot of time in my room on my own and in the gym to make the big progressions. One of the best ways to track progress is to RECORD IT! When you see that you’re hanging for a longer time on smaller holds with more weight, it’s a great feeling! Know how you’ve progressed is great!



This year has been tough for me, I had to recover from a major knee injury and it took a lot of patience, patience I didn’t know I have. One thing I can recommend is to listen to your phyio and biokineticist so that you can come back stronger than ever.


Use the tools of that are available to you. Right now I’ve got a bit of Golfer’s Elbow and I’m simply using a hammer, a theraband and some awesome finger training tools called POWER FINGERS. They are available from Vertical World and have been very useful in helping with recovery.


Well, that was an abridged version of my talk.

I’m off to Spain for a month over Dec/Jan. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.


The fixed hold

A Question of Ethics

It’s been almost exactly 1 year since my knee op. It was the 2nd of October last year when I went under the knife. I have been training hard and going through loads of rehab to get back to my former self. I hit quite a high point with my send of Rolihlahla, but since then I’ve been fighting quite an uphill battle. Been spending a great deal of time at Chosspile, working on finalizing Shadowfax (8b+) but due to the early onset of summer, I abandoned it for the season.

As a result, I started heading through to Boven a bunch. Jumped on Backcountry Butcher (8b) and was getting really close to the send when I broke the key hold. The result of this was that I had to abandon the climb for the weekend. It did inspire me to get back on Rodan and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

I did head back there and fix the hold at least. Now this is where the ethic issue, should I have fixed it or left it as it became?

The broken hold

The broken hold

The absent hold

The absent hold

The tiny gaston that was revealed

The tiny gaston that was revealed. It feels much worse than it looks and it looks small and slopey

I tried the move a few times and it felt pretty impossible to me. As it is, the boulder problem is in the vicinity of 7B+/7C and that is with the butcher’s hook in place. The butcher’s hook is a sharp, nasty little pocket that is pretty tough to hold on to and left me with a huge blood blister last time I was on it.


My poor finger tip

So this was the result. I had the hold in my hand and I was asked by the first ascentionist to glue it back.

The back of the hold

The back of the hold

A little bit of sica and a lot of of effort later, the hold was back in place pretty much as close to perfect as I could get it.

The fixed hold

The fixed hold

The tiny butcher's hook

The tiny butcher’s hook

Last weekend I was able to capitalize on my effort. I got the third ascent. The thing feels seriously hard still and I really can’t imagine doing to climb without the hold. My conscience is clear, but the peanut gallery sure has a lot to say… A group of guys who have never tried the climb or shown any interest in the climb, until I’m fixing it.

Oh well, what’s done is done.

On to the next big thing!

David Wade snapped a few shots of my on my current obsession. Just need one good day on it and I should be able to wrap up my long-term nemesis: Rodan (8b+).


The awkward gaston cross

A little snatch

A little snatch

The butterknife crimp

The butterknife crimp

Crossed over

Crossed over

Snatching the intermediate

Snatching the intermediate

Ready to launch for the final hold

Ready to launch for the final hold–I just need to get here!!!

On a side note, got to hang out with DMM UK athletes Mina Leslie-Wujastyk and Katy Whittaker. The two of them are in Boven and then heading to Wow Prow. Mina climbed Monster, flashed Lotter’s and then flashed Snapdragon on the same day. Not bad for a boulder! She’s pretty damn awesome. Hoping to get back there this weekend and hear how she did on Godzilla! The psych with the British team was unbelievable!

Mina on Monster (7c+) photo by Nick Brown

Mina on Monster (7c+) photo by Nick Brown