Members' Stories

1-2-5-Climb! 125 routes in one day

Sakkie Jansen van Rensburg and Johan Terblanche celebrated the 125th birthday of the MCSA on 8 October 2016 by climbing 125 sport routes at Boven.

We started at 04:00 on the 8th at The Crèche and climbed the last climb in last light around 18:40 at Tranquilitas.

Johan did 63 route and Sakkie 62 adding up to the 125 route in one day.


We climbed:

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Moments after my alarm clock woke me at 3:30, reality struck. A cold northerly wind was cooling down the Tranquilitas campsite. I must get up to have fun celebrating the 125th birthday of the Mountain Club of South Africa. Members had to join up, invite friends and the public to climb at least 125 routes and peaks, especially on 8 October 2016. When I got out of my tent, Johan was standing outside ready to go. I felt unsure while looking in the dark for the path to the Creche. For some reason my headlamp decided to misbehave. The cold northerly breeze was cooling down the little motivation I had for following through on this, as the other climbers called it, “the worst decision ever”. To climb 125 sport routes in one day with a team of two. We would have liked to have a bigger team but we could not find any other interested climbers on such short notice. One of us had to climb 63 routes and the other 62 to makeup the 125 routes envisaged. We identified 68 possible climbs ranging from a difficulty grade 9 to 21. The average grades around grade 16 an estimated total height of around 1400 metre or 700 metre per climber.

It was on the 4th October in the comfort of my living room when I realised that the MCSA 125th birthday celebrations are due the following Saturday. Hangdogs WhatsApp group normally plans trips on short notice after reckoning in factors such as the weather forecast, current projects, time, and budget. I thought of throwing out a few ideas. The WhatsApp message red “what do you think of 125 sport routes for a team of two in one day at Boven? 63 routes each?”

It took 10 minutes for Johan to come back with “I am in”. Another ten minutes later, I was registering the project on the MCSA webpage.

While abseiling down into the dark to the base of the first climb at Tranquilitas, I felt nervous, realising that there was no turning back anymore. A short video at 04:00 at the base started the endeavour. Johan had the bright headlamp while I was almost blind in the dark cloudy windy weather. The conditions slowed us down but as the dawn broke, both of us were climbing our 10th route. We fell behind the planned schedule and had to shorten the time scheduled for breakfast. We had breakfast at 08:00 at the campsite with 18 routes each in the pocket.

The next two hours at Baboon Buttress went well with 12 routes each in 2 hours. From Baboon Buttress we skipped the planned rest and went straight to Hallucinogen Wall. We made a short video clip at the halfway mark around 11:30. While keeping a steady pace along Hallucinogen Wall, I again started questioning my judgement. In die burning sun an ingrown nail on my big toe got more painful after each route while chronic niggles in my back, neck and right knee started to slow my progress.  Luckily, my resent rehabilitated router cuff injury held out.

The old question came up of, “why are we doing this”. Surely, we climb mountains for their beauty and the view from the top, or maybe to escape the city for peace and tranquillity. However, can the pain I experienced be fun?  To climb to the summit of a big mountain requires effort and teamwork and always poses a challenge to the body and mind. A mountaineer needs to be able to overcome the mental battles balancing out the risks of climbing and their physically limitations.  The summit is the reward that gives a sense of achievement. It was this challenge and sense of achievement that drove me on through the pain towards our summit, 125 climbs in one day. 

I cleaned the anchors of route number 125 in the very last light of the day making our victor video clip at 18:35. It was 19:00 when we walked into the campsite.

A short celebration around the campfire in a perfect evening followed before I have gone off to my tent to rest my broken body.

Johan clipped the last draw on Lotters Desire (27), his legs were shaking with only two moves to go to the anchors. In trying, desperately to move to the next handhold, he lost the fight against gravity with a short scream of disappointment while falling. He almost got the cherry on the cake by redpointing Lotters on the 9th.

Weary but happy we drove away from Wonderland. More than half the routes we climbed during the 125th birthday celebrations are on property owned by the MCSA.

To have reached the summit is almost an anti-climax. Maybe, mountain climbing is not about reaching the summit only. It is about the experiences during the endeavour to reach the summit, which make mountaineering special. Special was the time around the campfire with friends, a relationship with a climbing partner to form a well-oiled and effective team, being in nature, and the psychological and physical benefits of an active and adventurous climbing lifestyle.    

Thanks to my climbing partner Johan, who shared this summit as well as many other summits with me, and the MCSA for making climbing in South Africa accessible to so many.

Last modified onMonday, 24 October 2016 10:13