PG Blog

It must have been sometime in January or February here in this fine city of San Francisco. Ethan Pringle and I were waxing philosophical over a cup of coffee at a Mission locale on one of his rare stints back home. If I recall correctly we were deadlocked in deep debate over whether that totally sicky gnar gnar video that Nalle Hukkataival and Mini-Nalle, who incidentally is actually much larger than regular Nalle, had just put on the internet was enough to warrant a trip to Norway for the summer. Like I said, the discussion was heated and tears were shed, but in the end we agreed that our summer was probably best spent in a place about as far from home as geographically possible – Africa.

Time travel a bit with me into the future, now past, and on June 2nd I met Mr. Pringle in the Cape Town International Airport. Ethan was fresh off a Euro excursion while I was fresh off the classroom couch. A couple Hi-5′s and some luggage dolly races later we were off in our brand spanking new micro-toaster of a Hyundai rental “car”. We spent the next 4 hours driving on the wrong side of the road, getting lost on strange highways and maniacally feeding ourselves French chocolate. Decent start.

Finally we arrived at our new home for the next 2 months – Rocklands, South Africa. Our house was on the Alpha Excelsior Guest Farm – a renovated barn on a ridiculous winery. This might sound a bit rustic, but was actually amazingly comfortable and the farm was home to fellow Americans and Euros alike. The old hen house is now a coffee shop offering some decent coffee, an amazing back porch looking out on the Cederberg Mountains and Becky, the world’s sweetest barista.

The first day climbing we joined fellow Americans Phil Schaal and Marlon Campos for a tour of Roadside. Ethan and I really impressed all of the strangers who’d be forced to spend their time around us by running around like lunatics yelling, “Dude, Africa!” – greasing up all of the perfectly textured sandstone. Roadside, like almost every area in Rocklands, houses a ratio of 10 ultra classic problems to every 1 decent problem. Giddy, I jumped on the first problem I saw, Schwupp (v6), and thus the climbing in Rocklands began. Ethan and I spent the rest of the day sizing up problems that would become projects and, for Ethan at least, later sends.

The ensuing two months were a blur of unbelievable rock climbs stacked one next to the other for as long as you’re content to walk and never ending nights of shit-talking and wine drinking. Ethan came away with a ticklist to rival any coming out of the Rocklands nabbing a proverbial last minute ascent of Sky (V14) the day before our plane left, as well as some 17 or so other problems V12 or harder. I surprised the world (8a.nu) by not topping Ethan’s efforts, but did come away with a handful of climbs that were as or more fun to climb than any I’d done before. Hole in One (V10) will go down as the only boulder problem I have/will ever sent/send before Ethan. Other climbs that will stick around in memory for a while are Crazy Leg (V7), Born Into Struggle (V8) and Mud Puddle (V7) that is a real piece of work if you love yourself some criaamps. I guess the real point of this name and number blabber is to drive home the fact that you don’t have to climb vInsane to enjoy Rocklands. The real beauty of this place, aside from surreal sunsets and wildlife, is the staggering amount of quality bouldering that exists at every level, at every area.

The scene around Rocklands is almost worth the trip alone. Climbers’ buffets, Rock Stock, Robyn fueled dance parties, golf tournies, etc. Ethan and I both left South Africa with a crew of chain-smoking, jibberish speaking international types that will remain friends for years to come. You can tell it’s lasting because we Facebook chat, like, all the time. Talk has already started about next season. For now though, it’s back to the plastic paradises and local haunts of California for a while. Burritolife.

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Rocklands – End

Well, two months later and here I am. Africa, man – I came, I saw, I got conquered. Since I last wrote there has been minimal news on the climbing side of things for me. The numbers weren’t big, but I can honestly say it doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this trip – well, alright maybe like one project would be nice. Really though, I have to thank everyone I met on this trip that gave me a spot, gave me a drink, took drinks away when I couldn’t stand up, yelled belligerently to pop songs with me and generally made my summer absolutely ridiculous.

Roosa and I manning the ones and twos at the Hen House.

Someone probably sent something worth celebrating...

I can’t pretend to be a well traveled climber, but in the immortal words of a Finnish climbing machine, “No, I don’t really see it getting better than this.” The few problems I did manage to climb and the many more I didn’t were consistently mind blowing.

End of Day

Ethan had an amazing trip that you can read about on his blog if he ever writes on the goddamn thing. Real estate legend Mike Feinberg is in contention for the most productive two week climbing trip in history, but you won’t hear about it because he is too busy making billions of dollars to care about shit like rock climbing.

Training for Sky

When fellow San Franciscans David and Randy arrived the projects were all but scrapped and climbing was just something to do until the dance parties started. The Hen House, Oliphant Haus, our front porch, the dining room – didn’t matter.

While the climbing is the reason I went to Rocklands the story is much bigger than that. South Africa is still a country tangled heavily with its past. The Townships – shanty towns – still litter much of the land and are painfully stark reminders that we’re lucky to be doing what we’re doing. They also present an easy way to dive into the history of a place. David spent most of this trip reading about the political and social history of South Africa and we were both consistently struck by how much has seemingly changed and even more by what is still the norm of a complicated intersection of tradition and politics. I realized instantly how embarrassingly little I know about this place and am psyched to learn more before I head back.

Trying to catch up on the last month is hard. I’ll just say that Rocklands is everything you’ve heard and more. If you can get there, get there.

A serious thanks to everyone I met. Hope to see you guys next year.

*Once again – these pictures were all taken by Lisa Bahr.

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Some More South Africa

I was warned about the rain and was nervous. In truth we’ve been lucky. Compared to last winter it has been all but bone dry according to everyone here. That isn’t to say that being involuntarily stopped from climbing is ever really fun. To begin with, our new cottage is somewhat cut off from the rest of climber society. Our time at the Alpha Farms expired a while ago and with it the familiar community of climbers and friends. Luckily our friends Nikki and Caroline had a birthday the week before so we left with blurry vision and brutal headaches. All the photos here, with the exception of the shitty ones taken with my iphone, are Lisa’s (baehrschn.clan-hbg.de).

Dance Party

Accurate Resolution

We’re staying at Traveller’s Rest for the remainder of our trip. Charity, the owner, is kind and took time to show me what antelope shit looks like. We have a real internet connection now and a fireplace. They sell cans of Coke with sugar – not syrup – and cheap firewood in the office. Our corrugated tin roof leaked when it rained. It leaked for a few days after it rained, really. So we were relocated to a nicer cottage and things are pretty good. We have a hotplate instead of a stove and the place is much smaller and more remote than the Homestead. There are baboons and antelope that pass through here in the night – and destroy your house if you fail to close your windows while you’re out, as some fellow Americans found out last night. But, all said both places have their perks. If you’re planning a trip here I’d suggest seeking out Alpha Farms first. Traveller’s Rest is not exactly roughing it though and can be rather nice with a good fire and a pot of rooibos.

Black Mango Chutney (7C+)

Tomorrow I Will Be Gone (7C)

The real problem with the rain here is that it doesn’t really fall – it’s hurled. Instead of a steady downpour, the tin roof is barbarously pelted for a quarter of an hour, after which gale force winds rattle the windows. That’s when the roof starts to drip and the whole process continues for hours or sometimes days. Sleep becomes next to impossible.

Geckos hate rain too and we’re consequently rooming with two of them. They’re often spotted sticking their heads down from above beneath the bamboo thatching of our ceiling. Last night they were both hanging out behind the fridge and scampered out to see what we were doing for dinner. There are of course baboons and antelope. Springbok, ostriches, donkeys, emus and God knows what else are also roving around this place. In fact, the word from the locals is that there’s a place not far from here where you can get pretty friendly with some of the larger fowl. We’re waiting for Randy and Dr. David before getting into that though.

Roommate

It isn’t all birds and beavers over here though. We’re still bouldering a little. Ethan is on a serious tear and hates wearing pants. Yesterday, our friend Phil took a minute off of chain smoking and not drinking water to hike his way up the beautiful Amandala (8B+). Lisa’s ankle is looking very Miyamotoish after an unfortunate spill at the Sassies. I’m trying to stay consistent and have had continued success in punting like a pro. I did stumble into my first first-ascent thanks to the guidebook being less than clear and there being no chalk on the wall. It’s called Pot Committed and is next to Alex Savage’s highball, All In.

Pot Committed

Pot Committed

You Say Party, I Say Die (7A?)

Woops

Baby Antelope Skull

Time here is about half gone. It is already moving much too quickly. The weather looks promising and I have enough projects to keep me busy for the rest of my life. Look forward to seeing those of you in San Francisco soon. But not too soon.

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The Madness

The Madness was omnipresent from the moment we left the airport. Three dudes in a squat, silver car just bigger than a toaster packed to the hilt with crashpads, bags and French chocolate. I signed the contract line so that made me the driver for the trip. I haven’t driven a stick shift since I was probably 18 and haven’t driven on the left side of the road on purpose ever. The first thing that you learn on the road in South Africa is that the average driver is exceptionally courteous – like nearly everyone here – and that they’re equally bat shit fucking crazy. Enter the Madness.

Shosholoza

Search For New Boulders

The past week has been a lesson in both humility and culture. To be specific I’ve had to learn to deal with Ethan flashing nearly all of my projects – except one. More on that later. The real lesson being handed down by the elders here is how to be a Neo in the program they call the Madness. In America if you have two lanes then you have a general idea of the flow of traffic. In Africa, they scoff at the idea of dividing lines. If you have a two-lane road – which you do – what you’re really dealing with is a five-lane maze of traffic fury. The trick is to fall into it with vigor and split lanes like a hot knife through butter. Chicken isn’t a game, it’s an African way of life.

Meat Eater at Dinner

Clanwilliam Barlife

I took what I could learn from maniac French four-wheelers, Julia and Clemont, – our roommates for a stint – and applied it to Ethan and my journey to Cape Town last night. The general rule is that if someone is top-gunning your ass you pull left and let them and their Frankenstein pick-up/Delorean ride on by. Well, I picked up a few things from these Frenchies and began to understand the middle lane. The middle lane is not exactly a lane, per se, but a concept. Essentially, you have your two regular lanes. Then you have the shoulder on both ends that you bounce to if a back to the future mobile is creeping up on you. If you, on the other hand, are trying to blaze past some North American gumbies cause they’re still dancing to Gaga when you’re trying to get with the shit, blasting Robyn from the rental radio, then you just take the dotted line and those in touch with the Madness will spread like you were Moses parting the sea and you will birth through the canal of lightness – glory be yours.

Just Getting Psyched to Hike

Sassies

So the Madness in full effect, we picked up Ethan’s German via France friend Lisa today from the airport. In an effort to preserve some sense of brevity, I’ll sum the week up shortly. We’ve had mostly good days and some rainy. The projects are still standing, but I’ve sent a climb before Ethan and Ethan sent some harder shit than I will ever send. Cape Town involved surfing for Ethan and reading/sleeping on the beach for Lisa and me. Here’s a video of the only rock climb I have/will ever sent before Ethan. He’s is not a big fan of finishing boulders unless there is an audience – preferably of the internet variety. Prim Donna Pringle is what he likes to be called around here.

Jason – Hole in One (7C+) from Jason Crase on Vimeo.

Ethan – Hole in One (7C+) from Jason Crase on Vimeo.

Minki (7B)

I hope you’re all well. We’re psyched and going at it. We miss you. If you’re interested in numbers that extend beyond ten fingers, check out Ethan’s blog. I’m not here to promote that sandbagger. Until next time. Bye a Donkey – phonetic for thank you very much in Afrikaans.

Talkin' Shit About a Pretty Sunset

They sell wine grown on the farm so please excuse any misspellings/grammar mistakes as a precursor to drunken scholarship.

The Homestead

Julie and Sassies Horses

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South Africa Part 2

On Tuesday I crushed my last Mission burrito for the next two months. Thirty-six hours later and here I am – Rocklands, South Africa. After sticking to my jetlag combat experiment of only allowing myself to nod off on the plane rides I slept for twelve hours last night. I woke up this morning to Ethan jumping on the bed, wrapped only in a towel, yelling “Fire!”. There was no fire. I wanted to punch him in the face. Instead, I got up and went to the Hen House for coffee.

The Hen House is, as best I can guess, a renovated hen house – now tiny coffee shop on the farm. I had my morning cup with some climbers from Norway that would end up being part of our crew for the day. We sat on the back porch looking out on fields of boulders and throwing rocks for the dog, Pinotage. Not terrible.

There are basically three or four houses – all renovated farm buildings – to stay in on the Alpha Farm. We have our own for the time being which is incredibly nice. Some fellow ex-pats are bunking next door and then there are the Norwiegans. We’re basically all of the climbers here right now with the exception of a few camping down the road. Team Alpha Farm – no one actually calls us that, but they should – went to the Roadside Boulders today. The name Roadside is a bit misleading. The boulders are about a 15-20 min hike from the car, but the hike is beautiful. Semantics aside, this place is absolutely ridiculous. For the first time, I felt like I was in Africa.

We warmed up quick and shortly after had done our first Rocklands boulder problem called Roadside Dyno. The problem was tall and the perfect intro high 5 from African bouldering. Afterwards Ethan headed up the hill to try some heinously hard business while I walked over to check out a problem called Caroline. Caroline is one of the nicest boulder problems I’ve ever seen. A perfect, 40° wall with pinches and crimps stacked straight up the middle of the face. After much beta-sussage I was able to do it in two parts and am really psyched to try to link it together.

The rock and the scenery are everything they’re touted to be. The best sandstone I have ever touched and bloody sunsets. The house we’re in is incredible. One big downside is that you have to pay for the wifi here, so I have to write these things quick.

Today I was losing my mind a bit – running around, pointing at boulders, hi-5ing Ethan and screaming “We’re in Africa, dude!”. Tomorrow we check out a different are. I will try to take more pictures.

Ethan's Heart of Darkness

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South Africa Part 1

On Tuesday night I’m scheduled to board an Airbus 346 airplane and, some 24 hours of flight-time later, be delivered into the Capetown International Airport. There, my friend Ethan and I are set to pick up a car and drive a few hours north to our home for the next two months, Rocklands, South Africa. We’re staying in the town of Clanwilliam which is a short drive from the climbing. The house we’ve rented for the first part of the trip is a renovated farmhouse on a private vineyard. Other than the basic details, I don’t know quite what to expect. Almost everything I know about Africa I’ve learned from either a National Geographic or Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darnkess.

Other than being an amazing opportunity to climb in one of the premier bouldering destinations of the world, this trip is also my first trip off of the North American continent. That is, I’ve been to Canada. Once. With finals having just ended yesterday, the gravity of the trip is finally setting in. I’m going to Africa – and that is fucking insane. There is a lot to know before you got to a place as exotic as Africa. What do you do in a stampede, for instance. Or, are giraffes aggressive animals? I have absolutely no idea.

Fears aside, I am looking forward to the relative periods of solitude and downtime that long trips afford. That’s where this blog comes in. I hope to have some storytelling to do during the next two months and when I do – I will tell it here. Incidentally, my gear to book ratio is something like 1:5 – so I’ll probably spout off about books a bit. Since you can’t really quote an author in real life without sounding like a pompous tool I will do it on the internet. Here’s a bit from ol’ Joey Conrad when we were out drinking the other night and I asked him to describe the musical contributions of the 1990s:

..and then from the depths of the woods went out such a tremulous and prolonged wail of mournful fear and utter despair as may be imagined to follow the flight of the last hope from the earth.

More quote dropping to come – next time from 9 hours into the future.

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End of the Semester

This thing should really turn into a quarterly – at least then I’d write on it with some regularity. Another semester has ended and, consequently, so has our time living in Bishop. We’re headed back to the city in about a week, though I will most likely be spending the rest of the year down this way squeezing one or two more projects out of the winter season.

Bishop has basically been amazing. We’ve had a grip of floor dwellers here in the last four months, but I’d like to thank our semi-permanent roommates, Court and Byron, for not clogging the toilet, making sure I never drank alone and watching an obscene number of horror movies. On the climbing side the highlight of my time here has been Rock Creek. While the Buttermilks obviously hold the best bouldering south of The Valley, Rock Creek is a little slice of hanging out in the woods, creek jumping, techy granite heaven. If you’re psyched on tiny crimps and icy rivers, do the right thing. Incidentally, I was extremely psyched and relieved to send a certain project so that the photo at the top of this page finally has some truth behind it. Oh, and here’s Dr. David .

Photo: B.trix


Here’s an interesting thing I’ve learned since living in Bishop: the gym makes you strong. Care to venture a guess at what doesn’t induce strength – actually climbing. So, yeah, I’m strangely psyched to get back into the gym in January and see if I can muster enough strength to do a goddamn pull-up. To be honest, chances are embarrassingly slim. Speaking of the gym, I’ll be back working there a couple days a week during the semester. After that, I’m headed to fucking South Africa. Needless to say, but I’m still saying it, I’m psyched out of my goddamn mind. I hear the climbing is pretty alright. Mainly, though, I want to see a Bengal Tiger (for obvious reasons).

Africa!


Before I leave, a list of things I’m psyched for in the city:
Four Barrel Coffee
Gym Strength
Walking
Fog
Beaches
Bookstores
Produce less than 4 weeks old
Dolores Park
Buds/Buddettes
Burritos
Rainbow
James “I’m a rather big deal” Lucas’s Dance Classes

See you handsome bastards in the city.

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