Photography by Riky Felderer
‘It’s a bit crazy trad climbing here – heavy gear, miles from anywhere, with snakes, long walk-ins and world-class bouldering just by the road. The lines are so perfect and continuous – from the moment you set off from the floor you don’t have any resting on ledges or anything. You have gear everywhere so it’s not dangerous, but it’s still a bit spicy with some good run-outs. In some parts of the world this place would be swarming with climbers but it’s so deserted, as if it’s stranded somewhere in time, long ago.’ – Caroline Ciavaldini
The North Face team athletes, James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini have returned from a spectacular climbing safari of the South African Western Cape terrain, embarking on trad climbs around the hidden treasures of the Rocklands area. Aside from seeking out some of the hardest trad lines in the world, James & Caroline were also delivering bouldering mats and equipment bought from money raised by their SPOT and Urban Uprising campaign to the Rocklands Climbing School.
Scaling lines like ‘The First Dance’ – 1,640ft of overhanging hard sandstone – the pair discovered climbing routes that had largely never been explored before, captured in a stunning film called The Search set against the awe-inspiring scenery of the Cape.
‘What I love about trad climbing is being able to find yourself in what would normally be a very intimidating, scary situation and turn off that side of the brain because the climbing is so intense. If you were to take a step back, you’d ask, “God what am I doing here?” But once you’re in the situation and start climbing, you forget everything. It’s you, the rock, the moves, and it’s so totally freeing. It is much more emotional than other types of climbing because you get so involved in the process — and emotional memories are the ones that last.’
South Africa is where I’ve seen the most potential, and it fits in really well with my style — it’s often bouldery with big moves between horizontal breaks, with good protection. The search itself is rewarding. – James Pearson
James and Caroline plan to return to the region later this year, alongside other expeditions such as the Philippines, but above all they remain motivated by the chance to discover new places and to fulfil their lifelong ambition of exploring the unknown.