Leo Houlding – 24 May

Oceans of Fear is a route I’ve wanted to do for more than a decade. Rumors of aggressive Afrikaans Farmers, boulder rolling baboons, and a long difficult approach had put me off like many others. The 13 pitch 8a has only received 1 free repeat since it’s first ascent in 1994.

My friend from the Lakes and Asgard comrade Chris Rabone invited me to join him in Cape Town for some cragging.

We spent a couple of weeks enjoying the bouldering, trad and sport climbing of the Western Cape. The boulder fields of Rocklands and multi pitch crags of Wolfberg and Tafelberg are compact quartzite sandstone some of the finest rock on which to climb anywhere in the world.

Enthusiastically we enjoyed the stone and started to get into shape. Towards the end of the trip we heard of a young local climber who’d been attempting to free Oceans that season.

We tracked him down and inquired if he’d be up for joining us on the route. Joe Mahole took no persuasion and soon we were sweating through the undergrowth on no real path making our way into the Klein WInterhoek mountains.

Leo Houlding with a friend

Oceans attack the center of the incredibly overhanging amphitheater via the steepest, longest most impressive line. The first 4 pitches of run out E2 ascend 120m up to the ledge of forgotten dreams. From here the route steps up a notch and starts to lean horizontally. The aptly Horror crack introduces the meat of the route, burly crack climbing through a big roof. I blew the Onsight but got in next go. We bivied in Hammocks on the ledge.

Climbing

The hooks pitch is the crux of the route. A long pumpy traverse leads to a poor rest followed by a dynamic sequence on small holds to glory, or twice to a heart breaking fall right at the end of a long overhanging traverse. Originally graded 28 (7c) it’s more like 8a.

An easier but outrageously exposed traverse leads through giant roofs which would be almost impossible to retreat from to the final hard pitch. The Honey Pitch. A sweet piece of climbing through more seriously steep terrain with a boulder problem crux at the finish. On my second attempt I made it to the lip of giant roves we’d been climbing through for 4 pitches. On the topo another 6 much easier vertical pitches lead to the top. In failing light Jo lead us up the traverse ledge I 2 rope stretchers where we unroped. By the light of the moon we completed the air walk and scramble to the summit of the most overhanging wall I’ve ever free climbed.