the birthday challenge

It has been a little over a week since my birthday and wow was it a fun day!  I have always spent my birthday climbing, fortunately i have been able to spend it in some of the best bouldering areas in the world over the past decade or so.

This year was no different, as I am still posted up in Cape Town, South Africa.  This year was my 25th birthday and I wanted to make it a special one.  After talking with my friend Dick who has been doing “birthday challenges” for years, i became really intrigued by the idea of completing one myself for the 1/4 century mark of my life.  I began to think of how i would bring in the big two 5 and it became clear that combing 25 “things” into the challenge was necessary.  I began to think and after a little while decided that the goal was going to be to wake up early on my birthday, surf 25 waves at kommejtie/long beach (a local surf spot on the Atlantic ocean) as well as climb 25 boulder problems 7A and up in Echo Valley.

The plan was to film the entire thing but that never happened so instead here is a recap with words and a photo or two.

I remember waking up psyched that morning.  I got out of bed and quickly ran over to my computer to check the web cam for the surf destination for the day.  the wind was blowing in the correct off shore direction, the swell looked good, and there was hardly anyone in the water as it was a Tuesday morning.  I knew that surfing 25 waves was going to be a huge feat as i don’t think i had ever come close to that in a single day of surfing before but knew i had to try.

I woke carlo up, packed the boards in the car and made our way through kalk bay, fish hoek, etc all way to the beautiful small beach town of kommetjie.  After turning on to “surf way” i could  see the waves breaking perfectly!  we got our wetsuits on and quickly paddled out to the back set with only 2 other people in the line up! 

After about 10 or so waves i was getting tired!  each time i caught a wave it was a struggle to get back out to the back again.  after about 2 hours i was at 20.  I managed to get a few quick rides in a row and was soon at 23!!!  24 was a nice long ride that brought me very close to shore and in contact with the dangerous and very powerful shore break.  i got completely destroyed by the wave and the next one in the set.  i stood there in about 2 feet of water and debated paddling out again.  i decided to just lay down and ride the white water back to shore for my final “ride” of the day.  my arms were exhausted.  nearly 3 hours in the water… could not feel my toes or fingers anymore and my shoulders were WRECKED!!!

Carlo and I hopped in the car and made our way back to our house in Muizenberg.  On the way we made a quick stop in Fish Hoek to pick up my birthday cake, a cheese cake from Sillie’s Bakery! We drove even faster from there to get home so we could feast on some cheese cake!  Upon arriving home, i sat down ate some cheese cake and looked over the list of climbs i was preparing myself to do that day!  I knew it was going to be a struggle but i had to try!

After about an hour of relaxing and preparing for the second part of the challenge we again left the house and drove to Echo Valley.  After the 30+ minute stair master approach i found myself looking at my first few climbs of the day!  I started it off easy with a couple of 7a/b things and then decided to step it up to captain graffiti 8A.  I climbed it quickly and did another 7B right behind it and carried on to the next zone.  I had 5 down and felt good.

At the next area was osiris and the beast.  osiris is a cool 7a/+ that i had climbed in the past and quickly repeated.  the beast 7b+ i had never done before and took me a little bit.  the line was odd and took me a couple goes to figure out the right beta. after the beast extension it was 8 done!

quick stop at this cool 7A arete for number 10, up the hill to In search of the new sound 8A and Bollo 7A for number 11 and 12.  From there i traversed the hillside back and forth for a few more climbs ranging from 7A-7C.  I was running around with Alex with one pad and the plan was to hit up this one 7C before heading up valley to the next set of climbs.  I threw my pad down a little cliff to the next climb but the wind took it and it went down this huge cliff (about 80 feet down). UGH!!!!!!! i was bummed and could not do the climb without a pad.  I tried climbing down the cliff and made it about 40 feet down but could not continue.  i climbed back up.  Alex graciously stated she would go grab it for me by hiking way down to get it.  I thanked her and carried on without doing the 7C but managed a quick paddless ascent of a 7A nearby.

The sun was beginning to set and darkness was approaching.  I was feeling tired but only had 5 climbs left to go!  I felt exhausted.  I wanted to give up but was so close.  I got hold of the pad and carried on!  I headed up to light as night and light as night right both 7C.  I managed to do both of them first try!  Ahhhhh 3 left!  I then hurried down to this cool 7C+ Sangoma which i took down first try and the 7A next to it!  one left! it was dark!!!  i put my headlamp on and began thinking of climbs to do…  I was barely able to top out sangoma and the on next to it so i knew it needed to be easy.  I could not think of anything that I had not done that was possible for me at the moment.  As i began to walk down the hill i felt defeated.  24 climbs was not 25 and i wanted more than anything to do 1 one.  I was not going to count my 5A warm up… no NEVER!

(light as night)

As I walked down the hill i remembered this one 6c+ that i had done in the past that i did not know the name of.  It was better than nothing so i put my pad down, shoes on, and hopped on.  I barely made it to the top.  Skin was wrecked, body was too…

I had done it (well sort of) but i was still psyched!  I remember putting my hiking shoes back on with a feeling of accomplishment!  ahhh!!  i walked back down the stair master with shaking legs and a feeling of complete exhaustion.  I was able to make it thorugh my delicious birthday dinner at the incredible ell burro mexican restaurant and then came home, passed out, and slept for many hours!

Thanks to all that made it an unforgettable day!

Perfect birthday!  What will i do for 26!?

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