Friday, September 4, 2015

First time out of Europe: Rocklands, South Africa.

I don’t want to spend so much words to describe how much beautiful Rocklands is because this is a Worldclass and well-known area where climbers from all over the world come to test their self with the endless boulders has to offer. Rocklands is situated in the Western Cape region of South Africa, 3 hours driving far from Capetown.
The pass
It was my first time out of Europe and it was the first time I had the chance to climb for one month in a row. I shared this unforgettable trip with my brother Andrea, Gabriele Moroni and Luca Rinaldi, by far the best guys I could share with because the psyche and the motivation we could give one to each other was amazing. The expectations about the place, about what I would have found down there, about the thousands of boulders I could climb on, were soo high, as high as my ticklist. 
Actually Rocklands is mostly a destination for climbers, because there aren't many other things to do except hiking in the national park, so basically every foreign person we met down there was a climber. The locals people are very kind, the climbers are welcome and definitely respected from them  and even if they are not keen on climbing, they know you are here for climbing so basically every evening they asked us how our climbing day was like.

Babbons at early morning.
When you leave the endless valley of Rocklands to go to the closest village, I could experience with my own eyes, that the situation between whites and blacks in not changed at all because the whites are the one to have the territory and the properties and the blacks are still the poorest race that work for them.
Of course they are nice and a lot of time they helped us to carry the foods in the car so we were used to give them 20/30 rand in change of their help. I’ve never seen smiles so big.

The climbers we met down there were so friendly and sometimes we had the chance to try some boulders  like “El Corazon”, “Golden Shadow” and “Power of one” with strong climbers, so it was fine to share one to each other the different ways we figured out to do the moves. Sometime it worked sometime not, but the only thing that matter was that we were having fun together in one the place best worldwide.

The climbing days were always quite long, for the first 3 weeks we had not hurry to go climbing so we were used to get up at 9, go outdoor at 10 and we were used to climb till 6/7 pm when the sun went down. Later we were used to go to Traveler’s rest to check out internet with a fresh beer or a coca to celebrate what we had done during the day.                                                                              
The last week when the trip was coming close to an end we wanted to exploit all the day since we had different unfinished business and we had to move from a sector to another. So the last days were soo  busy because we climbed from early morning till late evening where we had funny night sessions all together with the headlamps .

We had many plans about our rest days but then when we got the car in Cape Town we figured out that was impossible to go too far because we were not sure if we would be back at home since the cars we rented were so old and nonfunctioning at all.
We were used to stay around to check some boulders we were looking to try, in order to not get lost when we wanted to try them or we were used to grill some delicious meat to revive the hearts and the taste buds.

Actually we had one crazy adventure on our 3rd day in Rocklands or rather our first day of rest.

We went to Clanwilliam, the closest village, to buy some food for the next weeks and in the way back to the cottage, Gabriele instead to move from the 2nd to the 3rd, something went wrong and he puts 1st instead and the gear box broke out. We were in the middle of nowhere and the phones didn’t work, we were fucked up.

Car fucked up.
We were lucky that few minutes later 2 Austrian guys, we met the day before, just stopped to help us and luckily this little story finished with an happy ending. To be honest the trip didn’t start very well because the first days we had a couple of problems with the bathrooms and with the cars but then the trip turned to be spectacular.

A lot of boulder problems I sent are indelibly printed in my heart,  not just because of the hard grade but  because the lines its self are simply incredible, and stand on the top of one of those is the same thing to get the rarest gem, priceless!!
If I have to choose among the many  gorgeous boulders I was able to archive, I’d choose  “SKY” and “El Corazon”.
Somehow both of them went down in a day, and just this thing was crazy but It was even crazier that I took down  “El Corazon” on my 3rd try from the start.

El Corazon, Rocklands (SA), Pic. Andrea Zanone
El Corazon is an amazing block ,heart shaped, freed by D. Woods.  The day I went for it was my 3rd day of climbing and It was supposed to be an active rest day and the deal of the day was to check out the line with the rope since the block is so high and scary.

I tried twice the second move to the lip and I felt it okay for my size and for my skills so I tried a bit the first move even it was not so comfortable to test since the move consists on a dyno from a single pad incut crimp  to an incut edge far on the right. I tried enough to understand that was doable so the psyche was too high and the line too beautiful that I decided the active rest day was over and that it was the time to switch the crush mode on, so I went down to fix the landing with the pads while Luca was testing it as well with the rope.
I did a first try from the ground but basically I just let me fell  to test if the landing was okay, and yes it was. I did another try where I grabbed the crimp with right hand but I was not able to keep the swing;  I was starting to know how the first was like. Luckily 2 guys from Cape Town join us with more pads so the landing was way  safer  if we were fallen in the high part.

Luca did a couple of tries and he was so close to get  the first move so this thing got me psyched to try hard.  On my third lap happened something ridiculous because I stuck the first move without losing my right foot so I could take the edge very well. I was amazed but when I realized I stuck, I put the left foot underneath a little roof, I took the intermediate, I locked off with my right arm and I went for the last move. When I caught the lip I felt like in paradise, I topped out really fast and I enjoyed this awesome moment seeing the panorama in front of me and hearing the echo of my liberating scream spread along the valley.
I sent it so fast and so easily that it even not became mentally, I still don’t know what happened in that try, kissed by fortune. Completely out of the blue ascent.
The highest point and main send of my trip, not in term of grade, but in term of beauty and for its wonderful climbing,  was “SKY”.

This world class line represents to me the perfection, 3 holds very far one to each other with just one way to do it. Everything had to be perfect for me, the foot sequence, the hands’ position, the coordination for the second move and I also had to be lucky.  

Sky 8B Rocklands (SA), Pic. Andrea Zanone  
Before to go to this line we made a little stop to warm up on “The Hatchling”, that is an amazing half-egg shaped boulder balanced on another one. This line is soo great.

Later we move on “SKY” and on my flash go I already felt so close, falling on the second move. I knew I could do it but I took me quite a lot to link the 2 moves together  but after many tries  all come together in one perfect moment... This top notch block is always been one of my lifetime dream so I cannot describe how proud I was to stand on the top this line.

I can say, that at the end of the trip I had no regret, the trip has been a success in every aspects and  I can't ask for any better, because I climbed everything I wished and more than I expected and every day have been filled with new wonderful climbing experiences, so I left the country with big smile and still right now I have clear memories of every blocks I've been able to send.

Rocklands and South Africa in general, is amazing and it's defintely a wild country, completely different from a European reality.. You are basically in the middle of nowhere, you can enjoy the place in its finest purity, you can enjoy everything it has to offer, amazing views that nothing can't beat, the amazing lights and colors when the day get old and the sun goes down, the contrast between the white sand and the orange/black of the rocks. It's amazing to hike back to the car under orange and red painted skies thinking about what you did during the day.
Sky full of stars
My eyes during this month were able to experience something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Roadside sector
I left a part of my heart downthere so I'll be back one day.
I wanna say thanks to family that made this trip possible and to my friends Andrea, Gabriele and Luca that cheered me up every time. They made this trip unforgettable.

I climbed 25 boulders problem from 8a(V11) to 8B+ (V14) range.

Best Hits: 

Golden Shadow (8B+ V14) ★★★
Sky (8B V13) ★★★★
El Corazon (8B V13) ★★★★
The Vice (8B V13) ★★★★
Mooiste Meise (8B V13) ★★★★
The Power of One (8B V13) ★★★★
The Power of Bar One (8A/+ V11/V12) ★★★★, flash
Black Shadow (8A+ V12) ★★★★
Armed Response (8A+ V12) ★★★
Oral Office (8A+ V12) ★★★
Tea with Elmarie (8A V11) ★★★, flash
Green Mamba (8A/+ V11/V12) ★★★★
Shosholoza (8A V11) ★★★★
The Amphiteather (8A V11) ★★★★

Tea with Elmarie 8a flash pic Andrea Zanone


  1. Nice article, Marco! Pictures are beautiful, so the real view of this area must be miraculous! I'm interested what is cost of trip to South Africa? Best regards!

    1. Hey Man! Thanks, glad you liked it. Actually all depend on how much the flight from your city cost. My one was like 600euros. Then I spent other 600euros (more o less) for one month stay. It's definitely cheap.

    2. I can't see you email address, please send me a message to, I have some questions :)