Why Africa? Simply because: a. it is sunny (almost always) b. long routes (up to 800m) c. good rock and no bolts, resulting in the feel of adventure and possibility to do FA's is enormous! d. no other people on crags; especially no Israelites anywhere! (those cannot enter the country so no hanukas or bar mitzvas there, thanks to muslim brotherhood; Allahu Akbar!) e. nice people (berber tribe) f. cheap for europeans standard g. no dirty Indian food there f. Delicious coffee and choco-products, like chocolate brown girls (even the mighty Berlusconi was seduced) and hot chocolate. Ordering needs some french skills.
Lion's face and ridge early in the morning. Lion's ridge is british 4c, 400m.
Some of the discussion, a night before our big day out:
mike- How can we find the route?
myself- Well... You know it is a big ridge, there is nothing more obvious feature to climb, it is not possible to get lost on this climb.
mike- How do we get to base of the massive?
myself- Well... You know these africans are so nice, that they will pick us immediately up, if we try hitchhiking..
Easy route finding; red dots we did (back & forth), pink dots we didn't have the balls big enough. Green ones we should have followed (The Lions ridge). Forgive my colourblindness.
Löwenschwanz 180m, 4a.
Mike had never climbed trad before, by now he has enjoyed the delights of nasty approaches, downclimbing, rappelling from rock features, rope stucks, darkness and headlamp battery collapse. All that nice stuff, which happen when things don´t go like planned. But no whining at all (except mine).
Wake up; Friendly Hotel-room boy offered us breakfast and coffee, just because we wanted it this super-early early. (Normally local people dont wake up this early, that is how I like it too)
Hitch hiking, in arabic countries I heard that standing by the road thumbs up (suom. peukutus) means something different than to want a lift. Well, we didn´t get it..
At the base of the massive (Assgaour village) after walking the c.5km.
After difficult approach (gorge full of vegetation, scorpions, snakes, steep slabs, spikes, loose rock) we got to the first point where the start of the route might be. We had been following the gorge too long and steep walls on both sides made us to go higher. Eventually the first climbable looking ridge which appeared on right side, is the Löwenschwanz ridge. This was the end of the approach gully/gorge. On other side way was steep down to a valley full of unclimbed rock. Wtf? Go up this ridge and hope that it connects to the main ridgeline resulting in easy way out of this place.
If I had chosen a ridgeline approximately 100m lower, we would have been on longest established route (800m) which covers climbing the lower pinnacle and the similar looking ridge just on the left side of Lions face.
1st pitch: 4a, 60m
2nd pitch: 4a, 60m
mike- this feeling of exposure is a bit... could we go down?
myself- well.... lets climb few pitches more and see how it is like.. aight? And do You want to go back the same way we came?
mike- No.. not the gorge again.
Michael Hiltrer (aka. Mike) downclimbing the 3rd pitch.
3rd pitch 20m
4th pitch 60m
We topped out on a pinnacle (1700m) separated from the main ridge, continuing from this pinnacle would have ment following things;
a. free rappel (15m) to the notch between this pinnacle and the next.
b. climbing around 3-4 pitches more to reach the top of the mountain, the pitch after rappel looked okay, but then it finished under a steeper wall, which could mean a short section of overhanging rock to climb. If this would be true and it couldn't be free climbed by us, it would mean downclimbing and rappeling for 6 pitches with a single 60m rope- And for sure it would be dark then, beacause it is 16.00 now, so we have daylight for 2 hours still left..
What to do...
Mike- lets go down..?
After downclimbing for 3 pitches (Mike had never lead on trad gear, but now he reversed a full pitch of 4a climbing with scary gear.. at that time I lied they all are bombers) we reached a horn, where we could almost rap down to ground (actually only to the top of the approach gully/gorge), we did it and tried to pull the rope down behind the horn, Fucking rope jam again, FUCK FUCK FUCK!!.
It just did not move.. Well, how about untying and soloing back to the horn?, fucking rope, now I just throw you down, that little fuck piece of plastic.
Mike downclimbed last 20m after the unsuccesful rappel and I had to do the same from the first belay without a rope.
Easy downclimbing through, gigantic holds, the crux just above a small ledge, so fucking it up would only mean a short fall in to the cactus filled ledge, nasty but not dying. That helped me to down solo the 1st pitch.
Something raped my hand in the dark..
But still 500 vertical meters in the gorge to get down. I wouldn't do it if, I had any other option.. the other option had been the path from the top of the mountain back to Assgaour (an easy but long walk) What we were facing now was long and arduous descent in dark, involving at least 2 steep sections where we will have to rappel down. Hhhh, I think I need something before that shit begins..
Darkness.. dozens of spikes entering the flesh, stepping blindly in to the shoulder height vegetation, what is waiting there where you can't see but still in there you need to go.. This was the jungle. Hours passed by, but altimeter didn't show much of progress... Finally, after 4 hours of african nightmare we got down to the entrance of the gorge. Tired but happy, now lets try hitch-hiking again..
Well, if you are driving in the night of africa... will you stop in the middle of nowhere to offer a lift for 2 strangers carrying a rope? I wouldn't, and they didn't..
23.00 All restaurants were closed in Tafroute, but our dear friends offered us chocolate, chips and koka!
Next morning, I woke up my body feeling tired, but wtf..? Why my right hand is swollen and it is painful? Cant even see my knuckles.. I remember having some pain in the hand while descending in the gorge, when I tripped over and fell in to the bushes, multiple spikes penetrating my flesh at that time, I couldn't have noticed if something had bit me.. deffinetily it was not a black Cobra (some kind of horny mouse propably) bcoz, I am still here but the two holes in my hand.. Regardless of that, I am still keen to finish the new route all the way to the top next time! (pink dots on the pic). Anyone out there maybe interested..?