How excited can two grown-ups be about a new rope and a harness? And how excited can two parents be about the promise of a whole day to themselves doing something they enjoy? The answer to both of these questions my friend is, ‘VERY’!

During the past December holidays, Chris and I (Rockspiders) had the opportunity to spend a day in Swinburne, trying out a new Beal rope and my new harness. We spent Christmas with Chris’s parents in Ladysmith, KZN and from there it is only a 45 minute drive.

Swinburne is a tiny little town in the Free State. When you approach it from KwaZulu-Natal, you are struck by this huge mountain outcrop – aptly described as the Table Mountain of the Free State by our friend Gideon. You look at it and think, ‘Wow, am I going to climb that?’ I am afraid the answer is no. As you come closer you will see these huge boulders strewn over the foot of this outcrop – every time I see it, it reminds me of giants who had a boulder-slinging contest during their highland games. These boulders are covered in a multitude of routes ranging from extremely short and easy to challenging. The outcrop itself has one multi-pitch route, Long Bolt To Freedom.

The last time we climbed here was more than 10 years ago and on that specific beautiful, blue sky day, I took a big fall whilst leading a pitch. Let me put it this way – my body fell and my foot stayed right where it was in a crack, resulting in partially severed ligaments in my left ankle. Unfortunately, since that day, I have been a much more cautious and trepidatious climber and am still looking to regain my confidence. For this reason, some of the easy, short pitches were ideal for me, where my husband was outdoing himself on some of the longer, more technical climbs, on-sighting a 19 in very windy conditions. Another benefit of the short routes was that Chris could talk me through the process of cleaning a route after leading it.

Our Beal Legend 8.3mm x 60m rope is not just pretty but also super comfortable to handle. Belaying Chris with this rope was so much easier than with our other, thicker rope. My Beal Venus Soft harness is much easier to adjust than my previous harness with its dual buckle adjustments on the legs and extra padding for comfort.

Something that has changed since our last visit 10 years ago, is the addition of a lion sanctuary at the foot of the mountain outcrop. You have to drive around and past the enclosure on your way to the climb site. We were lucky enough to witness feeding time on our way down.

A beer-shandy in The Hound and Hare in Swinburne hit the spot after a day out in the wind and sun. I would highly recommend Swinburne to all climbers – novice or veteran - seeing that it offers such a great range of routes. Just check the weather forecast before you head out – if it looks like there is a bit of a wind, be warned, it will be ‘hold on to your hat’ windy up there. Also get the updated route guide at http://www.climbing.co.za/wiki/Swinburne#Topo_Download.

Happy climbing.

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