Paul Robinson Goes on a First Ascent Spree in South Africa

posted by dpm on 07/19/2014

Paul Robinson has just wrapped up a nearly two month bouldering trip to South Africa, but he didn't spend it in Rocklands or the Cape Town area. This year, Paul ventured off the beaten path to explore the area in between the two well-known bouldering hot spots. What he found was perfect rock and dozens of first ascents waiting to be climbed. Paul established nearly 30 new problems in the zone known as Three Corners, from moderate V6's to the newest V15 in Africa: In the Depths of Solitude.

Paul Robinson on one of the many new boulder problems he established on his recent trip to South Africa. Photos courtesy of Paul Robinson


DPM: Paul, you've spent quite a bit of time in Africa over the years. Tell me about your past trips and why you've started to explore new areas?

Paul: This was actually my fifth trip to South Africa! My first trip I spent my entire time in Rocklands and most of my second. At the end of my trip, my friend Marijus showed me the boulders around Cape Town. For my fourth and fifth trip I climbed primarily in Cape Town, developing the boulders of Topside. The climbing around Cape Town is incredible, but I knew that there must be more rock between Cape Town and Rocklands. On my fourth trip, I was told about some zones in the middle/southern Cederberg and went out to look. I found the “Three Corners” area on my fourth trip but only did a few days there. I knew of the potential in the area so after an Australia trip last summer, I was super psyched to get back to Africa and explore more. I spent the majority of my trip this year in this zone and was amazed by the quality and quantity of awesome boulders there were to be climbed!


First ascent of Swaffelen (V12) "So sharp but such a rad line! very much worth the bit of pain!" -Paul on 8a.nu. Photo: Paul's Instagram


So you had visited the Three Corners before? Why didn't you spend more time there at first?

On my fourth trip, I was told vaguely about some boulders in the middle Cederberg and wanted to go see what I could find.  I drove out there with the “Chasing Winter” crew (Carlo Traversi, Ashima Shiraishi) and we spent a few days hiking and exploring the zone. I didn’t really have the eye then to see the potential that I did this past trip. I am so glad I gave the area another chance because in 2012 when I went, I wasn’t able to see the massive potential of the area.


On the first ascent of Run for Cover (V12). Paul considers this one of the best lines he's ever done.


Where is this zone?

Three corners sits atop of the Uitkyk Pass in the Central Cederberg Mountains. It is a bit of a trek to get there but once you are there the boulders are very close to the road, most a mere stones throw away! The rock I found to be some of the best rock I have ever climbed on! It was not under-textured like most of the rock around the Cape and not over-textured and grainy like much of the rock in Rocklands... the perfect combo!


Albino Polar Bears (V13)


Why did you decide to devote your whole trip to developing this area?

My plan originally was to devote half of my trip to that zone and the other half of the trip to another area in the Southern Cederberg. After “rediscovering” the potential of Three Corners, I could not leave.  All i could think about was trying to do all of the amazing boulders in that zone. The area is incredibly beautiful and had some of the coolest projects I have ever tried. I am not sure any boulderer who wants to do first ascents would have been able to leave!


Secrets of the Valley (V13) Photo: Paul's Instagram


You put up about 30 new problems. What were some of your favorites?

There are so many awesome lines in the area it is hard to just pick a few! I would say number one has to be Secrets of the Valley (V13) though. This line was one of the main reasons I came back to the area. I tried it in 2012 and was amazed at how pure and perfect it was. I knew I had to come back for it. It was technical, powerful, crispy, tall... everything I wanted in a boulder problem and doing the FA of that one is unforgettable. Frank White (V13) was another one that when I found the boulder I thought it might be impossible but kept discovering holds and ways to manage the sequences. The boulder sits right over the top of the pass and lends itself to some of the most stunning views I have ever witnessed. Some days when it was too warm to climb I would just hang out there during the day and marvel over the scenery.  Where Two Worlds Collide (V8) was another stunning line at the top of the pass. It is this perfect light grey wall, slightly overhung and about 22 ft tall. The line is crispy and has a crux at the top! You get to a jug in the middle of the wall and just have to shut your brain off. The last 10 ft of climbing is small crimps, bad feet, and big moves. Definitely was a relief to top that one out!


Frank White (V13)


What about In the Depths of Solitude (V15)?

In the Depths of Solitude was another line I saw in 2012 but really could not imagine it. It looked impossible to me and I could not visualize a way to get from the bottom to the top. When I came back this year, I cleaned it and began working it day after day. The sequences evolved and it finally started to become possible. The line is pretty long so at first I could 4 piece it, then 3 piece, 2 piece, etc. It begins low on an obvious slot feature at the bottom of this very long overhanging feature that is wedged between two boulders. The climbing is powerful and pumpy. The intro boulder has these crazy toe hooks that lead you out of a bulge and into the main overhang. From there it is hard climbing to the end, big moves, bad holds, and really tensiony!  


In the Depths of Solitude. Paul originally graded this new problem V14 but, after more thought realized that it might be a notch harder. He wrote on 8a.nu, "feels harder than some other 8c's (V15's) I have done.16 moves out this cave on great rock!" Photo: Paul's Instagram


Will you be back for more next year?

The Cederberg has so much potential it is incredible. I hope to get back as soon as possible but Australia is also calling my name so it will for sure be a hard choice as to where to go next summer!


And where are you off to next?

I just made the huge trek from South Africa to Brazil. I am going to be here for the next two weeks climbing and exploring with Felipe Camargo. I am psyched to try all of his lines and hopefully establish some of my own. From here, it is on to the Psicocomp in Salt Lake City for the OR Show!


-Keep up with Paul on his adventures by following him on Instagram and on his Facebook athlete page. He also keeps a blog at Tumblr.