- A curious incident of mice and men - intro by Leonhard Rust
A few years ago we were all up at Spout Cave. Routes were falling left, right and centre in a weekend of one-upmanship. I opened White Noise "25" which saw 2 more ascents that day - Tinie Versfeld and Dave Birkett lead it in superb style.
The next project to fall was a very aesthetic arête just below Spout Cave. We top-roped Danger Mouse "23" which is short, hard and dangerous.
As Expected, Dave made it look easy, Tinie fought and fought until he got it and I could not work out the crux and was happy to play belay bunny for my friends.
The ropes were pulled, the sun was doing its thing and half the climbing population of Cape Town had their cameras pointed at Dave. He set off and quickly sent the route. Now it was Tinie's turn! All of a sudden we noticed that all the spectators were leaving.
In Scarre's words "We don't really like to see our buddies hurt themselves."
I did not really have a choice as I was on belay duty which for this route was rather academic. Basically if you fall off the hard moves you will not walk away! You will be lucky to get away with broken legs.
Tinie fought hard and to our relief topped out safely.
The last project to fall that weekend was Fight to the Death "28". Anyway that is a completely different story.
None of the three routes have been repeated let alone attempted until now. Tristan asked me to come along on a weekend trip to Tafelberg. I knew what he was planning. Despite his best promises of copious amounts of whisky he could not get me to come along.
Tristan is my buddy you see.
Here is his story:
"London. Birthplace of the waterproof teabag and the clockwork steam iron, and home, in a red pillarbox cunningly disguised as a red pillarbox, of Dangermouse – Distinguished Order of Incredible Bravery..."
So begins another adventure for Dangermouse and Penfold, defender of justice and quivering jelly respectively, as they battle to save the world yet again from the clutches of evil toad Baron Greenback.
I never saw Dave on his trip out this year, and as such never got to ask him whether his route Danger Mouse was named after the British super-hero, or the resident super-hero-food-thief of Spout cave. However while it is not in London, and we do not require waterproof teabags, there are a few common elements: there is a pillarbox (cunningly disguised as a pillarbox) in the vicinity, the route does require a little bravery...and it certainly is adventurous!
Like many routes I've done, Danger Mouse was born out of curiosity – a curiosity inspired by the intoxicating cocktail of Scarre's magical photograph, the campfire stories of Tinnie's ascent and the captivatingly aesthetic beauty of the line.
In December 06 I had a pre-birthday, and pre Alps weekend with friends up at Spout cave, during which I managed to squeeze a top-rope session on Danger Mouse. Just to give perspective to the tales. Surprisingly, I found a sequence, but could not justify an attempted lead a fortnight before leaving for the Alps. The months following my return from Chamonix were unnecessarily busy, to the extent that work and the city were becoming more and more claustrophobic. Something meaningful needed to be done.
Curiosity is said to have killed the cat, but as it is the cats antithesis, the mouse, in question here perhaps the antithical theme could prevail...and a little living be had.
I managed to con Stu and Christo into a trip to Tafelberg...the rest of the invitee's had marvelously convenient 'commitments'. Midnight Friday found us at the cave along with some hikers. Saturday morning was spent ignoring the pull, and climbing great routes in the sun – as one does at Tafelberg. After lunch I was out of denial, so we dusted the gear and headed for the top-rope setups – much to the delight of the resident hikers who were keen for some entertainment.
Late in the afternoon the ropes were pulled, and serious consideration given to the lead. Even after tying-in, a moment was required to think it all, quite carefully, through. The route lies on the prominent face below and right of the cave. It starts in the left corner, traverses out to the prow, and then heads up the arête to the ledge. Really good gear is found low on the route, just before heading up to the arête, marginal gear (slowing devices) a little higher (which I could not place anyway), then the technical crux at mid height and a delicate second (but easier) crux just before gaining the rail, and thence good kit. A 'jug-haul' to the top thereafter. A fall from anywhere after the lower kit is likely to deposit you on top of your belayer, and the only real benefit of a rope is that it'll keep you from rolling off the sloping belay-boulder to the talus, a long way below.
The commitment was focal, and save for a meek glance down while mid crux (as I failed to achieve the height required off the crimp) and then again from the sanctuary of the 'rest' between crux and 2nd crux – which was equally brief and equally resolute in deduction...up is the option, flight most certainly not! The top-out was, sadly, anti-climatic. I guess in reality there is little to compare with the mind consuming act of climbing perfect (side-pull, high-step, reach. Crimp, foot smear, flag and crank) moves in a serious environment. Even the setting sun, which bathed the Spout in a tranquil yellow fire seemed anti-climatic in its beauty.
I never did find Toad Greenback, and I doubt I saved the world but there was a little quivering jelly (and the resident hikers were unimpressed, causing Christo to remark that next time we'll have to climb something hard!).
It really is a fine, fine bit of climbing and besides the obvious need of either an on-sight or flash, Stuart bouldered a direct start through the bottom roof which needs a lead (as he was content with just the 4th ascent of DM).
If you like climbing (way) above your gear, Danger Mouse is thoroughly good value!View the embedded image gallery online at: