It seems a long time ago now that a big red truck made it to the quayside in Aqaba, Jordan's deepwater port, and headed off to Amman to start a big adventure: Hot Rock's Africa 2010 expedition.
Group photo in Etosha, Namibia.
Over the following 10 months, 60-odd (some indeed very odd) climbers from 13 different nationalities joined and left the expedition as the truck rumbled through Africa, from the Middle East over land all the way to South Africa taking in 14 countries, 35 major climbing destinations and countless travelling experiences on the way, as we headed off the beaten track and into the rocky wilds of northern, eastern and southern Africa.
Driving (and pushing) through Sudan.
During the expedition we've bouldered in Sudan, discovered crags new even to Hot Rock in both Ethiopia and Tanzania, clipped the best of the South African bolts and topped out (and sometimes been benighted) on long routes from Rum to the Spitzkoppe, Mount Kenya to Mount Mulanje.
Elegant crack climbing on the Spitzkoppe, Namibia.
Hot Rock is an anarchic climbing and travelling experience; the route is set to maximise climbing time throughout the continent, visiting crags that vary from world famous, to destinations known only to us. A leader and a driver work hard to make sure that the days run smoothly. But the rest is up to the group of hot rockers. Where we go, for how long, and what we do once we get there - these are decisions taken round the campfire (or sometimes gas bottle) as the night's cook team prepares the group meal.
Lemmings at Lake Malawi.
There were good times such as the majority of the group summiting Mount Kenya, the 80's revival party in Cape Town... and there were not-so-good times such as cutting the famous climbing wall off the back of the truck due to new road laws in Tanzania.
Singida Ngongoland Bouldering, Tanzania .
We enjoyed climbing above big game at Hell's Gate, and being photographed more than the big game whilst on safari in Etosha. The cultural experience... from being invited to dinner with the Bedouin, to seeing Zimbabwe's fragile recovery at first hand... was intense.
Bouldering at Kassala in eastern Sudan.
Here's a snippet from Rhonda's report of our time in Wadi Rum, at the start of the expedition in March:
"After a couple of days of great climbing on Wadi Rum classics like The Beauty and Goldfinger, we decided to take on one of the longer routes. The Pillar of Wisdom is a must do classic, climbing on good rock with over 350 metres and 11 pitches, and with a high commitment factor since you have to top out to descend. The forecast was for rain, but the day dawned bright and sunny so we decided to go for it.
Duncan and Patrick started simul climbing up the first easier pitches, followed by myself and Charles. An hour later we were on the 250 m pillar and starting the real climbing, and after a couple of superb pitches the clouds started rolling in and the first raindrops dotted the rock. Happily, we'd just climbed up into a cave, and as I finished the pitch in the increasing rain, I could hear shouts and laughter from the cave above.
At rest high above Wadi Rum.
The other three were watching a wall of sand blast across the desert toward the village far below, and you could actually hear the impact as it consumed the village. It was bail time, but complicated since the climb is on a diagonal whilst the actual descent of the route is a walk off, making rappelling down the face challenging to say the least. As we struggled to find rap stations, rounding up all the bits of tat we had, the quote of the day was from Charles, ‘I have this ‘biner that I bootied and I don't really trust it, so let's rap on that.'
Then, the inevitable- the rope stuck as we pulled it down a face of varnished plates. Duncan lost the rock, paper, scissors, and heroically went up on wet sandstone to try and free the rope. We carried on down, scattering gear all over the mountain. We were still in good spirits, laughing at the epic potential and abandoned gear - and then it turned....epic
Thunder boomed through the canyons, lightning was visible through the slots overhead, and then the hail started. Standing together in a narrow gorge setting up another rappel, we saw a wave of water wash over the top of the mountain, creating an instant vertical torrent. As we scrambled to get off the mountain, more and more water coursed down around our feet, and we wondered if that waterfall would be coming down through the gorge we were standing in. We had no idea where the deluge was headed. In a bigger hurry than ever, we fixed the rope for the final 60m rappel and finally walked off the mountain. We could see the water coursing down the maze of canyons behind us, finally coming down the gorge just to the left of the one we had descended.
A bedraggled group, lighter by two ropes and half a rack of gear, on the walk back we narrowly escaped being run over by our crazy Bedouin friends doing donuts in their jeeps in the desert, manically celebrating the rain and the wet sand."
First ascents on Axum's granite outcrops in northern Ethiopia.
You can read all the trip reports from the Africa 2010 expedition here: http://www.climbhotrock.com/hotrockroot/tripreports/blog.htm
In 2011, Hot Rock is heading to South America, climbing throughout Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. The northbound trip from Ushuaia to Quito is more or less full but there's plenty of places on the second, southbound trip. To find out more about the expeditions and how to join up, go to http://www.climbhotrock.com/index.htm