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Matt Bush on New V9 Highball in South Africa

I stood in awe beneath the 30-foot granite boulder in Cosy Bay. It felt so much bigger now without ropes. The butterflies raced inside my stomach. My senses sharpened. The moment had come. I took a deep breath and calmed myself with a positive cue – you’ve got this.

With chalked hands I started to climb. The first half of the boulder follows good holds with a few big moves up to a hands-free rest. I climbed up to the rest, turned around and balanced on my heels. Perched on the tiny edge I paused for a moment to look over the bay.

Then I turned around again to face the wall. Pressing into the feet, I set up for the crux – a long reach with the right hand to a tiny square crimp. I could feel myself over gripping. I cued myself to relax again, breathed into the move and settled my fingers precisely on the hold. I reached for the final grip and climbed up to stand on top of the boulder. At this point I couldn’t contain my emotions. I let out a big shout. Yes, I made it!

It took approximately two minutes to climb the boulder but a month of preparation for the ascent. The journey began on a summer’s day when I drove the Cape Atlantic road towards Llandudno Bay. The road winds it’s way along the peninsular with an impressive ocean view. Scanning the coastline I spotted a big granite boulder. It glistened like a diamond in the sunlight at the water’s edge. I pulled over and got out of the car.

I hiked along the coast in the direction of the boulder through a series of shallow rock pools leading to a tidal crossing. As the tide ebbed I made my way across the channel. Half way across a wave knocked me off balance. I held onto the seaweed but my foot slipped and I lost one of my shoes in the current.

When the tide ebbed I continued across the channel. I tried to spot my shoe in the surf but it was long gone. I continued hiking through the maze of boulders and turned the corner. I found myself standing right beneath the giant boulder.

The boulder stood 30 feet high. It was big and bold in a beautiful setting. I could see holds up until half way. The top section seemed featureless. I climbed round the back of the boulder to rig a rope. I abseiled off the boulder and began searching for the holds.

The features were very small and sharp. I brushed and chalked the tiny holds and attempted the climb on self-belay. I managed to climb a third of the route on my first attempt and then split my finger open on a sharp hold higher up. I tapped up my finger and tried a few more times before conceding. I could not find a way through the top

Over a period of a few weeks I returned to train on the boulder. Slowly the moves came together. Yet there was one move at the top that remained exceptionally difficult. I kept falling on a desperate reach across to a sharp crystal. The repeated failure played on my mind.

I tried the sequence a dozen times. The move was low percentage. I was not prepared to attempt an uncertain move so high up from the ground without a rope. The consequence would be disastrous in the event of a fall. My sequence would have to change. In my frustration, I gave up on the sequence and searched for a safer method.

I noticed a few small holds to the right that seemed plausible. I chalked and brushed them. I looked for foot placements and settled on a few sharp crystals. It’s important to be mentally flexible when tackling a new challenge. A fluid mind leads to an open, evolving sequence and ultimately the best method.

I had originally set my sights on climbing directly up the middle of the big face however with time I adapted my way. The new route would veer slightly right of my intended course providing a safer variation.

I settled on the new sequence and focussed on a roped free ascent. I managed to climb from the bottom to the top on self-belay without falling off. I repeated the link successfully a few times. My skin had worn thin and I was feeling fatigued from the multiple days climbing. I decided to take a week off and come back strong.

I returned with the crew a week later at sunrise. We arrived before dawn and readied ourselves. When the sun moved onto the boulder it glowed a golden hue. I climbed the boulder three times that morning in perfect light. I am really happy to have completed this dream project.

I named the climb – The Endless Horizon. The name captures the essence of the area for me. If you drive the Cape Atlantic road and look towards the ocean at Cosy Bay, you may just see a big granite boulder glistening in the sunlight at the water’s edge, that’s – The Endless Horizon. (Click on clip to watch video below)