The Challenge of the Face of Sibebe Rock.
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Jenny's Blog

The Challenge – ‘The Face’ of Sibebe Rock2nd September '14  |  - 4 Comments

Last month I scared myself stupid and agreed to climb Sibebe Rock with my friend Anna, what I didn’t realise was that we were going to climb ‘The Face of Sibebe’. Anna nonchalantly suggested we do it and I naïvely agreed, I do like a challenge. What I didn’t realise was that I was going to push myself right to the edge of my comfort zone, bordering the panic zone.

When Anna had initially suggested climbing Sibebe Rock I was delighted. It would be a great end to a fantastic trip to Swaziland and I had never been to the top of Sibebe – which is not a great thing to admit considering I represent Swaziland in the UK. However, I have tried a number of times but have had to come down after 100m because some of my clients were not that confident on the steep slopes. So I was really pleased I had been given this opportunity.

I arrived at Anna’s to make lunch before setting off,  and whilst we were buttering our sandwiches she suggested climbing ‘The Face’. Anna’s house is actually at the base of Sibebe so I could peer out of a window and look up at the dauntingly high rock. I have to admit at that point it did look very steep and I suspect that my eyes were out on stalks. But Anna reassured me that it was possible and people had done it before, in fact she had. So we made an agreement to go to the base of ‘The Face’ ascent and make a judgement call. Obviously it was a very short drive and we were out of the car and getting ready to climb before my brain could really compute the enormity of the task that we had set ourselves. There was no turning back really.

As we started climbing it seemed to be OK, yes it was steep, but it was doable. I predicted that it would be challenging, however I hadn’t predicted how challenging that it was going to be for me in particular. The initial part of the climb is relatively easy, I could just about stand up, although I did have to lean towards the rock face, but it was manageable. You just had to keep going to keep the momentum. Anna was up ahead and was the route finder. There is no particular route up the rock face although every now and again you can see where some people may have trod. Well, it just looked a bit more worn away.

After 10 minutes of upward climbing I was on my hands and sometimes my knees as well, there was no way at this point that I would be able to stand upright without a high chance of me falling backwards and off the rock. It took all my concentration on finding the best handholds and footholds for myself and to ignore the screaming of my muscles as they overworked themselves. I had not done much exercise for the past six weeks and it was really taking its toll.

I felt happier following a route on the pinker granite surface than the darker granite surface, mentally I’d convinced myself that the darker granite surface was slippery. This was probably not the case although I had had a couple of moments of scrabbling on the darker granite before finding a small ledge to prevent myself falling further back down the rock face.

We moved from one clump of grass to the next and at times I found myself kneeling on the grass clumps to alleviate the pain in my legs. This was certainly turning out to be a hellova challenge. There was a moment when I gently nudged my panic zone. Luckily I had recognised this and had shouted to Anna to keep talking to me –  I cannot remember what she said but I just needed something else to concentrate on rather than the fear! The trick is to just keep going and keeping that forward and upward movement. Stopping is not a good idea, as I discovered.

I don’t think I have ever climbed up something so steep before without ropes or a harness – risk assessments aren’t really a major part of an outdoor lovers activity schedule in Africa. I would certainly never consider taking anybody up the routes that we did but I have to say the exhilaration when we got to stop was monumental. The only thing was, was when we were very near the top I thought that we had come out of the ‘ danger zone’, but I have to admit I had a little wobble just before the top as my feet lost purchase and I couldn’t make my legs work properly.

After 55 mins of upward purgatory we really did reach the top. And wow was the view rewarding.

I have to admit when I looked down the face that we climbed up I was surprised that we had made it. Anna also admitted that although she knew people that have done it, it only totalled four! She said that she had been wanting to do it again for a while and a number of people had asked her not to do it, including her Mum. But she said she had confidence that I would say yes, that I would be up for a challenge and that I would be stupid enough to do it. Well, what are friends for?

We ate our lunch overlooking an incredible view whilst I had a fit of the nervous giggles fuelled by an overload of adrenaline.

There are lots of different ways to walk up Sibebe, in fact there is even a gentle track on the other side so it is very accessible to all. I would seriously recommend going to top as the scenery and environment there is absolutely spellbinding. And the beauty of it all was that we didn’t see a single person on the way up (obviously!), but also at the top and for most of the way down. Near the bottom we met a local man who was climbing up the rock to go to his homestead on the other side.

That night I dreamt that I was running away from something, scrambling around on all fours – my fingers hurt on the morning.

I will certainly Sibebe again, it is highly recommended. But, if anyone even hears me considering climbing ‘The Face of Sibebe’ again, they have my permission to shoot me.

There are more pictures here.

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Responses

  1. Phil England says:

    September 3rd, 2014 at 10:17 am (#)

    Well done Jen…sounds brilliant! I re-read your post a couple of times to check whether you were roped or unroped – and see that the later was the case!

    Although not on this scale there is a large slab in Snowdonia(Glyders) called the “Atlantic Slab”. Although the gradient is not too steep the sense of exposure on a huge rock slab gets worse and worse. I must admit to bottling it and executing a traverse to escape to easier ground while the cooler heads in the group pushed on.

    Hope to see you soon

  2. celia schultz says:

    September 3rd, 2014 at 10:50 am (#)

    Jenny,

    Well done, what an achievement, I couldn’t have done it! Mind you, when I read the title of the article I thought you had been drinking a lot of beer!! Hope to catch up soon

    Happy Days!

    Celia x

  3. senseafrica says:

    September 8th, 2014 at 9:44 am (#)

    I did have a few Sibebe beers afterwards!!

  4. Dave Thomas says:

    September 3rd, 2014 at 3:07 pm (#)

    Well done Jenny, it sounds as though a few fears were faced on route and as usual you came out trumps 😉

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