While the rest of America's top boulderers were battling it out at this month's Unified Bouldering Championships in Salt Lake City, Paul Robinson was out in the sand. Robinson, who this March put up the US' second proposed V16, has been abroad since July, when he and girlfriend Alex Kahn embarked on a planned multi-year, round-the-world climbing trip.
Their first stop was South Africa's Rocklands, where Robinson has spent the past month establishing new lines and trying to grab the first repeat of Fred Nicole's monstrous testpiece Monkey Wedding (V15). Writing by email, Paul filled me in on his trip thus far, his projects, and where he's likely to be headed next.
You've been bouldering in Rocklands for a month now. What have been the high points of your trip so far?
Rocklands has been awesome for the past month. The climbing down here is impeccable. I would say that some of the highlights thus far have been sending Black Eagle (V14) after the break (which was its first repeat since it broke in 2006) and doing the first ascent of The Big Short (V14).Those climbs, and meeting tons of awesome people from all over the world every day, have definitely been the highlights of the past month down here in Rocklands.
Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you're on right now? I hear you've been spending some time on Monkey Wedding.
Right now I have a total of four projects. The main line is Monkey Wedding. Monkey Wedding has been an ultimate struggle for me. I have been battling with the heat my entire trip to Rocklands, which has left this climb still unclimbed for me. I have made it to the final move on many attempts but still have not been able to pull the entire thing together.I still have a little over two weeks left down here. Hopefully with some cool temperatures, I will be able to finish it off! Besides that, I have found a bunch of other really awesome lines that would be amazing to do the first ascent of.
You'd gone to Rocklands a couple times before this trip, right? How has it changed in the time you've been going there?
I first came to Rocklands two years ago. The first time I came here it was a lot more rustic. The roads were not paved and there were far more animals in and around the boulders while we climbed. It really has turned into a climbing tourist destination in many ways. It is neat to see lots of people making the trek down here, but it definitely is nowhere near as rustic as it used to be.I remember reading some horror story about this climber, I think it was Ander Rockstad, ending up in the hospital after being bitten by a spider at Rocklands.
Has nature been giving you any problems?
Besides the obnoxious birds that wake us up way too early in the morning, we have been extremely lucky, and have had no real issues with any of the indigenous animals.
Your absence at the Unified Bouldering Championships in Salt Lake this month was pretty notable. What role do you see comp climbing playing in your future? Do you plan on coming back to it after you wrap up your trip?
I plan to do some competing while on my travels over the next couple of years, though it is not going to be my main concern. I do enjoy competing, but I feel that my true love for climbing is when I am out on the rocks. I am very much looking forward to doing some international competitions throughout my travels, especially the IMS comp in Northern Italy this November.
Do you have any idea where you'll go after Rocklands?
After Rocklands, I am heading to Europe for a while. I am first heading to Switzerland for the fall and then to Fontainebleau for the winter and early spring with my girlfriend Alex. We will be climbing and exploring tons!
Photo: Robinson climbing "The Big Short" courtesy Alexandra Kahn