Sunday, I met up with some folks I met online – Anthony, Sharon, Joel, Anders, and Melanie – through the Ghana Climbing facebook page. After a bit of a delayed start, involving a lost cell-phone (not mine) and a delicious egg-and-bread breakfast (mine), we hit the road, heading to Elephant Rock in Shai Hills about 30km north of Accra.
Pulling into the spot, we drove past a gatehouse where you check in (they make you pay by the hour, since the crag is in a nature reserve. We negotiated with the Manager, but even so, pretty steep!), past the baboons, and into the savannah. The crag itself was a few kilometers in. It’s a massive piece of granite-ish rock, sticking right up from the ground, surrounded by trees so just the top pokes out. We pulled off the road and drove up through the grass, hopped out, and met up with a few other climbers who were already hard at it!
The prow of the rock has two routes side by side. The one on the right is a very tough-looking overhanging climb, and the one on the left is a beautifully featured climb up, through an indent up to a left-facing crack, then top-out on a tons of pointy features. It looked super fun, and one of the other climbers, Kim, was making it look tough but doable, so I harnessed up and got on it.
It was a bit of a rough start, which I’ll attribute to rust. After some pretty frantic moves up a corner into the indent, I finally got some solid feet under me and took a bit of a rest. At that point, it looked like some good holds on the left, up into the crack for a lay-back, and up. So reaching up, I went for a big-looking hold, and that is where things turned sour. The hold felt like grabbing a stone hedgehod, which while positive, made me hate life. It also was a bit over-hangy, with smears just not quite where you’d want them to be. I pulled up and over, went for the crack, and got up into an awkward position. Trying to reach up, I couldn’t get nearly enough out of the crack, and fell… over and over. At this point Kim told me it was a 5.11c, and I decided that was a terrible choice for a warm-up.
Giving up on that, I went over to join some other folks who were climbing up the left side of the rock. They were working on this practically blank, vertical wall, and from the “Putains! PUTAINS!!” it looked no fun. Getting on it, though, it turned out to be fantastic!! There are juuuuust enough holds, with some big jugs every few moves. The key is to get through some crimpy, balance-y climbing from one jug to the next. It stays that way, consistent and wonderful, to the last meter. Going from a great horizontal crimp, you have to move up a terrible, shallow, flaring crack, get your feet on the horizontal crimp, then somehow move further up from there. I never did figure it out – Damian, the guy before me, was able to Gastone his way up the crack, I think.
The rest of the day was spent sitting in the sun, climbing some wonderful stuff – more balance-y crimps – on the other side of the rock, and enjoying the views of the savannah. Shai Hills is beautiful. While just outside Accra, when you’re in the reserve you feel like it’s the middle of nowhere, and the shade makes it easy to hang out all day. After a few more climbs, and one ridiculously messy flail up a shallow laid-back corner crack, it was time to go. Heading back to Anthony’s place, we grabbed some Lebanese food, and I learned a bit more about the various boltings that are going on around the Greater Accra region. Joel and Melanie are hoping to explore a fantastic ridgeline in Nkawkaw (check it out – last photo!) that looks like it has ENORMOUS climbing potential. Today I’m sore and typing this kinda hurts, but I’m stoked for more climbing adventures in Ghana.