By Jacques Raubenheimer
(Adapted from http://therory2o13.wordpress.com/ where you can find more info. )
The Rory Challenge consists of a one-day sport climbing, bouldering and hiking challenge which take place in Swinburne, Harrrismith in the Free State province, South Africa.
The 10th Rory Lowther Memorial Challenge promised to be an event like no other. The format for this event was changed, firstly by shifting the date to let it fall over a long weekend, thus allowing the competition to run over two days, instead of the usual one day (for the schools competitors, it was kept to one day). Secondly, the event, which had always taken place only at the Appin farm at Swinburne, was extended geographically to also include Mount Everest on the other side of Harrismith. This added over 200 more pitches of climbing to the competition, bringing the total of climable routes, pitches, and boulder problems to well over 500.
In February 2005, with the motivation of his friends, Debbie and Eric Lowther founded the now popular Rory Lowther Memorial Challenge in remembrance of their son, Rory (b. 1984-01-14) who passed away in a climbing accident at Swinburne on 3 February 2004.
The purpose of the challenge was to help develop safety and training within the sport of rock climbing. Rory was an avid rock climber and started climbing at the age of 16. He accomplished in years what some may dream of in a lifetime. Together with Andrew Porter, Rory at the age of 19 compiled and published the “Crags of Gauteng” Route Guide, another one of his many goals was to run competitions and inspire the youth in the sport that he was so passionate about. The Challenge has captured that goal and over the years has become an event looked forward to by many.
Rock climbing is becoming more and more popular and over the last 8 years, ”The Rory” has grown into a high profile event promoting awareness, development and community involvement—taking the sport of rocking climbing to even greater heights. The MSCA (Mountain Club of South Africa) and SANCF (South African National Climbing Federation) have been instrumental in offering advice on the scoring, routes and technical aspects of climbing.
Furthermore, over the past 8 years our efforts have resulted in donations of equipment to the Johannesburg and Kwazulu Natal MCSA search & rescue teams as well as the Compassionate Friends organisation.
Held from 20 to 23 March 2014, the RLMC 2014 saw well over 200 people converge on Appin farm, Swinburne, and Mt Everest guest farm, Harrismith. All told, 63 teams competed (30 of which were schools teams). A breakdown of the teams is given below:
It was encouraging to see the strong your participation (almost half of the teams), but it is also evident that more female participation is needed—more than 60% of the teams were only male, and a further 27% were mixed male-female teams, leaving only 11% of the teams as all female teams.
Teams arrived on Thursday and Friday, and the open and Masters teams left to do their difficulty climbs, while the schools competitors took part in a burn-a-thon and colour run. Friday evening, Andrew Pedley regaled the assembled masses with a slide presentation of some notable “kick-ass moments” from his climbing career—a worthy and inspiring presentation indeed.
For the Open and Masters competitors (i.e., the non-schools teams), the competition stretched over two days. On Friday the 21st teams had to log only the four hardest climbs they could muster. The Saturday followed (for all competitors), the more usual format, where competitors had to get a mix of hiking points (by visiting or climbing at different locations), difficulty points (harder climbs awarded more points), and volume (all climbs counted, meaning the more climbs done, the more points awarded). For full details of the format of the competition, see http://o13.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/rulesandformat/.
By the time the dust had settled on Saturday, a total of 1376 routes and hiking destinations had been logged by the 63 teams (105 on Friday by the Open and Masters competitors). This ranged from a low of 2, to a high of 111 (with a median of 18). Accordingly, scores varied from a low of 550 points to a high of 73 310.
Some problems were encountered with the scoring (as confessed by the chief scorer, who is also the writer of this report), and a correct score sheet is presented below:
More details can be found at: http://therory2o13.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/results/.
In previous years, the MCSA Johannesburg and KZN sections’ Search and Rescue teams have alternated providing the medical assistance for the event (and in previous years this was needed), but the event spanning two reasonably far apart venues, both teams were called in this year. Fortunately, the event passed without any serious events, for which the organisers (and certainly the competitors too!) are thankful.
The organisers would like to thank the following sponsors:
· The Mountain Club of South Africa
· Black Diamond
· Sport Unplugged
· Mountain Pursuits
· Evem designs
· Roc ‘n Rope Adventures
· Red Square
· The Training Edge Health Clubs
· Kidz ID
· Southern Rock
· Mad Rock
· Protea Hotel Montrose
· Mount Everest Guest Farm
· De Bos Guest Farm
· The Cavern Drakensberg Resort and Spa
· La La Nathi Country Guest House
· The Barn
· Wilderness Safaris
· High Altitude indoor climbing centre
· Harrismith Spar
· Weekly What’s On
It was with more than just a touch of sadness that the Lowther family (Eric, Debbie, Gary, KC) “took leave” of the RLMC, at least as the formal organisers thereof. As such, unless someone (no single person would be capable of this, it would have to be an organisation or corporation that could devote a team to it) takes over the reins, this could have been the last Rory Lowther Memorial Challenge. The future of this event is, thus, at present very uncertain.
The value of the event as a means of inspiring youth climbers is well established, as is its value in emphasising climbing safety. It would be a great loss if the event failed to continue.