From sweet dreams to night mares
”Stitch it up mate”, were the words of advice from Mark as I started the next lead. Good in theory, I thought to myself. He mustn’t realise this pitch has a trad belay, and for some reason we only have a light rack. I started off slowly making my way up and then across, traversing out under a bulging roof about 130m off the deck. Not that you could tell in the thick fog. It wasn’t long before I was yelling out how shitty and run out my gear was. As always I seemed to have already placed the pieces I needed. With nothing but suspect flaky holds and lots of exposure fear was creeping in. “Just bail if you want” he yelled out. “I’ll just push out past the roof and have a look how bad it is”. I still had a small glimmer of foolish hope left. Oh.... have I mentioned it was raining?
So this all began on day two of our Blue Mountains climbing trip. Mark and I had gone down a week before the rest of the club knowing we would need more than one week to sample what was on offer. In an often occurring trend we were about to sample allot more than we bargained for. Eagerness in the face of possible bad weather makes you think a bit foolhardy sometimes. We had decided to get acquainted with a small multi pitch with plans on doing bigger ones later in the trip. We had heard good things about Sweet Dreams (****14, 117m) but wanted something a bit harder so we opted for Knights Mare (***16, 165m). This goes up the first two pitches of Sweet Dreams and then stays left in a huge corner for another 4 pitches on a mix of trad and carrots.
It was an overcast day shrouded with mist and fog and we had an easy but steep decent for the walk in. By the time we found the climb and racked up it started to drizzle. We waited to see if it was going to continue but it wasn’t around for long. So with high hopes I set off on the first easy pitch up to a big ledge with the plan to see how wet it was. There were trees for us to bail off if needed. A few holds were wet but mostly it was ok, and seeing how absorbent the sandstone was we pushed on. The next two pitches were a bit slabby but nice climbing. As Mark came up on second to the third belay ledge the fog was getting thicker and it started to drizzle again. The climb was now staying dry due to being in the huge corner and having a big overhanging roof at the top. So we kept going hoping it would ease off like before and again the rain passed.
Mark encountered the crux on the next pitch right at the start. With a balancy move and awkward stance he found a high cam placement to protect the ledge. He led onwards with no problems up to the next belay in a chimney tucked back in the corner. By the time I came up it had started raining and the face out to the right was soaked and had water running down in places. We ummed and ahhhed about what to do but hay, we had come this far. With the next pitch still dry and delusions of a scrambly top pitch, we convinced ourselves there was still hope we might top out in the wet.
So off I went to take a look, now on the pitch which traversed under the roof. The start was cool, out over a small bulge and bridging off the chimney. This put me up on a small ledge, then up a bit more and time to head across. There were no carrots in sight and I had used a few more pieces than was hoping to protect the start and the ledge. Horizontal breaks for the hands and feet put me way out on the bulging bottom half of the overhanging roof which arched its way around. The flaky holds looked as if they would break at any minute and the exposure was starting to play on my mind. I was stalling trying to find gear placements with what I had left. Oh well, run it out. Just a foggy void below. I’d been keen for a rope swing at hanging rock, I guess this would do.
Yeah right! I was shitting my pants. Somehow I managed to get my head together and continue traversing across. I found some gear and got to the end of the roof. I tentatively moved onto the soaking wet face and into the rain, where a shallow corner and miniscule ledge would be the spot for the trad belay. I could see the scrubby scrambly stuff about 10 or 15m up, but I was getting ahead of myself. There was no way to climb the smooth slippery wet corner above me. And with the gear I had left no way to even build a decent anchor. No running this one out. I won’t repeat what I yelled out to mark when I broke the bad news, but to be so close was pretty disappointing.
I carefully moved back onto the dry rock below the roof and dried myself off. With a down climb back to Mark the retreat began. A rusty carrot backed up by a small bush below it on the third rap was a bit sketchy but the decent all went pretty smooth. The bottom two raps left us wet as the drizzle continued. We trudged back up to the top by about 5:30pm, just in time to miss the really heavy downpour. With the thought of cooking dinner at a wet campground there was no hesitation to go to the pub for a meal. Sitting by the fire we realised the blunder of only taking a light trad rack with us -When gearing up at the car Mark recalled a only needing a light rack mentioned for Sweet Dreams. Seems I forgot to mention the change of plans to do Knight’s Mare. Oh well, just some extra spice that the bad weather put an end to anyway. All in all it was a fun little adventure to learn from, and what a start to two weeks climbing in the Bluies!
That elusive Grail in Rock climbing - pushing the grades without pushing utterly past the boundary!
Where and when does that leap of faith come from? Can you remember your first ever lead? Bolts, hangers or was it trad? We can all remember those first forays into the vertical world of rock and I suppose due to the very nature of the sport only a certain type of person is drawn to it (in most cases). It is a leap of faith to head up into a world where there is a chance of injury. Didn’t your parents tell you to get down from there before you fall and hurt yourself? What fascinates me (and most climbers) more is that elusive elixir that carries us up to the next grade, an onsight, to do longer/harder climbs or run it out on a trad route. In a word – Improvement.
Looking back over my time climbing I can pinpoint those moments when I’ve climbed over the threshold and taken that quantum leap. Such actions by climbers are littered with success and at times unfortunately failure, sometimes with lasting consequences. It is this last fear that holds many of us back in our climbing.
We all should be able to make judgments as to our mental and physical state on the day and climb accordingly. Hungover bigtime is not the morning to consider that grade 26 unprotected trad route that you’ve always had your eye on, no matter what your “mates” are telling you. This sort of decision making should come as second nature to any climber. No, what I’m talking about is that decision to push a boundary in a rational way. My Quantum Leap this year was on the club trip to Girraween in May.
The year before I’d climbed well and progressed onto a couple of 19s at Turtle, with rests but no falls. Since then I’d climbed with confidence throughout 2009 and had a great trip to Nowra, leading into the 20s and mentoring Fiona, as well as climbing well at Frog - nailing Plume, leading Gladiator and whimpering my way up Iron Mandible. Please note Michael – your fist jam means a full arm thruch for me. Argh. 2009 was a good year for me in terms of Quantum Leaps.
Anyway, 2010 was looking good and, as I’d looked up at Late Afternoon Flake, a trad 18 on the second pyramid in 2009, it was in the back of my mind. Scary in that intimidating
Girraween sort of way but within reach now. Possibly!
Saturday at Girraween went well, really well. Turtle was the destination and I waltzed up the climbs on the back slab at Turtle including the 19 I rested on the year before. Hmm! Feeling good we went around to the alcove near that easy arête and Staircase, the “14 which is more like a 17”. Fiona does thank the sandbagger who nearly put her off doing it. Anyway, between those two climbs is 3 bolt grade 19 gem I had one rest on in 2009. This year it all flowed and I was left wondering what the fuss was last year. The balance and control was all there. Ending the day on Wading Ape having fun set some cogs ticking over that night.
I was climbing well and confidently, an utter pre-requisite for safe climbing at Girraween. I’d bought and borrowed a couple of extra bigger cams and so headed up with the gang to the Second Pyramid on Sunday. After spending some time showing the Girraween newcomers which climb was what, I passed the time exploring the back of this rock monolith , then chimed in for a warm-up second on Charlotte’s Web. It was then around to Late Afternoon Flake, (FFA Henry Barber).
The climb looked as daunting as it did before. The comment in the guide “don’t get sucked into the crack” echoed in my ears as I took the first tentative steps onto the rock. The climb steepened really, really quickly and I focused on my feet placements. This was not a climb for beginners I muttered to myself. A cheese grater slide would have been John’s thoughts. The biggest handholds and footholds were mere ripples amongst the grippy crystals of granite. Talk about balance moves on nothing. This left the short 19s from the day before for dead. Delicate move followed delicate move and every move was an operation in focusing. Each ingrained technique of movement on steep rock with thin moves, balance while placing gear, and even breathing calmly seemed to come naturally without conscious thought. I’d even racked up before the climb with gear on the side I could easily access. Smart thinking ahead Graham.
Halfway up to the corner the climb suddenly got even steeper and the holds for hands and feet seemed to magically thin to not very much at all. My breathing was a little more audible and the supportive cohort below yelled encouragement. In the middle of this thin section I choose the wrong cam size and some audible “F… French” was forthcoming. Another pair of climbers on ground level decided that I needed lots of uncalled for gratuitous advice. I actually laughed as I felt in total control, in balance as I placed the right sized cam in. “Nah. This is fun” I called down.
An even bigger laugh ensued when I came up to the 2 homemade rusty hangers at the crux. One hammered flat and the other you clip for the historical value only. A few more moves then finally a rest. One of those dykes of rock meandering across the face of Girraween granite. Some more wild moves as the crack widened ever more and I reached the corner. The next section of the climb of course is out of sight from the ground, so imagine my surprise that it went on for what seemed forever. A huge, unprotectable crack stretching toward the clear, blue heavens. Well this is going to be interesting. Luckily the angle eased off and the overlap bent back the other way so in reality it was a doddle, a big, long unprotected doddle. But where could I fall except into the crack, so it wasn’t a concern.
Finally at the top of the climb, I set up an anchor and brought up a very wide eyed Eddie, who stated it was the hardest thing she’d ever climbed and was I crazy, Glen C and then Michael followed and accepted their congratulations on how well I’d climbed it. I did feel super, especially later that afternoon watching some young climber thrash and moan his way up the climb, sucked into the crack. It made me smile. Some of us older climbers can still hang out there. The next my girls and I walked up the first pyramid and looked across at Late Afternoon Flake. No wonder I could hear the tourists “oohs and ahhs” during my climb, as the foreshortened view makes the climb look vertical. A climber must look spider-like suspended on a vertical face of granite. That would make a great video!
Higher grade climbs at Girraween, especially trad are notoriously hard, especially on your head space.
So what brought about this leap of faith into the unknown? A mountaineering guide once taught me about the triangle of knowledge. Your gear, your fitness – mental and physical and your technical ability. Mountain climbing is even less forgiving than rock climbing, so the guide told me that as a minimum one needs to have 2of the 3 sides of the triangle to survive. Less and I’d be a statistic in the accident log. This concept applies to those leaps of faith. Success on Late Afternoon Flake was built on the foundations of that triangle.
Being climbing fit, understanding that if you’ve only ever been on 20m climbs, you are not going to waltz up a 50m pitch without some trepidation, let alone fatigue comes into play. Climbing long enough to understand your mental reserves, dealing with the head space and being in tune with your abilities on the day is an important skill in any climbers bag of abilities. When to climb on and knowing when to back off. All those years of just moving on the rock. Each climb you do is a store of remembered technical abilities filed away for that time when you tell yourself I’m going to do such and such a climb today. This applies to not just the actual physical moves but to reading the rock and choosing a move that is achievable and mentally planning the next few moves and possible gear placements.
Of learning about gear, how it works in the rock and placing it competently, especially with respect to how the climb flows – is there a chance of a ground / ledge fall, looking at “outside the box” placements when nothing is obvious to little things like clipping properly, knotting the end of your ropes on a 50m abseil and racking up with some forethought to the climb in hand. All the placements you have made over the years. Why most were good, some average and others were downright crap? On moving above your gear and sometimes this takes a fall onto gear to enable a degree of trust. You aren’t going to push your limits if deep down inside you can’t believe in your gear placement.
All these learned values lead to a belief in one’s ability to take a leap into an unknown vertical zone. This concept leads to a dichotomy in some peoples’ view. I’ve heard both sides. Just jump on the climb and chuck lots of gear in and fall / rest your way up or build up your expertise and repertoire and move onto the climbs you want to tackle with a good base to draw from.
I sit on the “build up my repertoire” side of the fence, since the other way is great if one actually places the gear properly but I will admit to doing it both ways. However, the just jump in climbs I’ve done were all after a wealth of experience, so in reality the successful jump in the deep end approach is only successful if the baseline abilities are there. Some climbers blaze through this period and accumulate this store of knowledge quickly, but most of us mortals labour away between work and family commitments hitting plateaus before our quantum leaps. A review of most accidents points to bad climbing judgment - be it gear failure due to bad placement, not enough gear, fatigue, an overestimate of one’s ability or worse, a combination of all of the above. Building your base goes a very long way to reducing those bad calls on the rock. It gives one the ability to move forward with confidence.
Those quantum leaps of Faith have in the most part been some of the most enjoyable climbing I’ve ever done and it is an ongoing process. Not one of us started trad leading 50m grade 21 climbs but we’ve all built on what we’ve learnt and achieved throughout our climbing days. Funnily enough I’ve often not followed my advice and settled into the status quo of climbing, especially in the early days but I’ve built a solid base to enjoy my climbing for many years to come.
One week climbing in the Bue Mountains was something to remember. Even the weather was close to perfect.
But that week was followed by a 4 day stay in the Bungles. This being my first visit to the area anticipation was high.
Shawn was well informed about the many climbs, mostly out of his guide that he was constantly reading. Shawn was my climbing partner for the 4 day stay there or more accurately, I was Shawns climbing buddy.
We arrived at the tourist camp ground in the dark and crashed after a nice hot shower. The plan was to get ready in the morning, pack for 4 nights, tent, food, climbing rack, etc.
My pack was so heavy, I had to sit on the ground, strap it on my back and then get up.
Well, it was only a 2 hour walk in, up, up, up. Some parts of the track were even paved.
Certainly a good track up to our base camp, in a saddle, smack in the middle of the major peaks. That was enough walking and off loading was a pleasure. After the tents were pitched we got ready for our first climb. A short and easy one to test out the rock and the way one climbs here: Vertigo a grade 10 - 78m in 3 pitches on Belaugary Spire. All in all it was a very enjoyable
climb. Good friction, clean rock, we even had an audience; some bushwalkers lingered and watched us from afar.
The rap off was a bit of a bush bash down a very vegetated gully. All good fun.
Day 2: Sunday 11th April '10
After a cold night and a nice fire for the breakfast ceremony we set off to climb Cornerstone Rib Direct, a grade 14, 190m, I think we did it in 4 pitches. First pitch really easy with a large belay ledge. The second pitch was Shawns turn. He seemed to be somehow stuck at some point. After calling (communication was difficult) he replied something about a stuck cam. Well, I just had to keep freezing my but off a bit longer. Eventually I heard what I was waiting for: I got it ! I was glad I could get ready for climbing since the wind was quite chilling. Beautiful pitch the second one. Shawn ended up telling me that he found the cam stuck in the crack
and he didn't want to leave it there. A nearly brand new medium size cam. It took him the better part of half an hour to retrieve it.
Well, it was worth it.
We found the summit book upon topping out and left our names in it.
By now we learned that climbing here wasn't just going for it. A lot of the hand holds had to be tested for loseness or hollowness.
There was a lot of knocking on the holds up the rock face before we would commit to the move. That sounds scary but after a while we got used to it and incorporated it into our climbing regime. As for gear, we mostly used wires and small to medium cams.
Lots and lots of wires. A good idea is to combine 2 sets of wires and takes them on the lead. We never used a cam as big as a no 4 Camelot. Some small hexes were useful here and there.
Thus on the 3rd day of climbing here we stripped our rack to what we knew we would use and left the rest at the tent.
Of course we always carried our head torches, just in case.
We used double ropes and even though I still had issues with the rope management I believe they are essential in this kind of
area. The climbs wander, going around a lot of blocks, in and out and around pillars and aretes. Long slings on the quick draws
are equally essential. More than half the gear we placed had to be exended. Rope drag issues are very real here.
On the 3rd day we did Bastion Buttress 240m in 7 pitches grade 13 only.
This climb looked pretty good from the base of the cliff, very blocky and I mean big blocky. And so it was all the way up the first pitch that I led. 45m of block after block. I found the climbing awkward especially since it was the first pitch of the day.
We ended up having route finding problems. So we traversed around closer to an arete. From here it was a bit easier finding the way. We were swinging leads all the way and we made good progress up the wall. As we got higher and higher we could watch
wedge tail eagles fly, sometimes fairly close. One just had to stop for a few moments to watch these beautiful and majestic bird fly by. In moments like this I just love this sport. Up, hundred or two hundred meters above the deck just your buddy and self and the
The exposure is thrilling to say the least. No pre placed anchors, no bolts, just the gear, the rope and the rock.
Quite an experience.
Day 4 - the highlight.
We left Flight of The Phoenix till last. After testing different easier grades we were ready for a harder one. It's a grade 18, all of 330m of climbing in 8 pitches. I chose to start the first pitch. Easy first but getting quite balancey soon.
Always exciting to start a days climbing with a harder grade. It might not be a hard one but for me it was. On the belay I got into another fight with the double ropes. I suppose one has to do all the wrong things before one has figured out a way that works well. Anyway, safety is the first and formost thing and that I will not let slip.
Shawn decided to take a shortcut on the 2nd pitch which is a grade 19 according to the guide. We are
approx 80m above the ground at this point. The experience is intense and the adrenaline is pumping liberally. Well, my mouth is dry as I make myself safe. Looking down is ...wow...!
Now it is my turn again. Changing gear, draws, gear belt, chalking up and away on a trverse to the right, slightly getting steeper and steeper. Good holds... gear here?... no better not, sounds too hollow... run it out a bit more.... finally some good gear.... pop it in... set it, clip it....phew....feel better now. Looking back...wow that was nearly 8m run out. Have to set more gear!
On and on,...a glimpse down....must be more than 100m up now. How much rope is left? A call to Shawn confirms only 7 or so metres. Better look for a good anchor spot. The guide talks about a ledge.
Where the.... is it? A bit more up and right. Well this is as good as it will get within the next 5m or so. Shawn is already taking the anchor apart to get me some more rope. ! Safe !!!!
Wow, that was great. Setting up the belay starts to become more proficient now. On belay!!! and Shawn starts off.
We swing pitches all the way up. The climbing varies. We come into blocky pitches. Different style of climbing. Double ropes
are really paying off now. In and out of niches, around and over blocks, weaving sideways and up but always heading for that "feature" until the rope runs out. Another anchor, another belay, another pitch.
The climbing flows, head space opens up, confidence grows, looking for the next possible move and sliding into it is inevitable,
the feel for the rock that is being climbed enhances.
The weather is being perfect, the eagles gliding not far away from the rock face at times, At one point there are 3 or more to be seen.
As we top out exhilaration is high. There is the inevitable call to a friend to let them know we made it and share the
feeling. What a great finale to our stay in the Bungles.
There is still the walk off the mountain on the easy track back to our camp and the nice camp fire with a nice meal to be enjoyed.
We walk off the mountain in the morning back to the campground in the valley where we left our car. I take more pics of the rock face. Everthing is more real now and we can make out the exact route we climbed.
I am pretty sure I will be back.
This is a feel good article. After reading this article you’ll feel that your climbing is magnificent. You’ll be searching us out at the crags as you will know that even on a mediocre day if you manage to score the climb next to us, you will look like the Barishnikov of the rock in comparison, whilst I seem to be doing some sort of JaJa Binks impersonation. Never mind – everyone has to start somewhere, and to get somewhere you need a lofty goal – Arapiles.
Narelle and I first met 8 years ago at BRC, and sadly enough never made it to one single trip to Arapiles!! The problem – children, partners, children, lack of money, children, no time, children. You get the picture. Not only did we never make it to Arapiles, but we also never had the time to climb consistently. Other BRC folk use to come back from an Arapiles trip looking very svelte and strong and they never quite got our questions – was it wet? Was it too cold to climb? Too Hot? Too crowded? You look like you’ve put on weight! They would just wax on lyrically about the grandeur, the jugs, the multi-pitches… How insensitive! So there is only one thing to do about it – Get to Arapiles by Xmas or bust!
Narelle is a svelte, fit, blonde godess and as you can see from the photo below I’m the JLo of the rock, and we’re not talking about singing. Mind you she did tell me my bottom didn’t look big in this photo! Hard to tell from her photo whether her nose grew or not.
In truth its not entirely my fault. Injuries and a nasty strain of Ross River Fever took its toll. So here we both are, 29 and some 200 odd months ( yes unbelievably each), give or take, not led any climbs for about four years, a very basic rack between us, and me 10 kg heavier and nowhere near as fit, BUT ITS GOING TO BE SOOOO FUN!
Already we have had a bunch of people clamouring to join us, no doubt trying to get up into the Baryshnikov stakes. However we have been very certain about one thing - No-one is allowed to come unless they know less than us. Yes you have read that correctly. So if you really want to join us you have two choices, frontal labotomy or teach us everything you know! Only joking. In fact we want to do it all for ourselves. Climbers are generally way too helpful, so both Narelle and I have found as a climber learning to lead again we get way too much advice, and would like a chance to see what we’re capable of.
The beginnings of lead climbing again
So where do you start in South-East Queensland to train for lead climbing in Arapiles? The same as you do for lead climbing anywhere. The basics we know, because we’ve both done courses, and lead ages ago, so now it is a matter of dusting off those skills, and doing some seconding to get in the groove. That done we were ready to have a go ourselves. Knowledge was building, technical skills were dusted off, but still needed practice and fitness for leading was embryonic.
I started all of a sudden one day when we were up at Tinbeerwah. A climber was uncomfortable at the beginning of a sports 14. Before I knew it I was up, leading it and finished, thanks to the lovely bolting work done by JJ O’Brien. Love your work JJ! Narelle too was inspired she jumped on a sports 15 lead and also conquered it. However not all crags are Tinbeerwah. Tinbeerwah is lovely slabs, newly bolted and looked after by JJ. Every 3 metres or so on the lower grades there is a bolt, so for new leaders Tinbeerwah represents safety! There is a great 8 and 13 too, all bolted, which are very nice for new leaders. If you’re going to Tinny there is a great guide on Qurank.com
So where do you go from there. I had a little dabble at Frog, leading yet again Parsons Pleasure - you know the corner climb on the left of the scree slope as you head down. I’m afraid the Parson has had my pleasure all too many times and I’ll save the Frog stories for another episode. What I’d like to share with you is our exciting adventure to Mt Ngungun.
Mt. Ngungun in January
We arrived at Ngungun carpark about 6am expecting it to be packed. It was just the two of us, like the Thelma and Louise of the rock. Thel and I traipsed up the track and decided the track wasn’t steep or long enough so decided to walk up and down the top section several times. In truth it took us a while to find turtle rock, which is very important as it marks the track where you go west. We did find it in the end, all by ourselves, with one small hint by Brad Pitt who casually pointed out the rock. We could have stayed there at chatted but Thel and I had better things to do than chat to Brad Pitt – climbing Ngungun.
We had know idea if we were going to be able to find the Main Cliffs of Ngungun, let alone climb there. It was suppose to be 33C in Brisbane, so it might have been too hot, and the guides just don’t give you that sort of info in detail. There are lots of crags in the shade at Coolum and Tibro, but mainly sports and higher grades. Some of the crags start at about 20, which is part of the reason we thought we would share our newly formed wisdom.
Ngungun was beautiful. We were not hot at all. There was a glorious sea-breeze from the east, and about half the climbs were in shade. We practiced our climb-finding skills. It took a while but we were able to choose three climbs in the shade, a 12 and two 13s. Should be easy. We could focus on our gear placement, rope skills and placing draws, but we had not counted on one thing – sandbagging!
For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that a 200 cm giant who normally leads a 26 with one-hand tied behind their back graded it as a 12. It seemed like that anyway. In reality our little climbs were graded in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and the rock of course is typical Glass House Mountains rock, brittle especially after the wet. It is probable that the extra footholds and hand holds that made these climbs those grades was worn away a long time ago.
I led the first climb “Sticky Fingers” , a 12. It was quite a scramble up to the first decent gear placement, and the move above that was horrendous – a move into a smooth as glass chimney. I placed very carefully 2 solid pieces, and very slowly and deliberately moved into the chimney, feet slipping but able to do the road runner up a bit higher and with one bomber handhold. Head still there and determined not to let this bitch (not Thel the climb) beat me I continued placing as much gear as I dared. The chimney remained slippery but the crack on the left was beautiful for swallowing wires and cams and a hex or two. It was only 18 metres but just as I got near the top and got two enormous hand holds, both feet completely went jolting both shoulders, and making me feel like my arms were 10 cm longer, but I did it. Yeah! It is always pleasing when your belayer has more trouble than you getting up the climb, but the laughs weren’t on Thel for very long as I reciprocated on the very next climb. Gumby leaders grade 16 for this one.
I seemed to have a vague recollection that “Angie” next door was an easier proposition, but that was totally misguided and luckily Thel is a real trooper. Same sorts of issues as “Sticky Fingers”, but a more open chimney. At no stage did the chimney feel like it would hold my stance, and I was on second!! You should know that I was good at chimneys! I could do climbs on lead that others thought were just awful because of the chimneys. Thel kept her head and finished the climb placing lots of beautiful wires and cams. Thel thought perhaps a gumby leader 16 grade was probably more appropriate.
I led one more, “Deep Purple”. Gumby grade 15 I think, but much more enjoyable, although a little too much foliage on it at the moment. It had been years since I had been to the Main Cliffs at Ngungun but I had never seen it this lush. Unfortuneately some of the beautiful flourishing grasses are in the middle of climbs. Gear placement practice however is much better done on the Nursery Cliffs at the top of Ngungun or the bomber rock of Frog.
Overall however , we came, we found the crag, we found the routes, we were challenged and we conquered. Watch out Arapiles!
Cheers, Narelle & Veronica AKA Thelma and Louise
Next time you are out climbing, spare a thought of appreciation for the heroes (and heroines) of bolting without whose imagination, energy, courage (to solo climb) and commitment, the climb or whole area would not exist. I’d been climbing just six months when I met one such. When Wayne told me he set up climbs in the Glasshouse Mountains I had no idea of the history that was to unfold from that statement! Shortly thereafter, he invited me up Mt Tibrogargan – the face, that is, not the track at the back!
At that stage of my climbing career, I couldn’t even climb the path up Mt Beerwah due to my fear of heights. I had trouble negotiating the stairs at Kangaroo Point. Mt Tibrogargan? I’d always thought people who climbed that monolith mildly unbalanced, while secretly harbouring a desire to join their ranks. I looked at my intrepid adventurer inviter with a mixture of awe and shock.
While silently screaming in my head, “ARE YOU NUTS?!” I managed to calmly explain,”But I’m scared of heights, and I have two children – what am I going to do with them? And I can’t lead climb either...”
In fact, I had just laybyed, at Pinnacle Sports, my first ten quick draws with a view to start leading at KP in the future. The sky’s the limit, they say, but the Big Guy in the sky had decided for me that I was going to reach the sky at hyper speed instead of my usual slow crawl.
Okay, next stage in the process, Wayne took us up Mt Beerwah. Jed and Gabriel sprinted up and down. I hung on for grim death and slid down on my backside, with Roxy doing the same except she was roped to Wayne. I envied her. Not because she was roped to Wayne, but that she was roped to something!
At the top, a kind gentleman in a different group took a photo of us on his digital camera, later emailing it to Wayne. He commented as we left, “A rock climbing family,” after we had conversed about our beloved pastime. Embarrassed, I corrected him saying, “No, two families.” But we now know the man was a prophet!
Next step: Wayne taught me how to lead at KP. Then he took me out and introduced me to Wayne’s World. I donated the money to pay for the bolts on a climb, got to name it and got to first ascent a few. Didn’t really understand the logistics of it all at that stage. Was not in the least interested in Wayne as anything more than a climbing partner.
It rained a lot at that time so Wayne’s World took a back seat. We went to Tinbeerwah to do some harder leading, eventually undertaking a two pitch climb. I would turn around on the cliff face to get myself used to the height by gazing out at the bush far below. Gradually I felt less terrified of it. One day at Tinbeerwah, I turned around to look, felt okay, so asked God to take my fear away. Soon after, we did Tibrogargan. There was no sign of it: the fear. From then on it refused to climb up the mountains or cliffs with me. I’ve not seen it in a while. It’s probably off harassing somebody else, someone without a Wayne beside them!
We called Sunburnt Buttress our ‘all the way’ climb. All the way to the top, that is! Then Wayne’s World captured our attention, energy and enthusiasm. For the whole sweltering summer I found out what it really meant to set up a climbing area: attacks by killer ticks; constantly surrounded by giant stinging flies; dragging each other up that last excruciating hill on the track coming out (we call it Cardiac Concourse); one time discovering we didn’t have enough rope to get down and running out of water to boot. The drill ran out of juice with a drill bit still in the rock and had to be left there until our next visit. We had to gingerly re-traverse back across the way we had climbed up without much in the way of bolts or anchors.
The most serious situation occurred while bolting The Nut. Wayne was cleaning Burnt Cookies next to it which he used to access The Nut. He threw a big rock down after warning me to move to the side. As the rock fell it hit the rope then broke into fragments, nearly bombarding his, by then, new wife. Wayne, about 10 metres up, noticed the sheath of the rope was cut. Briefly he hated Wayne’s World and wondered what he was doing it all for. It could have been much worse. He was saved from a 10 metre down climb by the fact it was cut only 5 metres from the end of the rope, so he was able to pull it up and retie it. That little happenstance did, however, necessitate us buying a new rope.
Wayne’s World has been an expensive endeavour for us, particularly for Wayne who was bolting it for a year or more before we met. He is grateful to everyone who contributed – anything – money for bolts; carrying the monstrous drill, batteries, rope and other bolting paraphernalia; belaying skills and wisdom (thanks, Darren) and clearing the ground in front of the cliff. That was often done by our children, Jed, Gabriel and Roxy. Also much appreciated are the climbers who give constructive criticism and encouragement. That is when Wayne gets most excited and wants to go back for more.
If you hear of a climbing area or climb being set up, tender support and encouragement to the bolting hero and imagine them soloing up that cliff to put in the first anchor. That’s when even the most experienced rock climber can suddenly become a jelly-legged acrophobic!
Marty & Marks Excellent Adventure
I always like going to Tibro. I paint a picture in my mind before I leave of longer climbs, lower grades on bolts, always a great day out. We had in mind to do just that, climb a few multi pitches to get a bit of practice for the club trip to the Blue Mountains, which is in September. We finished our first multipitch by ten and began to rap off. I think this is the time that our day began to turn. We double checked each others gear, had a prussic and a spare each, remembered which colour rope to pull, knots in the end, ok were out of here.
First pitch know worries, second pitch a bit different, I pulled up short of the anchor. I still believe that I have some quite convincing excuses for this.
1. Where that pitch was it was quite blocky and the rope was all coiled up on a ledge, this makes is very difficult to judge length.
2. That was the first time that I had climbed on a fifty meter rope away from KP.
3. The fact that the two pitches added up to more than fifty meters is beside the point.
What did make it better was a ledge with a tree poking out of it, that the tree had a quite a bit of wear on it, indicating that a few other people had made the same mistake as me. The rest of the abseils to the ground were fine, but as I went to pull the rope again I messed up…… forgot to take the knot out only realising when they were just out of reach, this resulted in me getting to re-climb an absolutely fantastic first pitch it was at least two star!
Never deterred we moved on, Marty had something in mind on Celestial Wall and I willingly followed. Turns out it was ‘Clemency’ grade 16. For those who are not familiar with the climb the description goes:
“A classic adventure climb of great character up the S.E. corner of Tibro to the R of the orange overhanging wall. Named in memory of Johan Clements who was Les Wood’s climbing partner in England. The hardest climb in the state for its day. Although the line is straight, individual pitches zigzag a bit. The major land marks are the big groove (pitch 3) and the scrubby terrace at half height. Technical hard moves are isolated, but route finding is difficult, protection poor and some holds suspect, so the leader should be very solid in the grade to avoid an epic. There is no obvious LLR and one can easily wander off route into a thrill zone.
1)35m (15) 10m runout off deck up blocky slab. A further 10m with a tricky step left (PR and small SLCD) to R- trending ramp beneath blocky roofs. Belay on the ramp off gear”. –Glasshouse Guide book
Easy, were hard men, we climb twenties on top rope at KP, we should be able to knock this over before mid afternoon, walk out, get a bite to eat and be home before five, how wrong were we! I got the first lead and we’re into it. I new that the start was going to be a bit sketchy but had visions that it was going to be fine after that. The guide wasn’t kidding when it said ’10m run out off deck, there was no gear anywhere, got to the ten meter mark and found something, it was average at best but something. This was then followed by another eight –ten meters of the hardest grade fifteen moves ever on tiny gear that I had absolutely no faith in to get to the ramp. When it said ramp I had the image of something big enough to ride a bike up. Wrong again. It was a foot with wide at fifty degrees heading up. That’s not a ramp in my book. I got a cam in on the ramp and went a bit higher, filling Marty in on what I thought of the climb. (No need to repeat the words now) This was now the highest point that I led to and it started to go even smother with no sight of the anchor. This is when I copped out and started to down climb leaving all the gear in, thinking that leaving four cams behind was the best investment that I had ever made. Send in Marty.
He did his thing shimmying up getting more gear in here and there until he was well and truly run out and completely committed on some seriously shitty rock which I’m still glad I didn’t have to lead. Two other climbers walked passed at this time, they had no info on the climb or where to go. Probably put off by the blurb in the guide there only advice was ‘hope you have a torch’ which was not very comforting. To cut it short we got to the anchor which consisted of as upside down piton a wire and a slung rock right on sun set and it was starting to get pretty cool. We fought the bird’s nest which was our anchor under head torch and abseiled off in the pitch black minus some carabineers and slings. On the bright side we did get one carabineer back when we got back to earth......it was the one that I dropped, Marty’s favourite, what are friends for.
All in all it was quite an eventful day and more fun than sitting at home.
How did I get here? by Glenn Hohnberg
‘How did I get here?’ I thought as my right arm muscles started to burn, whilst with my left hand I scrabbled increasingly desperately across my body for the right sized cam on my sling. The cams were on the wrong side and too far back. I was a metre and a half above the last piece of gear. I was up and out on the overhang with two reasonably strong moves but needing to get that pro in. I was feeling very committed, in fact, over committed at the crux of Electric Lead. Sweat was pouring off me and my left foot started to get a burn going that matched the right arm. ‘Don’t think about how you got here. Just get that piece of pro in the crack.’ I tried to focus myself.
How did I get there? As we wondered out of the car park in the morning Graham asked the question of the day. ‘What are you planning today?’ Last time I was at Frog I’d lead a 14 and a 15 with no trouble at all. Admittedly these climbs were not sustained crack climbs but I’d been climbing well and getting stronger since then so I responded, ‘I’d like to lead a 15 or 16 today.’ ‘Glenn, the hard man today, leading 16s!’ Graham responded. This surprised me a bit.
As we walked toward the cliff I muttered to Michael, ‘Okay, maybe not 16s if Graham is calling that being the hard man.’ Graham is a stronger and far, far more experience Frog Buttress climber than me. So if a veteran of Frog reckons 16 is the hard man attitude I started to feel more wary.
Sure enough, feeling wary was entirely appropriate. Three of us tackled ‘Shit Heap’. You can cheat and face climb and layback a bit to get up it but we were here to lead some crack climbs. And we tried. Or, at least I tried and failed. So we top-roped the sucker and tried to crack crack climbing. Michael moved up it with his easy panache and Veronica sweated her way to the top. But I busted a gut on the bottom without much to show for lots of sweat, aching shoulder blades and burning toes. Whoever named it seemed to have a similar experience to myself.
We decided to move on. Veronica zipped up the nearby Electric Mud on lead. It looked like a fun lead so I led it as well. It was fun. There was heaps of protection: great wire placements. I climbed it easily with not even a sweat and hooted at the top as per the guide book.
The next lead around the corner was just one grade above that: Electric Lead. I looked it up and down and it didn’t look all that hard at all. It looked a little overhung but then I’d just climbed the previous lead without a sweat. And besides I was here to lead some climbs. So, with all the gang looking on, I racked up.
The rest of the gang had been climbing Materialistic Prostitution, with Graham leading (badly, he lamented) and James (a new member) and John (let’s just say a veteran member) seconding up. They had also climbed Iron Butterfly and Wizard’s back. Though this was James’s first visit to a real crag he proved to have the makings of a natural climber. They were now lying around having lunch.
Their lunch time entertainment was watching me be humbled at Frog Buttress on Electric Lead. I got there in the end but not without some heckling, gear placement advice, gear placement rebukes and some desperate words of prayer for pro to hold.
I came home victorious on Electric Lead, not climbing it clean, but I did climb it without a fall. I also, came home with realisation just how much I need to learn for quick gear placement and better assessment of a climb from the ground.
In the words of Graham, ‘Frog humbles you.’, but not so much, that I don’t want another crack.
Climbers on the day: Graham Baxter, Veronica Forde, James, Michael Battaini, John De Bont, Glenn Hohnberg
CLIMBING WITH BEARS: YOSEMITE DREAMING 2009
Terror gripped our hearts - the car was trashed – gaping. “The photo was taken 3 days ago. The owner of the vehicle left a box of toilet tissue in the trunk,” said Helen the Ranger. Eeeek. A bear did THAT? “Yesterday a gentleman left a box of cereal on top of the bear box and turned his back, incurring a $5,000 fine when the bear swiped the cereal.” Eeeek.
Welcome to Tuolumne Meadows (say Too-wol-um-me). Helen said that two bears, Rosie and Honey, were ‘active in the park’; their sense of smell was 2,000 times greater than humans’ and EVERYTHING smelled like food to them. We must store everything in the bear box, not a skerrick in tents or cars. Even cleaning our teeth anywhere but the toilets was taboo. This was serious. How would I survive the night without lip gloss, hand lotion and red wine in my tent?!
Sleep is elusive when you’re busy second-guessing the BEAR on the other side of the nylon. Did we ourselves reek of delicious lotions and soap, our clothes of scented washing powder? Isn’t a tent a soft target?? Just as we drifted off, a crazed gunman attacked, shooting people at random. Well…actually…turned out the rangers let off firecrackers and fired rubber bullets at the marauding bears, seeking to restore their fear of humans. Sure restored the fear of this human.
By morning, even in our traumatised bleariness, we were eager to try the huge grey granite domes. Tuolumne is Girraween writ large and on steroids. ‘Wonder why the guide book advises top-roping the first day?’ mused Tan. Those locals sure are proud of Tuolumne’s rep: huge runouts on polished, slippery slabs. Eeeek. How ignominious – our first climb in the US on a top-rope!
On Day 2 I developed a fiendish plan: Tan was the slab climber so she would do all the leading. Simple, but Tan was too tired from wandering with bears all night after visiting the toilet. (No peeing on the ground, it attracts the bears.) Somehow single pitching all day settled our nerves and on Day 3 we sailed up our first US multi-pitch, enjoying the mind-blowing scenic splendour of Hermaphrodite Flake to the Boltway (5.8, 4P, 400’) on Stately Pleasure Dome overlooking Tenaya Lake. We had arrived. Tan had even averted disaster when our rope threatened to snarl on the descent. The moment was bitter-sweet without Al and Steve, who had pulled out at the 11th hour due to injuries. By the lake we got great beta from two terrific hard case dirtbag climbers who had been high since1969. Now that I’ve said that, they shall remain unnamed.
Then we were ready for the 700’ climb we had being eyeing off since Day 1, the impressive West Crack, (5.9, 5P) on Daff Dome. What we learned: if you don’t want to spend 2 hours freezing your knickers off cramped on a hanging belay, don’t assume other parties are faster than you – check them out before ushering them through. Apart from that it was a magical romp, the most exciting part being locating the abseil anchors on the vast domed top. Every day we earned our ice creams.
Though we were trapped in Tuolumne by fires, several classic climbs later we had grown to love our prison. Our new American friends warned: “Don’t go down the Valley, Man. It’s full of crowds, bugs, smoke and heat. Stay up here. Climb free.” It was tempting, but we had a dream...
And the dream became manifest. It’s hard to convey the grandeur, magnificence and sheer scale of Yosemite Valley. Think ‘overwhelming’ and ‘daunting’. And think ‘exciting’ - we sprang out of the car to take pics of each other at first sighting of El Cap. With our camp set up in The Pines (ohmigod there’s Half Dome!! Cripes, my tent is UNDER Glacier Pt!!) we set out to reccy near Yosemite Falls (sadly not falling).
A multi-pitch on our first day in The Valley – high five! There were 3 climbers above us on Commitment on Five Open Books so we did P1 (5.8, 100’) and abbed off. Then we moved over to Munginella (5.6, 3P, 350’) recommended by our Tuolumne friends as a great intro to The Valley. The top is an area of ‘frequent climber-caused rockfall’.
Once we had hooked up with Mick and Ula (honeymooners from Brissie doing The Americas Road Trip in their van) we never looked back. Shared great climbing, dinners, Polish sausage, wine, outings and campfire lies.
Everyone wants to know – did you climb a big wall? El Cap? So to non-climbers, we say ‘Oh yes, we climbed on El Cap.” That tiny word ‘on’ makes all the difference. Our plan was never that grand, and we balked at the poo problem. Climbing Little John, Right (5.8, 3P, 260’) on El Cap Base was challenge and fun enough for us.
Braille Book on Higher Cathedral Rock (5.8, 6P, 700’) was a great adventure for the fab four and a very solid, old school 5.8 – varied climbing on brilliant but sometimes slick rock. First challenge after the uphill slog was finding the start, but Mick’s instinct prevailed. At the top of P4 Tan & I joined Uls on the belay – a perfect photo opportunity as the fading sun lit up Cathedral Spire. Tan was impatient: “If you don’t hurry up we’ll be climbing in the dark!” Little did she know – that’s why it’s called Braille Book: you climb the juggy top pitch in the dark. The hard part was getting off: after a steep downhill scramble through bear territory on perilous rock we were back to the road at midnight. Wheeee.
We enjoyed so many classic routes; the place is a smorgasbord of **** climbs – you could spend years there, and 6 weeks is over in an instant, so I won’t bother listing climbs, but will mention a few experiences. Here they are: climbing off route, not finding the start, falling, backing off, throwing ropes into cracks, wimping, down-climbing, going unwashed for days, watching the wall rats on El Cap from the Meadow, the gigantic rockfall down Serenity Crack just after we reccied it on the day before we planned to climb it, coffee at Degnan’s, Ula’s culinary magic.
My new best friend : )
Gareth, just don’t ask about my infatuation with Ron Kauk of Astroman fame. Came to The Valley at 16 and never left. He’s taken on a lot of indigenous wisdom and custodianship of the natural world, is a mentor to youth and a lovely zen climbing guy. http://www.anseladams.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=1117
For the big day out on Half Dome’s Snake Dike (5.7R, 8P, 800’) I was glad of Marcia’s advice “Don’t do it first day. Do it when you are comfortable and confident.” I’m also grateful to my new best friend Ron who urged me not to feel pressured by time. “Enjoy the day. Take it easy on the approach, pace it, eat, breathe, relax. Let it take as long as it takes.” The four of us romped up it – gleefully noting one pitch has NO pro – one of the best days ever in one of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet. One for the Huber Sisters, oh and you too Mick : )
The SuperTopo guides for Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne were terrific, though some people had printed out the web versions and could take just the relevant page with them on the multi-pitches. I’d do that next time. In Tuolumne you can’t get a photocopy unless you tear the page out of the book, which is a problem if it’s borrowed (sorry, Scott).
If there is a perfect day for rope burn, it’s the last day before a layoff – so Tan chose our last day in Yosemite to take a whipper off Nutcracker on Manure Pile Buttress (5.8, 5P, 600’). Tan’s advice: don’t avoid the mantle. She was magnificent, straight back up and not a scratch. Her timing was impeccable – my hand was healed by the time we hit Red Rocks.
Mini Road Trip
What’s a road trip without excess? The fab four ate everything in sight at the legendary Schat’s bakery in Mammoth before hitting the gear shop sales, then soaked in hot springs nearby in the desert, finally camping outside Lone Pine. Then things got weird. I awoke next morning covered in sand – my tent (well, technically Peter’s tent – thanks Pete) was full of it. Through the haze I recalled having been NAKED out in a SANDSTORM staking out my tent. After it had collapsed in on me! Some idiot had lazily wrapped a string around a rock instead of staking it out in the first place. Clearly it was the fault of Ula’s cocktails, and $5 per gallon Smirnoff.
Las Vegas, like Death Valley, is worth seeing once. And the Grand Canyon is undeniably, well, Grand. Vegas is every bit as crass as you imagine and more, though I should confess to having succumbed to its power: One night, looking for a show deep in the labyrinthine innards of one of the gigantic casino buildings, we came into a piazza straight out of an Italian village – quaint buildings around the square looking up into a beautiful blue sky. Blue. And it’s night-time – right? But I didn’t get it. Having been indoors in the fabricated world so long I’d lost my sense of night and day. I didn’t realise the sky too was fake. The fab 3 were very kind, which hurt. Eeek. Time to go climbing again.
We arrived at Red Rocks in the middle of a heat wave! One look at the campground and we knew why the locals called it Afghanistan – not a blade of grass, a tree, a shelter, a seat, no fires or stoves allowed, no leaving any food in camp each day! “Suddenly those huge air conditioned petrol guzzling motor homes are looking quite attractive” quipped Tan. We high-tailed it 12 minutes back to that huge new luxury Red Rocks Casino. What budget? While the heat wave lasted we climbed in the shade in the mornings at Magic Bus and Black Corridor where we could push the grades on sport climbs, and lounged around the Casino pools in the afternoons. ‘The Kids’ (Uls and Mick) who slept in their van, loved the Casino and fully utilised every amenity after their months on the road.
Some climbers told us about Bonny Springs, a wonderful old ex-movie actress who ran the Old Nevada Ranch right by Red Rocks. http://www.bonniesprings.com/ They let us cook on our verandah, and they let Mick and Uls stay downstairs in their van free of charge, using our room’s amenities. “Oh and honey, don’t go putting money in that ice machine – just put your bag there and press the button. It’s free.” It was home for the rest of our holiday, our base for magical climbing on Ragged Edges on Ragged Edges Wall (5.8, 2P, 210’), Dark Shadows on Mescalito North (5.8, 4P, 1000’), Great Red Book at Calico Hills (5.8R, 2p, 250’), Y2K at Mescalito (5.10b, 4P, 400’), The Gobbler (5.10a, 3P, 330’) and Prince of Darkness (5.10c, 6P, 1200), both at Black Velvet Canyon. The restrictions of the one-way ring road through the canyon and the opening and closing hours at the gates made the logistics interesting, so given that plus our propensity to get lost on the approach, we sometimes missed our target for the day when another party beat us to it.
Towards the end of our 6 weeks sojourn I found it hard to carry a full pack uphill, climb some big multi-pitch and walk out again. I was tiring. Somewhere on a 5th pitch I hit the wall and told Tan. She, true to form, took charge – she was super gracious and super capable. We bailed and she insisted on carrying the ropes. Back at the Ranch I devoured a roasted chicken, tearing it apart with my bare hands, showered and slept. The next day we rested. “I’ll be your packhorse” Tan declared, “that way we still get to climb”. And so she would trudge uphill carrying the gear, the ropes, and our donkey, all on her back. I took an orange and nail polish.
In a pre-dawn haze with a dust storm forecast, the fab four rolled out of the Old Nevada Ranch headed to Joshua Tree which was “just down the road” I claimed. It turned out to be just down a pretty long road, but finally Mick steered us to the finest Café in any desert anywhere, just in time for lunch http://www.crossroadscafeandtavern.com/ Sated, we hit the gear shops and only then could we tour the Park. Fantastic, grippy granite – all short – hectares of the stuff. We stopped for a climb. Tan led, employing a 5.11c variant style to a left leaning 5.9 scimitar crack AND she made it. She was on fire, I was flagging – we complemented each other. We are definitely going back! Great day out, driving through endless saltpans and bleak Kill Bill country. Oh look, more desert.
On our final day climbing we were up at 5am for Crimson Crysalis on Cloud Tower (5.8+, 9P, 1000’). We wanted this climb, a classic, but a freezing windy day was not ideal for doing a climb in permanent shade. As I climbed up to Tan belaying on the 2nd pitch, we were so teeth-chatteringly cold our exchange was brief:
Me Gee it’s freezing.
Tan Nobody says we have to do this.
We bailed, past 2 Spaniards hidden in balaclavas and bulky warmth, the belayer sporting huge socks over her climbing shoes. She looked at our descending forms longingly, inviting us to climb in Spain where it was warm. Lovely climbing, and we had done the crux pitch. We drove over to the sunny side of the loop road and said our farewells to Red Rocks on a perfectly sunny and delightful if uninspiring bolted 5.8 at the Second Pullout.
Tan’s Handy Hint
When executing a groundfall from a non-existent climb on crappy rock which breaks, ensure a thorny bush to break the fall is at hand. Then go buy the right guidebook, which for Red Rocks is Jerry Handren’s.
Jen’s Handy Hint:
When tramping across a desert, never ever ever throw your water out. That would be really really stupid.
Oh and no, we never did actually see an actual bear, actually.
Oh the agony and the ecstasy of returning home. “You are never going to do that again!” Catherine said as she hugged me tightly. “OK” I agreed, “I’ll never do exactly that again…”
something to be said about arriving at a campsite several hours after
Herb and John. Okay they may have pinched the best campsites and
totally overtaken the covered table area but they did have the
campfire already going. Although setting up tents on already dewy
ground does leave a little to be desired, especially after finding
out that the batteries in my head torch had died. Ah yes, I packed
spares but they were actually too small. Thanks Laurie for being my
saving grace for the weekend.
Graham and I were busily setting up when everyone else started to
trickle in and soon sleepy Urbenville campsite became an almost
thriving metropolis which included Laurie, Travis and Clay, Graham,
Cathy and Jordan, Wayne, Katrina and Alex, Mark, Nathan, John, Herb
and Joan-sy, Cameron, Heidi, Jesse and Oscar and of course, moi
(Lindy). And I can’t forget Toby, the hound of the
it….my poor attempt at humour).
was wonderful to hear the waterfall flowing nicely. I’d been
to Urbenville on the club trip in May 07 and the waterfall was not
only dry but the water was at least a foot below the road on the
other side. So to know that the road was under-water and the falls
were flowing was excellent.
the roaring fire that John kept adding wood to as though we were
going to sit up all night, it was decided that we’d head to
‘The Pines’ the next morning, against John’s advise
that it needed more time to dry out.
morning saw us nicely fogged in so we had a leisurely breakfast and
headed off around 9.30. John coerced Wayne (although I don’t
think there was too much arm twisting) into going to ‘The
Crown’ along with Herb and Joansy so that was the last we saw
of them for the day. The rest of us bare-footed it through the
freezing cold water across the road and trooped off to ‘The
started off in the usual area doing the likes of Matt the
Energiser Man (15), Don’t Trust the Bunny (16), Who’s the
Bunny Now (18) etc etc. The leading was shared around by Laurie,
Travis, Graham, Mark, Cameron, Nathan and Cathy. In the afternoon
most of us moved further along the cliff and were tackling Ohm
Sweet Ohm (16), Itchy (15), Specific Gravity (17). Nathan led
his third ever climb……just a measly 21 (not sure of the
good day was had by all and we headed back to camp for pre-dinner
drinks and nibbles followed by a pleasant evening chatting round the
was foggy again and being a short day we decided to go back to ‘The
Pines’ and start where we’d finished the day before.
John, Wayne, Herb and Joansy decided to grace us with their presence
this time and due to the late start (because of the fog), we decided
on sheer laziness and drove in (mind you no-one was objecting).
only did 2 climbs Candle Power (13) and A Sighing Sea of Softwoods
Swaying in Spring Sex (12). Graham and Cathy both led Specific
Gravity (17) and other climbs included Itchy (15), Eff-A-Reddy
(13), Scratchy (18) and Loaded on Lithium (14).
excellent weekend, at one of my favourite camping spots with some
great climbing and really good company. Thanks to everyone who came.
So there was to be a club trip to Arapiles this year and the
word was out for expressions of interest. No mountaineering trips
were planned, blame that on the lack of money, the lack of a
mountaineering partner and the lack of fitness. A sackfull of
"lack of's" actually. So, Arapiles sounded like a damn
fine idea. Build up the brownie points and away I go.
There was just one thing. I'd never been before.
"You've NEVER been to Araps. How long have you lived in
Australia" came the incredulous reply. `Well, I've never got
round to it. There were all those mundane things in life that got
in the way after I started climbing. You know, silly little
everyday things like getting married, having children and coping
with going to the salt mine, sorry I mean work, five days a week.
Oh yeah, and a couple of serious and not so serious excursions into
the realms of snow and ice and beers in the Mt. Cook pub. Of course
I want to go, just so I'll never hear "You've Never Been to
Arapiles" ever again.
The BRC with the biggest tent in the Pines
Peter O'Reilly on Ship of Fools (16)
And the road rolled on and on and on. God, Australia is big and
flat. If we could hit a couple of koalas that would have to break
the boredom wouldn't it. The rest of the world might like to revel
in the emptiness of Australia but 2000 kilometres of scrub is still
just 2000 kilometres of scrub. This Arapiles thing better be worth
The Pines are green from rain, not packed and it does look big.
I'm like a kid on the first day at school, full of excitement at a
big new adventure and that fear of the unknown. What is the
climbing really like? Is it really that good? What's the rock like?
The guidebook makes every grade seem a thrilling, exposed,
daunting, then up on jugs test piece. I don't know what to expect.
The tent is set up; the rack's in my pack and it's just a short
walk to the Organ Pipes with David. Didgeridoo is free so it's up I
go. This is really weird rock and it's really steep, sort of
vertical actually. Concentrate on the climbing, as I don't all
together trust these knobbly rock protrusions I'm putting gear
into. It's a jug-fest but do they ever break? Oops! Where did all
those jugs go? Smooth rock, I've suddenly got no gear in and it
seems a bit exposed and whatever for a grade 11. The top is just
there. Pull up, don't fall and hey, my first Arapiles lead. I find
out that the exposed top bit is actually Hornpiece, the direct
finish, grade 13. That makes me feel better!!!!
Rap off and it's back to the tents before dark.
Keith Hannan testing the gear on Kachoong (21) (Keith climbed
the route in style on the next attempt)
CRUNCH! Nothing like some delicious cashews after a climb. Not
all is well though. That last crunch didn't sound right. More like
a tooth than a cashew. Damn right it was a tooth. I DON'T believe
it. It's only the start of my climbing week and I'm feeling so
pissed off at the stupidity of breaking a tooth and keeping my
dentist in golf club fees for another couple of years.
Later that night the Gods must be on my side. The rain comes
down all through the night and continues to pour the next day, so
it's off to Horsham for real coffee, and a dentist. Sweet-talk them
into fitting me in that day, a well-priced cap and the mindset is
ready for the tomorrow. I have got to stop trashing my teeth on
climbing trips though.
A 1965 test piece grade 14 falls easily and this rock is pretty
great isn't it. Fun in fact. Then it's seconding up a "tough
for the grade" (according to the guide) two pitch 13.
Actually the moves are all there when you get used to it. Dave tops
out on pitch two and then the rain comes down. Saturated and cold,
this has shades of mountaineering as I start up. Orange smooth
Arapiles rock isn't such great climbing in the pouring rain. Just
to prove a point to myself and the rock, a lot of ego energy gets
me up without peeling off. Another climb for the experience book.
Back to camp and its dry out and coffee time.
The next day turns into a climbing feast. Gunther and I, the
Arapiles first timers, swap leads all day on the Organ Pipes. This
is FUN. I like this idea of only climbing things with two or three
stars. The climbing is just fantastic, if only Gunther would stop
farting at the belays. You head up a climb and we all know hot air
rises. No more beans for him. The climbs just seem to go on and on,
with bomber gear and jugs everywhere. I could climb here forever
without ever pushing the grades. Climb these three star beauties at
70 years old, now that's a tempting goal. Yeah, let's do Piccolo to
finish the day off. Halfway up and cruising. Time to look around.
Ooh, that looks awesome. A threesome doing something hard up the
side of the D Minor pinnacle. A young lady is heading up from a
hanging belay and it looks steep. But what's this. As I'm on the
next climb I can observe the moves. Except the moves are all
happening at the belay. I suppose you could call his tongue down
her throat a gear placement. Well back to the climbing and it's
steep but just so great. Gunther comes up and tells me the pash
session turned into a grope session just as the leader called out
"Are you paying attention". I haven't laughed so hard
in ages. Coming down we find out our neighbour happens to be one of
the guidebook authors (no names due to litigation, just in case
Simon decides to sue). It's obvious there are untold advantages to
being a published rock climbing guide guru.
The next day Gunther and Keith are off to do battle with
Shakespeare, but the Bard thing conspired against them. So I
offered to second James and bloody hell! He wants to do the same
climb on D Minor as yesterday's pash session. If he even looks at
me on the hanging belay out comes the number 11 hex. Just joking
James. He does a magic lead and it's really nice to follow up a
grade 18 to see what it's like. Then it's off to the Atriade and
James leads Surface to Air (17). The next trip is looking like an
awesome one, as these grades feel really within reach.
Gunther and Keith are back from literary heaven, except the Bard
got the heave ho due
to some minor slowpokes. They had a great time
though on some other gems.
Keith and I decided to do the motivational thing and finally
headed out that afternoon to indulge in some Australian bird-life -
aka Brolga. I'm glad Keith is leading, as it's all very smooth with
not a lot of gear, and so glad he's got some aliens. A pitch and a
half up and its discussion time. The gear is thin, it's getting
dark, we haven't got headlamps, the top of the second pitch is
oozing water and the easy bypass is positively dripping water. The
decision is too easy. Over to the rap station and down. It feels
good to be climbing with someone who knows when to back off a
climb. Anyway, Keith's happy with the climbing he's done and it
looks like awesome climbing around these walls as well. Next trip.
Around the hibachi fire that night, James and Keith decide to
Kachoong-Kachoong tomorrow. Steve and Allison appear to be
succumbing to the decadence of modern living after being surrounded
by 2 burner camping stoves, spacious tents and the delights of
pyromania, hibachi style. It's just too good! No wonder people stay
here for months.
As the photo brigade for Kachoong head off, I talk the recently
arrived Michael Freemantle into letting the family go to the movies
in Horsham while seconding me up some 14's. We head up to Mantis
and the climbing is again just fantastic. Then it's off to the
first pitch of Libretto and the second pitch of C.S. Concerto. I am
falling in love with these climbs with atmospheric exposure and
jugs that defy imagination. Now I'm aware of the magic of Arapiles
there are just so many climbs that I want to do. Jenny, my regular
climbing partner is back in Brissie with a crook back. Boy is she
going to be jealous. The only downside is that I'm leaving
Well it's up before dawn and off. We didn't take out any Koalas
or kangaroos but we did pass the Deniliquin muster starting up.
Keith and I have never seen so many utes in one place at one time.
Gawd damn, break out me hat, me ugh boots and point me at the beer
tent. But no, we just turned up the Angels and rocked on down the
highway. The next day we're finally in QLD and what's this, more
bloody utes. Goondiwindi is alive with them.
Its another B & S and they are coming out of the woodwork.
Give me Brisbane or give me death.
So that was Arapiles! Now that I've made it sound so good Jenny
is badgering me, "When can we go to Araps?" How long
have you lived in Australia? And you've never been to
Michael Freemantle rapping off the back of the D-Minor
pinnacle (Photo: Graham Baxter)