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Arapiles 2001

posted May 30, 2008, 4:40 AM by Unknown user   [ updated May 30, 2008, 4:54 AM ]

"How Long have you lived in Australia?!"

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

Araps camp

Peter O'Reilly on Ship of Fools (16)

Ship of Fools

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 it.

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)

Keith on Kachoong

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.

Mike F

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 tomorrow. RATS!

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 Arapiles!!!!

Graham Baxter

Michael Freemantle rapping off the back of the D-Minor pinnacle (Photo: Graham Baxter)