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Blue Mountains, Sept 2010

posted Jan 25, 2011, 6:49 PM by Brisbane Rockclimbing Club   [ updated Jan 25, 2011, 6:54 PM ]

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!


Martyn Hourigan