Kitten Mittens Project

Kitten Mittens Project

Monday, July 13, 2015

Biographie and other short stories

I have some pictures but unfortunately I'm having trouble loading them into the blog. Also, I typed this all out on my iPad, so I apologise for any grammatical mistakes. It's tricky to edit a document on a small screen. Anyway, here it is. Ceuse part 1.

So Ceuse is pretty cool. This is my first trip to Europe and it has not been a disappointment. A few years I go I tried to get here, booking my ticket with the idea that it would give me something to save towards. As the days to my departure grew less and less, so to did my bank account. I the end I worked out $150 wasn't going to be enough for 3 months overseas. Heck, I'd have been lucky to survive a week. I have a weakness for fine wine and well aged cheese you see. Not quite, but you understand what I mean. I had no money!

Anyway fast forward two years and here I am. Sitting in Les Guerins campground waiting on the stove top to brew me another cup of the good stuff. It's a rest day so the pace of the morning is slow. Although even climbing day mornings have a slowness to them. Biographie sector doesn't come into the shade until 1, so sleeping in until 930 has become routine.

We, Nate and I, have been here for nearly 3 weeks now, I'm not sure where that time has gone. Lucy was with us for the first 2 weeks but has now left to compete in the Lead World Cups. The first week of climbing here I felt clunky and unnatural. I think a combination of travelling, no sleep, a new style of climbing, oppressive heat and trying to work out how much food and water you need for a day up there all combined to create one tuckered Tom.

My plan for this trip is to try Biographie, 9a+, 36. After my first indoor climbing session as a Gecko, the under 12s program at Urban Climb in Brisbane, I went to a family friends house to borrow a harness and some shoes. They had introduced us to climbing. There, Pete showed me a video of the best climber in the world doing the first ascent of the hardest climb in the world. Chris Sharma on Realisation. I didn't really have any idea what rock climbing was about at that stage and watching that video blew my mind. My vocabulary and writing skills aren't nearly developed enough to describe how that video made me feel. When Chris did the double left hand bump to the victory jug and let out that victory scream, my whole body got chills. I still get chills. For me Biographie is, and forever will be, the epitome of hard sport climbing. It just is.

Here's a quick history run down of the route if you don't already know. When the line was bolted in 1989 by Jean-Christophe Lafaille it was given the name Biographie. In 1996 Arnaud Petit, who I have spotted 3 times at the cliff now!, put in a new anchor half way up the wall and climbed it cleanly to there that year, calling it Biographie and grading it 8c+, 34. This left another 7m of pretty hard climbing still to be done. In 2001, Chris Sharma climbed the whole route to the original anchor put in by Lafaille and called it Realisation. This became the first 9a+, 36, in the world. Since then the anchor put in by Arnaud has been taken out and now the entire route is referred to as Biographie. Climbing the whole pitch is my goal.

The idea that one day I could be in a position to actually try this route was, I thought, an intangible dream. But as the years went by the idea of maybe one day getting on it became slightly more real. Until one day I felt like I had done enough climbing to actually have some business being on it. Not just being some flop cake trying to skull drag their way up a wall.

In the months leading up to the trip I tried to get out as much as possible and climb as many routes as I could. I got a training program off Lee and did my best to get in shape.

My plan for once I got here was to not muck about wine and dinning the thing. Just begin the pigheaded siege. This didn't go to plan. We arrived to a monumental heat wave. Rendering anything on holds that weren't in someway in cut, pretty hard. after a few days I decided I needed to get on it. Although it was hot I couldn't wait any longer. I was too excited. On my first go up I did most of the moves and made my way up to the anchor. I was really psyched to have gotten to the top. Sitting in my harness after clipping the chain I realised this was the beginning of what will be a big journey.

In the first week I had a couple of sessions on it, working out moves and stitching together bits and pieces. The heat wave, however, kept on keeping on. Each day hotter than the one previous. Moves I did first or second go on my first time on the route I could now not even touch. So I called off my attempts until a breeze arrived. It's a frustrating thing, but it's all part of the process.

After two weeks there was finally a reprieve in the weather. Temps got as high as 40 degrees in Sigoyer and the only wind about was a manufactured tail wind, if you catch my drift. So when the forecast predicted 27 one day and 25 the next with some legitimate wind, the whole camp ground was a buzz. People even started breaking their record for the walk up! Not a bad way to begin your day.

Biographie on these days was magic. I was grabbing the holds and they held onto me. Inviting me to try the next move, then the next and the next. I was finally able to start working out sequences and proper bits of beta. Previously it was more about fighting to hang onto the wall by any means.

The route breaks down into about six sections. The first four move boulder problem is meant to be about V9. I've not tried it yet as it looks vicious on the skin and good skin is worth more than Saffron in these parts. I'll try it next day on. From the end of that boulder to the flake rest is a nine move sequence at about V6. This takes you to the first rest, the flake, and the end of the first section. From the flake there's quite a tricky 10 move sequence on two and three finger pockets. You can't release any tension in your body during this bit. Everything from your fingers to your toes are working hard to keep you on. I think it's probably about V9 through there and it takes you to the start of the next section, the toilet bowl rest. It's only that its a big slopey open hand bowl that you think of it as a rest. It gives your fingers a reprieve from pocket pulling, but doesn't do much to rid you of pump. From here there's another nine move V8 on pockets and edges to take you to the rest were Arnaud put in the '96 anchor. Another rest that isn't much of a rest. You need to be holding the holds quite actively at these rests. There's no place for dragging and hanging on them. A nine move V5 sequence takes you to the next rest and what marks the start of the redpoint crux sequence. This is the best rest on the route, however it still isn't much. Four intro moves lead you up to staring down the barrel of the move that Biographie is perhaps most famous for, the stab for the left hand pocket. Get the pocket well and there's another six moves between you and the victory jug. The whole crux sequence is probably only V8, but the pocket stab move is quite hit and miss and so it can feel quite tricky. Take the victory jug and its glorious grade 25 climbing for 10 meters to the top. Probably easier than Madge McDonald. That's it. Pretty cool route really. None of it is desperately hard off the rope, it's more about executing the moves perfectly and having the forearms to keep pumping through to the next half shake.

I've been pretty happy with my progress so far. On the first day of good conditions I climbed from the end of the first boulder off the ground to halfway into the pocket sequence after the flake rest. Then overlapped from the start of the pocket sequence into the toilet bowl. I sat on the rope for a bit and after a couple of false starts, then linked from the toilet bowl to the original anchor in one section as well. I was frothing on this as it felt like it was the first proper links I had put together. A really encouraging milestone to have in my pocket.

The next day conditions were just as good and so I jumped on twice. Both times figuring out more intricacies and becoming more familiar with it all. Both times I linked through from the toilet bowl to the next rest. On my second go that day I decided to pay some more attention to the upper redpoint crux. I'd stuck the pocket move once or twice before but hadn't managed to move from it. I would just be hanging on, not really sure what to do next.  It's a weird hold to grab. Front two with a thumb catch that you need to pinch together immediately. Not quite as secure as you'd hope. After some playing around I figured I'd have to do the finger jump trick that Chris does. Grab it initially with the front two, then quickly readjust to get the ring finger in and stack the middle finger on top of the index and ring. Then you stab your left foot way out left and cross your right hand over yourself as quick as you can, snatching for the next edge. Once I worked that out I linked through the whole crux section for the first time. It was surreal. A sequence of holds I had dreamt about and watch be climbed so many times before, I had just climbed. I felt quite emotional hanging off the victory jug at the end of that sequence. I think it was then that I realised I could climb this thing. One day I will be grabbing that jug on link and letting out a victory scream of my own.

There have been a couple of people trying Biographie over the last few weeks. Jon Cardwell, who was coming to the end of a two month stint when we arrived, and some French fella who was trying the 8c+ version. The French guy never had much to say as he steamed passed you on his way to the route for another attempt. His girlfriend chasing after him carrying his climbing gear and drink bottle was however, quite friendly and talkative. We called her Smiley. She later told us he was trying to loose weight and not eating. We called him Grumpy. It was good to watch Jon and Grumpy on it. Although I have watched every video of the route countless times, actually seeing someone on it in person you can really see what they are grabbing, how they are grabbing it and what their feet are doing. It was a big help in trying to work out my own sequences. In the end they both had to leave, neither of them coming away with a redpoint.

But enough about Biographie, there's several bucket loads of other amazing routes on this cliff. Each day I have tried to do a couple of new ones. It's amazing to be at a cliff and have every single route be a new one. I end up running around like a dog with two cocks. It's overwhelming. There have been a few routes I've wanted to onsight or flash, but with the heat sticking around for far too long I decided it would be better to just get on and have a crack anyway. I've redpointed a couple of things like La Femme Blanche, 8a+, Carte Blanche, Les Collonettes and La Couleur du Vent, all 8a and onsighted a couple of 7c+'s. I'm pretty psyched to tick off a couple more things before heading off in two weeks.

Overall, Ceuse is a fairly user friendly cliff. The walk isn't nearly as bad as I was thinking. It's a pretty steady one compared to places like Flinders Cave in QLD. The campground is green and nicely shaded if you pick the right spot, delicious Pizza at La Fressinousse is only a short drive away and Gap has all the food and outdoor shops you can poke your walking poles at. Plus all the routes are top notch. I guess that's why it's been so popular.

However due to the heat, we think, it has been relatively quiet this season. We heard stories from previous years of cars not being allowed into the campground due to space being at such a premium. Even of people being turned away. The crowds may also be staying away due to far reaching stories of this years' inhabitants general uncleanliness. Dish cleaning sinks being left with a meals worth of tinned meat and pasta in the plug hole, rubbish left to find its own feet to walk itself to the bin, some of the most outstanding skid marks I have ever seen left in more places than just the toilet and the unfortunately ever present mud monkeys being snapped off not half a meter from the track. The daring of those participating in the later of these need almost be congratulated. There's being caught with your pants down and there's that! I'm not sure if these behaviours are shared by one particular type of person or perhaps a few. If I were having a double rest day I would go and interview people and perhaps knock up some sort of technical Venn diagram to illustrate the data. I suspected there's a connection between the skid markers and the path squatters.

The biblical plague like number of flies may also be keeping the masses away! There is no single place to get away from them. Despite my best efforts to keep them out of my tent, swotting flies has become part of the night time ritual. Fitting in neatly between brushing my teeth and getting into my sleeping bag. Even when taking a wiz at the crag they get in the way. On one occasion there were a few particularly pesky bastards that ended up flying too close for comfort. I tried to swot them away but theres only a small amount of waving about you can do when at full stream. Pissing on yourself isn't the most graceful thing. One little bugger got himself caught in the stream, which felt like a small piece of pay back until the physics of the situation took over. The splash back went everywhere. Shoes, shirt, pants and hands. I guess the flies had the last laugh with that one.

All in all it has been a great trip so far. I'd rather the heat than the rain and the flies, I guess they're better than mozzies. These trips always go quicker then you think and you always want more time. But I am missing my girls and very much looking forward to giving them a big hug again. FaceTime isn't as good as the real thing. I'm really excited about the time I have left, hopefully there's more cold windy days to come and I can pull a few more things together. I'll try to get another blog out before the end of the trip with more of an update of whats been happening. Until then, au revoir.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Strolling with Bones

Found this sign the other day!

It’s very easy to get caught up in projecting and try hard on routes. It’s one aspect of climbing I love. Going through the process of finding sequences and discovering the subtleties of how a route wants to be climbed. However it’s easy, for me at least, to get too caught up in it and forget what it feels like to actually climb a route, other than your warm up, cleanly.

I have found myself in this situation a couple of weeks ago, on Low Down Dirty Dog, my project down in Centennial Glen. For months I have been going down and trying to redpoint this route and always come away with sore skin and no cigar.

I knew LDDD was going to take some effort. Initially I could hardly touch most of the moves. After lots of days of trying I began to feel more comfortable though, linking sections and more recently throwing some redpoint burns at it. There is, however, still a section at the end that is proving to be troublesome. The last move is a crazy lip turn manoeuvre from a slot, some poor feet and a grim right hand side pull. A position you need to leap from to gain the glory jug. Coordinating the movement is very weird. It’s such an insecure position to jump from. Everything needs to push and pull perfectly. Too little from any one arm or leg and you won’t make the distance, too much and you’ll ping off and take the out of control plunge into space. It was messing with my head a bit.

After a while though I was becoming tired of it. The same walk in, falling on the same moves and walking out with the same result. I didn’t realise I was in the rut I was in. It was only when my right knee started to give me some grief from two big heel hook moves that I took a step back. I was fatigued and my climbing was stagnating. The days out were still a lot of fun of course. Things don’t get much better than hanging with your pals at the cliff; however, the actual climbing part of the day was becoming less fun.

I needed to get my climbing mojo back, to get on a roll again and build up some momentum. So I wrote a Summer 14/15 route list, fresh new routes for a new fresh start. There are a lot of classics out there so I’ve written down a few.

So far I’ve ticked one off the list, Lee Cossey’s Zigzagonal, 32 at Elphinstone. This was one of the first routes at the Stone and one of the first routes I tried on my first visit there. It’s a ridiculous excursion across the wall taking in nearly 40m of insanely good climbing on insanely good rock. The first 25m is consistent jug pumping, something Elphinstone has a lot of and something you need to become used to if you want to climb there and not get shutdown. Climbing passed jugs and not stopping for a shake is somewhat counterintuitive in the mountains. However if you stop on ever jug on your way to the top here, you’ll inevitably get the ‘Elphinstone coke bottle pump’ and fall. Falling on jugs? Strange I know, but it’s just how Elphinstone is. The last 15m is where the difficulty lays in wait. From the second last rest there is a very consistent 18 moves of edging you need to climb with absolute certainty. Stop and hesitate for a moment and it’s ‘bye bye Charlie.’ At the end of this section there is a gaston move you need to attack with every little bit you have, otherwise it could be ‘bye bye Charlie,’ again. I only just snuck through this on the redpoint, letting out every bit of growl I had. Do it all right and you’re at the rest, four moves from joy. Two set up moves put you in front of the last hard move. Which isn’t really too difficult off the sit, stand tall, huck for the sidepull and keep tension. On redpoint however, you need to throw the kitchen sink at it, maybe even the whole kitchen. Hit it and it’s an easy one move to reach the grand prize for dear ol’ Charlie boy. This is the fun I had been unknowingly looking for. I remembered how much fun rock climbing is and am frothing for more in the coming months.

Next on my Summer 14/15 list was High Hope 32/3. It parts ways with Zizagonal, and Green Grass, at half height and blasts straight up between the two. It is another classic bolted by Lee with the FA falling to Quentin the Frenchy last year. I put my draws on this staright after doing Zigzagonal and can’t wait to start throwing some attempts at it. I just need to get through this work in Gladstone first.
Work away training away.

My tooth fell out...and I din't shave.
Meanwhile, Amanda has been trucking through her ‘Post Audrey 20 at each grade,’ rapid base building program. She has nearly gotten through her 20x 23’s, having climbed around 80 laps now since she could climb again 4 months ago. She’s frothing to keep motoring through and sink her teeth into some harder climbing.

Audrey helping me with the washing.
Matt 'Nory' Norgrove getting back into it at Elphinstone on Love Cats, 30.
Also, recently I went out with Kamil Sustiak to take some pics on a couple of routes. I had heaps of fun. Hopefully we can hook up for some more in the future. Check him out on Instagram @ontherope_photo or 

Little Empty Boat, 33. An old Vince Day proj at Porters Pass
I did the FA of a couple years back.
Little Empty Boat
Kamil in action

Getting rid of the Milkman, 29, Elphinstone. A FA I did earlier this year.

Getting rid of the Milkman

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pop Hogs

First family climbing trip and where else to go but the family friendly town of Nowra. Amanda and I booked the trip before Audrey was born, figuring it would be a great little get away. It was. I’d never spent too much time in Nowra before this trip, four days over four years I think. Not due to any lack of desire to climb there, some routes I have always wanted to do, but it has always just been a little too far away. When I was living in Brisbane, you’d have to drive straight passed the Blue Mountains to get there, you can’t do that. Since living in the Blue Mountains, well, I guess I’ve been too lazy. I can walk to some of the best climbing in the country from my house! Anyway, yeah, Nowra! It’s awesome, as are the donuts from The Berry Donut Van.

My experience of Nowra climbing has been, perhaps on the slipperiest days every recorded. It’s been hot, sweaty and filled with more mosquitoes than stars in the sky. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and as time slips away I forgot about the Nowra ‘charm.’ Reading through the guide you can’t help but get psyched. Super classics put up in the 90’s by some of the best climbers in Australia at the time. I love the history side of climbing and after years and years of pouring over old Rock Magazines and the guide book I couldn’t wait to finally have a go on the routes I had read so much about.

I feel like I could write a day by day, shot by shot recount of the trip. However, I will get needlessly bogged down in details, frothing about the radicalness of the Sperm Bitches sequence and the attempt that ended quickly when my fingers slipped out of the first left hand pocket with a direct course set for my tackle junk. Or how good the rest of South Central is and Cheesedale and Thompsons Point and Rosies and The Grotto. In an effort to keep things briefer than this I thought I’d just talk about one route in particular. The first ascent I did at Thompsons Point in the Grease Cave on my last day.

At the beach near Point Perp
To start off with, it’s totally awesome and radical in every way. It’s a link between White Trash, 27, and the mega roof of Tramp Stamp, 32, via a truly cool rib feature. Zac Vertrees sunk the bolts in it forever ago and some attempts were thrown at it but in the end it became just another route lost in dust and cobwebs. I thought I’d have a look at it.

From the ground it looked good. The route starts up the first 10m of White Trash before heading out left following the rib feature, which wouldn't look out of place in Hollow Mtn Cave, on holds which look less than good. Weird pinches, a tiny edge, hands flicking from sidepull to undercling, while your feet pincer for all they are worth before busting big to meaty underclings.  The sequence was there and I could do it. We only had one day left of the trip and I thought I might just be able to sneak it in.

To break it down I think it looks a little something like this. Consistent 26 to a poor rest where you’re really just chalking up rather than resting. This leads straight into the rib boulder problem that probably sits around V8/9. All this leads you into the mega 10m roof of Tramp Stamp, about 7m of 26 to a tricky tensiony V7 acting as the gate (chain) keeper.

My first go was just a recon mission, see how it looked and if it was worthwhile. It was. Second go that day I fell off at the rib boulder, working out a little more beta. By then the sun was getting sleepy and it was time to go. It was my birthday the next day, and our last day in Nowra. First time up for the day was a warm up. Suss the moves a bit more and try to get the meat of the route, the rib boulder sequence and the final gate keeper moves at the end as dialled as possible. After a little rest I felt ready; perhaps not as ready as I thought.  Everything was feeling good until I was feeling far more pumped than I should have. I was on the last few moves of the rib boulder, getting close to the Tramp Stamp rest, and was absolutely boxed outta my brain. Squeezing fairy floss, at that stage, would’ve been a formidable challenge. There was the familiar feeling of air and a rope pulling up tight. I came down and wondered if I’d gotten too pumped. Perhaps it wasn’t to be. Was the ‘last day, last try,’ birthday present going to be there for me? I had a big rest, no chances taken, I wanted to do it. Soon I strapped up my boots, tied in and had one last go. I was feeling good. Up in the rib boulder and staring down the last few big undercling slaps, I felt the pump hit. Keep moving keep moving keeping moving. I got out to the Tramp Stamp rest and could see the final little boulder at the lip in front of me. Ball up, and don’t bloody let go. Squeeze your hands, squeeze your toes and don’t bloody let go. Oh sweet Glory. Blessed it be. Clip the chains and it was done, a new route in the Grease Cave, and a classic of all classics at that. Happy happy happy.

I did a few other repoints on the trip and managed a few onsights as well. It's great having the opportunity to try and onsight or flash things, it's a style of climbing I really enjoy. One attempt and if you fail than that's it. It's a fun pressure.

There are so many more routes I want to do down there. Perhaps we might make it an annual pilgrimage, to Australia’s Mecca of power!
Home made with love
The U bolts in action down at Perry's Lookdown.
I'm bolting a multi pitch down there that'll be 7+ pitches of awesome.
After getting back home Amanda and I bounced around on the cliffs a bit. Amanda has a post Audrey training plan for how to get back into tip top shape. 10-15 routes at each grade, starting at routes under 20, and keep on truckin until everything feels great and super again. She’s whizzed through the first 25 now and smashing out plenty of problems at the BBC. I don’t think it’ll take long before she’s back!

A bit of rock climbing has been on the cards lately, between three weeks of travelling down to Sydney six days a week for some courses for work. Brecon and I headed out to Bell for some fathers day climbing. While we were out there I did a new link up I called Sock n Jocks, 30. It’s a link up of La Realite and House of Suns on the Sunny Side wall. It’s very very good. Have a go.

Ben and I did head down to Villawood on the weekend for the NSW Bouldering Championships. It was really fun, once I got over my nerves. It was great to see all the old familiar faces and all the new ones as well. It reminded me how much fun comps can be. Get involved. They are good. In the end I was able to top out one extra problem, making it 7 tops out of 8 problems, with 3 minutes to go and came first. And as you all know, winners get McDonalds. So Ben and I had McDonalds for dinner.
Coming out the roof on the green problem at the NSW bouldering state titles.

Turning the lip on the green problem
As winter comes to an end, the Elphinstone season begins. I have been giving my Kitten Mittens project a go recently. It was the first route I ever bolted and it’s definitely the hardest. On my first goes a few years ago I could hardly do any of the moves, it felt so far away. Since then I have tinkered around on it but never giving it too much effort. In the last few weeks however, I have given it some proper days of work. Every day a new sequence has unlocked itself and after about 8 days I had finally done all the moves. The other day I was finally able to link together more than 5 moves! Linking sequences together is now the aim of the game. A send is still many many days away, but I know it’s there and gosh it’ll be a satisfying one. I think it’ll end up weighing in at 35 or 36. Pretty exciting.

Plus there are the other projects I have out there. They’ll be good summer ones I hope, for when conditions aren’t ideal for Kitten Mittens. There’s The Milkbar, which climbs up the very tallest part of the wall and finishes with a body length double dyno through a roof, 80m off the ground! It will probably come in at about 33/4. And there is also the Milk Steak project on the Gay Paris wall, also down at Elphinstone. The Milk Steak project climbs some balancey vertical wall into some steeper terrain where you are met with big wompy moves followed by even more vertical and balancey climbing to finish you off up a four meter 40° overhung pocketfest. In total you get thirty meters of classic Blue Mountains rock climbing. All this will probably give you a bit more Ewbank than the only other current resident of the Gay Paris wall, hurry up and get yours done Nory, a route I did the FA of last year, Shame at the Anvil, 32.

Bolting the 'Baker's Dozen' project at The Pit. I tried it the other day, it felt brick hard.

Bridge inspection work in Brisbane.
Inspect every bit of steel on the bridge in 2 days. Epic!
Last but not least, there’s our old friend, the Low Down Dirty Dawg project, something Ben and I bolted a year ago. After staying clear of it during the cold winter, I reacquainted myself with her the other day. I had forgotten how truly marvellous she was. I have wrung my rag about this one before, so I don’t need to go on about it again. We will keep chipping away, and I mean that in the ‘trying’ sense of the word, not the ‘fiddling with the natural’ sense. A little pre summer-stink send would be nice.

Ben moving faster than the speed of the iphone shutter on Sniffles, V8
On a final note, I have put together a little video of some of the new bouldering Ben and I have been doing in the mountains lately. Just a few of the moderately graded ones, not stitched together with any degree of artistic flair, but you get a taste of what’s about. I want to make some better attempts at taking some nice footage of the bouldering and climbing we have been doing. There is so much fun stuff we get to do and it would be cool to share it.

Click the link here to watch the video. Check out my other videos while you're there if you want too.

Checking the beta for Spectre in Bishop

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Last ride back to KC

Audrey having a sleep on me. She was only a few hours old

A lot has changed in the last couple of months.’s only one thing that has actually changed, but it’s a big one. I’m a Dad! On the 27th of April at 12:08am Amanda and I met our daughter, Audrey Kate O’Halloran for the first time.  It seemed like it wasn’t all that long ago that we were planning her and now we have her.  I’m sure now she is out, time will zip by even quicker! It’s already been eight weeks. Where did that go? It has been a lot of fun so far. She’s had a few little adventures; little trips up to the coffee shop, the BBC and even a couple of trips to the cliff. She’s a little cutie and I can’t wait to go on lots of adventures with her and her mum.
Sleeping like a baby

Climbing has been great fun lately. Ben and I have been heading down into the Glen, having a play on our projects and a few of the established lines. There are a few routes around that I have always wanted to get done and it has been great to have the time to finally get to them.

Moonshadow was one on my list. Moonshadow is a link up of Levitation, 29, into Search and Destroy, 32. Two classics linked together, creating an uber classic. You get the rad little roof boulder of Levitation, followed by a juggy traverse to the big ledge rest at the base of the business section of Search and Destroy. Reset yourself, then give it what you’ve got. For me, I think this route is 32, a top end 32, but still 32. People have made the point that by adding Levitation to S&D it adds a grade, I don’t think so though. The main difficulty of Levitation is four moves, leading you to an easy traverse followed by a rest where you can get nearly everything back. I made the comment on my that just because you have 32 litres of milk and you pour a bit extra into the jug, doesn’t mean you have 33 litres of milk. You could have 32.6 litres or 32.8 litres. In the end I guess it doesn’t really matter. But I thought I might as well have my say. Just some thoughts.

Meanwhile, Ben has kept his drill bit hot and poked it into the cliff at the Glen, bolting a line running under the uber traverse of Larger than Life. I think it could be the BEST line in the Glen and one of the best in the Mountains. All the moves have been done now and Ben is putting some good links together. Big throws down low, lead into some radical tick tacky moves up higher, all without a sniff of a rest in 15m. I think this one will clock in at 34 or harder! 

We had a pals day out in the Ukulore recently. Super fun afternoon revisiting the classics.

Rowan on Strips and Clippings, V10

Rowan on Strips and Clippings, V10

Ben on Strips and Clippings, V10

Mega Arete proj in all her glory.

Ben on an as yet unnamed highball around the V5 mark.
This angle dwarfs how tall it is!

Dave bustin' skulls on another project.

The Underworld is an often forgotten about crag. I’m not sure why though. It is chockers with some of the best rock climbing the mountains have to offer. I think the proudest line there would have to be Hashish, 32; a Zac Vertrees classic roof blaster. Start up Vince Day’s bouldery classic, Mississippi Moonshine, 29, then you truck out through a roof to a good rest before the last crux. The last crux is super! I made a dog's breakfast of it on nearly every attempt though. I have an amazing ability to forget sequences. Even on routes I’ve been on 100 times. If there’s a sequence, I’ll forget it. There’s a little left hand flick you need to do midway through the final crux and if you forget to do it and release your heal toe cam early, then it’s game over! No going back. On nearly every redpoint attempt I found myself in the rather frustrating position of being at the top crux, not being pumped, not having flicked my hand, but having released the heal toe cam and unable to reverse the move. I’d be stuck in the spread eagle position, looking back through the roof at all the climbing I’d done to get to where I was and thinking, ‘well, that was smart.’ Then just drop off and have to start again. Maybe there was a naughty word thrown in there too. Annoying. Finally I learnt my lesson and correctly remembered my sequence, a good lesson to learn, and got through it all. It is one of the best routes getting around and a very satisfying send.

I also sunk a few bits of steel in the cliff down there. Three new routes emerged in total. Two share the same start then split after a few meters and encounter some super steep real-estate. I haven’t had a proper go on them yet but the brief dabble I had on the easier of the two was a slap in the face. HARD! The third starts up an existing 27 and then blasts out 7 meters of new roof territory on scoops and underclings and funky edges. Hopefully this one will be a little easier than the other two.

Lastly there’s Bowl of Milk, 32, hard yes and totally inspiring, contrary to prior reports. Ben bolted this as a fresh-faced youth many many moons ago. Then climbed it as a fresh-faced fella many moons ago. It’s an ultra bouldery 11 move crimp fest busting out a little overhang. Very very fun. The more you bite down and try really really hard the easier it is. This isn’t a poker face route. Everyone can see you grimace your way up it. Ben originally gave it 33, but we now think it’s just a good ol’ fashioned 32. Ben belayed me on it and we chatted and we both agreed that maybe it isn’t as hard as what 33s look like. As it goes, it was the second ascent, eight years after Ben. On the send, my Alzheimer’s kicked in again and I forgot to clip mid crux. Falling above the crux, a very real possibility, without it clipped is not a fall you want to take. It would be a long walk out with two broken legs and maybe a bit of poop in your pants. I went back one move, made the clip and hoped I had enough wind left in my sail to get up the last few moves. As it turned out it was totally sweet as and I clipped the anchor. Happy! We made a little video of the send. Filmed on my phone, balanced on my chesty bonds, up against a shoe. Not the best, but it’s fun recording these things. Unfortunately embedding the video isn't working too well so click on the link and it'll take you there! Video here

Now Amanda, Audrey and I are all sick. We’ve been stuck at home feeling totally yuck for three days. The bug has gone through Blackheath slaying all in its path. Motivation for fun stuff is still high, however the handbrake needs to stay engaged for now. Plans are brewing away though and there’s lots of fun stuff to come!

Friday, February 28, 2014

The house of three plumes

I’ve been doing a bit of rock climbing lately. Not so much before this latest bit though. After the last blog I had another couple of weeks to do fun stuff, then it was all work and no play. Before and after the ‘all work and no play period’ though, there was some good playing.

Firstly, the Ukulore Valley, gosh that place is good. It just is I tell you. It really is. It’s hard to get better. Ben and I kept on heading down there with a fair amount of regularity, trying to squeeze out the last of the juicy problems before the summer conditions enveloped the boulders in summery summerness. I don’t think we are yet to understand what good conditions feel like down there. It’s always been a little less then ideal. One afternoon we did get a nice breeze rolling up the Valley and Ben took this opportunity to pick the plum, now know as Jack to the Hobos, V11. I climbed it a couple days later. We have already spoken about this little fella though, so no need to bring up old news. It does, however, lead to fun stuff that happened next. Initially Ben and I had just been going down to the Ukulore and going at the easier stuff first and gradually trying the trickier and trickier looking problems. After doing Jack to the Hobos, there was just one main line left in the Jungfrau sector, the Dihedral project.

We had dabbled a little bit on it on previous days, however it seemed ultra tricky and we’d never really gotten passed, ‘gosh it’s hard isn’t it, do you want to try (insert less bowel voiding problem).’ But that’s what we had left now. It didn’t take long before we figured out what was going on with it. I think after that first day Ben had done all the moves apart from the last couple. We had no idea on how they were going to turn out due to a seeming lack of holds a meter from an obvious finishing point. The next day down there I climbed up a tree right next to where we thought would be a great place to finish the problem, hoping to find something. Hazzar!!! There we have two stonking, two finger pockets which were filled with dirt. Thanks for coming. We have a problem. Brush them out and fill them with chalk. By the end of the day we had both done all the moves and were starting to make a couple of small links. Nothing too noteworthy, but putting the pieces together felt great. We were both very psyched.

A few more afternoons down there working out the moves with more finesse and suddenly it was all on. Dihedral project, which was now known as And the Ass Saw the Angel project, was having proper attempts thrown at it from Ben and I. It’s fun when you start having those proper efforts. Any go now. Could this be the one? Then you get a little nervous in your head and begin to over think a foot fumble or slight hand readjustment as being the reason why you won’t be able to do it this go. Calm but not too calm blah blah blah. You can work yourself into a mess. Just climb the thing.

And the Ass Saw the Angel, V13, down in the Ukulore
I had a lonely morning at home so I popped on The Real Thing, I hope you all know it. If not, that’s your homework assignment for next week. Go buy it, rent it, download it, whatever, just get your chalky bloody hands on it. For those of you who have watched it you’ll know it’s pretty easy to get psyched. Well I took that psyche, put it in the car with my pads, boots and chalk and headed down for the boulders. Ben was at uni so unfortunately it was just a solo mission. Well I had the company of my phone playing music as loud as its little speaker could yell. Not the worst company I guess.

Conditions weren’t as good as they had been, certainly not as bad as they had been though. I had a warm-up pounce around and did the project in a couple of sections. After a little rest I had a couple more goes and was feeling good. I kept on falling off the moves Ben and I had been both coming off in our last session but I felt better than those previous days. Another little rest and a couple more goes later and I stuck the troublesome leaping helicopter move. Stab the feet on and keep going. Don’t fluff it. Up through the last few moves and its over. Sweet as. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect boulder problem. But I think this boulder is as perfect as a boulder can be on the imperfect scale. So there it is, And the Ass Saw the Angel, V13.

Then it was off for some work. It’s annoying when work gets in the way of doing fun stuff. We gotta do it though. Firstly, off to Kuranda, which is just up near Cairns in Queensland, for some geotechnical work. Part of a hill had slipped away and due to it being right on top of a major tourist train line, it needed to be fixed. So we drilled 80 rods 6 meters into the ground and installed nearly 300m2 of chain link mesh. At the 4 ½ week mark and with the finishing date changing by the day due to heavy rain and miscalculations, I was starting to loose my mind. We were out of there around the 5 ½ week mark though and I was glad to be heading home. Not for long though. Up into the Hunter Valley two days later for some inspections in a coal power station. After ticking them off I was home for a night before heading to Brisbane for more inspection work. This time on the main rail bridge which runs across the Brisbane River. From there I had 3 days at home, then back to the airport. It was for pleasure this time though, Christmas in Dunsborough with Amanda’s family. Ten days of surfing and hanging out on the Western Australia coast.

January came round and we were back in Blackheath. Time to climb again. It had been two months and I had only climbed twice! I was frothing to get back on rock. In some of those days in between working away Ben and I headed down to the Glen with my Bosch in search of new things. We found them, one in the same roof as the mega classic route Inertia and one on Wave Wall. Yes you read that right; ANOTHER route on Wave Wall and it’s not a squeeze job. Fancy that.

The one in the Inertia roof is all time!! All time quality and all time hard. It’s got some pretty brick moves. The guts of it is the middle third. About 15 moves of tough. It’s not exactly your typical Blue Mountains route. All the holds are actually quite good, the difficulty comes from the distance and funky positioning and movement required between the holds. Some absolute full extension moves, with ankles above your head, cut looses, two hands and a heel on the one hold in a roof and to top it off there’s a stonking big throw at the end which is sure to break your heart a few times. We have done all the moves now and there’s been a few good links happening, but I think a full link will be truly hard. We think it could be in the 35 bracket. It’s certainly harder than anything I’ve ever tried on a rope. This puppy has the working title, Low down dirty dawg.
Ben cutting sick on the last hard move of LDDD
Me on the crux moves getting into the roof on LDDD
Me on the final few moves turning the lip on LDDD
Me on one of the opening moves on LDDD
Ben layin down the law, 'you give me bad beta again and I'll...'
Then there’s the Wave Wall project. This fella starts up Point Break but where it heads right to finish up Microwave, this project just keeps blasting up on virgin, unclimbed wall. Technical, low angle face climbing at it’s best with underclinging rock-overs and cool womping moves to el typical crimpy crimps. We have only tried this one twice so far and on both days it was grimly humid. Only one move eludes us, but those yummy cold dry days will be the secret to success. I think this one will be in about the 33/4 category. Its working title isn’t fit for publication ;).

Now we get back to the Ukulore Valley. There are too many cool hard projects here. To rattle them all off to you would take the rest of your great grandchildren’s lives. I will say, however, the quality and downright difficulty of some of the problems is very exciting. There are proper world-class lines here. As good as you could get anywhere. Ben and I have been getting down there a fair amount. We have ticked off a couple of the more moderate problems laying around the Valley. The other day I did the first ascent of a cool flake, On the far side of the peach grove, V9. The next day I put up another one, A leather shop in Arizona, V8. Ben put up a funky problem where you attempt to mantle the start hold with a funky heel rock over maneuver. This will sit around the V6 mark and is yet to be christened with a name. To finish off, Lee put up Pocket to cool rail problem, V7, adding to the growing list of classic moderates down there. It’s still too hot for busting out the trickier problems, but we’ve been playing on the moves now, figuring they will feel that much easier when those crisp days roll in. We are hoping this is the case at least. Otherwise all this lost skin is for nothing!

Ben on the first ascent of an extremely good quality,
easy new highball in the Ukulore
It is exciting to have all these projects in our backyard. I’ve only mentioned a couple of them too. Of course there’s plenty more to happen at Elphinstone as well as various other projects scattered around at different crags. It’s very cool. All we need now is perfect weather year round, bulletproof skin, no injuries and a winning lotto ticket and I reckon there’s a chance of knockin’ them all off this year. Although doing them all in a year would be like scoffing down dinner at a three Michelin star restaurant. Sure you were there and it was yummy, but you didn’t fully appreciate it. For me, just charging through and ticking them off methodically and quickly is not what climbing is about. It’s the battles you have with tweaky fingers, shot skin, buttery holds and brain farts one move from the top that makes the send that much more rewarding. The times when it all goes wrong just makes the victory that much more special.
Crux on Tiger Snatch, 29, at Elphinstone
Coming into the crux on Tiger Snatch, 29, at Elphinstone
As a little side note to finish off this post; two days ago Ben did the First Ascent of Street Walkin’ Cheetah, 32 in Centennial Glen. He bolted it more than a year ago and due to university commitments and general life stuff he never had a good lash on it. On Tuesday he got on it for the first time in about a year and fell two moves from the top twice. Then two days ago it was all on and he did it first go of the day. I got on it straight afterwards, having tried it once on Tuesday, and fell three times on the second last move. It’s an absolute classic of classics heading out a couple roofs and around a few bulges to glory. It pumps you up to a good rest at the base of the final roof, where you set yourself for the final bouldery redpoint crux. If you have enough burl left in your guts, grab the slot swing your feet round and make the big pounce to the finishing jug. Oh Yeah!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Going Native

I’m jumping on the long overdue blog update bandwagon. I had a little thing I had written about fun adventures I’d had in the past while, but then Ben updated his long overdue blog and so my update would have been outdated and surpassed in every other way! Not wanting to reheat old stories and tell them in a far less eloquent way I sat steady. Waiting for something else fun to ramble about to ya’ll.

The arete project
I can’t, however not mention what Ben, if any of you have read his blog, which if you haven’t you should, as it is great, has written in his last two posts. The bouldering in the Ukulore Valley!! It’s the ace of spades for sure! All time greatness within 5 minutes of your home, depending on where you live. There are quite a few areas now all with some of the best bouldering you could hope for. Honestly I think some of the problems would give the Grampians classics a run for their money! Am I allowed to say that?? Well it’s true!

Ben and I have been tramping down there with a reasonable amount of regularity lately and have been brushing, chalking, building landings, forging trails and of course playing on the boulders far past sunset. Very romantic! There are quite a few established problems now, ranging from V4-V11. It was, in some ways, slightly annoying the amount of mega awesome projects we had found. Where were you to start? Seems a funny thing to complain about; too much good climbing!

In the last couple of weeks Ben and I have put up the following:

  • The old reach around – V11, a tricky blind around the corner throw.
  • Jack to the hobos – V11, I managed to get up it 2 days after Ben. This is surely a contender as an all time classic anywhere in the world.
  •  Squatting in a slitted trashbird (name not yet confirmed) – V10, very cool footwork and hand sequence to a big throw and a commiting tall slab out.

Ecker's tears
  •  Beyond the glory hole – V8, Ben nabbed the 2nd ascent a couple minutes after me. This is a very fun and pasty corner problem.
  •  Ma Crow’s choice – V5, very cool high ball on the right arĂȘte of the iced vovo boulder.
  •   Ecker’s tears – V7/4, Sit start and stand start. The sit starts on a left undercling on the lip of the low roof and a right hand cartoon hold. Do a couple of tensiony moves to get yourself to the two good edges where the stand start starts. Then make your way up the arĂȘte on the amazingly sculpted holds.
  • Ma Crow's Choice. This photo doesn't give the boulder any credit for its size
    Ben on beyond the glory hole

    Ben on beyond the glory hole
A cool drain down in the Ukulore the cane farmers use to cross the road. The season is just about to start again so we will be seeing more of them soon.

Then there are all the radical hard projects to do as well. However you all have busy lives and I don’t need to bore you with too many details.  I could go on for hours! Just know they are rad!!
Ben brushing up 'and the ass saw the angel' project. This picture dwarfs the real life thing.
It is just the sweetest thing!

So now we get to the new story I get to tell you. I did my first first ascent of a route I bolted yesterday!! Wow o wow it was good. Not just in a quality of rock and moves way, but in a whole process way. This wasn’t the first route I bolted, 4th actuallyI have done a few first ascents before, however I had never bolted any of them. They were ether existing projects, link ups, direct starts or alternate finishes. Most of the time they were a known quantity and weren’t necessarily a huge adventure. This was an adventure though, in a sport climbing kind of way. It was so much fun to rap down a virgin cliff and start sinking my dynabolts, checking out the holds and seeing where a line might go. I spent days and days cleaning off loose rock, scrubbing off mud and gluing in my ring bolts. There may be a few of you who are reading this who have bolted before so you’ll know how much fun it is. Either that or you’ll know how much I’m hamming this up and will think I’m just some glory hungry upstart bolt clipper =).  Anyway, when I finally had the chance to try the route for the first time it was the best. To feel how the holds actually felt with a chalky hand and climbing shoe clad foot. Some of the sequences I’d thought would go didn’t and others I was bang on. Quite a few of the moves were even more outrageous than I could have imagined!
I had an attempt at Macarons. Not as good as the real thing
I tried a couple weeks later! They are yum!!

me catching a sick left
On a side note, surfing has recently peaked my interest again. Surfing was the thing I was most psyched on before I started running around in the dust at the base of cliffs. I have always loved the beach and, sorry for the wankiness here, it’s where I feel the best. After heading up to Brisbane in July for my birthday, I returned with one of my old boards! Dusty and covered in cobwebs, the poor thing hadn’t been near the water in years. Since coming back I’ve bought myself another board, a wet suit that actually keeps me warm and I’ve been charging down to the surf as much as possible. My daily website perusing now involves a little too much time spent pouring over any surf related material.

Julian's best attempt at gettin up
Thom has also gotten his hands on a surf board and so now we have joined the Blackheath surf brigade. There are actually quite a few Blackheathens who enjoy a surf. Thom, Julian and I went down early yesterday morning for sneaky morning session. We pulled up at the car park and it was looking fairly flat. Bummer. There was enough to make getting wet worthwhile though. Ten minutes after getting in they started to pick up a bit to about 3ft on some of the bigger sets. A very fun size without much washing machine consequence if you tumble into the frothy stuff. I spent the morning carving it up and looking like a pro. Not quite, but I managed to get a metric shite ton of them it seemed. Towards the end of the session I could barely paddle back out my shoulders were so worked! After a little false start on his new board Thom found his feet and got up on a couple of swish lookin waves. Julian, however, looked like someone dressed a baby giraffe in a wetsuit and plopped it on a board. It was entertaining to watch. In the end though we all had a cracker of a day with many waves in the bag.

Thom and I doing a few ding repairs on our quiver 
Getting the boards down

Now we cross seamlessly back to rock climbing. After the surfing Thom and I were still psyched to play. So we headed back up the mountain for some rock climbing. We went straight down to Elphinstone, Gay Paris wall. Gay Paris wall for those who aren’t familiar, is a cool new wall that completes the triangle of glory of the three cliffs that make up Elphinstone. Nory, Thom and I have bolted a few routes on it, all of which are all time, none of which had been climbed.
First Mango of the season. Gosh I love em

Thom and I did a little track work around the base of the cliff, cutting out some steps and laying pavers so as to make the Gay Paris experience an enjoyable one for all you merry travellers. After a little hard labour we got bored and started climbing. I went up and put the draws on my Shame at the Anvil project. It certainly is a cracking route. It would weigh in at around 40+meters and you can break it into two sections. The first half being fairly steady climbing for 15-20m at around grade 30. You get to a stonking rest and you can get most of it back. Then crank up through the top half without so much of a rest and turn the lip of the cliff via a leap and a skip. Thom had a go on his new line too. This route will be a super thing!! Moderate and from the looks of things very gymnastic and funky climbing to a 6ft dyno that looks extreme. Following that madness it’s a further 20m of trickiness to the top.
Thom bolting his route on Gay Paris wall

After Thom had his play I strapped myself in again. I got up higher than before and well and truly into the business. After nearly fluffing it a couple times and forgetting the top slab sequence between the last bolt and the anchor with a deep pump, I got to the top. Jugs. Heaps of fun!! So yeah, the Gay Paris wall cherry has been popped! Get on it and give it a tickle.

My new machine as of today!! It's the end of an era with the Iced Vovo (1986 Volvo GL).
The castle on wheels was just getting too expensive on fuel.

Protective stuff you have to wear working in a caustic tank
Bolting at the top of a 170m chimney
Rosie practicing his skyhook aiding

check out gay paris!