Friday, November 11, 2011

The Petzl RocTrip China

I managed to organise another 2 weeks break from work and decided to go to the Petzl Roctrip mainly because for once it was on this side of the world and being in China i knew alot of the people attending. A large contingent of people from Yangshuo where i had previously worked were going as well as a bunch of friends i knew from climbing elsewhere in the world. The event itself was only officially four days long but most people went planning to spend a week or two there. The Roctrip is similar to the RipCurl Pro Search surfing event in that it is based in a new area around the world each year generally helping to open them up to the crowds through development and awareness. This year it was in the Getu Valley, China which is accessed through a poor rural village. It was amazing to see the contrast between the poor local farmers and the international climbers. I am not sure the locals ever figured out exactly what was going on but hopefully the cash injection into the village from their hospitality helps them out alot.

The Getu Valley itself is the typical karst limestone landscape seen everywhere in southern China and down through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand etc. with one major exception... The Great Arch. This amazing feature sits high up on a hill and is internally about 100m wide, 80m high and 150m long. On a clear day the sun rises shining a beam of light through the arch into the Getu valley.
The climbs in the area had been equipped over the last couple of seasons and you could tell they hadnt had much traffic. A thin layer of dust on the holds and loose rock were common and i couldnt help but think that although the setting was beyond amazing the quality of the routes wasnt quite as good as those found in Yangshuo. Despite this i did do some amazing routes in the grade 27-29 range almost all of which were a grade or two overgraded. The best part of the trip was definitely watching and talking to some of the best climbers in the world. The main thing i noticed that sets them apart wasnt their strength but their fitness. Its the kind of fitness you can only achieve by climbing full time.
So now after meeting cool climbers from all around the world, a quick culture immersion and being exposed to the lifestyles of full time climbers i am back at work and training hard with renewed motivation.

Steve McClure onsighting a 7c+/28. All the pockets were slopers with many hidden holds.

Dani Andrada belayed by Chris Sharma on an 8 pitch 8c/33.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Europe 2011

Europe was great as always and I achieved my major sport climbing goal of the trip with a quick ascent of L'ami de toute le monde (8b/31) at Ceuse. The highlight of the trip was definitely Lawrence and Marikas wedding in Poland. It seemed less of a specific event that we would have in Oz and more of a multiday ongoing celebration where everyone was up all night consuming huge amounts of vodka and food before sleeping a few hours in the middle of the day and starting all over again in the evening. During the four blurred days i was in Poland i even managed to get out climbing with Lawrence (on the morning of his wedding) at a small limestone cliff underneath the monastery where the ceremony was to take place. All the routes here seemed short and powerful and hard, probably due to lack of sleep, but i still managed a nice 7c i never got the name off. It seems most Polish words don't actually need many vowels and i noticed street names that where 12 or 15 characters long!
After Poland the plan was for Rob and I to head to the Matterhorn but the forecast showed thunderstorms all week. Emil and Mel who we had met up with in Ceuse where down in the Verdon Gorge in southern France so we drove there after flying Krakow to Milan instead. It was super hot in the gorge but the crags in the shade where still climbable. It seems strange to go to the Verdon and do single pitch sport climbs when the multipitch climbing is so good but due to the temps we had no choice and the single pitch stuff there is actually really good anyway. I found the grading slightly harder than Ceuse although it may have just been the style as i was trying more tufa based routes whereas Ceuse had more pockets. The Verdon has a ridiculous amount of rock and the week we spent here running around the gorge crossing tyroleans and climbing anything in the shade barely scratched the surface of whats here.

Emil on a tufa packed 7c/27 in the Verdon.

Another 6-7 hour drive and i was back in Milan to drop Rob off for his flight back home. I was meant to keep on driving up to the Marmolada to try a route i have always been psyched to try called 'Le Poisson' or 'The Fish' on the south face of the Marmolada which goes at grade 26 and is meant to be super run out and scary but Lawrence had a job offer he couldn't refuse and had to bail so i ended up heading to Grenoble to meet up with another friend Scott Boladeras. We climbed on the local crags around Grenoble with climbs which i thought were very solidly graded. Grenoble is an amazing place to live if you want a large amount of local areas to climb only 5-15 minutes from your house.
I ended up with two days left at the end of the trip, since Scott had left to go climbing in Canada, that i wasnt sure what to do with. After having to really fight on the Grenoble grade 26's to get them second go i had doubts on how i was climbing so i thought id just head back to Ceuse to hang out with the British crew that where there and just take it easy. To my surprise i wasnt actually climbing that bad and managed a soft 8a+/30 on my second go. That made the next big drive back to Milan alot more bearable and ended a great trip even though i didnt make it into the alpine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Away again!

Exciting times ahead as today i am back on a plane to Paris! Rob and I should get to Ceuse friday night and be feeling the pain of the first hour long walk up to the cliffline at 1500m on saturday morning, baguettes, chorizo and camembert in hand! Emil and Mel will be there showing off their spanish fitness putting all the draws up and giving us all the beta for the climbs.
We only have 10 days at Ceuse though before heading to Poland where the main reason for the european sojourn will occur. Lawrence and Marika's wedding! I dont know what to expect from Poland but it has to be different than the impression i have from watching Xmen First Class, the history channel, hearing crazy stories from a Polish friend (Artur) and being the origin of one Captain Crash! My impression is one where everything is grey, vodka fuelled people bend barbed wire fences with their minds while attending the best nightclubs, and the occasional black and white tank trundles by. I think i might be in for a surprise...
After Poland the plan is to head to the Matterhorn with Rob to again try and scramble up the hornli ridge. We have four days so we may be able to get another alpine route in too. Rob heads home on the second of July and Ill be meeting up with Lawrence and Marika sometime after for a quick trip to the Marmolada which hosts one of my all time goals in climbing, The Fish (7b+, 600m). This technical, heady face/slab has a bit of an aura of hardcoreness (its my blog and I'll make words up if i want to!) about it for me and i will be over the moon just to get up it. Lawrence is crushing at the moment so we will have a good chance if we manage to give it a shot. I am back mid July hopefully with a bunch of good photos and not too epic stories.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An unchipped route in Perths big chip and training on Western Australia's biggest choss pile for Europe 2011!

Learning to Fly (23 M1) on the back wall of Mountain Quarry had up till a fortnight ago repelled all attempts at a clean ascent. It was equipped and climbed with some bolt assistance by Ronald and Ron Masters back in 92 and weaved around a direct boulder crux 3/4 of the way up the route. Richard Woodman put the effort in to re-equip the line a few years ago with shiny new rings straightening it out over the second crux. Despite a fair few of Perths stronger climbers including myself trying it over the last few years no one had stuck the first boulder problem only 5m off the ground (bolt was used as aid previously). After freeing Death Star i was feeling reasonably fit and thought I would retry the route and luckily found new beta that allowed me to stick the first boulder problem (just!). The second higher boulder took me a fair while to work out but i found a sequence that felt just as shaky as on the first boulder. After just over 10 attempts I managed to stick the first boulder from the ground for the first time and then it was on. A bit of grade 23 climbing, a rest and then luckily managed to stick the second boulder (only the second time I'd managed to do the boulder!). The route felt like two V8's (/9?) separated by a bunch of easier climbing. I graded it 29 as it lacked consistency although the cruxes could have been those of a harder route.

After mashing my fingers onto minute crimps in the quarry it was definitely time for some longer more adventurous routes. Ideas had been thrown around that have eventually turned in to plans for a climbing holiday in Europe based around Lawrences wedding in Poland this June. The main outline of plans is to do almost two weeks sport climbing on some limestone, hang out in Poland for a few days to celebrate Lawrence and Marika's nuptials, head to the Matterhorn with Rob and climb the Hornli Ridge, and then climb in the Dolomites on the south face of the Marmolada with Lawrence before heading home. Big plans called for some major training!

Bluff Knoll looking nice and chossy!

Rob has been walking up and down Jacobs ladder in the city to try and get some fitness for walking up hills while i have been surfing the net, drinking coffee and bouldering. We decided we needed a big day to test us and see how we were progressing. The closest thing i could think of to something the scale of the Matterhorn in WA was two laps on the main face of Bluff Knoll with all the bashing up and across slopes that came with the approach to the base of the face. So on the Saturday just past my alarm went off at 4am for an alpine start in the camp ground near Bluff Knoll. At half past i dragged myself out of bed and woke Rob up. By 5:30 we had driven to the car park and started to walk. It took us an hour and a half to bush bash our way through to the start of what we thought was hell fire gully, a steep, loose, bush filled gully. We had forgotten the camera which we had taken photos of the topo and description of the routes on (neither of us had been up any climb on the bluff except The Great Roof). By 11:30 we were on top and the wind had picked up and clouds had started to gather. We started walking briskly down the trail and then bashing our way through thick scrub back to the base of the face. At 12:45 we were back at the base of the main wall which looked dark and ominous. A bit of doubt crept into our minds then. The first route which was much easier and shorter had taken us four and a half hours and we only had five and a half hours of light left. Getting benighted on the bluff with its super brittle and loose rock would be a nightmare.

Looking down at the carpark from somewhere on the face.

Focusing on the mission and ignoring the facts we kept on going climbing the rough line of Coercion. We knew it shared the same start as what we had climbed previously for the great roof but had no idea where it broke off or how it finished. We followed the easiest line we could find following weaknesses to the left of the rooves. Large run outs on dodgy gear were common and we both mentally adopted a no fall policy. We topped out just as we lost the last light (5:45) and the buffeting wind chilled us to our bones. Head torches on we took our time on what seemed an endless descent down the tourist track. After 13 hours and 15 minutes at 6:45 we were back at the car and thoroughly exhausted. Once back at camp we had instant noodles for dinner and checked to see how accurate our memories of the route descriptions had been. It turns out we didn't climb hell fire gully at all! We actually climbed a mix of Right Anti Climax and Cornerstone (240m, 15) although we got Coercion (350m, 17) pretty much correct although we might have deviated a bit at the top. All up 590m of climbing with 3hrs 45mins of walking!

Rob happily asleep while shovelling food into his mouth with two instant noodles lined up after the big day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The best pitch up the middle of the best wall in Oz!

Finally sent Serpentine (29) up the middle of Taipan wall on a quick trip to Victoria last week. The second pitch is definitely up there with the best single pitches going around. I tried this route about 10 years ago onsighting the first pitch (24) and not making the top of the second. This trip i snared it on my 3rd shot. Lawrence was trying it too and was excrutiatingly close but ran out of time on the short 5 day trip. He will probably walk up it next trip. Liana also had a good trip climbing Mr Joshua (25) on Taipan and a fast ascent of have a good flight (25) at arapiles. Other Taipan action included Doug, currently from the blueys, trying the Groove Train (33/4?). This line looks awsome!!!! I had a quick play but couldnt do the large move on Groovy the initial grade 28 or a large move near the start of the extension (although i have a better chance at that one than the groovy one!).

Happy Place... Taipan Wall :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Running with the Bulls (24), Mountain Quarry

So i got a new toy! Its a tiny video camera about the size of a phone that fits in your pocket. Perfect for climbing. I am just testing it at the moment and learning how to use some editing software. Above is some film i captured of Rob climbing at Mountain Quarry in Perth. Unfortunately i seem to lose alot of quality through the editing and uploading phases. I'll work on that...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Death Star (29) Mountain Quarry, Perth

Finally managed to send the Skywalker wall project in Mountain Quarry i started working on the other week. It was chipped and bolted by Mark Wilson who kindly let me get the FA. It starts to the left of Skywalker up thin fingery face climbing. It is unrelenting and cruxy until you get to the half way roof which provides a rest. After pulling over the roof you climb the business of Premature Evacuation (thin crack) to the top. I stayed with the theme of the wall and called it Death Star (29) 30m. The grade is a bit iffy as face climbing isnt one of my strong points so i was undecided between 28 and 29 but leaned towards 29 in the end. Its a great route but try at your own peril as there is a large block in the roof that looks like it may fall sometime soon joining the block next door which fell a couple of years ago.

At the start of the thin wall of Death Star.

One of the cruxy face moves

Friday, February 4, 2011

Punks in the Gym, Arapiles

Over the past year i have done several trips to Arapiles in Victoria with the aim of climbing Punks in the Gym (32). It was a bit of a goal of mine last year to push my grades a bit and finally redpoint a grade 32. I didnt achieve this although i got very close.
I was attracted to the route due to its history, the fact that its technically, physically and mentally hard, and becuase whenever i am overseas its the first route people ask me if i have done it when i tell them i am from oz.
Punks was first done by Wolfgang Gullich in 1985 and at the time was regarded as the hardest route in the world. Despite recently having many ascents it is still one of the testpieces of Australia. There is a bit of contention regarding a hold made from glue that was added and altered (the 'birdbath'). From what i can gather the glue reinforced a tiny crumbling edge or made a tiny edge holdable. Wolfgang used this for the first ascent and then later when the glue started to crumble away in the 90s the hold was re-glued slightly better. Despite this the route climbs amazingly well and is technically brilliant.
I spent all up about 7 weeks over 4 visits last year during one of the wettest winters and struggled to find good conditions. For me to climb the route i need cool temps and low humidity as a bunch of the holds are flat and polished. I also spent a week sick in the pines sitting under a tarp! During the start of November i had a small window of good conditions and gave it my best shots. There are 2 percentage moves (cruxes) for me. The hardest is the low down crux which only exists if your short and the second is the stab at the birdbath hold. I linked to catching the birdbath on several occasions but psyched myself out every time i thought i might send the route. The closest i got was falling off at the top of the final slab bit at the top (heartbreakingly close). I would have stayed to finish off the route then but i had to leave for a job interview in Perth and had to drive back across the nullabor.
The first crux:
Traverse to the rest:
Leading into the 'birdbath' move:
The 'birdbath' move:

A couple of weeks ago during a break from work i went back for 4 days of climbing to try and finally send the route packing. Despite training hard, feeling stronger and fitter i couldnt catch the birdbath from the ground. I need a bit of time there to develop the muscle memory for the move. I felt stronger on the rest of the route though so its not too far away for whenever i get back there for a reasonable amount of time. Thanks to Jarmilla, Mick, Zac and most recently Rob for belaying!