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.