Monday, 30 March 2015

A Tough Time to Start a Blog...

It's very hard to start a blog on returning home from such an epic trip, mostly because each of the points below probably warrants a blog entry of its own (and associated boasting and rambling). But it was during this most recent journey -instigated by being made redundant after working for Telstra for roughly 10 years- that I received enough encouragement from climbers I came across to justify creating this, and in believing that at least a few people might be interested.

The Summit with Youngie!
So, to recap the highlights of my travels since November 2014:

  • I traveled to Tanzania and met up with my friend Ben Young, and there we climbed Kilimanjaro via the Umbwe route (arguably one of the toughest routes up the mountain).

Exposed multipitching at Vilanova de Meia.


  • I then spent 5 weeks climbing in Spain with Neil Monteith, tackling the enduro limestone tufa routes of Oliana, Terradets and Chulilla; the conglomerate pocket boulders of Margalef and the marathon pockets of Montsant (with some limestone crimping in Siurana); and the mixed bag of sketchy sea-cliff climbs, monolithic mixed multipitches, conventional (though old-school) sport climbs and short and punchy cragging crags that was the Cosa Blanca region.
Sketchy steep trad above Finestrat.

Neil and I are both renowned for our ability to never stop talking, and somehow we made it through the entire trip without murdering one another. What was perhaps most unnerving was the number of my friends back home who have since remarked their surprise about the fact that we didn't kill each other (what gives, friends? I can only assume that they wanted one or both of us dead, and saw this trip as an easy means of accomplishing it). Seriously though, it was awesome climbing with Neil, because we're both obsessed to the point of climbing for 10+ consecutive days, and willing to tackle anything from bouldery sport routes, to E-graded sea-cliff traverses on the worst fixed gear I've ever seen. It was the epitome of an awesome trip.

    7c bouldery pockets at Pinos.
  • Next, on returning to Australia, fellow Blue Mountaineers Gene Gill, Andy Richardson, Ben Lane (Jenga) and myself headed down to Tasmania for more climbing. The entire trip was a highlight in itself with such a rad crowd in so stunning (and intimidating) a location and I ended up spending almost 2 months in Tassie (with a brief detour to Mt Buffalo, the Grampians and Mount Arapiles in the middle). But amongst this mega-trip, there were a few particularly special moments:

    • Onsighting both pitches of The Free Route (25) on the Totem Pole via the Deep Play (24) first Pitch:

Deep Play (24) - The alternative P1 to the Totem Pole
Onsighting the megaclassic P2 (24/25) of the Free Route on the Totem Pole.

      Gene Gill in front of the Pillars of Hercules.

    • Flashing Pole Dancer (22) and the climbing Finger of Blame (23) on the Pillars of Hercules at Cape Raoul - Pillar climbing at the arse end of the world! It took the better part of 15 hours to do both of these climbs, and included 10 pitches of "access climbing" and 7 pitches of abseiling.

      The initial (easier) section of Dopamine.

    • Climbing pretty much anything at Bare Rock, though in particular Angel of Pain (26/27), Dopamine (25), and Ride the Lightning (25/26) were standouts. However, of particular note is a new route that I bolted at the top of Bare Rock, tentatively called "Obsidian Obsession" as it climbs a stunning pitch-black streak of dolerite with perfect moves in a super-exposed location. It will be in the vicinity of 27/28 when I get back to Tassie to send it... apparently 5 days of effort wasn't enough.

Yet another lap on Angel of Pain. It goes right up the steepness.

A video-grab of me rope-soloing the 1st crux of my Obsidian Obsession Project at Bare Rock.
Seize the Day (26) at Duck Reach.

    • Ticking Seize the Day (26) at Duck Reach in Launceston. This climb follows a stunning technical seam-crack up a beautiful face, with a malevolently thin finale that spat me off several times when victory was in sight.

      In the Photo to the right, the gentleman there is Andrew Martin, owner of the Bare Rock property and -more interestingly- the writer of the "Cheap and Nasty Guide to Frog Buttress". Legend.


  • As I mentioned before. After my first month in Tasmania I deviated back to the main land for some climbing at Mt Buffalo and the Grampians before returning to Tasmania for another 3-or-so weeks.

    Mt Buffalo was amazing and intimidating. After 10 climbing days (and 1 rest day) with Tim Shaw and Goshen Watts, my mind was frazzled from rap-in, climb-out commitment, huge exposure, granite friction slabbing, dubious gear and monster runouts. I needed to head to the Grampians for some more conventional sport climbing.

Climbing Arch Rivals (24) on the North Wall of the Gorge at Mt Buffalo.

Amanda and Me.

At The Grampians I met up with my old friend Amanda Morrissey and her posse of Brisbane Climbers who were on a climbing trip there, and did a bit of climbing, some bouldering, and a lot of being an idiot. Of particular note was my shot on the stunning (and flawed) Dance of Life (24 M1) on Taipan Wall. A stunning climb marred by a very tricky and frustrating aid move near the start, and a hideously thin boulder-problem as the last few moves to the topout.

Heading up into the unknown on the mostly-trad Dance of Life (24M1).
And so, having been gone for 4.5 months, I finally headed back home with a brief detour to The Rock (outside Wagga Wagga in NSW) and Bungonia for some Canyoning (and scoping a prospective new line/crag I've been coveting for a while). And thus, here I am now, back at my home in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia... ready for more adventures into the obscure (and downright stupid).

It's easy to hide in a place like Tasmania: it's just remote and obscure enough to be almost surreal, yet it's familiar enough to be comforting and free of "culture shock". And by hiding I mean that it's easy to forget that the real world exists, and that life isn't just a climbers playground. One needs money to facilitate more climbing, and at the moment -in joblessness- money is a resource I have, but is slowly draining away. I've chosen to take at least a year off to pursue my more outlandish climbing objectives, but at the back of my mind this newfound freedom has a definitive limitation: money.

Carpe Diem.

A quick shout-out to the facilitators of my recent climbing adventures:

For the Overseas part of my trip, thanks to Ben Young, Neil Monteith, Lucky Pascoe, Matt Pascoe, and Ro Latimer.For the Tasmania/Victoria segment of my sojourn, thanks to  Gerry Narkowicz, Andrew Martin, Garry Phillips, Ingvar Lidmin, Helen Gibson, Gene Gill, Ben Lane, Andy Richardson, Jason McCarthy, Jenna Brady, Tim Shaw, Amanda Morrissey, Kat Tree-Gypsy, Vladi Eileen Rosolova, Goshen Watts, Michael Hall, Matthew Owens, Johan Gustafson, Heinz Kreinz, Hoa, and Brendan Heywood.

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