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SPRING 2019 VERTICAL LIFE IS PUBLISHED QUARTERLY Winter / Spring / Summer / Autumn Editors Simon Madden - Ross Taylor - Associate Editor - Chris Ord Design - Jess van de Vlierd - Advertising - Subscriptions - - 0458 296 916 Senior Contributors - Duncan Brown, Amanda Watts, Kamil Sustiak, Denby Weller Contributing Writers - Dave Barnes, Dave Brailey, Jake Bresnehan, Tommy Caldwell, Billie Civello, Chris Dewhirst, Adam Donoghue, Crazy John Fisher, Campbell Harrison, Ashlee Hendy, Inalee Jahn, Jason Liew, Gerry Narkowicz, Liz Oh, John Palmer, Angus Taylor Photography - Simon Bischoff, Phillip Booth, Kim Carrigan, Austin Dickey, Yvette Harrison, Stuart Hickson, Tom Hoyle, Mike Hughes, Keith Lockwood, Simon Madden, Kirk Mason, Simon Middlemass, Colin Monteath, John Palmer, Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool, Angus Taylor Publisher - Wild Bunyip Pty Ltd // ABN 50 617 545 696 Cover Image - Danny John on Disco Non-Stop Party (25), Pierces Pass, Blue Mountains. Phillip Booth Credits Image - Chris Miller gurning and yearning on Betty Blue (24), Nowra. Simon Madden Contents image - Jake Bresnehan on Interstellar Overdrive (V10), Castle Hill. Kamil Sustiak Disclaimer Rockclimbing and other activities described in this magazine can carry significant risk of injury or death. Undertake outdoor activity only with proper instruction, supervision, equipment and training. The publisher and its servants and agents have taken all reasonable care to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the expertise of its writers. Any reader attempting any of the activities described in this publication does so at their own risk. The publisher nor its servants or agents will be held liable for any loss, injury or damage resulting from any attempt to perform any of the activities described in this publication. All descriptive and visual directions are a general guide only and not to be used as a sole source of information. Climb safe











E D I T O R S ’



It’s funny the things you remember. I have a distinct memory of my mentor urging me to move silently up a route he had just climbed. No tell-tale squeaking of shoe rubber from dragged toes, no heavy clunk of careless newborn-foal footwork, no hand brutishly slapping onto holds or clothes ruffling like disturbed peacock feathers. His was a three-points-on kind of quiet. He equated quietude with control, soundlessness with mastery. This was ‘climbing well’ back when I was a child. It’s informed my idea of what climbing well is, though now I curse that I move like a sloth and glare jealously at the powerful who pop and zlot and swish from hold to hold; you can disavow the ideologies of your past but you can never truly be free from them. I also remember conversations that circled from ‘climbing well’ out to what he termed ‘ethics’. These discussions asked: was your ascent superior to someone else’s? Did you eliminate their aid, free the route from the shackles of a lesser style? Did you climb cleanly or pull on gear? Did you cheat? For a long time this is what I thought climbing ethics were – the style in which you climbed and how honest you were about that style. In our little bubble being ethical was puffing your chest out and like Messner declaring ‘by fair means or not at all!’ Then my world got bigger and I grew up and I realised those things of themselves are not ethical considerations. If ‘style’ is an individual’s approach to move up the rock, ‘ethics’ are the approach that climbers as a group take to preserve the rock resources for others. In reality there is no perfect line that divides style and ethics. The history of the interconnectedness of style and ethics tracks from the private (birth of people walking in the mountains) to the public (scientific advancement, co-opted by empire and nationalism), to the private again (individuals on the margins of society seeking gratification and agrandissement) and back to the public (growth in numbers, increase in impacts, added visibility with land managers, in the context of indigenous rights, environmentalism, the corporatisation of public spaces and an understanding of Future Others). How we value climbing and how we think about its impacts is not fixed, it moves with the times. Ethics will also always be contested and though climbing unites the ‘climbing community’ there is no consensus on the ethical framework that should inform the way climbing is practiced in sacred and fragile places. But that is all the more reason to speak up. A short while ago I started a project to ask people what climbing ethics were. Amongst the answers were two divides; the first, obvious one, was between those who had some notion of climbing ethics and those who had never heard nor thought of them. The second, more subtle, was between those who described ethics like my old mentor, that of style, vs those who spoke about impacts and responsibilities greater than honesty, who understood climbing as more than just a relationship between an individual and a rock. While my questioning didn't give people a lot of time to really deeply consider their answer, it was difficult for people to express what they considered climbing ethics were

other than to recount platitudes such as ‘Leave No Trace’ without being able to expound on what that means. Whilst I know it's a clarion call to be mindful of your impacts and minimise them as much as possible, I have been thinking about Leave No Trace (which seems a misnomer); is it practical or even possible? By passing through the world we leave a mark, so to not leave a mark is to not pass, to not exist. This is not an authorisation to leave more trace, but we must be honest about our impacts. We climb with chalk and, yes, you can brush holds and tick marks, but removing all chalk is impractical if even possible at all. We buy gear, drive and fly vast distances, walk trails, use crash mats, place bolts and impact the rock, other climbers, nonclimbers, flora and fauna, and yet, we love the wilderness. The ‘purest’ ethical stance would be to stay home and never climb anything. But screw that, we want to climb and we believe we can square this with our obligation to the environment, to other humans, to the future. ‘Leave No Trace’ is an aspiration rather than an instruction, yet still we need to be honest about the fact that all interactions with the environment leave a mark. The conversation about ethics is so much bigger than a single editorial, we can – and we should – spin off into myriad conversations about ethics. Countless great thinkers have sought to provide a recipe for ‘living well’ and in so doing provide frameworks for making ethical decisions, from Peter Singer to Plato, Aristotle to Ayn Rand, Marx to Messner. The current tumult in climbing over access has sent many into a tailspin. Obviously it is not only through climbing that we confront our rights and responsibilities as humans, in these times of environmental, political and social upheaval many of us are wrestling with the notion of ‘living well’, and because climbing is such a critical part of our lives it is only natural that climbing forms a part of this reflection. I love watching other climbers climb well even if it makes me jealous, moving effortlessly or with great ferocity, balancing control and power, violence and stillness, displaying mastery and abandon – I wonder if in the future we will also marvel at something else; those who are thoughtful, considerate, sustainable. And equally think that it is they who climb well because style is trivial and ethics are vital. Simon Madden

Left: Ethical discussions can be murky, Reuben Bennett-Daly slinks in the shadows on Apotogen (31), Nowra. Simon Madden 11

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BOULDERING D AV E B R A I L E Y A N D J A K E B R E S N E H A N R E C K O N I T CO U L D B E T H E B E S T I N T H E W O R L D WORDS: Dave Brailey & Jake Bresnehan IMAGES: Kamil Sustiak

Jake Bresnehan on Left Trifecta (V8), Castle Hill.


Our story starts in Blackheath, a small climbing village at the top of the Blue Mountains. Five climbing comrades decided to head to Castle Hill in Aotearoa for ten days – Jake who after recent successes on local hard routes was keen to sample some boulders; Doug looking to return to the limestone paradise some 15 years since his last trip; Lee the rookie cutting the cord for his first dedicated bouldering (fishing) trip; Kamil wanting to take photos and get a dose of the esoteric climbing; and me, after three years of focusing on more horizontal pursuits* wanting to connect with the vertical again. Now travelling with pads is a bit of a ball bag, but with good planning all was going smoothly – until we were about 20m off the ground in Christchurch. It was deemed too foggy to land, and with a push of the accelerator we soared back into the night sky to Auckland. The whole point of a climbing trip is to get to your destination as fast as possible and this wasn’t helping. After landing in Auckland around midnight we collected our pads (ball bags) and, after a bit of waiting (two hours), made it to a hotel and tried to get some sleep before getting up at 6am to make our flight back to Christchurch. 18

Well, they couldn’t fit all of us on the same flight so that meant another two-hour delay before we reformed our little posse in Christchurch. Next step was to pick up hire cars, shop for food and get to the chalet we had rented in Castle Hill village. Like butter we were on a roll and when we got to the chalet it had everything: dishwasher, washing machine, hottub, fire and the Internets. It was only lunchtime so we headed up the road to Spittle Hill and Quantum field, the two oldest and most developed areas. The weather was perfect! We turned our attention to the Spittle classic, The Joker (V9), a few tries were had before we decided to move on to Quantum instead of burning all our matches on this one. I mean, we could come back later in the trip anyway. So off to try Snake Eyes (V9) with two hours of light left. Every second was needed and as the sun slid down Jake managed to top out. We stumbled out in the dark back to our warm chalet for food, whisky and rest ‘cause the next day Flock Hill was calling. Now Flock has an interesting approach, I mean, you can see it from the road – it can’t be that much of a walk. It really isn’t that

Doug McConnell watched over by a rainbow on Split Apple Sit Start (V5), Flock Hill.

bad but it is all uphill, you just have to think of it as a good warmup (and remember it’s downhill on the way home). The theme of Flock is high and hard, not the best recipe for me at this point of a comeback, but still amazing. The team ran around finding instant classics and projects to come back to and the day flew by. Once again, we were walking out at night. Which is not so bad if you have a torch, but I went to the Lee Cossey Fast-n-Light School of Packing and so naturally I didn’t have one, making the return to the cars a slow, stumbling affair. Until then it had seemed like an uneventful day compared to our flight shenanigans, but when we shut the rear car door the window shattered into a million bits. WTF! It had been struck by a stone from someone leaving the car park earlier in the day; thankfully they left us a note. BOOM. Sitting by the fire that night the house rocked and rolled; earthquake! It was more of a tremor really, but still pretty interesting for us. When we woke the weather had held for another perfect climbing day – except for me. I had managed to get a cold from the plane and was forced into a rest day. The others headed back up to Flock, where Doug climbed the classic

Sunset Arete (V8), a line he first saw 15 years ago, proving you should never give up on your dreams folks. I’m not really sure how the rest of that day went but besides normal bouldering it was fairly uneventful. Rain – probably the worst thing for a climbing trip, except on a rest day – that’s what we woke up to and it was going to be a rest day anyway, perfect. I quarantined myself for another day, while the team headed into Christchurch to swap the broken hire car and restock. Besides the rain, the trip was back on track: pads were stashed at Flock, beta was sorted on a few projects, though the weather was looking patchy for the next couple of days. Rain again, just some drizzle but windy so the bouldering was going to maybe be okay on the exposed faces. We drove to the car park, but you could see the boulders were soaked so we went home for lunch. A weather window opened that afternoon so we missioned up to Flock for a quick session. (Lee went fishing instead and caught a monster salmon.) What a great session, there were no major ascents, but when you sneak in a climb when everything is against you it feels like a win.


The next day we woke to the forecast of a big front moving in from the coast bringing rain, snow and all sorts of unfriendliness. We blasted off to Flock to rescue stashed pads and try to get in another session. The rain was driving through in waves, problems were dry, then wet, then dry again within minutes. The most consistently dry piece of rock turned out to be Captain Nemo (V8). Desperation tactics were employed. Jake sent in the sun, it rained then cleared and Doug sent. As the weather looked set to finish the day with water running off the top of the boulder, Lee dug deep and topped out! Another slip-sliding descent from the Hill and we retired to the hot tub. The same weather followed the next day, but we still managed to get out and Jake got back to the Joker and epically sent just as the rain started falling again. The front didn’t just bring rain but snow – with three days left we were snowed in! Another rest day whilst the snow poured down, leaving us housebound. The snow stopped sometime the next afternoon and we headed back to Spittle and Quantum with toboggans, a broom and a dream of finding one last boulder to clean off. That day in the snow was one of the best days out I’ve had in a while, just clowning about and having fun. Jake and Doug did find a problem to clean, Quantum Mechanics (V7), an old-school test piece. They set about sweeping the snow off the top and preparing it for a last ditch battle the next morning; the day we would fly out. Last day, best day, they say, pretty much true. After breakfast we headed back to Quantum Mechanics, a beast with non-existent, polished footholds and a hard pull into a tricky mantel. Two hours was the cut off time to get the problem done and make our flight. Every last second was needed with Doug sending as our bags were getting packed! I’d like to blame this for me getting a speeding ticket on our way to the airport, but I think I was just rushing to get a venison pie in Sheffield on the way. Delayed flights, broken cars, illness, rain, snow and earthquakes, it could have been a disaster but honestly this was one of my favourite trips ever. If you asked, I would go again in a heartbeat. Sometimes it’s about more than climbing when your climbing. Dave Brailey * Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, of course.

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Doug McConnell on There and Back Again Crack (V2), Wuthering Heights, Castle Hill. 22


Jake Bresnehan on the Joker (V9), Castle Hill. 24




For an Australian-based climber, New Zealand is as good as it gets. Just over three hours from Sydney, just over an hour’s drive and you’re smack bang in a large collection of limestone boulders surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

‘The rain was driving through in waves, problems were dry then wet, then dry again within minutes.’

Castle Hill has five core locations – Spittle Hill, Quantum Field, Flock Hill, Wuthering Heights and the Teapot. With more than 1500 recorded problems it smacks the Grampians out of the park, just don't tell the Kiwis that! Having ten days to explore ‘The Hill’ I was blown away. So many styles on offer, first ascents left, right and centre, classics of all grades and so many amazing times to be had. Early on in the trip we were fortunate to get a little tour from some of the locals. The psych frothed from their mouths and their eyes had a unique laser focus for the next big project, be that a gnarly highball slab, a sit-start to an existing classic or on the next yet-to-be-brushed boulder. Each local we crossed paths with shared that same passion, made sure we enjoyed our stay, got our taste of the classic Hill-Death-Mantle-Slab problem and left the problems in good condition. Not all locations have friendly locals. This is something that needs to be respected and something we were truly grateful for. What really scares the shit out of me is Castle Hill doesn’t need to get better. It’s the best and offers so much for all levels and future generations. The fact that one day climbing here might not be possible due to some yet unforeseen reason is scary. Let’s tread lightly, respect everything and do our best not to create any reason for our access to be jeopardised. Keep up with access and ethics here


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SPORT CLIMBING J O H N PA L M E R O N T H E ( I N CO R R E C T ) O R T H O D OX Y T H AT L E A D S M A N Y TO T H I N K I T ' S T H E W O R L D ' S W O R S T WORDS: John Palmer IMAGES: As credited


Kester Brown all but lost in a limestone ocean on Subculture (24), Castle Hill. John Palmer 29

The vast array of limestone blobs in the Castle Hill Basin, near Christchurch, New Zealand, comprise a now well established 'all-world' bouldering destination. True, the area has some detractors in climbing circles, usually disorientated jib draggers looking for Rocklandsstyle chin-up contests, but most climbers who visit the basin quickly fall in love with the powerful yet technical style of climbing. It offers the modern climber a full-value test of skill and strength – a bit like an IFSC World Cup boulder final, without Charlie Boscoe. The same cannot be said about the sport climbing. Seldom does anyone travel to the basin to tie-in, yet that is the area’s true climbing heritage.

1982 New Zealand Alpine Journal

'[B]lank but occasionally extremely technical and strenuous walls' is a fair summation of the sport routes at Castle Hill. Strange that it hasn’t remained popular. Stalwart mountain guide Bill Atkinson is credited with the basin’s first significant roped ascent, a splitter hand-crack known as Rambandit (21). But it was gritstone rockclimbing phenom (before #rockclimbingphenom was a thing), John Allen, who established a slew of bold, difficult routes that left the locals scratching their heads.

1982 New Zealand Alpine Journal For John Allen, what passed as 'only-just possible' in 1983 was around grade 24. Presumably climbed in wooden clogs (or whatever the latest Evolv shoe was at that time) with minimal route preparation and a few carrots for protection. Despite such exigencies, the concept caught on.

30 0

Doug McConnell watched over by a rainbow on Split Apple Sit Start (V5), Flock Hill.

Breathable. Durable. Dynamic.


Cruising for a bruising, Isaac Buckley on Put Your Dukes Up (28), Castle Hill. Tom Hoyle 32


Phil de Joux on the Jesus Factor (25), Castle Hill, 1985. Watched by, from left to right: Alan Rouse (UK), Al Mark and Nigel Perry. Simon Middlemass

34 4

1984 New Zealand Alpine Journal

Castle Hill remains to this very day some of the blankest rock in Aotearoa. So blank it provoked some route developers to manufacture holds, even entire routes. In a warped sort of way, that was a logical step and locals were eager to emulate the French sport climbing revolution, where steep routes covered in pockets were becoming ubiquitous. The bolting and chipping frenzy did not go unnoticed.

By the early 1990s, the golden age of sport climbing at Castle Hill had arrived. In the preceding decade or so, the area had seen an explosion of new routes coupled with a massive jump from grade 21 to 32, notably with the aid of Swiss climber Eric Talmadge’s vision and talent. Earlier predictions that Castle Hill would provide a 'new direction' for rock climbing were proved right.

1990 New Zealand Alpine Journal

Yet slowly the limitations of the blank, technical and strenuous style started to wilt the enthusiasm of many. Chipping remained a solution for some, although this was not without consequence.

Eventually, the attraction of steeper, more athletic climbing on featured rock became hard to ignore. Bigger moves, easier grades, safer falls. The sport climbing at Castle Hill became pigeonholed as 'esoteric' – code for hard, weird, insecure, scary, awkward and sandbagged. People started to make all kinds of excuses to avoid climbing there. 1991 New Zealand Alpine Journal


1990 New Zealand Alpine Journal As the flame died, soul-searching and hand-wringing ensued. Castle Hill route climbing was impugned, as if it alone had caused the New Zealand climbing community to fall prey to the belief that real sport climbing only happened overseas.

1994 New Zealand Alpine Journal

Inexorably, the last rites were delivered. In an almost casual and dismissive way.

1997 New Zealand Alpine Journal And it is still fashionable to boulder. Not that the sport climbing is any different to the bouldering; same rocks, same holds, same same. In fact, many of the #newskool boulders are as big as, if not bigger than, the average Castle Hill route. The paradox arises solely from perception. And the orthodox perception is that Castle Hill sport climbing is the worst sport climbing in the world.

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TO M M Y C A L DW E L L V E R T I C A L L I F E S P E A K S TO TO M M Y C A L D W E L L A B O U T E N V I R O N M E N TA L I S M , FAT H E R H O O D A N D C L I M B I N G IMAGES: As credited


Climbing heroes are real. They can be in your dreams one night and

In more recent years you’ve spoken out a lot about protecting the

then – shazam! – they are climbing the route beside you the next.

environment, what’s sparked this?

According to conventional wisdom this should be dangerous, as 'they' say you shouldn’t meet your heroes for they invariably let you down with their entitled stupidity and fallible humanity. 'They' are obviously not talking about climbers.

Climbing has a pretty intimate relationship with nature. It’s often done on a fragile environment and I have been noticing some alarming changes. I have dream climbs that are now either inaccessible due to melting glaciers or too dangerous because of increased rock fall

Tommy Caldwell, hero, was recently in Oz on a speaking tour to push

from thawing mountains. In the western United States where I live we

his Dawn Wall film. Despite being ridden like a donkey on a ridiculously

have been experiencing frequent 'once in a lifetime' weather events;

busy and demanding schedule, he was warm and accommodating and

vast forest fires and devastating floods. Friends have lost their homes.

interested. Heroes are humans too and climbers are, by and large,

A good portion of the trees in both Colorado and California have died

good humans.

because drought-weakened trees have allowed Beetle Kill to thrive.

Tommy’s journey is astounding. His life is incredible – he almost died at birth; was raised by a cartoon character of a father; was a climbing phenom as a youth; on a climbing trip he was captured by terrorists (before it was cool) only to orchestrate a terrifying escape and suffering a harrowing media circus upon returning to the USA; he sawed off the end of his pointer finger then some-bloody-how came back an even better climber; got divorced from his sweetheart and then took all his hurt and loneliness and pain and used it to create

One of my heroes and mentors is Yvon Chouinard, largely because of the encouragement of his company, Patagonia, I have decided to get educated about climate science. And once you know the facts behind climate change and understand where our planet is headed, it’s almost impossible not to want to do everything you can to try and secure a better future for my kids and all people. I understand that I now have a voice that people will listen to. And in Yvon’s words, 'If you have the power to do good and you do nothing, that’s evil.'

striking art on an impossible wall. It’s so incredible that if you were told it was the plot of a novel you’d

Judging from Instagram comments it’s quite common for people

scoff and decry it as too far-fetched. But the only reason you can

to ask how you justify the impact of flying to climb with your

believe it, is that it is true. And his story is not done yet; as a father-

environmentalism – how do you? How does this fit more generally into

climber-environmentalist-activist Tommy has much more to say than

your philosophy on your personal impact?

‘I climbed a rock’.

When you try and use your voice for good a certain faction will always call hypocrite. For the most part that’s a good thing. It holds me

You’ve just been to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, why were you there?

accountable, educates me and gives me the motivation to analyse the many impacts that I have. It’s informed my decisions to eat vegetarian,

I went because nothing speaks to my heart like vast, wide open spaces.

convert my house to solar, bike locally, take public transit in cities, audit

This area is one of the few places I know of that is virtually unaffected

my trash, grow a garden and generally button up my scene. Airplane

by direct industrialisation. Pristine mountains and tundra, truly wild

travel is a definite crux. I do make an effort to eliminate what I consider

wolves, caribou and bears. I felt it was important for me to experience

non-important travel and I buy offsets, even though I consider offsets to

a place like this to understand the contrast and magnitude of the

be flawed. But I still travel a lot and I am not certain it’s justifiable. I do

impact that humans have. On one hand the refuge is pristine, but it

know that if I stopped travelling I would lose my job that I love and my

also lies near the poles which means it is warming about three times

voice, which I am trying to use for good. Here is a quote I pulled from an

faster than the rest of the world. Melting permafrost and decreased

email that the organisation Protect Our Winters (POW) sent to me:

ice pack are changing things quickly. I wanted to see it as a way to understand more about what the future may hold for all humans. On top of that, the Trump administration is trying to open the refuge to oil exploration, which would erase what many consider the last truly wild place in the United States. Travelling to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge gave me knowledge and expertise that I can use to advocate against the continued expansion of oil exploration.

'Of course we all use fossil fuels, and people in the northern states of the United States wore clothes made of cotton picked by slaves in the Civil War. But that did not make them hypocrites when they joined the abolition movement. It just meant they were also part of the slave economy, and they knew it. That is why they acted to change the system, not just their clothes.' 39

Tommy splayed in between possibility and impossibility on the Dawn Wall, Yosemite, USA. Corey Rich/Red Bull Content Pool 40 0


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You’ve been climbing in the Valley for a long time, has the environment

You have claimed climbing now has political power, at least in the US,

changed, and to what can those changes be attributed?

given the current situation in the Grampians/Gariwerd. What can we

Last year 96,000 acres burned in and adjacent to Yosemite National Park. The fire completely encircled the community I used to live in.

learn about access, stewardship and climbing representation from you guys?

Beetle Kill has decimated at least a third of the trees in Yosemite Valley.

In the US some of the great conservationists have been climbers. And

In the past ten years the good climbing season has shifted by at least a

today climbers are proving to be a group that is willing to put in the

month. I can only attribute this to climate change.

work to protect the places we love. Small non-profits like the Yosemite Climbers Association have become the defacto caretakers of some of our national parks when the government falls short. Larger non-profits

What makes you optimistic?

like POW and the Access Fund send athletes, lawyers and politicians

It’s hard to be optimistic, but what would the world look like if we just

to meet with our lawmakers and influence policy. All this work has

threw up our arms and gave up? If climbing has taught me one thing it’s that very unlikely dreams can become reality. So I choose to let the

contributed to climbers having a respected voice. I think a lot could be learned by studying what we in the US have done, both good and bad.

threats to the planet’s survival bring me to life. Alex Honnold gave a talk in Natimuk about the Fitz Traverse and mentioned you were supposed to be taking less risks as you were

“And in Yvon’s words, 'If you have the power to do good and you do nothing, that’s evil.'”

a parent, then he talked about you leading some crack that was a waterfall and how he could never have done it. He seemed bemused by your version of being more risk averse. Has your appetite for risk changed since becoming a parent? My aversion to risk has definitely changed since becoming a parent. I now choose climbing objectives I feel are well within what I consider the acceptable safety margin of a parent and that I am relatively certain I will live through. I have mostly abandoned dreams of big, scary alpine faces and choose instead to mostly stick to dry, solid rock. But on

How can climbing be a force for good?

occasion I somewhat unintentionally get myself into situations of pretty

Climbing is a great teacher, it shows us the beauty of the world, of

high risk. I understand the place where risk can create flow and find it

human nature, and it shows us our strength. These are the lessons that will help us thrive in the future.

Do you have any internal tension between wanting to share climbing with as many people as possible and wanting to keep it niche? There is a small selfish part of me that misses the solitude that used to be easier to find. But that’s far outweighed by my belief that climbing is great for the human spirit and, therefore, the world.


pretty addictive, sometimes I succumb but inevitably regret my decision afterwards. So I guess my appetite has not changed, my self control has, but sometimes I binge a little… mostly with Alex.

‘... in some ways too much attention to detail is the opposite of boldness and not much cool stuff happens in this world without a certain level of boldness.’

© Arnaud Childeric / Sam Bié

JULIA CHANOURDIE // We’re always focused on our climbing performance, whether it’s indoor training, competitions, or outdoor climbing, but revisiting the fundamentals of belaying is equally important. // #belaybetter


Belay device with assisted braking and antipanic handle, for a broad range of single rope diameters (8.5 to 11 mm).

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‘In some ways ignorance about self is bliss.’

Do you have a similar immersive style of parenting with your own

have been taken. But in some ways too much attention to detail is the

children as your father had with you? What are you going to take of

opposite of boldness and not much cool stuff happens in this world

your upbringing and incorporate into the way your bring up your kids

without a certain level of boldness.

and what are you going to leave behind? I hope to pass on my parents’ ability to excite, teach and strengthen through adversity and adventure. But I will try and dial back the intensity in some ways. I want my kids to live long lives and feel fully supported in pursuing their own dreams, not mine.

Climbing lore is filled with mythic partnerships of the closest kinship, in your very honest book you recount a relationship with Kevin that is not pegged to that traditional dynamic, can you tell us about how you now view the different kinds of climbing relationships? The kinship part of my relationship with Kevin was always a struggle

You write in your book The Push, 'More than money or prizes, I

on the Dawn Wall. I now think this is because I wanted kinship and it

was driven by the desire to impress my dad.' When did you grow out

didn’t even occur to Kevin that kinship should be part of the dynamic. He

of that?

was used to a bouldering dynamic where it’s a bit more about personal

That’s probably not my main driver these days, but most sons want to impress their dads, even if they don’t always admit it. I would say my desire to impress my dad still surpasses my desire for money or prizes.

The legendary Warren Harding held court in your living room once, do you see the Dawn Wall being in the tradition of Harding or Royal Robbins? I suppose it was a bit of both. Probably more Harding because I like to believe I am less righteous than Robbins. And the route itself was a really long stint on the same side of El Cap as Harding’s last great climb. But in a way the free climbing ethic aligns with Robbins’ philosophy of using style to create an impactful experience rather than just a check in the box.

Everyone knows you were kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan, have you ever thought about the naivety of climbers that leads us to think we can launch boldly and ignorantly into far flung parts of the world? I like that climbers launch boldly into far flung parts of the words. And I suppose all explorers could be called ignorant in some ways when things go wrong. In my mind Kyrgyzstan was exceptionally unlucky. I’m not saying better decisions could have been made and more care could


successes. We were both pretty bad at communicating. Ironically, communicating through post-climb storytelling has helped us to understand each other more and we are now closer and more aligned in values than we were on the Dawn Wall.

Your book uses a climbing story to talk about pain, loss, love, masculinity, parenthood and the relationship between parent and child, was the process of writing the book and being that vulnerable cathartic? If so what is it like being the ‘New You’? It was certainly cathartic, and I guess it helped me to value deep introspection because writing a memoir is inherently introspective. Weirdly, it made me a little darker of a person. In some ways ignorance about self is bliss.

You described the Dawn Wall as the culmination of your life, what do you do afterwards when the culmination of your life comes in your 30s? I guess I meant a culmination of my life thus far. So I guess I just go on living and letting what drives me in the present create the compass bearing. My hunch is that climbing will be a constant for a long time and that I will veer more towards projects that I consider serve a greater good. Like doing my part to save the planet.




46 6

I made a few steps and thought this was it. This was the first time I admitted the fucking backpack was too heavy. Somehow I made myself move again. Every joint in my legs felt the combined load of the beast on my back and the 15kg of photography gear on my chest. Step-by-step, I told myself. There was one-and-a-half-day’s worth of step-by-stepping ahead through not-flat terrain. The goal was the West Face of Frenchmans Cap, the most prominent peak in the FranklinGordon Wild Rivers National Park. Our collective goal was to climb up, BASE jump off and somehow make a movie about it. ‘How the hell are we going to make this sufferfest appealing to sane people?’ I thought. There were six of us: Pete, Martin, Jared, Simon, Lee and me. Looking at their backpacks and drunken walking style, it was obvious I was not the only one feeling the gravity, particularly Jared, who on top of his two backpacks also carried a hangover. Collective suffering can do wonders and it also helps when you are wandering through paradise. We passed beautiful buttongrass plains, navigated around Lake Vera and fought our way up the unforgivingly-steep Barron Pass. During this crawl-fest, Jared, the Tassie local and nature lover, pointed here and there showing us the ancient forest’s wonders. ‘These leaves can be used to make awesome tea. See that dead tree over there? It was probably a 1000 years old.’ His love for the nature all around us was inspiring and addictive. At one point I walked closely behind Jared. Under the heavy load my forehead was almost touching his backpack. I carefully investigated the fabric of his backpack to see if I could find a chain – I was sure he would chain us all to these ancient pines if he heard a chainsaw in the distance. To be honest, I felt like we did not belong here with our superficial goal of climbing and jumping off the mountain. The fact that the route Pete and Martin wanted to climb was called The Lorax felt more than appropriate, and the urge to come up with footage and pictures that would show the beauty of this place as opposed to focusing on just the action grew stronger and stronger in us. Two days later we arrived at the Lake Tahune hut, our bodies tired but spirits high. We scoped the route, walked to the summit and found an anchor for me to abseil down to get close-up shots. Back in the hut we went through the next day's plan. Pete and Martin would climb. Simon, Jared and I would shoot at the base, then get long shots from the ground, followed by a fast hike to the summit with more shooting from above. In the meantime, Lee would be our airborne corresponder who would give us updates on the climbers’ progress and jump off the cliff at his pleasure. And that’s pretty much what happened. Except, apparently not all grade 20s are the same and climbing The Lorax was scarier than expected. Abseiling off the cliff was a trouser-filling, do-nottouch-anything adventure of its own, and filming was one hell

of a comedy show. I cannot really comment on the climbing (as I hardly touched the rock), but dangling above Pete and Martin and witnessing the character-building runouts above small RPs made it obvious that it was not a walk in the park. It also explained why Pete and Martin looked slightly older when they reached the top. We spent the night at the summit and woke into a beautiful sunrise. Everything below us was hiding under clouds scattered in a few erratic layers and illuminated by the sun rising somewhere above New Zealand. We enjoyed the views and the breakfast chitchat, but there was still one part of the trip to do and you could sense the nervousness as Pete and Lee kept close eyes on the weather, wind, clouds, level of craziness in their blood and whoknows-what-else-is-important for a successful BASE jump. Then a decision was made: conditions were perfect. Back then I had never seen a BASE jump, let alone taken photos or filmed one. I was scared as shit, hardly able to turn my photography brain on. In my tummy I swear I could hear the butterflies. ’Five, four, three…’ I was shaking trying to stick to my precomposed frame ‘…two, one, see ya.’ The camera fired, then the whistling sound of tracking suits faded into the distance, fortunately followed by two bangs as the canopies opened far below. Far out…still shaking, I kept looking down at the two dots and wondered if this is how my mum (who knows nothing about climbing) had always felt when I had said, ‘See ya, going climbing.’ I guess danger is relative. As climbers we get exposed to it gradually then either get used to it and learn how to deal with it or avoid it all together, but in BASE jumping it is bloody obvious what is at stake, there is no sugar coating in the form of bolts, cams or hiding the danger behind your mate’s belaying skills. This is it, I thought, the pure love for what you do which cannot be faked to show off in front of your mates. And with that, it was time to leave. Back in Launceston I gave my footage to Pete to somehow make a movie out of it. Part of me was jealous he could relive this trip again and again, part of me was relieved when I saw the amount of footage he had to go through. Looking back at this trip and seeing The Lorax Project movie on the big screen, what stands out most is the sense of camaraderie and the realisation of what is possible when a group of psyched friends all contribute towards a shared goal. The creativity we all fed each other, it did not matter who was doing what, who got the sickest angle or how tired we were. Somehow what could have been a nervous sufferfest was a trip filled with laughter and adventure. This to me is gold. So thanks Martin, Pete, Jared, Simon and the always-smiling bloody legend Lee for taking me along! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it is available online here See more of Kamil’s work at 47








WELCOME TO REEL ROCK Welcome to REEL ROCK 14! There’s nothing we love more than adventure and when it comes to film tours, this is by far one of our favourites! The REEL ROCK Film Tour returns in 2019-20 with some fantastic films that we know you’ll love. Thanks for joining us on the journey.


There are over 500 screenings of REEL ROCK 14 around the world, including the one you’re attending with us tonight. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy presenting it to you! Toby Ryston-Pratt Founder & CEO Adventure Entertainment

(and part time climber >>>>>>>>

That’s me in Sicily!)

The REEL ROCK Film Tour is one of climbing's greatest celebrations! This season, we bring you a new collection of world premiere films. In The High Road, the powerful and bold Nina Williams tests herself on some of the highest, most difficult boulder problems ever climbed. United States of Joe’s sees climbers collide with a conservative coal mining community in rural Utah, to surprising results. And in The Nose Speed Record, legends Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold battle Yosemite dirtbags Jim Reynolds and Brad Gobright in a high stakes race for greatness. WEBSITE


PUBLISHER Adventure Entertainment


Tara Tyrrell

SPECIAL INSERT 7 continents. 7 billion destinations. On all of our small group tours, you get to know locals every step of the way — from the places you roam to the hotels you stay at to the restaurants where you enjoy your meals Because we believe it’s only by exploring our world that you understand how great it, and its people, can be.

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REEL ROCK - THE FILMS For decades, an elite handful of climbers have competed for the coveted speed record on the 3,000-foot Nose of El Capitan, risking big falls to shave mere seconds off the fastest time. When a record held by superstar Alex Honnold is broken by little-known climbers Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds, Honnold drafts fellow climbing legend Tommy Caldwell to establish a new mark that will stand the test of time. Honnold pushes for perfection while Caldwell, a family man, wrestles with the risk amid a series of accidents on the wall that lay bare the consequences of any mistake.

THE HIGH ROAD While the world’s best boulderers push standards close to the ground, Nina Williams’ sights are set higher. She is among the only women who climb elitelevel problems that are 30, 40, even 50 feet tall -- with no rope. In this profile of an emerging ​ star​athlete, Nina Williams flexes her guns and tests her nerves well into the no-fall zone.

UNITED STATES OF JOE’S In rural Utah, a valley of world-class bouldering is nestled among a conservative community of Mormons, cowboys and coal miners. When a ragged band of punk rock climbers shows up, the two cultures inevitably clash. After years of antagonism, a group of climbers work with locals to build a more harmonious future. But in this divided era, is that even possible?



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Photos by Corey Rich




For decades, a handful of elite-level climbers have competed for the coveted speed record on The Nose of El Capitan, risking big falls to shave mere seconds off the fastest time. In 2017, a record set by superstar Alex Honnold was surprisingly broken

DIRECTOR Josh Lowell

by two lesser-known Yosemite longshots, Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds. Standing on the summit, Gobright immediately got a text from Honnold: “Congrats! I’m calling Tommy.” Partnering up with fellow legend Tommy Caldwell,

CAST Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Brad Gobright, Jim Reynolds

the dream team sets out to establish a record that will stand the test of time. As Honnold pushes for perfection, Caldwell, a family man, wrestles with the risk amid a series of accidents on the wall that lay bare the consequences of any mistake.

TIME 63 minutes

Dean Potter: ​(broke the speed record in 2001 and 2010) “The nose of El Cap is one of the most famous routes in the world. It takes the proudest line up the best piece of rock I have ever seen. The speed record on The Nose is such a milestone. It can show what’s possible for the height of human performance, and that’s what interests me.” Hans Florine: ​(broke the

Jim Reynolds:​“Everyone wants to climb The Nose because it’s the biggest mountain that’s accessible right in front of us. It’s the line that goes straight up the center. It was the first route ever put up on El Cap. It has a reputation for being the best rock climb in the world. And it’s true, it is.” BRAD AND JIM CAPTURE THE RECORD In October of 2017, unheralded climbers Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds shocked the climbing world by shaving four minutes of the record time, completing the route in 2:19:44.

Jim Reynolds​: “Before trying to break the record with Brad, the fastest I had ever climbed the Nose was like ten hours. Brad and I went up there and climbed it in like six or six and a half hours, pretty casually. Everyone’s looking for their personal challenge. How fast can we do it for ourselves? And then by the end of that fall, all of the sudden we were like sub three hours. And it was like, well okay so now we’re actually like in that zone.” Brad Gobrigh​t: “By the time we were really close to the record, I think both of us knew every single foot of that climb. Like every foothold, every cam placement, every bit of tat, where we were gonna grab the tat, and just stuff like that, like it really came down to detail.” Jim Reynolds:​“When we broke the record, I remember using the term ‘elated’. Like you just feel a little lighter. I’d say half of it was just relief that we didn’t have to go up and put


The Nose of Yosemite’s El Capitan is the most famous rock climb in the world. It follows the tallest line to the summit of the Park’s largest formation. First climbed in 1958, the ascent took a whopping 47 days. In the 1970s, a team of three ascended all 3000 f ​ee​t in less than a day. And by the late 80s holding the record time was a proxy for the title “King of El Cap.”

record 7 times, from 1990 - 2012) “I’ve held, broke, and reset the Nose speed record several times. I love the speed record, I love the competition, I love training for the speed record. It’s really fun to train for the speed record, and I really like to have that record.”

Photos by Austin Siadak


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One step at a time.

Brad Gobright:​“Yeah, at first I was like, “Hell yeah, we just took the record, this is maybe the greatest thing I’ve done in climbing.” And then shortly after I was like, “Oh man, thank goodness we don’t have to go do that again.” Tommy Caldwell:​“Brad and Jim: the dark horses! I barely even knew who they were. I did not see that one coming, that’s for sure! I showed up in the valley, I had no idea they were speed climbing it. Brad came over to me and I didn’t even know who Brad was and then he broke the speed record like, like four days later.” ALEX HONNOLD & TOMMY CALDWELL TEAM UP Brad Gobright:​“After we broke the record, like twenty minutes later on the way down, Alex texted me being like, “Hey, congratulations. I’m calling Tommy…” Alex Honnold​: “I was stoked

when I heard that Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds did the speed record I was stoked for them. I’ve been looking forward to somebody breaking it to have the opportunity to try again a little better.” Alex Honnold​: “There aren’t that many potential partners out there for speed climbing The Nose. There just aren’t that many people who can physically climb three thousand feet really fast, and to me the most obvious choice is Tommy Caldwell. I mean he’s a really good trad climber, he’s a really good granite climber, I mean, my shoes are named after him.” Alex Honnold:​“Speed climbing on The Nose is not just a matter of how fast either partner can climb, it’s a matter of how fast they can climb together, and keep it safe.” Tommy Caldwell:​“I always thought speed climbing was really dangerous, and I’ve never been the danger guy.”

Tommy Caldwell: “​ I mean personally I’ve never aspired to speed climb really, but all the link ups and stuff I’ve done with Alex over the last few years -- it’s just so fun. You know, it’s amazingly fun. And so pretty much anytime Alex comes to me at this point and says lets go do something I’m gonna say yes. I’m just feeling hungry to get out and climb and have a bit of an adventure.” SPEED CLIMBING Alex Honnold: “When you speed climb you kinda have to trim all the fat, you have to reduce all the inefficiencies and make sure that it’s all perfectly executed, so then when you’re actually doing it, if feels super fun because there’s no wasted movement.” Alex Honnold: “Talking about ‘speed climbing’ The Nose doesn’t really do justice to what’s going on up there. Because a lot of times you’re not actually climbing that fast, it’s mostly like efficiently climbing The Nose. You know


Photos by Bligh Giles

and put ourselves in the danger zone again.”

During a training run, Tommy unexpectedly slipped, falling 100 feet until his rope caught him. Amazingly he was uninjured. Alex Honnold: “Where Tommy fell, it’s just a horrendous place to fall. Well, in some ways one of the best because it’s a clean fall; you don’t have anything to hit. But in terms of rope management it’s one of the worst places because it was the whole rope out.” Tommy: “I just fell until like,

DANGER Jim Reynolds:​“What makes it dangerous is the dependency on your partner. In normal rock climbing there’s places where you can fall or places where you can place gear and then fall, but on The Nose it’s like you’re just moving and you’re trying to keep up with the other person. If you fall, there’s no gear and you’re gonna pull them off too and if you’re lucky you’re not gonna hit a ledge but you’re gonna go for like a hundred or hundred

and fifty foot fall.” Brad Gobright:​“The Nose record is absolutely dangerous, there’s no getting around that. I don’t think there’s any spot really on The Nose where you’d say, ‘Oh, well if I fell there it would probably be okay.’ You don’t want to fall, ever.” Alex Honnold:​“We know that climbing is a dangerous sport. A lot of my friends have died climbing and it’s just like yeah I know it’s a dangerous sport. That’s why you have to pay attention and be careful and there’s just some degree of luck involved. It’s just, you know, make sure it’s not your day. Or just hope it’s not your day.”



until I yanked against Alex who was tied into the other end of the rope. “I think it was kinda good for me to do that in a way because I was, I was getting I was letting it get out of my comfort zone in terms of how fast I was going.”

Tommy Caldwell:​“Alex treats this like ‘I’m just not going to

Photos by Bligh Giles

it’s not that you’re physically running, though it does start to feel fast as, you know, after a couple hours. It’s not so much how fast you’re moving, it’s how little you stop.”

Tommy Caldwell​: “I think we made it reasonably safe but only because, you know, Alex is such a badass with climbing and no fall terrain and we both have spent, you know, decades of our life devoted to El Capitan. LIke, there’s a lot of proficiency there and I think, you know, I think that’s the only reason that we’re able to do it in a way that did seem reasonably safe.” BREAKING THE SUB-2 HOUR MARK After several weeks of practice runs, Alex and Tommy are getting close to setting the record. But their ultimate goal is to break the record by about 18 minutes, in order to claim a new standard: The Nose in less than two hours. Tommy Caldwell: “I’m not interested in going any faster.

I’m satisfied with the two hour mark. That was kinda a pipe dream goal in my mind. I didn’t know if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain to get there. Umm, I don’t really feel much pull to try and go faster at this point.” Tommy Caldwell: “The main reason is because it just stresses out my friends and family and I hate stressing them out. It feels minorly irresponsible as a father whenever I’m doing things that are either definitely risky or could potentially be risky. I wonder often times, why? Why do I feel the pull to do that? When I look at my kids I’m just like why? Why would I do this? Why is this worth it? But then I always go around to like, ‘oh it actually doesn’t seem that risky when we’re up there.’ So it’s this big dilemma in my mind.” Alex Honnold: “I mean overall I’d say that I’m glad we saw it through to sub two, it’s satisfying. Though like many goals once you actually get to it you realize

that it wasn’t really that big a thing. I sort of built up sub two as this sort of big like oh, that’d be so crazy and then once you get there, you’re like it’s actually not that crazy.”remember using the term elated. Like you just feel a little lighter. I’d say half of it was just relief that we didn’t have to go up and put ourselves in the danger zone again.” Brad Gobright:​“Yeah, at first I was like, “Hell yeah, we just took the record, this is maybe the greatest thing I’ve done in climbing.” And then shortly after I was like, “Oh man, thank goodness we don’t have to go do that again.” Tommy Caldwell:​“Brad and Jim: the dark horses! I barely even knew who they were. I did not see that one coming, that’s for sure! I showed up in the valley, I had no idea they were speed climbing it. Brad came over to me and I didn’t even know who Brad was and then he broke the speed record like, like four days later.”


Photos by Austin Siadak

fall.’ He goes in free solo mode which is the world’s best free soloist. So I think he can get away with it. Other people should not try.”

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While the world’s best boulderers push standards close to the ground, Nina Williams’ sights are set higher.

Nina is one of the only women on Earth who climbs elite-level problems that are 30, 40, even 50 feet tall -with no rope.

In this profile of an emerging star athlete, Nina Williams flexes her guns and tests her nerves well into the no-fall zone.




Peter Mortimer

Nina Williams

17 minutes

Nina​ ​Williams​: “​I want to go out and do this seemingly dangerous, silly, illogical activity of highball bouldering or climbing up tall things. I​ love that feeling of absolute control and confidence in a situation that seems totally dangerous, but I can say with certainty that I’ve got this.” HER PROCESS AND DEALING WITH FEAR Nina​ ​Williams​: “When I decide to climb a tall problem I break it down into a step by step process. I make that decision, do I actually want to climb this

Nina​​Williams​: The first step is to check it out on a rope. I’ll go and set up a rope and make sure I can do all the moves, and once I have done all the moves and I have this absolute certainty, this full-on trust that I have in my body and my strength where I think, okay, I know that I have the physical capability to crimp on these holds and to place my feet and move upwards and to keep moving upwards, because when I don’t have a rope I don’t have a choice, there’s no backing off” Nina​ ​Williams: “​Climbing these tall lines is not about battling the fear as it comes, it’s about dealing with the fear on a rope, really immersing myself in it, and then manipulating the fear so that it actually helps me during the send go. I want to feel as much fear as I can while I’m on a rope, visualizing myself without a rope, so that in the real

moment of climbing it I can feel perfectly in control, and I can feel that fear rise up, on an instinctual level, but just be able to manage it a lot better. I feel this fear, I hear it, I sense it, but I don’t have to listen to it.” Nina​​Williams​: “Once I take the rope down I rely one hundred percent on that confidence where I’m gonna let my body climb. I’m gonna let the movement take over and I want to reach this state of action with my body and tranquility in my mind.”


James Lucas​: (Nina’s partner) “Nina likes climbing taller problems, which can be a little nerve wracking sometimes, but she has a very calculated and measured approach, and she does her best to keep it reasonable.”

thing? Is it worth it for me?

INSPIRATION Colette McInerney:​(climber, filmmaker, and friend of Nina) “You don’t normally see women going after those kinds of goals. Nina is definitely one of these women who is setting the example for those future generations and she’s showing what the evolution of a climber can look like.” Nina Williams​: ​It used

Photo by Brett Lowell


That sounds a lot cooler to me than saying I’m the first

woman because ultimately it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman, any woman can do it, any man can do it, and I don’t want women to limit themselves by thinking “Oh, well, no other woman has done that so I don’t know if I should do that either.” It doesn’t matter. You just go out and try it and that’s what matters most.”


Photo by Brett Lowell Photo by Peter Mortimer

With ​Too Big to Flail, I’m

really proud of the fact that I’m the first woman to do it, but I didn’t want that to be the first thing in the headlines, “Oh, Nina gets the first female ascent.” I’d rather they say I’m the seventh person overall ever to climb it.

Photo by Simon Moore

to matter a lot more to me that I was the first woman climbing these problems. At the time it mattered because I felt like I wanted to show other women that, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, anyone can go out and do this as long as they put the work in.”




In rural Utah, a valley of world-class bouldering is nestled among a conservative community of Mormons, cowboys and coal miners. When a ragged band of punk rock climbers shows up, the two cultures

DIRECTOR Peter Mortimer

inevitably clash. After years of antagonism, a group of climbers work with locals to build a more harmonious future. But in this divided era, is that even possible? The Salt Lake City climbing scene in the late 90s was

STARRING Steven Jeffrey, local residents of Emery County, Utah

centered around a young, rowdy crew which sought to perfect an emerging climbing discipline called bouldering. In search of a new hot spot to test their abilities, they found Joe’s Valley in the rural Emery County, Utah.

TIME 21 minutes

While the dreaded hair, disheveled look and punk attitudes, the SLC crew found their climbing utopia. But the local community of conservative Mormons, miners and power plant workers couldn’t understand why all these outsiders started flocking to their town. Lisa Scovill (Local Store Manager): “We just started seeing people come in and we didn’t really know what was going on.” Danny Van Wagner (Castle Dale Mayor): “It was easy to tell they [the climbers] were not from the area, so if something would come up missing, got destroyed, vandalized, it was easy to

Boone Speed: “It was a culture clash. Just a classic culture clash. You have this old town of traditional miners and oil people, and then climbers which are, you know, on the opposite spectrum” CONNECTION Tensions were tight and on the edge of exploding. Someone had to do something.

Adriana Chimaras, Festival Organizer: ​“The whole concept for the festival, it’s about bridging the gap between the communities.” Danny VanWagner, Mayor: “The festival, it’s all about the community coming together with a bunch of crazy rock climbers. And we’re gonna have a good time, we’re gonna get to know each other better, build bigger and closer relationships and learn some stuff in the process.” Danny Van Wagner, Mayor: “Twenty years ago to now, climber and town are almost fully intertwined. Climbing is part of town, and the climbers fit in, they’re welcomed here.”

Steven Jefferey (climber): “Before it exploded, there was this moment of like, it’s time we should start connecting. C ​ ause we’re out in mass force out there, and they didn’t know who we were or what we were doing.”

Neil Peacock, History Teacher: “I think we are one solution for what this country really needs. Our country is so divided and we have people that are so divisive where you can’t just oppose the other side, you have to hate them. But what we’re seeing happen here is not that.

The result is an annual festival that brings the two communities together to celebrate each other’s cultures and customs. Cowboys learn to climb and climbers saddle up to ride bulls rodeo-style.

What we’re seeing is people from diverse backgrounds coming together and saying, “Hey, here is what we can agree on, here is what we can work together on.” And I think that, that is a great point of view that a few senators and a congressman came down and say the bouldering festival and saw what takes place here maybe, who knows, they could reach across the aisle and shake hands with somebody else.”


Ethan Pringle (professional climber): ​“The bouldering is just phenomenal. The hillsides are covered in endless boulders.” Boone Speed: (professional climber): “It has enough rock to last a lifetime”

point fingers. It was an us against them type deal.”

Photos by Spenser Tang-Smith - The RV Project



TOUR DATES 2019 Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Tue, 5- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) Canberra Tue, 5-Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM Lido Cinema 1 Melbourne (Hawthorn) Wed, 6- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Greater Union Cinemas Shellharbour Wollongong Wed, 6- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM Wallis Piccadilly Adelaide North Thu, 7- Nov-2019 8:00 PM - 10:30 PM HOTA, Home of the Arts Gold Coast Thu, 7-Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Star Theatre Launceston Thu, 7- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM IMAX Melbourne Thu, 7- Nov-2019 8:45 PM - 10:45 PM Event Cinemas Kotara Newcastle Thu, 7- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM

Event Cinemas Chermside Brisbane (Chermside) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

BCC Cinemas Maroochydore Sunshine Plaza Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Audley Dance Hall Royal National Park Wed, 13- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM

Dendy Cinemas Coorparoo Brisbane (Coorparoo) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 | 7:15 PM - 9:15 PM Fri, 22- Nov-2019 | 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Sat, 23- Nov-2019 | 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM

BCC Cinemas Noosa Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Garden City Mt Gravatt, Brisbane Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas George Street, Sydney Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Indooroopilly Brisbane (Indooroopilly) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Dendy Cinemas Newtown Sydney (Newtown) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 | 7:15 PM - 9:15 PM Fri, 22- Nov-2019 | 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Sat, 23- Nov-2019 | 4:15 PM - 6:15 PM

Ritz Cinema Sydney East Wed, 13- Nov-2019 8:30 PM - 10:30 PM Schonell Cinema and Live Theatre - Cinema 2 Brisbane Thu, 14- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM The Astor Theatre Melbourne Thu, 14- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM Village Cinemas Geelong Geelong Fri, 15- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Event Cinemas Castle Hill Castle Hill Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Event Cinemas Townsville City Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Mount Vic Flicks Blue Mountains Wed, 27- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 8:50 PM Mount Vic Flicks Blue Mountains Tue, 3- Dec-2019 7:00 PM - 8:50 PM

Event Cinemas Cairns Central Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Dendy Cinemas Canberra Wed, 20- Nov-2019 | 7:15 PM - 9:15 PM Fri, 22- Nov-2019 | 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Sat, 23- Nov-2019 | 4:15 PM - 6:15 PM Village Cinemas Launceston Wed, 20- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Village Cinemas Southland Melbourne (Cheltenham) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Burwood Sydney (Burwood) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Macquaire Sydney (North Ryde) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Greater Union Cinemas Shellharbour Wollongong Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Cloud 9 Cinema, Bright Thu, 21- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Peninsula Cinemas Rosebud Melbourne (Rosebud) Thu, 21- Nov-2019 Session time to be advised

Village Cinemas Jam Factory Melbourne (South Yarra) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Lido Cinema Melbourne (Hawthorn) 21-23 Nov-2019 Session times to be advised

Regent Cinemas Ballarat 16 & 17 Nov-2019 Session times to be advised

Village Cinemas Sunshine Melbourne (Sunshine) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Thornbury Picture House Melbourne (Thornbury) Fri, 29- Nov-2019 6:15 PM - 8:00 PM

Livefast Cafe, Halls Gap Sat, 9- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM

Capital Brewing Co Canberra (Capital Brewing) Tue, 19-Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Village Cinemas Knox Melbourne (Wantirna) Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Avoca Beach Picture Theatre Fri, 6- Dec-2019 7:30 PM - 9:15 PM

Dendy Cinemas Newtown Sydney (Newtown) Sat, 9- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Marion Adelaide Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Kotara Newcastle Wed, 20-Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Empire Cinema, Bowral Sat, 7- Dec-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Majestic Cinemas Sawtell Coffs Harbour Tue, 12- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Village Cinemas Albury Albury Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Allan Mullins Studio Penrith Wed, 20- Nov-2019 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Majestic Cinemas Port Macquarie Tue, 12- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Bendigo Cinemas Bendigo Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Event Cinemas Innaloo Perth Wed, 20- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Luna Leederville, Perth Thu, 7-Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM Village Cinemas Hobart Fri, 8- Nov-2019 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM Star Court Theatre, Lismore Fri, 8- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Majestic Cinemas Nambour Sunshine Coast Tue, 12- Nov-2019 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

General Screenings


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Nathanual Hebbard making pretty shapes on Ordeal by Fur (26), Diamond Bay, Sydney. Phillip Booth 51

T H EN The 1980s. The beginning of the fluoro decade and a time of decadence.

Once the bash-ins had cuddled into the vertical sand, Mikl was ready

Saturday nights had two choices: Hey Hey it’s Saturday with a host

to do the climb up the centre of the northern wall of Diamond Bay.

talking to an ostrich called Ozzie on Channel 9 and the Johnny Young–

The morning of the climb was clear and the ocean not particularly

hosted Young Talent Time on Channel 10. The rest of us sweatily bopped

interesting. Michael recalls the first ascent, ‘I didn’t have any epics,

to bands like Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil, who were cutting their teeth

situations or cute one liners associated. Although I hadn’t been climbing

in local RSLs and shady bars. Then there were the fish that John West

that much at the time as I was doing other stuff, apparently I was quite

rejected, climbers. The Sydney climbing scene consisted of young punks

strong.’ Understated. ‘It was originally given 21 then a keen American

balancing on the edge of sanity, pretending to work and/or taking in

got stranded at the third bolt trying to solo it.’

one more beer or cone than was necessary. This bohemian crew found focus clinging onto sand castles – aka the Sydney sea cliffs – a hangover cure bar none. Better being a bit off-centre holding on than losing your religion and jumping off. At this time a group of climbers would hitch a ride with Stuart Hickson to whatever sea cliff was in vogue. One morning it was Diamond Bay. After negotiating a bushy gully and half-a-dozen fishermens’ ladders, a rocky bay opened up, towering on its northern side and sun-lit on its southern, more-gentle-looking side. The north wall is 30m of smooth, vertical sandstone interspersed with black streaks and broken by horizontal breaks that look like snakes and feel just as slippery. On a big swell, Waimea Bay–type waves rise out of the ocean and crash against the walls. Michael Law was a 19-year-old between-life-choices sort of guy. He had two loves, Ducati motorcycles and rock-climbing; both good until you fell off. He remembers this wall from early in his climbing life, ‘People had always climbed there, I did my first new route at Diamond Bay, The Corner (16), back in 1972.’ Eight years later, Mike had morphed into Claw, an era he makes light of, ‘Strong fingers and hair gel are all that you need on bolts.’ He had been hanging around crag campfires, eating canned food for way too long, and took time off the climbing scene for a few years to race his bike, discover girls and grow some muscles. But Claw liked to live on the edge so naturally he ended up back on the Sydney sea cliffs. He remembered the smooth wall to the right of The Corner. What had looked suicidal to a 14-year-old, showed endless possibilities to a now young man just emerged from a decade learning his craft dangling hexes, introducing tights to climbing fashion and developing sandbagging. He says it best himself, ‘The Sydney scene and its accompanying sea cliffs were perfect for a brain that needed entertainment, a perfect indie climbing scene where a young bloke could find his man or hide from having to become one.’

Right: Geoff Weigand on Ordeal By Fur (26) in 1986. Kim Carrigan 52

I asked him about the name. Ordeal by Fur is a play on Ordeal by Fire, the name popping into Mikl’s head at dawn in Balmain after a night out on the town. The climb was made to be photographed. Those gold and black lines like a string of pearls for Poseidon’s mermaids. Soon there was a swag of wannabes lining up to stretch their biceps for the cameras. In 1986 Rock magazine published a photo of Geoff Weigland pawing his way up it, and outdoor companies used it in advertisements. It was at this time that I had begun my own climbing life. That picture of Geoff on the route and the picture of Catherine Destiville on my bedroom wall was all I needed to find some Dutch courage. On a hot summer’s morning, Michael Fox and I made our way down an overgrown track then descended the fishers’ wobbly ladders into the shade of the bay. When I saw the wall my jaw dropped, I’m not joking. There in its centre amongst the black streaks was Ordeal by Fur. We sorted ourselves out and punched and stretched our way up. OMG, it was horrendous! My 5ft 7 body was seeking reach it didn’t have. The holds and the horizontal breaks seemed two inches too far away and the crash of the surf sent damp seawater towards what holds I could find – a man always needs two inches more. I ended up ascending the route by standing on the bolts to reach the sandy breaks, pulling on quickdraws, rope, whatever I could find to cheat my way up. There was nothing easy about it, 21? The sandbag has subsequently been recognised as a 26! I topped out totally dejected. Leaving Diamond Bay I returned to the Sutherland Shire with my tail between my legs. I developed Rainbow Wall behind Engadine as a mini Ordeal by Fur training wall to practice climbing on baby bottom sandstone between sloping horizontal breaks. My next visit to Ordeal by Fur had a little more style but still required a fair bit of cheating to get up the thing. I gave up in the end, some climbs are just bigger than you. This was one of those.



‘I ended up ascending the route by standing on the bolts to reach the sandy breaks, pulling on quickdraws, rope, whatever I could find to cheat my way up.’

CHIMERA The ultimate for fast, light climbs

NOW May, 2019. I was flicking through an old Rock and there was that climb! That photo of Geoff dancing with the Fur. That climber’s itch was back. I could taste the sea-salt. This time I was going to crank with the power of a pen. Getting a team together for a Sydney climbing story whilst being in Tasmania was going to take a bit of work. I posted a teaser on a climbing Facebook page that said, ‘Looking for a climber who climbs 26 like a band member plays base, a bit clunky but within your grasp. Tights are a prerequisite for the shoot.’ Some young guns raised their hands; Nathanual Hebbard got the gig. He posted, ‘I want to have some fun on something from back in the day.’ He contacted Mikl for beta and received a green light on the condition of the bolts. The next essential person was the photographer. Phillip Booth was a perfect fit; he had an affinity with the environment and was easy to work with. In the tradition of Glenn Robbins we were on a mission to capture fresh meat strung out on a Sydney sea cliff.


All the team members wanted to play with history. There was ‘whoa bro’ banter about wearing tights as a token of respect to the ‘80s. There was even an invitation for Phillip to wear leather chaps as an ode to Glenn Robbins, but he kept that envelope tightly shut. Come sending day the weather was perfect. Phillip had arranged for Nathanual and his belayer, Cian Currie, to meet at sun up. In the lead up

> > > > >

Major axis; 23 kN Minor axis; 7 kN Gate open; 9 kN Weight; 30 g Gate opening; 21 mm

I had asked Nathanual about his knowledge of climbing on the Sydney sea cliffs? ‘Not much, it looks adventurous. I was told it was on carrot bolts and had the potential for being sandbagged.’

Left: Nathanual Hebbard straining on the unnaturally hard crux. Phillip Booth

02 9417 5755


‘He had two loves, Ducati motorcycles and rock-climbing; both good until you fell off.’

A young Mike Law gearing up at the Sydney sea cliffs in the early 1980s. Stuart Hickson

Phil elaborated, he had gone to check the climb out. ‘Mike Law is a

The experience was a good one for Nat as he shook out his arms after

machine. A bit of editing occurred (I guess ethics were a little different

the climb and watched the early morning Gucci joggers on the edge of

back then). Still it was bold as with minimal gear. That goes for ‘80s

Vaucluse multimillion dollar real-estate.

climbing in general, not just the sea cliffs.’

‘Thinking back to 1980 when the climb was established by Mikl,

Thirty-nine years after the first ascent, the sandstone was still

it’s a strong effort, I’m very impressed. The grade is solid, possibly

sandy, the bolts were fat and intact, the seeping still seeped and the

sandbagged and the climb has a very unique sea cliff style. Climbing in

atmosphere was still wild. Nat began the climb one stretch at a time

tights gave really unrestricted movement, I would do it again.’

and said this of his Ordeal by Fur, ‘I found it to be a really memorable old-school experience climbing on the carrot bolts.’ Two thirds high on the line and the crux of the route approaching, he continued, ‘I had just crunched through the chips and was approaching the crux. It looked better as a side-pull, you need tension to engage as a gaston and hold it to stand up. That move was full on.’


‘What the climb or the tights?’ ‘Both.’ He replied.

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ADVENTURES AT T H E E D G E OF THE WORLD It’s easy to run out of superlatives when talking about Tasmanian climbing – wild, diverse, uncrowded, adventurous, accessible. That’s why we were psyched when Gerry Narkowicz announced his new book recounting the development of Tassie climbing. Pulling together a history of this sort is a bloody big effort, so to celebrate we bring you a few choice snippets from the book’s chapter on the modern era.

WORDS: As credited IMAGES: Simon Bischoff

Right: Garry ‘the Frother’ Phillips leading Priapism (29), Organ Pipes, Mt Wellington. 58 8



It’s 2010 on the western escarpment of Ben Lomond and American

height into a corner. Nick’s route, The End of Time (23), is the stuff of

climber Niels Tietze and John Fischer (Crazy John) are attempting

nightmares, a preposterous line through multiple overhangs and not

a ground-up first ascent on the 200m face of Africa. The rock is

something the '80s lads would have done in a pink-fit. Squib Cubbon

questionable and the gear is sketchy, but Niels launches boldly into

and Simon Bischoff joined in and climbed the hardest, sketchiest route

unknown territory. Suddenly his handhold breaks. Out of control, he

of all. Named Too Mad for the Mullet (26), it is a direct first pitch to Can I

starts cartwheeling down the cliff, gear ripping in rapid succession. He

Play with Madness (24), one of my routes. The name is self-explanatory.

flies headfirst past John on the belay, and after a 50m fall his imminent

Bob McMahon once described my mullet hairstyle as, ‘a throw-back

demise is arrested by a lone, sharp flake which hooks the rope,

to that dumb-fuck confident era of the ‘70s when the bogan-badge

stripping its sheath for several metres and averting a factor-two fall

was worn with pride,’ and Squib’s climb is a throw-back to the clean-

onto the belay that would have killed them both. Now hanging 15m off

climbing ethic of the ‘70s – and too mad for Captain Mullet.

the deck, amazingly Niels escapes serious injury, except for the mass of ripped gear which slingshots down the

One of the most poignant examples of adventure climbing in the modern era is Bischoff’s free climb of the

rope and whacks him in the balls. Niels and John were climbing in the finest traditional style, ground-up with no preinspection, cleaning or rehearsal of moves. They were attempting to force a super-direct variant of Kilimanjaro (25), a route put up by John and me only months before. We had ourselves sought to establish Kilimanjaro

‘Now hanging 15m off the deck, amazingly Niels escapes serious injury, except for the mass of ripped gear which slingshots down the rope and whacks him in the balls.‘

ground-up and onsight, only to be shut down

Impossible Dream (22), on the remote Mt Razorback on Flinders Island. Mt Razorback sits like a massive, jagged, extracted wisdom tooth on a ridge high on the Strzelecki Range and dominates the landscape at the southern end of the island. It looks like a climber’s dream, but it needed a dreamer and an explorer to realise it. Stuart Willis from Victoria

by a blank section with atrocious gear. Some cleaning revealed a no.2

pioneered rock climbing on Flinders Island in the mid-’70s and took

RP and triple-zero cam and, after rehearsing it on top-rope, John was

up the challenge. He fought his way for hours through a wall of prickly,

able to lead the crux pitch the next day.

harsh coastal scrub to Mt Razorback, carrying his climbing gear in case

For the next seven years I embarked on a mission to tackle some of the biggest, scariest faces on Ben Lomond at both Stacks Bluff and Africa. These dark, south-facing crags had seen some action in the ‘70s and

he discovered something worthwhile. He found a stunning 45m crack, one of the best lines in Tasmania, and aided the first ascent. Willis describes his ascent of the Impossible Dream:

‘80s when most of the big crack-lines were done, but no one had dared

On Mt Razorback is a crack that is begging to go free. I did it on aid

to venture onto the faces. Fused cracks and intermittent seams lead

and abseiled off leaving several tubes as anchors. I called it the

the unfortunate climber into no-man’s land and the prospect of a Niels-

Impossible Dream and had plans to return and make a documentary

like screamer.

film of the first free ascent. Probably a younger team will beat me to

Names such as Brave New World (23), Falling off the Edge of the World

it as these days my accumulated injuries are catching up with me.

(23) and Surmounting Terror (24) sum up the experience of those

The name says it all. What seemed impossible to Stuart 30 years ago

routes. Andrew Martin and Nick Hancock joined me at times, and in the

has now become a reality. In 2017, Bischoff and Larissa Naismith

summer of 2016 the team spent 23 nights camped at Africa putting up

endured the horrendous four-hour scrub-bash to Mt Razorback and led

some absolute scare-fests. Despite being three-hours walk from the

the Impossible Dream. Stuart Willis embodied the true spirit of climbing

road, we lugged hundreds of metres of static rope up the hill, several

and Simon followed in his footsteps – dreamers across the generations

racks of gear, and set up a basecamp for an extended stay.

seeking new adventures at the edge of the world.

Andrew excelled on A.J Flick (22), a fitting tribute to his Grandad, where a fall whilst laybacking the offwidth roof would slam you from a great


Alex Hartshorne jamming his widgets into the skinny Stan (28), Mt Amos.


'CRAZY JOHN' FISCHER ON SOLOING B L A D E R I D G E O N F E D E R AT I O N P E A K In my short stint climbing around the world I know now that the shit we do in Tasmania is really removed from what most people are willing to do with their lives. But it’s not really us – it’s the place. In my early days of climbing I was impressed by the Tassie dudes who just assumed I had the skills and were not into hand-holding and ego-stroking. They just gave me a rack and said, ‘Climb this.’ Trial by fire – by fire – by fire. The hard work, the beautiful terrain and the adventure of it all was immediately appealing to me. The risk-taking was seductive. I have often thought of the Cervantes’ medieval hero, Don Quixote, tilting at windmills as a modern corollary to the imagined climbing goals we throw ourselves at. Surrounded by so many strong climbers and Don Quixotesque questers, Tassie objectives become attainable if you can just imagine it possible and then try as hard you can. Jed Parkes, a fellow windmill chaser, suggested soloing Blade Ridge (17; 600m) together after walking in over a couple days with Claire (his wife) and Anna-Veronique (my wife). I thought it a good proposition, more fun and less of a logistical nightmare. The 25km hike in is actually good fun. We were carrying less than 1kg of climbing gear so that made things easier than the standard climbing expedition. The terrain is the usual pedestrian, mind-blowing beauty of the Tassie wilderness. The track is vague in places even with the GPS assistance Jedi provided. Dodging the sinker holes in the bog becomes an engaging game which, when it inevitably ends in failure, results in muddy shorts and a giggle. We camped at a creek which threatened to overflow from the previous day’s rain but thankfully the weather backed off and we were not drowned in our sleep. When we got to the final camp at the base of Fedders in the evening it was still sprinkling. The morning was dry and we hoped the cliff was too, so we hiked down through a fairy-land of river and forest until getting to what we thought was the start of the route. Waiting for Jed to climb up and down the wrong buttress to make certain we were climbing the correct start to Blade Ridge made me impatient and fired up to get this thing going. Finally on track, we pulled through 100m of vertical tree climbing and gained the cliff proper. Looking up at an endless mossy cliff face, Jed set off on what he thought was the right path. Every conceivably climbable line looked about the same: wet and loose but easy climbing that continued up as far as we could see. Three hundred metres remained above us to gain the face. When Jed hesitated on the line to the right, I took the line left out of either boredom or excitement, I don’t know which. It seemed to me the better way but eventually the holds ran out and then a hold broke off. I fell a few body lengths back down into the vertical forest which acted as an organic crash pad. I was a bit bruised and had a six-inch long gash on my shin, but nothing serious. However, I was a little rattled. Most of the time you don’t walk away after falling off while soloing. 62

Left: Kim Robinson on Tullaramia (28), Organ Pipes, Mt Wellington.

Kim Robinson on Tullaramia (28), Organ Pipes, Mt Wellington. 63

LIZ OH INTERVIEW What is special about climbing in Tasmania? You can have a great time being an all-round climber in Tasmania, lapping up good trad and sport routes of varied style, in beautiful locations. But I guess when it comes to the crunch, the most memorable times in Tassie come from the feeling of remoteness, being out there in the elements, and having to be reasonably self-sufficient. Ben Lomond is a place that I just love…a pristine playground of beautiful and exhausting crack lines to test one’s resolve. Any memorable climbs, epics or dangerous, adventurous stuff? Sometimes it’s the little things that make an adventure memorable. Like my first trip to the Tyndalls, which happened on a whim; turning the car around in Campbell Town to chase the weather window out west, making a camping stove out of a beer can because it was a Sunday and the only shops open were a bottle shop and an IGA. Arriving at Lake Huntley (such an ‘other-worldly’ place) was mind blowing, but it soon felt like home living in a cave for a few days, watching the mist roll in and out as the full moon rose across the lake. I suppose I’ve done some ‘bold’, dangerous (or stupid) lines here and there in Tassie. A few chossy, ground-up first ascents in random places like Tasman Island and Cape Pillar come to mind. A few run-out moments come to mind, too, like climbing Incipience (22) at Mt Amos. Onsight free soloing The Sydney Route on Frenchmans Cap with Jed Parkes would also be a highlight of silly things I’ve done. I’m sometimes drawn to adventurous climbs as test-pieces for my level of commitment, problem solving, and how I perform when facing the unknown. I’ve had my first trad fall, my longest red-pointing battle, and sent my hardest climbs all in Tassie. These routes have been memorable, but the ultimate motivation for such routes, has been honing my skill set and building the confidence to go on longer ventures into beautifully wild and challenging climbing areas.

Right: Liz Oh on The Grand Adjudicator (27), The Star Factory, Freycinet.

64 4

‘A few run-out moments come to mind, too, like climbing Incipience (22) at Mt Amos. Onsight free soloing The Sydney Route on Frenchmans Cap with Jed Parkes would also be a highlight of silly things I’ve done.’



Doug drove his clapped out ute like a madman. He casually slid the tail

tree that was perched on the edge of the abyss. Doug tied our double

out as we scooted down a dirt logging road doing the winding four-hour

8.5mm dynamic ropes around the tree and headed over the edge. He

drive towards the West Coast of Tasmania. He casually lit up a plump

assured me ‘the tree’ was solid and, as he was much heavier, I trusted

joint as he steered with one hand. It was obvious that if a truck came the

him, even though my logic said don’t trust Doug, or the tree.

other way we were toast. I gestured for a drag, knowing it would reduce

I arrived at the small perch below and found Doug frantically hand-

his intake and dull my rational mind.

drilling a single bolt anchor like a man-possessed so we could continue

Doug was not your average climber – more like a cross between a fridge

our descent. I tried to stay cool-headed. Surely this wasn’t such a

removalist and the guy in the bar you don’t want to look in the eye. He

big deal.

was a unit you wouldn’t want to mess with. But he knew the way to this

‘Hey Doug, which line are we going to climb?’

secret mega-cliff and was psyched for climbing, so we were a team. A two-hour slog up a big hill landed us lost and stumbling around the

‘The big corner on the right border of the face.’

plateau drenched in darkness and mist, trying to locate landmarks.

‘Are you sure there’s a crack in the corner?’

Welcome to the Tyndalls! Finally, we slept under a big overhanging boulder for a long, uncomfortable night. In the morning Doug quickly found his bearings and the 300m-high cliff. With most cliffs you get to the base then gradually climb it getting used to the exposure as you slowly gain height. But in the Tyndalls you get to the top and abseil in, so it’s all go from the moment you look over the

‘Yep, pretty sure… (long pause). But not positive.’ (Note to reader: 20 years on this line is still unclimbed.) I carefully studied our line by leaning out as far as I could from our perch. ‘Okay, and what about the big mossy dripping body crack through the roof up high. What do we do there?’

edge. Peering over the edge you see the cliff, the sky, and the clouds all

‘You’ll just need to wiggle inside and drill a bolt as we don’t have any

reflected in the surface of the lake. This gives the place an other-worldly

big gear.’

feel. It was an outrageous place and, unbelievably, still unclimbed!

SMACK! I jumped back to reality like being slapped in the face with a

Doug’s strategy was to scramble down terraces on the right side of the

wet fish. This guy IS crazier than a cut snake, an epic magnet from the

main face for about 70m vertically so we didn’t have to abseil the full

southern Tasmanian wilderness. I tactfully reasoned with Doug, like

height. It was very exposed, necky scrambling, trusting small bushes

talking down an armed robber.

and mossy footholds with your life. We arrived at a lonely, pool-cue sized














You can read the rest of these pieces and more than 100 others backed by over 600 photos in Adventures at the Edge of the World, available from |

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Simon Fritsche warming up on Pente 5.11, Indian Creek, Utah. Kamil Sustiak 68 8



It was happening. I’d finally scrounged together enough pennies to get on a plane to the USA. I had one mission: get to Yosemite Valley. Which is the one thing that didn’t happen. What did happen was the last thing I had expected: I fell in love with

'One second young man.' The police officer walked away and I could see

the desert.

him chatting on his radio.

I had been dreaming of the Valley stone, the scent of pine and watching

He came back a few long moments later and said, 'Son, this is quite

the last light high up on shimmering granite faces, but first I had a pit

the special circumstance. I’m going to let you through, you can rejoin

stop to make. I needed to pick up some ropes.

the highway with a three-hour detour. You have to tell the next five

My solution to avoid carting three ropes from the Land Downunder

blockades that it was my order to let you through, okay?'

was simple and certainly cheaper. Buy the ropes I needed in the USA

After staring for a long moment, desperately trying to mask disbelief

and have them posted to a friend. Trouble was, the friend was living in

with a smarmy half smile and an over the top nod, I said, 'Okay. Thank

Moab, Utah, which isn’t exactly a stone's throw from the Valley. It was,

you, officer!'

however, the nearest major town to Indian Creek. So the plan was to pick up the ropes, do a brief stint in the desert and double back to the real business. I was to be an iron filing to the High Sierra’s great magnet – El Capitan.

He gestured to another officer to raise the boom and with a parting wave said, 'Watch out for deer!' To the astonishment and visible outrage of a dozen truck drivers, they opened the blockade and let me and my Dodge drive on through. I had

Nine-and-a-half hours into the drive from San Fran it just so happened

the entire highway to myself. I couldn’t believe it and, not surprisingly,

there was a roadblock. Not the metaphorical kind. Trucks lined the

neither could the next five blockades. By the last guy, however, as much

sides of the highway for miles; they weren’t letting anyone through due

as I’m not proud of this, I had the spiel down to a B-grade film award

to a chemical spill. Defeated, I pulled into a parking lot in an attempt to

for Best Supporting Actor. I was through. I’d done it. Hang me on the

get some sleep. The problem was that about ten minutes before I had

gallows, but by the following morning, I would be climbing.

eaten an entire bag of snakes. That bag of snakes turned me into the kid at the end of the party who is running away from the adults screaming like a broken tin whistle to the tune of ‘I don’t wanna go home!’ I couldn’t get to sleep. I wanted to get to Indian Creek. There was only one thing left to do. Peaking on sugar, I coasted my van towards the police blockade and wound down the window. 'G’day officer.' 'You’re Australian?' He must have picked up on something.

The Utah desert was a place I couldn’t quite imagine with any sense of reality. Watching classic Westerns as a kid growing up in Australia made the landscape seem a make-believe backdrop that actors stood in front of. Formative years spent on the oversized island drifting in the middle of the Pacific left the American Southwest feeling like a fantasy. As my 15-hour drive was coming to a close and I was nearing Moab, the sun started yolking its way into the sky. At first, everything was inky, light forming a thin lip on the horizon. As the sun floated higher, it was as if in anticipation of some heavy curtain lifting at the opening of a Broadway musical. When light finally spilled into the world, my jaw

'Is there any other way around to get back on the highway?' I asked.

hung open.

'Unfortunately, this is it, pal. You’ll have to pull up for the night.'

What remained was an unending colosseum of glowing orange rock.

A brief moment of desperation overwhelmed me. I cleared my throat,

Ridges crowned with sandcastle spires and jigsaw canyon walls that

slightly disbelieving of what I was going to say.

cut out into the horizon. The feeling is something I haven’t been able to

'Officer, I have a funeral to get to by tomorrow in Moab and I’ve flown

had seen before I arrived were much like Plato’s famous cave allegory;

over especially to get to it.' The guilt immediately washed over me, but I was too deep, I had to keep up the act. I mean, I couldn’t exactly laugh and say, 'Just kidding mate, gotcha there didn’t I?' So I went on, like Keanu Reeves pretending to be a surfer in Point Break, agonisingly. 'A family member is it?' He asked. 'Yes, my Aunt actually.' I almost choked on my words. 70

find the words for since. But for comparison, the movies and photos I shadows on the back wall of a cave. The reality was perplexing. I stopped the van, got out, and watched the sun chase the rest of the shadows away. Before I knew it, weeks had passed and Yosemite felt no closer. I’d look up the weather for the Valley and see severe drops in temperature; Yosemite was experiencing an unusual bout of cold and wet weather.

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I’d scroll through social media and see all the people huddled in their sleeping bags on the ground, queuing up for days to claim a camping spot. And then find myself comparing it to the perfect cracks, uncrowded crags warm in the sun, and all the open space I’d been savouring in The Creek. My dream of the big stone was still nagging, but I just wanted a few more days to enjoy what was in front of me. Maybe it was laziness or revolusion at the idea of cold granite and wet weather, or maybe without realising it, the desert had begun to wrap me around its little finger. I would put the weather forecast for the Valley away, close social media and drive out to The Creek again. It was as if I were having a dirty affair, like I was cheating on my own dream, but something about this new brand of freedom was addictive. My friends and I had all but turned the Cottonwood Campground into some sort of tribal nation, and by luck, we had it to ourselves. The cook-ups became a desert version of My Kitchen Rules. There were Alice in Wonderland quotes pinned to stumps. The making of a fire would coax everyone out of their vans like church-goers summoned to a ritual, and give way to torrents of the day’s hard-won ascents. We had forged a ragtag group of desert dwellers, who despite mummified hands covered in gobies and torn skin, could only think of one thing – climbing more cracks. In some strange way, the freezing cold nights in the van, the hunger, the head-to-toe soreness, chapped lips, sunburn and the dust-laden clothing emphasised every moment. It made the colours at dusk seem more vivid, the sense of community amongst us stronger, every meal sweeter, and the willingness to share more generous. It made our appetites to keep pushing ourselves on the rock day after day insatiable. This is what hooked me. I was often left wondering how many places on the climber's tick list can still boast this sort of freedom. The ‘70sera Camp 4s of the world are probably very few, if not long gone. While Indian Creek isn’t exactly out of the spotlight, for somewhere as

‘In some strange way, the freezing cold nights in the van, the hunger, the head-to-toe

esteemed and loved for its world-class climbing it felt wild at every turn.

soreness, chapped lips, sunburn

It was easy to be charmed by the dirt roads, the zero phone service, the

and the dust-laden clothing

community notice board that served as the best form of communication, and the droving of cattle still done on horseback. The petroglyphs there

emphasised every moment.’

speak of a distant past, and although it’s not the same Indian Creek that the Navajo or Anasazi people knew, it is a place that continues to remain in its own version of time, slowly sewing its cryptobiotic crusts and hanging on to life.

Opposite page, clockwise from top left:

It seemed everyone I met had a deep respect for the place. They

Tribe ethos at Camp Cottonwood. Angus Taylor

understood it was something you needed to be mindful in caring for, something to be treated as a privilege. Whether it was climbers sticking

The local telephone. Angus Taylor

strictly to established trails to protect the delicate crypto crust (that in

Tree stump, gobies, grins, beers, dogs, filthy clothes and thousand-yard-stares. Angus Taylor collection

many ways holds the desert together), packing out all their rubbish,




using pit toilets, not climbing too close to ruins or respecting crag closures due to birds nesting, it was a level of environmental awareness I hadn’t seen elsewhere. An admiration for the area’s fragility was always present One day whilst we were gearing up at the base of a climb I was introduced to a man nicknamed Q, aka James Q Martin, who had come along to take some shots of Mason Earl retro-onsighting a 5.12-goingon-5.13+, Less than Zero. A friend and I got talking to Q and he told us of a film he was making called The Cowboy and The Climber. It was about a climber (Q himself) building a relationship with the local Indian Creek rancher who traded their respective crafts; Q would learn how to work the ranch, and the rancher would learn how to climb. He wanted to create an

fight is still going on. As an Australian it made me appreciate the places back home that we have generous levels of access to as climbers, and that in many ways these can be just as fragile. We should be treating them with the same level of stewardship and responsibility. The magnet that had originally drawn me to El Cap slowly began switching poles until my iron filing was eventually, immovably, buried in red dust. Sometimes spontaneity can take us like a strong current, changing the course of our plans so much that we wonder how we got there. Sometimes our original dreams get lost along the way but in the process, you realise dreams can morph to take on different forms.

understanding and an appreciation of the ways in which the land

My dream wasn’t necessarily to climb El Cap or to stand in a stupor

is used.

in the meadow, ogling up at the Valley giants, contemplating my

Q is a well-known conservationist and has done some incredible work with the community to keep areas, including Indian Creek, open for climbers. Talking with Q that day made me realise that a hard political

insignificance. My dream was to learn new skills, throw myself into another world, roll with the punches, and ultimately, climb in an inspiring place. That dream came true in every sense.

battle was fought to keep this place accessible for recreational use

One morning I drove into Moab, walked into the local gear trader store

and that educating people to be respectful custodians of the land was

and sold my extra ropes. I used the money for food and water, fuelled up

integral to keeping places like this open for future generations. That

the Dodge and drove straight back to The Creek.

Left: Angus belayed by Bibi Garcia-Diehl on an unnammed 5.11 overlooking the Colorado River at the Mineral Bottom. Austin Dickey




Whether you’re a beginner steadily building a grade pyramid, a long-term addict trying to push your redpoint level, or a competition junkie gazing up at the top of the podium, the desire to climb harder is ever strong. Some of us obsess over designing the perfect training session, others are battling self-control and opting for lean protein and greens rather than pizza and beer after a gym session. Many climbers spend all too many hours trying to work out the magic ingredient that will lead them to the elusive ‘next level’. That feeling of mastery and success when we step it up to new heights makes our brains buzz. But there is a new craze that’s hit the sporting world, and it literally involves brains buzzing. Transcranial direct current stimulation – referred to by the true nerds as ‘tDCS’ – is a non-invasive and painless brain stimulation technique that is now available as a commercial product. The treatment involves very low level electrical current being delivered to specific areas of the brain via electrodes inside a cap or headset. There is no risk of involuntary muscle twitching or movement, and provided you have an otherwise healthy brain, the procedure is very safe. Typical stimulation sessions last between ten to 20 minutes and, yes, the device is small enough to fit inside your helmet. As you receive the stimulation, you feel little more than a spot of cold gel and a tingle or itch on your head but inside your brain the tDCS literally 'excites the neurons' with electrical charge. The charge from the electrodes reaches your brain cells (neurons) and influences their likelihood of ‘firing’. If more neurons fire, or if neurons fire more frequently, we can get increased force production from the muscle fibres controlled by that neuron, and an increase in the 'rate of force development' (i.e. power). This could be even more beneficial as when we fatigue our neurons effectively start to get lazy, hence why there is a theoretical benefit to endurance performance. I am a neuroscientist, and I’ve spent the best part of the last decade conducting research with the goal of understanding (and enhancing) the benefits of exercise on the brain. I started using non-invasive brain stimulation in 2010, and my first study that used tDCS with resistance training was published in 2014. While the study was not a complete ‘failure’, those of you who have seen me training in Melbourne gyms or climbing in the Grampians will note that I do not have electrodes wired up while I’m tied in. Despite the hundreds of tDCS sessions that I have conducted in the lab, I am yet to be convinced that tDCS has a place in sports performance. I can say for certain that the procedures are safe (both in the short and long term), and that tDCS can change the way a neuron functions. But our brains are the most complex system in our bodies, and the structure and circuitry differs immensely between individuals. Getting the ‘dosage’ and electrode placement right with an over-the-counter headset seems almost impossible, and there is even a good chance that treatment designed to increase neuron firing in one person could have the exact opposite effect in another person. Collectively, the scientific evidence for the use of

tDCS in athletes tells us that any potential benefits are probably negligible, even at the highest levels of sport. According to the proposed mechanisms of action, endurance athletes would be the most likely to benefit from tDCS. But at this stage we simply do not have the science to back it, and it’s not for a lack of trying. There have been more than 5000 studies using tDCS published in scientific journals to date. These studies have explored the use of tDCS in everything from treatment of Parkinson’s disease and depression, to the reaction time of US fighter pilots. While it’s possible that developments in technology could make tDCS viable in the future (such as conducting brain imaging to individualise the treatment and observe the real-time effects of the stimulation), these things will take both time and money. When it comes to my own climbing, I have countless other deficits to address before I look to something like tDCS to help me bag a send. I’m yet to come across anyone who has sleep, motivation, diet, training, technique, psychological game (…the list goes on) so well covered that they need tDCS to gain an edge. And what about the ethics? The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) considers the following criteria when determining if a substance should be banned: 1) Does the substance pose a health risk to the athlete, 2) Does the substance provide a competitive advantage, 3) Does the substance compromise the ‘spirit’ of the sport. At this stage, I believe tDCS would be dismissed on points one and two. Since I am a scientist (not a philosopher) perhaps I am not qualified to comment on the third point, so I will leave that for you to ponder for yourself. But there is one more problem: while it would be easy to ensure athletes aren’t using tDCS during competition, it is impossible to trace the use of tDCS during training. To my knowledge, WADA has not yet made any assessments on brain stimulation ‘doping’. I am also not aware of any climbers using tDCS as a performance enhancer at present. But with the ever growing desire to perform at our best, and the lure of Olympic gold just around the corner, it’s likely that tDCS will gain more interest from those wishing to either up their own game or make a buck by tempting others. Don’t be fooled. Dr Ashlee Hendy (PhD) is a lecturer in Strength and Conditioning Sciences at Deakin University and a bloody good rock climber. 77



Some topics need to be written about more than once, particularly as science doesn’t stand still. It’s been a couple of years (VL21, 2017) since I wrote about one of the early studies on gelatin and injury prevention. Since then research in this area has built, making it worth taking another look. For many of us, climbing is not just what keep us fit, it’s also what keeps our minds healthy. Because of this, a lot of us try to get to the cliff or gym as often as possible as we chase goals or attempt to keep our life in balance. But our obsession can come at a cost. When pushing our training or outdoor limits, climbing can be brutal on our bodies, with research out of the UK finding that 75–90% of rock climbers are likely to develop an upper-limb overuse injury of some kind. Finding a supplement that could help prevent injuries, or help recovery should we get one, is pretty appealing. The Australian Institute of Sport and the University of California have been researching gelatin and its potential for reducing injury, promoting recovery and strengthening musculoskeletal tissue, and now we have more information on how gelatin works in the body, and more insights into whether gelatin is the key ingredient missing from your training regime. The starting point in the gelatin story is to understand collagen and its role in our bodies. Collagen is a structural protein and the main component of connective tissue, forming a scaffold that provides strength and structure to tissue – it is the protein that holds everything together. Thirty percent of body protein is collagen, collagen makes up 70% of the protein in our tendons, 65-80% of the protein in our ligaments and forms the backbone of our bones. Tendons attach our muscles to our bones and 78

ligaments attach two bones to each other and consequently hold joints together. You need your connective tissue to be strong enough to be able to harness the force being produced by your muscles. We focus a lot on building muscle strength, but some athletes don’t have the strength in their tendons and ligaments to use all the strength generated by their muscles. Collagen synthesis is crucial for repairing, strengthening and giving durability to this connective tissue. You can imagine with the load climbing puts through our ligaments and tendons; collagen synthesis is pretty important, particularly as a result of the natural aging process is that collagen synthesis starts to decline. This is where gelatin potentially comes in. For any climbers partial to a bag of retro party mix or red frogs, you are already familiar with eating gelatin. For those who aren’t, gelatin is a clear, flavourless food derived from collagen, often used as a stabiliser, thickener or texturiser in foods. It is not for vegans, as it’s made by boiling down animal bones, hides and connective tissue. Gelatin is potentially the new super supplement because it contains a rich supply of amino acids (proline, glycine, lysine and arginine) that are needed for collagen synthesis. Hydrolysed collagen is just gelatin that has been denatured – or broken down – into smaller parts so it can no longer form a gel and is more palatable because it will dissolve completely, in contrast to

gelatin. So far, the research tells us some people absorb gelatin better, while others more easily absorb the hydrolysed collagen. Either is pretty much equally as effective (so don’t get sucked into supplement company hype that may push one over the other). The research suggests that when you take gelatin or hydrolysed collagen, with vitamin C (which is crucial for collagen synthesis and also plays a role in activating the collagen cross-linking enzymes) you provide your body with the amino acids proline, glycine, lysine and arginine and some peptides, which can then be used by your cells to synthesise collagen and subsequently help make your tendons, ligaments and bones stronger. The tricky thing with our ligaments and tendons is that they don’t have good blood supply, so for the amino acids to get to the ligament or tendon, they need to be under load, some form of specific exercise, so they are stretched and take up the fluid around them that contains the extra amino acids. A good way to understand the mechanisms at play is to think of a ligament or tendon like a sponge. When it’s under load the sponge is being stretched, squeezing fluid out. When the load is released, the tissue relaxes and soaks up the fluid around it. The type of exercise we do – fingerboarding, for instance – acts as a target of sorts telling the extra amino acids where to go in the body.

'The tricky thing with our ligaments and tendons is that they don’t have a good blood supply, so for the amino acids to get to the ligament or tendon, they need to be under load, some form of specific exercise, so they are stretched and take up the fluid around them that contains the extra amino acids.'

With this in mind, you can see that the timing of the gelatin supplement and the exercise stimulus that goes with it are key. At this stage the protocol that seems to be most effective is: 15g of gelatin, collagen or collagen peptide supplement, with 48mg to 500mg of vitamin C (e.g. Ribena or OJ or a vitamin C supplement) taken 45-60 minutes before a short bout of exercising the area of your body you want to target, e.g. you may take it one hour before a short fingerboard session. It is important to understand that the molecular response peaks after around ten minutes of exercise stimulus and begins to switch off if exercise continues beyond that time so a short session is most effective. Be aware that while the research is in the early stages, the supplement companies and their marketing of gelatin is very advanced, as there is money to be made. Right now, we know that 15g of gelatin taken one hour prior to exercise shows increased collagen synthesis. The larger the gelatin dose, the longer you need to wait to exercise for the most effective gains and you need a six-hour break for the mechanism to reset and for tissue to be able to soak gelatin up again. There is a lot more that needs to be understood before the ‘perfect’ supplement can be produced. Follow up studies will see if the increased collagen synthesis was due to amino acid availability (whether a standard leucine-rich protein supplement

can produce the same results) or unique bioactive peptides in collagenous foods. If it's the former, then it’s good news for vegans, as we can get these from plant-based sources. At this stage though, there is no vegetarian or vegan substitute for gelatin that could be used as a supplement. So, whether you are an elite or recreational climber trying to avoid or get over an old injury, this is an interesting supplement to consider. As with everything regarding training and nutrition, everyone is different and has slightly different requirements. If you’re injured or concerned about preventing injury, I highly recommend working with a sports dietitian to tailor the supplement intervention to you and make sure you have the rest of your nutrition working the best it can for you. Amanda Watts is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist and SDA Sports Dietitian at Thrive Nutrition & Dietetics. She is sponsored by Tenaya, Black Diamond, Chalk Cartel and Beal. 79





Denby showing it’s never too late to go top-roping on The Go Between (22) at Monument Gully, Mount York. Mike Hughes 80

Ambition is a curious thing. This is the thought that pops into my head a moment before my fingers pop off the greased-up, credit-card edge that passes for a hold and I smack myself in the face with the back of my hand.

No it’s not. Ambition is an arse. Ambition has been getting me up in the murk of predawn, to wriggle out of the clutching, sleepy snuggles of someone sensible enough to remain in bed. It has been sustaining me through a listless Facebook scroll while I wait for the coffee to kick in so I can shuffle over to the hangboard. It’s been nudging my creaky, sore body to give another hang, another pull, another heave. But worst of all, I realise as my glasses are jabbed into my tear duct and my nose stings from my own backhander, it’s been filling me with delusions. I swear, I’m not crying. Sax calls up to find out whether I’m done beating myself up. As heroic as all this training sounds, I’m hanging on the rope right now flailing myself towards a new hernia just to try and pull back on. I haven’t made any progress for an embarrassingly long time. The route – Paddington, at Centennial Glen – is one of the 25s I decided to try in the search for *the* 25 – the goal for this year and the accursed reason for all the damn training. Or was that ambition? I forgot when I punched myself in the face. The Pullup Project™ has been going quite well, considering all the obstacles of life, and before coming out this morning, I felt very ready to try hard. But then something odd happened: on this route, I can’t hold some of the holds. Despite all the will in the world, my fingers just open up when I bear down on them. This climb will never go. It’s not one of those, ‘I couldn’t do all the moves the first time I tried it’ – this feels grades harder than anything I can do. I had all my hopes set on a thin, techy route on slightly overhanging rock… but this route is clearly a long way off for me. I sag in the harness, dejected. The season is now. It’ll snow in the next week or two, and that’s the end of the outdoor season for sooks like me. I sweat and grunt my way to the anchors and at least manage to retrieve all my gear before retreating for the day. The following morning, I feel like I’ve done ten rounds with a bus. Over the coming week, I find it hard to motivate myself enough to get out of bed and train. After work, the idea of a session at

the climbing gym feels like a death sentence. There is something drudgerous about the whole thing. And then I remember: this is meant to be my hobby. Oh dear. This is not how hobbies go. Hobbies make people smile and talk annoyingly all day about them to their coworkers, Uber driver and anyone who’ll listen. Hobbies are the things that make Mondays so evil, not the things that make the working week feel like a respite. Hobbies are not things that make you punch yourself in the face on a Saturday afternoon – unless you like that sort of thing. And I don’t like it. Hence, not a hobby. So as the week goes on and the BoM promises perhaps the last wonderfully mild, sunny day in the Mountains before I begin my indoor hibernation for the winter, I ponder what I could do this coming weekend that would make climbing feel more like a hobby. Sax, who knows I’m in Project Mode, waits patiently for me to announce my self-flaggilatory intentions for the weekend. When I get home from work on Thursday and say, ‘What do you think about some easy routes at Monument Gully?’ he nearly falls off his chair. He looks delighted with this suggestion. ‘Sure! You could get on the 23, you haven’t done that yet…’ I return his smile, knowing I won’t go anywhere near a hard route. The day is the very picture of winter perfection. Blue skies, the lightest touch of a breeze, and that dry microclimate of Monument Gully coaxing us all down to shirtsleeves. I’ve brought my camera, and Sax’s mate Mike makes us all ooh and ahh at how he can launch his new drone off the palm of his hand – and land it there. While we throw laps on pleasantly doable routes, Mike scrambles around to get a good shot, or tests out the drone’s tree-avoidance technology to our amazement. Black and white cows dot the valley below and the occasional ‘moo’ is carried up on the breeze. There’s still at least an hour of sun when we call it a day and go off to chase a beer in the last of the afternoon light. Now this is what a hobby feels like. 81








82 2

There are few sports in which a mistake will end your competition faster than in climbing. Especially in Lead, often one single slip just can't be made up for or undone. Because of that, it can be hard to decipher what went wrong, and even harder to figure out the best way forward. But sometimes you find a performance that shows you that you have all of the tools you need, it's just a matter of piecing everything together. I made the journey to Europe in early June to continue my training for World Cups in France and Switzerland. The training opportunities are infinitely better in Europe, and so each year I generally decide that Innsbruck, Austria – home to possibly the world’s best gym – will be where I put the final touches on my competition shape. The first competition started in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, where I was to compete not only in Lead, but in my first ever Speed World Cup. In 2016 I competed in Speed for the first time at the World Youth Championship, but I hadn’t made the jump to senior level. My goal here was just to execute a clean run on the wall and make myself eligible for a combined World Cup ranking. I think I managed to do this as well as could be expected, and was able to quickly set my sights on my favourite discipline, Lead. My routes in Switzerland didn't go quite to plan. Sometimes this is just a part of elite level sport, but I've learnt not to dwell too heavily on disappointing performances. Not every attempt you make is indicative of your potential, and so at this stage it was important to stay focused on the next few weeks and assess my strengths and weaknesses with a wider perspective, rather than from that of singular mistakes that seem more significant than they really are given the 'one-shot' nature of Lead climbing. The next event in Chamonix, France felt more comfortable. I put forward a personal best in Speed, running under nine seconds for the first time. This is a small but positive milestone on the road to prospective Olympic qualification. The Lead event once again felt a little unlucky, but I managed to find my fight and be aggressive on the wall. I realised at this comp that having felt in such good shape prior to arriving, I was climbing the routes with a sense of entitlement, almost expecting them to feel easy. At national competitions, when you've trained hard and prepared well, the routes can feel like all you have to do is make good decisions on the wall. It's never that simple at World Cups: it's always hard, and you're going to have to fight for every move. I'd lost sight of this a little bit, but after giving myself a bit of tough love I knew that I was ready to put it all together the following weekend. The third comp took place in Briançon, a small town in the south of France surrounded by climbing. The routes here tend to be more ‘old-school’ – the holds are small and there are a lot of

them snaking up the wall, fitting as many moves as possible into a short space. There was no Speed event here, so I had the opportunity to hone in on my one job. I gave myself my own space at this competition. I was relaxed, but I distanced myself from the experiences of my teammates and competitors in order to better focus on my performance. My first route went really well, and I felt like myself again. Based on how other climbers had been performing, I knew that if I did well on my second route I could move into semi-finals for the first time in far too long. I did everything right to ensure I was in the perfect frame of mind to perform on my second qualification. I'd cooled down, rested and warmed back up, had my sequence dialled, and was focused only on what I needed to do. Again, I felt really good on the wall and managed to climb quite high before falling. I desperately hoped that it would be enough for the semi-finals and to see I was just one small move shy of progressing to the next round was, in the moment, truly heartbreaking. I felt very emotional, knowing I'm on the right track, but also that I would have to wait once again for the next opportunity. I think it's important to experience these emotions, because after having felt all of the sadness, anger and frustration, you can allow yourself the space to plan your next moves from a much higher vantage point. Whilst it wasn't the start to the season I had been hoping for, I had uncovered what was missing from my mental approach and successfully implemented this knowledge to put forward two routes of which I'm really proud. I felt like I was in a better place with the World Championships fast approaching. I've made the journey to Tokyo, Japan, and whilst adjusting to time and cultural differences I'm making use of the sheer density of high quality indoor climbing here to hone my skills for a successful competition. I'm confident in my abilities, and I know I can make it work at an international level if I'm willing to give it everything. The first seven places at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are being selected here, and whilst being one of those seven might be an overly ambitious goal, this is just another step on the Olympic journey that I'm looking forward to taking!

Campbell is sponsored by La Sportiva. You can follow him on Instagram @campbell_harrison547.

Left: Campbell competing in his least-preferred event, Speed, at the World Youth Championships in Guangzhou, China.

83 3





Can you tell us a little about yourself? I’m 26 years old. I’ve been living in Perth for about eight years, and

I’m still deathly afraid of heights. You’d have to bolt me to the ground to get me to sit over the edge of a boulder/cliff.

I am originally from Malaysia. I came to Australia to study and now

I started competing in competitions about five years ago and setting at

I’m a registered occupational therapist working in soft tissue therapy

the Boulder Hub about a year ago.

alongside route-setting at the Boulder Hub. I first pulled onto a climbing wall about nine or ten years ago in a government-run facility back in Malaysia. Entry was only $1, but the

Do you have a philosophy that guides your setting practice?

downside was that they didn’t have rental shoes my size and I only wore

I don’t have a philosophy per se, but I do try to set consistent,

thongs. I ended up with heaps of blisters and bruises on my feet, I still

comfortable boulders that are both fun to climb and also functional for

get them now in my tiny climbing shoes, though, so I guess nothing has

use in climbing training drills. It’s hard to make every boulder a classic

changed. I absolutely love bouldering in all its forms (even slabs), and

banger but I try my best.

84 4

Is there another route-setter from whom you’ve learnt a lot or who

Here on the East Coast where VL is based, the climbing scene in Perth

inspired you more than any others?

seems very remote, what is the scene like over there and how would

Alan Pryce and Christina Bedard are the two individuals who I will

you rate it?

always look up to, not only just from a route-setting aspect, but also

The climbing scene here in Perth I feel is pretty young and vibrant.

in climbing and climbing training. Their understanding of movement

It used to consist of smaller communities of climbers scattered

is amazing, and their ability to gradually teach people how to move

throughout the gyms, but ever since the rise of the bouldering gyms,

and get stronger through the climbs they set is phenomenal. Their

there has been a massive boom of new climbers being introduced into

understanding of movement and ability to express those movements

the sport and it’s pretty amazing.

through setting amazes me every time. They’ve not only nurtured my climbing but they’ve patiently taught me

We’ve noticed that a lot of climbers jet over to WA for comps, what are

how to set the right climbs for the right people. Hopefully I’m doing

you guys doing that is inspiring climbers to travel so far?

them proud.

I think a big factor which inspires a lot of interstate climbers to come over for WA comps is the intensity and the quality of the competitions

How can gyms be more accessible to new climbers? Having fun and aesthetic climbs draws people’s attention. Having big, bright and beautiful shapes set in a certain way will make people wanna jump on and try their best to conquer it whether it’s an easy V0 or a difficult V6.

that run here. Catalyst, for example, runs full World Cup format for climbers in Novice, Intermediate and Open categories. They get to climb in a Qualification, Semi-Final and Finals round on routes that are set specifically for each category. In Australia, the only other competition which provides that experience is the Australian Bouldering Nationals for the Open category. I think having competitions run in this style is

Having a variety of challenging yet achievable climbs is also pretty

important to help motivate new climbers and experienced climbers

important to push people to come back and conquer what they

work on their head game in an intense and stressful situation and it’s

couldn’t in their first session. I love it when I hear people tell me,

what motivates climbers to come to WA to experience that.

‘Man I couldn’t even touch that climb last week but I walked up it today,’ or ‘ I couldn’t even start this climb the last time but now I’m half way up it.’ It’s encouraging to hear people overcome their physical and mental selves and get to the top of the wall, and having climbs set with gradual

You mentioned you have a fear of heights, how do you manage that fear when you’re a climber?

and steady grade increases will encourage new climbers to keep on

Initially it was as simple as not looking down whilst I was climbing.

trying hard.

When I first started climbing the adrenaline would fuel me up the climb

A strong, open community is also pretty important for new climbers to ease themselves into the sport. I’ve seen gyms where climbers stick to their own little groups and move around the gym together and I feel like that segregates new climbers and is also pretty intimidating. Whereas if you have a community that is welcoming and encouraging to new climbers, it makes them feel a little less out of place in the gym. It’s heartwarming when you see the odd regular every now and again

and I’d get to the top before my fear could kick in. However, when I started hopping onto harder projects the fear would catch up pretty quickly and you’d see the classic Elvis leg or hear the cry of every newbie, ‘Take, take, take, take, take!’ After a while, though, as I started to get stronger, my confidence in my ability to climb outweighed my fear of heights. I think taking a lot of falls has contributed to my confidence that I can fall without injuring myself.

encourage and coach new climbers up a boulder they find challenging.

It’s the same with setting, I used to fear being near the top of the ladder

It adds a little extra to their experience.

and would always need something to grab onto as I’m taking off or putting on holds near the top. But the more I did it, the more I became

What’s the stupidest thing you have ever seen someone doing in a

comfortable with it and now it’s not even a thought…most of the time.

climbing gym? Someone trying to bat-hang the top of a 45.

Do you have a climbing catchphrase? Not my own but ‘Must try harder’ does come into my mind very often. What is better than bouldering?

Left: Jason doing what he does at the Catalyst 2019 competition at Perth’s Boulder Hub.

More bouldering.

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86 6

Good rest and effective recovery is by far the most overlooked aspect of training. For real.

Our culture of going for it day after day and working ourselves close to death doesn't lend itself to being good at resting. But recovery time is when the magic happens. That is when our bodies repair, heal and grow, when we actually make the physical and mental gains that we push so hard for in training. When adequate training loads are matched to appropriate rest the body can repair itself to perform beyond its previous levels (often called ‘super-compensation’) resulting in improved performance. Over time the accumulation of slight increases in strength and fitness from these repairs is how we get stronger and fitter. Without enough rest though you are simply chasing your tail or even digging yourself into a hole out of which you can never properly recover, resulting in you actually getting worse. Worse! Not resting enough causes fatigue to accumulate and over time your performance will decline, and if being worse is not enough it will also make you more prone to injuries and illness. If you are never really feeling fresh, always arriving at the gym fatigued, you could be overtraining and under recovering. Recovery is both physical (repairing muscles and replenishing energy stores) and neurological (recuperating from mental and neural fatigue and in so doing improving the efficiency of motor neuron pathways). Resting sufficiently between training sessions means not only getting enough sleep but also having adequate nutrition and hydration. Resting doesn't have to be only laying around on a divan being fanned and fed grapes by slaves, you can add some ‘active recovery’ to your schedule, things such as foam rolling, mobility work, light cardio, massage etc. The one ring that binds them all though is sleep. One of the most undervalued pieces of the recovery puzzle, the modern world is almost designed to deny us the amount of sleep we need. Whilst

targets vary from person to person, it is worth aiming for between eight and ten hours per night. You might have heard of ‘sleep hygiene’ and thought it just meant not wetting the bed, but it is a little bit more complicated and includes sleeping in a dark, cool room, avoiding screens in the lead up to bedtime, not indulging in caffeine late in the day and moderating alcohol consumption. Avoiding blue light from laptops and mobile phones before you go to sleep is also highly recommended. And most important of all, going to bed early enough to allow you to get eight-plus hours of shut eye will affect your recovery dramatically. After the essential processes of eating and sleeping well, anything else you do as a part of your recovery regime is cream. Things such as massage, foam rolling, going for a walk, a ride, a swim, twisting through a mobility session and any number of other options may add a little something that sets you up for making gains. However, without the stable base of sleep, food and water you are building a false economy. How long you need to rest for is entirely personal. It will depend upon factors such as your overall training load, the intensity and focus of the last session, the duration of the last session, your training age and work capacity, how well rested you were prior to the last session, how well you are sleeping, how well you have eaten and hydrated, whether you've been partying and what the intention of your session is. You need to be able to listen to your body, which can be more difficult than it sounds. If you are totally knackered when you arrive at the gym don’t throw yourself into your highest-intensity strength session, maybe look at skills or mobility instead. A simple guideline is the higher the intensity and duration of the session, the longer you need to rest for full physical and neurological recovery. The recovery TLDR is very simple – eat well and sleep lots. Your body will thank you, and so will your ticklist. Duncan coaches at BlocHaus ( in Canberra. You can read more of his articles or find out about his coaching services at

Left: Hanging around is not necessarily resting; diminutive Japanese crusher, Junko Kitawaki, casually cuts free on the top-notch Nowra classique, Top One Thommo (27). Simon Madden 87








A new rope is Smeagol-precious, the colours, the hypnotic patterning, the arcing bends, the slick feel. An old rope stains your hands with the muck of a thousand crags, the sheath slips at the frayed ends and inevitably your once proud cord folds disconcertingly flat like a Chinese contortionist. When that happens, you need a new rope. Historic ropes

Fall rating

Back in the ol’ days ropes were made of natural fibres, mostly manilla hemp. When mooring your yacht at Circular Quay hemp ropes are fine. For climbing, though, natural fibres get a big cross; they have low strength-to-weight, poor durability, are stiff as old boots and have close to no elasticity. Sounds shithouse. In 1953 the Germans of Edelrid introduced a new kind of rope; kernmantle, with a distinct core (kern) and sheath (mantle). The core provides tensile strength while a woven exterior sheath provides abrasion resistance. The resulting cord is strong, durable and flexible – perfect for safely holding climbing falls.

Al ropes are rated for a number of falls. While there is probably some correlation between this rating and a rope’s durability, generally don’t worry too much about this number. It’s a common misconception amongst beginners that a rope rated for eight falls, can only be fallen on it eight times. However, the type of fall used for UIAA rating is a worst case scenario, and it’s almost impossible to recreate outdoors. Unless something particularly traumatic happens to your rope, most can be fallen on hundreds if not thousands of times. Replacing your rope is not generally about how many falls you’ve taken so much as the rope’s condition (i.e. is it core shot or losing its absorbency?).

Though the basic rope structure hasn’t changed much since the ‘50s, they have been iterated out of the whazoo, so it’s worth getting your head around the whats, whys and differences in the ropes you can buy. So here goes;

Single and double ropes have to be rated for a minimum of five UIAA falls, while for twin ropes it is 12.

Single, Double, Twins, WTF?

In practical terms, impact force and dynamic elongation ratings are probably more important than fall ratings. Impact force is self-explanatory: your rope is like a giant spring and the impact force is the force you feel as it absorbs your fall; the lower the number the less force you feel. Dynamic elongation is how much your rope stretches, generally you want enough stretch to not feel too much impact force but not so much you hit something (like the ground). Impact force and dynamic elongation each affect the other. If you’ve whipped onto a really skinny rope you’ll know you can fall a surprisingly long way, particularly if there’s a lot of rope out in the system.

All climbing ropes are certified as single, double or twin (with some rated as all three).


Static vs Dynamic What is says on the box. Sticks and stones and static ropes will break your bones; static ropes have very little elasticity and are not to be climbed on as they create body-breaking impact forces. Dynamic ropes stretch under load and used correctly provide a soft, gentle landing after taking flight off your project’s crux.

A single rope is rated to be used on its own and is the most common type for sport climbing and a lot of modern trad climbing. Singles generally range from 9mm to 11mm diameter. Double ropes are popular for trad and mountaineering as you can clip separate strands, great for avoiding undue drag on wandering routes. Although doubles require more skill to use, at a crag like Arapiles with lots of wandery routes, they are excellent. Doubles also provide redundancy if a piece of gear or one rope fails, plus by tying them together you can abseil twice as far. There being two of them, they are generally heavier, but often people split carrying them. Doubles are usually 9mm in diameter or less. Twins offer a lot of the advantages of doubles, except because they are so skinny both are clipped to each piece of gear. Used similarly to a single they are not good for avoiding drag, but do offer redundancy and double your potential abseiling distance. Popular with mountaineers, most twins are 8.5mm or smaller.

Choosing rope diameter is a balancing act. The skinnier the rope, generally the less weight you have to drag up the cliff, but thinner ropes generally wear more quickly and must be replaced more often (which can be expensive). Ten or 15 years ago most people were sport climbing on quite heavy 10.5mm or 11mm singles. But improvements in weaving technology and materials make it possible to get hard-wearing ropes of 10mm or less. In fact, the skinniest single rope we can find on the market is the Beal Opera (also rated as a double and twin), which is a hand-cluctchingly 8.5mm. However, be aware that sport climbing on a very skinny rope has other disadvantages; narrower diameter ropes are harder to apply friction to, so belaying and abseiling can be more difficult and dangerous, while if you fall, pulling back up a skinny (and often super stretchy) rope can be desperate and energy sapping. 89

Double and twin ropes can get quite skinny, but suffer the same trade offs – skinnier normally equates to less hard-wearing. However, trad climbers and mountaineers generally fall a lot less and are rarely as hard on their ropes as thrashing, dogging sport climbers, so despite being thin, well looked after doubles and twins can often last longer than a single. Length Can a rope be too long? Well, that depends whether you or your mate carries it. In the past everyone bought 50m ropes, but now most opt for at least 60m, even up to 80m ropes. Longer ropes offer more flexibility. Obviously you can attempt longer routes. They’re safer in that you’re less likely to be lowered off the rope end (always tie a knot in the non-climbing end even if you have a long rope!). You can also cut them down as they wear. The three or four metres at either end cops the most abuse, so on a longer rope you can trim the ends and still have plenty to climb on (use a hot knife or, if you’re at the crag, wrap fingertape around the rope and cut through the middle of the tape to avoid the end fraying) – thus you can put off buying a new rope. Most doubles and twins are still bought as 50m or 60m lengths as super-long skinny ropes can be a nightmare to manage. Weight per metre A weight per metre figure allows you to calculate an overall weight so you can compare the different cords you’re looking at. Handling Handling is subjective – how does the rope feel in hand? Super stiff or soft? Does it pay-out and take-in smoothly? A lot of people like a softer, flexible rope, although this can mean the rope won’t wear as well. Some ropes quickly turn into stiff cables, which nobody likes. It pays to ask around and see what other climbers you know like, or ask a specialist gear shop's assistant who will know from experience how a rope handles over time. Colour & Middle Marks We personally prefer bright, poppy, photo-approved colours. Hot pink is hot. Vibrant green is good. Brilliant blue is beautiful. Some ropes come with a centre mark or have two different colour patterns that change in the middle (known as bi-colour). This is a handy feature for abseiling as you can be certain your ends are even. Some ropes come with tape around the middle, this is substandard as the tape inevitably falls off. 90

Dry treatments, Abrasion Resistance & Sheath Slippage Dry treatments create a barrier so a rope won’t absorb water. They can also make a rope more durable by lubricating the fibres. Generally dry treated ropes cost a bit more but if you’re a mountaineer, getting a dry treated rope is a no brainer, for sport climbers though it may not be necessary. After time some dry treatments can leave a black residue on your hands. Similar to dry treatments, some ropes are treated with special chemicals that make the rope more durable –self explanatory. Sheath slippage is less than ideal, although it’s rarely a problem on anything but cheap ropes. Look for ropes with a low sheath slippage percentage, with some ropes nowadays having their sheath woven into the core, which avoids the problem altogether. Care for your rope Store it appropriately. Keep it away from solvents and chemicals, particularly in the garage. Like all gear, regularly inspect your rope to validate its condition, the sheath is in tact, the working ends are not trashed and it is clean. Get yourself a rope bag – it’s good to store and carry your rope, and the tarp protects it from the often-dirty base of crags. Love your rope and treat it well. Retirement age is not 65 Retirement age for Australian workers is blowing out and so too is the number of years before you have to retire your rope. It used to be even if unused and stored correctly, seven years was a rope’s quoted lifespan. Current research suggests this is not the case and a rope not compromised by undue wear or exposure to contaminants does not need to be retired. Look after your rope and for more information see Siebert Research on Facebook ( Ethics of production We all should be trying to be better, more conscious consumers. There are some things that can guide you to make more ethical rope purchasing decisions. For example, the Bluesign accreditation that marks ‘responsible and sustainable manufacturing of textile consumer products’. Price ‘Price’ is not the same as ‘value’. Whilst expensive does not always equate to better, a more expensive rope that is durable, handles well and is fit-for-purpose is better value than a cheap rope that wears fast, quickly becomes a nightmare to use and is not right for your needs. Your rope is a critical part of your climbing kit, get the best one you can and then look after it.

WHO AM I – YOUR ROPE BUYING DECISION MATRIX I endlessly work routes in Coolum Cave until they submit to me – get a single. I climb rad trad and think the best place on earth is Mt Arapiles – get doubles. I just love trudging up steep, cold, uncomfortable, snowy, remote peaks – get twins. I take brilliant photos of other people climbing – get a static. I am a boulderer – steal one of your mate’s old ropes that they have twice cut down.

Buy double ropes in two colours for easy identification. 91


Black Diamond Focus shoes, RRP $269.99 Pros: Good edge, good all-rounder, comfortable, moulded midsole (holds shape for longer), medial and lateral rubber rands. Cons: Not a lot of rubber on the toe box and what’s there doesn’t grip well, heel cup could fit better. When I first opened up the Focus I didn’t think they looked like anything special, though they fit my long, narrow feet surprisingly well, I have been blessed with feet that have the high arches of a ballerina and the narrowness of an Olympic swimmer. The Focus felt a little stiff the first few sessions, but quickly softened up, the rubber is 4.3mm thick so it does take some wearing in if you’re used to thinner, softer rubber; they are definitely not a sensitive high-performance shoe. With a medium flex they hold their shape quite well. My first few indoor bouldering trials were met with frustration with the toe box, the printed rubber really doesn’t give a lot of support or friction while trying aggressive toe hooks. That’s my one major gripe with this shoe.

Though, whilst wringing out whatever twisted, meagre pleasure I could from climbing Snowblind (23) at Arapiles/Djurite they seemed to perform surprisingly well. I wasn’t expecting to stick to the the classic Arapilesian slippery, miniscule, baby bum edges… but I did. The thick rubber and medium flex really held up on edges. Big tick for the Focus. The extra rubber rands on the outer and inner also really helped with trad climbing, they gave a lot of support and protection on crack climbs. Again I wasn’t expecting this, I’m still not sure if it was intentional on Black Diamond’s part, but having the extra rubber rand on the shoe outer does help with holding the shoe’s shape when you’re mashing your foot in somewhere where it doesn’t belong.

Overview: Great for all-day trad/sport adventures as they are a very comfortable, slightly aggressive shoe and are excellent for edging. I would use them as an indoor bouldering shoe for comfort over performance. Great all-rounder.

About your tester: Billie Civello has been a vertical rock dancer for a number of years and credits their small climbing victories to an ape index of +12. If they aren’t dragging their knuckles around some dank climbing gym you’ll probably find them drinking cask wine at the Pines. 92


Wild Country Mission harness, RRP $164.95 The Mission immediately struck me as a pretty comfy harness; a broad waistband contoured in the front and the back, leg bands of generous width, super flexy material and construction, pretty soft and pliable to the touch, spreads the load acceptably and doesn’t pinch or create undue pressure points. (Of course, there is the standard amount of testicle crushing but I am yet to find any harness made by anyone anywhere that solves that horror, really the only answer is to cut the cord and become a boulderer.) I reckon a good test is always to hang in a harness for a photo shoot – think of suffering through a bad hanging belay and then triple the amount of time you spend in it and that's about photoshoot-proportions. The Mission stood up pretty well to a session shooting Dungeon Master in Nowra so it passes the sit-test. Medium harnesses seem weirdly sized, at least for one such as I, who is the Vitruvian Man of Medium in all other things. Medium harnesses, though, I have to crank in as far as they can be cranked in order to fit my middle. Smalls are no good, I have to wear them at maximum openness and that’s if I can wrestle them over my wide hips and thick thighs. The medium fit is curious,

leaving me in the liminal harness zone. Wild County’s Mission is no different, in a medium I’m fully cranked, leaving the tail a little dangly, but that’s a minor quibble. I generally opt for adjustable legs partly because I want only one harness and partly as my thighs are disproportionally large. The Mission’s general fit is good. One of my pet peeves is too few or poorly placed gear loops – ‘I want lots of storage on loops I can easily reach and I want it now!’ Maybe my shoulders are too stiff to give myself a proper reacharound, but some harnesses are taking the piss. I want to be easily able to reach an extendo-’draw on my rear loop when I’m peaking out on-route. The Mission stands up in this regard, I don’t need to embrace my inner contortionist to get a ‘draw off. I’m also a fan of the ‘fifth’ loop – the haul loop – a tick for the Mission. It’s not the lightest harness on the market but I reckon the grams on my guts are more important than the grams on my gear so this is not a big negative. If you’re trying to shave every ounce you’re gonna look elsewhere, but if you’re after a harness that you can do everything in then the Mission is worth a look.

About your tester: Simon Madden likes to have one harness he can use for all his harnessing needs. He is a fraidy cat and takes everything plus the kitchen sink when trad climbing so wants max storage. He has wide, child-bearing hips and very thick thighs, but a surprisingly trim waist. 93



THE NORTH FACE THERMOBALL™ ECO We once had an echo jacket, something we foolishly bought off a discount website that ended up so cavernously too large for us that when we were wearing it every word we said would echo. Very annoying! The TNFers are smarter than us though, and they have forgone the echo for Eco. Yep, it’s jacket tech said to warm your bod but be easy on the planet, and let’s face it we need to go easier on the pale blue dot. Lightweight, packable, feel-goodabout-able, the whole range of ThermoBall™ Eco jackets are made with 100% recycled insulation, in fact the TNFers reckon the ThermoBall™ Eco Collection has given the equivalent of 3.6 million plastic bottles new life this season, a life out of landfill, and to us that seems like a lot of plastic bottles. For all the informations on jackets rocking the Thermoball Eco point your browser to RRP $330

FRICTIONLABS ALCOHOL-FREE SECRET STUFF When we first heard about FrictionLabs alcohol-free Secret Stuff liquid chalk we thought, sheeeit, which desperados are drinking liquid chalk so much they gotta take the booze out of it? People are whacked in the head. Then we realised people don't drink liquid chalk, der, they rub it on their hands. And some persons think pouring metho (note: it’s not metho in regular liquid chalk) on your hands is a no no. The alcohol-free version is said to cut down on the pong-factor and be less astringent on your skin. The FLabers say daub some on your digits as a baselayer to keep your skin healthy and strong (and free of hangovers) but, they warn, it’s not for climbing in humid climes, it's no jungle juice. We're drunk on the possibilities just thinking about it. For more info shout out to Climbing Anchors at RRP $29.95

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LA SPORTIVA PYTHONS One of The People’s fave shoes, the La Sportiva Python has had a spruce up. The narrow slipper has been renovated so you can get it in Apple Green in addition to classic orange. (Fun fact – the leather is only dyed on the outside so your foot won’t discolour leaving you looking like you’ve had a botched tan done by a South Yarra beautician.) New, thinner rubber is said to adapt to your foot’s particulars and the volume has been slightly changed for a tad more comfort and to encourage your foot into the shoe front – where the action happens. The LaSpos reckon this marries high-performance with comfort (UNICORN!). With more sensitivity than a gratitudesharing circle and designed for spanking yourself indoors and on the boulders, the Python is tried and tested by thousands of climbers from noobs to heroes. Behind Hulk Hogan’s 24-inch pythons and Kaa from The Jungle Book, the La Sportiva Python is our fave python. For more details get at Expedition Equipment on (02) 9417 5755 or RRP $209.95

BLACK DIAMOND CIRCUIT SHOES At VL we are not sure about the difference between a ‘lifer’ and a ‘lifestyler’ because we are not that smart. Thankfully the Black Diamondos have made shodding yourself easy whether you are a lifer or lifestyler by releasing their street tread, the Circuit. The Circuit will easily make a lap from home along the mean streets to the gym, the crag, the cafe, the boozer and back again. We can’t spy any diamonds but they are black, stylistically sharp, sticky, and so-they-say, ultra-durable. A breathable knit upper controls your hoof’s temp, a low-rise, collapsible heel gives you the option to wear them as free-n-easy slip-ons, and Black Diamond BlackLabel-Street sticky rubber outsole and rubber toe protection will handle all but the most gnar-gnar approaches. (Keep an eye out for BD’s dedicated approach shoe, the Mission LT, which will gobble up the gnar-gnar on bruising walk-ins and also looks sweet.) To find out more point your digital avatar at RRP $159.99


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I first met lan Ross in July 1965 at Mt Arapiles. We were both 17 years

Our paths crossed many times over the years. In 1972 we teamed

old at the time and instantly made friends. ‘Foxy’ – a nickname coined

up with Dave Neilson to climb Conquistador (20) on the East Face of

by Chris Baxter that stuck – was a recent English immigrant who had

Frenchmans Cap. We met up in New Zealand in 1973, just after he had

climbed plenty of hard gritstone routes, including repeating some of

climbed the Balfour Face on Mt Tasman with Pete Gough – an extreme

Joe Brown’s classics. He asked me about the hardest climb on the

route in difficult weather. And in 1974 we met again in Chamonix, just

mountain and I showed him the Fang. A short climb graded HVS (hard

after he climbed the North Face of the Matterhorn in winter.

very severe; for those who remember the old English grading system, later regraded to 18), and first climbed by Peter Jackson a few months earlier. For those not in the know, the Fang has only one difficult move, involving a hand jam around an overhang. Above and below that point it's quite straightforward, a boulder-problem type of climb, but not one to fall off. Foxy soloed up to the crux and played around with the move and, a moment later, he was on top. I was astounded. But that defined Foxy to a large extent, although not completely. He was always ready to commit; dangerously. For a while we built canoes together, not surprisingly an unsuccessful business enterprise, because we always found the time to trash plenty

Over the past 50 years he moved in and out of my life regularly, somewhat like Halley’s Comet, but less predictably. Although recently we have been skiing together on annual family holidays in New Zealand, staying with Foxy and Jacqui Unwin, his partner for the past 30 years. Five years ago, Nim, my 12-year-old son, who had learned to ski in Australia and who could barely make his way down a green run met Foxy. The two instantly bonded. ‘Do exactly what I do,’ said Foxy, and immediately Nim followed him everywhere on skis, fearlessly down all the black runs on Cardrona, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak. Foxy made things happen for everyone he met, in all sorts of ways, and I don't like it that he has gone.

of product on those Victorian white-water rivers: the Snowy, the Mitta

We will miss you my friend.

(before it was dammed), the Thompson and the Mitchell, instead of

You can read more memories of Ian Ross by Peter Gough, Keith Lockwood

selling the canoes and making money.

Left: Ian Ross climbing on Castle Rock near Christchurch, New Zealand. Keith Lockwood

and David Neilson online at

Above, left to right: Alan and Geoff Gledhill, Ian Ross on the ground, Chris Dewhirst and John Glasgow, Mt Cook village, New Zealand, 1973. Colin Monteath 97





Pocket rocks. You keep them in your pockets. While I was studying geology I spent three weeks in Shetland, a group of islands some 200km north of the Scottish coastline, mapping and collecting rocks. Those days in the field were long and often filled with hours of monotonous walking, usually against the wind and nearly always uphill. When the wind would drop, the midges would come out in swarms. I wasn’t a huge fan – of the walking or of the midges. It would have been easy to hide behind a boulder, draw some squiggles on my map and pretend that I walked further than I had, but I shoved my hands deeper into my pockets and kept at it. In my pocket was a rock I’d picked up. It was a small pebble, round and smooth, and it was oddly comforting to run my thumb over it. It took my mind off how much I hated the walking. That little rock got me through the rest of my trip. A few years later I was on my first big climbing trip overseas. It was the first day in Kalymnos and we were heading up to the Grande Grotta, and I quickly gained an idea of my fitness level as we made our way up the trail: it was non-existent. I was blown away with how unfit I was. I couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without stopping to rest. The 20-minute walk would take me at least 40. People would pass me as I stood red-faced, attempting to look nonchalant while trying to catch my breath and get my heart rate down, and throw me a few words of encouragement: ‘Not far now’ or ‘You’re nearly there’. Filled with embarrassment, I remember feeling the pebble from Shetland in my righthand pocket. The walk up to the Grotta never got easier, but running my thumb over the little pebble as I walked made it bearable. Over the years I have not become any fitter, but I have collected several different pocket rocks that have helped me deal with walk-ins, especially the ones in the southern Grampians. One season of walking up to the Gallery was aided by a ‘Devil’s dice’ from Weekeroo in South Australia: a mineral called limonite that has the crystal form of another species (pyrite). The limonite preserves the cubic form of pyrite, and rolling the dice in time with every second step results in a good rhythmic pace. Another season was dedicated to Muline, which was not my choice. I had come down with a cold and we nearly cancelled the trip, but ended up going because we had already paid for the accommodation. All I wanted to do was sleep. All my partner wanted to do was send Eye of the Tiger. Every day I dragged myself up that hill, silently raging inside, often less silently raging at him. Those walk-ins were done with help from a brachiopod that I got from the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. Spinning the fossilised shell between my forefinger and thumb helped take my mind off the uphill slog in the sun. The sharp points would dig in and hurt a little, and take the edge off the irrational anger I felt towards my partner. I’m still as unfit, still as slow, and I still hate walking, but when I have to do long walk-ins now, I always have a rock in my pocket. Inalee Jahn





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