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#2 • WINTER 2012 • AU/NZ


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Rockclimbing and other activities described in this magazine can carry significant risk of injury or death. Undertake any rockclimbing or other outdoors 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. Neither the publisher nor any of its servants or agents will be held liable for any loss or 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. Happy climbing.


Vertical Life is published quarterly Winter / Spring / Summer / Autumn Editorial correspondence Unit 3, 5-7 Mooltan Street, Travancore, Victoria 3032 Telephone 0417 295 495 Founders Simon Madden + Ross Taylor + Patrick Kinsella + Chris Ord + Terry Wogan + Heidi & Peter Hibberd Publishers Adventure Types Unit 3, 5-7 Mooltan St, Travancore, Victoria 3032 AU Editors or Simon Madden + Ross Taylor NZ Editor or Tom Hoyle Associate Editors Pat Kinsella + Chris Ord

Proofer Chelsea Eaw Advertising Terry Wogan Design Jess van de Vlierd Video Brett Williams Eddie Fowke

Cover Image John Fischer, Curving Wall (24), The Ramparts, Moonarie. Photo: Jerome Gobel Editor’s Note photo: Ian Dory, the Wheel of Life (36), Hollow Mountain Cave. Photo: Ed Fowke

Chief China correspondent + Training Guru Duncan Brown

Credits photo: Zac Vertrees, Treat ‘Em Mean Keep ‘Em Keen (29), Arapiles. Photo: Ross Taylor

Senior contributors Steve Kelly, Andrea Hah, Michael Meadows

Foundation Supporters

Senior photographic contributor Nick Fletcher

Climbing Anchors

Contributing writers Duncan Macinnis, Tom Williams, Matt Adams, Nick Fletcher, Imovane Haford, Damian Jovanovic, Rob LeBreton

Expedition Equipment

Coffee consultant Johan von Shag

Scotty Dog Resoles

Photography David Brailey, JJ O’Brien, Duncan Macinnis, Ed Fowke, Chris Firth, Damien Gildea, James Morris, John Palmer, Ross Taylor, Tom Hoyle, Tom Williams, Ian Brown, Matt Robertson, Steve Kelly, Tom Bush, Josef Goding.

Frontier Mountain Equipment Sea to Summit Spelean The North Face 7


‘Kiwi Spot’ John Palmer

14. COLUMN Andrea Hah writes on quality of life FOLIO JJ O’Brien photographs the 16. Creationism Project in Queensland 18. FEATURE Duncan Macinnis has Bishop by the Balls 26. FOLIO Ed Fowke captures some Grampians’ bouldering action with Dave Graham, Nalle Hukkataival and Ian Dory 30. VIDEO Zac Vertrees gives some Arapilesean relationship advice on Treat ‘em Mean Keep ‘em Keen (29), video by Brett Williams/ 8

33. FOLIO Chris Firth makes Nowra look all pretty and shit 36. FEATURE We speak to mountaineer and Antarctic expert, Damien Gildea, about climbing on the frozen continent 44. FOLIO Double Vision: James Morris and Tom Hoyle capture Kiwi Zac Orme in action at Castle Hill FOLIO 46.

Tom Hoyle and The Radness

47 FOLIO File Under Easy Listening by John Palmer 48. FEATURE Tom Williams almost bites off more than he can chew on a new alpine rock route in New Zealand’s Fiordland

tents 54. FEATURE The Master of the Mid-Grade, Matt Adams, tries to convince us that Nowra is the best crag in the Universe

86. FOLIO The Australian Speed and Lead Nationals by Nick Fletcher

60. HISTORY Michael Meadows looks back at Australia’s very first ascents and tries to add the whys to the whens

88. TOPO Dreamtime renaissance: we bring you the best topo to this superb Southern Grampians crag courtesy of Rockmaster Publications

64. INTERVIEW Duncan Brown gets the Taiwan low-down from Matt Robertson

90. TRAINING Duncan Brown heralds the End of Pump

72. COLUMN Steve Kelly on Anger Management

94. THE CAFFEINATOR Johan von Shag gives a few top tips for improving your Camp Coffee

74. FEATURE Nick Fletcher takes us on an urban assault of Sydney’s blocs

95. REVIEWS The latest guides and films

80. FOLIO Tom Bush captures some Nowra and Blueys’ magic 84. FICTION The Conversation, by Imovane Haford

98. NEW GEAR Stuff climbers like 102. FOOLSCAP Ben Cossey


BETA If Victorian climbing legend Malcolm ‘HB’ Matheson had super powers his alter ego would definitely be dubbed Beta Man (and would be decked out in very snug Stubbies rather than tights). No one can recall, despite the passage of time, all the tiny details of every move on a route with the precision and accuracy of HB. No one. His route Monkey Puzzle (28) at the Gallery is one of the best at the grade in Australia, a modern-day masterpiece that climbs some of the sweetest steep red sandstone in the southern Grampians. The crux is at the roof, where you leave the security of twin knee-bars for a short bouldery section of funkiness before exiting onto the final headwall. The sequence is quite particular: get a heel up, punch for a pinch with your right hand, go again to another pinch, before crossing through to the ‘breadloaf’ with the left, which you then match with your right, adjust the left, put in a deep drop-knee and roll through with the right to a jug at the lip*. This complicated string of moves forms the ‘monkey puzzle’ that inspired the route’s name. It is a beautiful sequence and one of which HB is justifiably proud. If you ask him, he can take you through it, flawlessly miming each move with his German-sausages-for-fingers hands, his eyes lighting up at the memory of a route he has probably lapped hundreds of times. But if you want to dim that light just a little, mention the alternate beta: after going to the second pinch, bust out left to a good pocket, then straight 1 0 EDITOR’S LETTER

up to a jug at the lip, a sequence that not so much solves the monkey puzzle as circumvents it. Nowadays, with the shortcut beta having travelled from beta-slut to beta-slut, spreading through the climbing community at the speed of salacious gossip, hardly anyone does it the original way – and HB isn’t very happy about it. Afterall, you aren’t actually doing the ‘monkey puzzle’. It’s a classic story, you do a new route or boulder, find some elegant method to unlock the devilish crux, then some inconsiderate bastard comes along and either a. finds some far more prosaic method for the crux, or b, worst still, finds an easier way and downgrades your masterpiece. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. It may be rare but it is not unheard of for first ascentionists to remove holds in a fit of rage generated by the desecration of their creation to ensure the original beta remains unchanged. But in the bigger picture new solutions just represent the evolution of a climb and the application of individuality to its conquest. Climbing is a complex thing. There’s a huge spread of body types that can throw themselves at a sequence in a multiplicity of ways. One person’s match is impossible for their partner, another’s graceful high step is preposterous for the stiff-hipped. There is tall beta and midget beta, gritted-teeth thug beta and dancing-feet technique beta. But it’s not just physicality that determines how we tick, climbing is equally of

A Max the mind, so how we see and how we think are just as critical. Often we simply miss holds, we just don’t see them at all, or our imagination fails us. Especially when the desire to climb a sequence a particularly beautiful way calls us like a siren, training our focus so finely that obsession blinds us to all alternatives.

moment when all the pieces of the puzzle – the monkey puzzle – come together in glorious perfection – power, technique, balance, conditions, headspace – so that what had until then only been a possibility comes to being.

The importance of beta gets more pronounced as you squeeze into the pointy end of the grade pyramid. Take the Wheel of Life (36), the perfect example of the natural evolution of beta. Now up to its seventh ascent, its sequence has steadily been refined since Dai Koyamada climbed it in 2004. These days most repeaters don knee-pads to take full advantage of the rests, while many – including the two most recent, David Graham and Ian Dory – have opted for a variant on the Dead Can’t Dance (V11) exit at the lip of the cave. Instead of using the classic gaston-press combo that defines the problem and was pioneered by Herr Loskot, they traverse right and then back left, detouring around this powerful sting in the tail.

*VL makes no claims as to the accuracy of this beta, as we are no HB.

And that’s the beautiful thing about beta, because the interaction between the geology of the rock and the morphology of our bodies is so complex and varied, each ascent is unique – even using the same sequence no two people will do a route exactly the same. Even the same person attempting a sequence they have tried many, many times, finds minute variation between each attempt. Until that

Simon Madden + Ross Taylor, Editors

THANKS Once again, thanks to all our contributors, featured climbers, advertisers, designers, dirtbags, videographers, advice-givers, handholders, web gurus, belayers and Adventure Types – your passion and enthusiasm is humbling.

CONTRIBUTING Vertical Life is a home to many voices, if you would like to be one of those voices, be it expressed in words, photography or video, send us an email at:

AU NZ 11



Rachel Musgrave, AKA Rach the Muss, feeling confident her spotter has her on the Split Apple Dyno, Split Apple Field, Flock Hill

CLICK HERE to bone up on your Australiwi climbing slang. 13



Today I caught myself saying, “My favourite part of the day, is crawling into bed at night”. The response I got was, “Aww, that’s kind of sad”. And I suppose it’s true – that for all the endlessly amazing experiences to be had each day (e.g. climbing), the best of them is currently sleeping. But at the moment, it’s how I feel. I find those few deep breaths of air I take just before I close my eyes to enter a deep, deep slumber, are the most relaxing moments I feel each day.

So I ask, why do people do the 9-5 (which is more realistically a 7-7 if you commute in Sydney)? Five days a week. To only have two days of freedom to do what you really enjoy in life? Money is the obvious answer. But surely that extra amount of money is nothing compared to the sense of euphoria you get from climbing Serpentine on Taipan, to then walk out and look back at that perfect sun-kissed orange wall, before traipsing down flat rock kicking your heels in the air.

The older I get (don’t misinterpret this as me saying I am getting old, because I’m not), the more I realise how busy everyone is. Each year seems to race by faster than the last. How do 52 weeks pass so quickly? And so within each week, how do you most effectively fill those seven days with everything you NEED to do?

My University course is all about Quality Of Life. A goal for everyone who comes to see me is, “improve my Quality of Life”. So it’s had me thinking, am I happy with my Quality of Life? Take away ALL barriers, and what would I do? I can pretty confidently say – without adding unrealistic factors, like winning the lottery – I would do what I am doing now.

This year I decided to complete my Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology. It’s a one year, full-time accelerated course, which hopefully means I will spend less time wiping sweat off treadmills, and more time helping people rehabilitate themselves back to health through exercise – the cure for all things bad, with no adverse side effects. I am stressed. I am tired. And exhausted. I am trying to add everything I did last year, and more, into a full university workload. And to be honest, I am finding it really hard. I get frustrated because I have to complete menial tasks that take my precious time, like washing clothes, buying toilet paper, cooking dinner and driving for 12 hours a week. I should be spending my time learning about how stress and smoking lead to kidney failure, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and ultimately, death. Or, more importantly, training. Or even more importantly again (actually, that depends on who you ask) climbing. For the last year I have been going for runs around Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, along beautiful tracks under waterfalls and wandering towards breathtaking views of the Grose Valley. And climbing about five times a week. But not lately. Lately I have been running along King Street in Newtown for 10 metres only to stop at the next traffic light, coughing up a lung from a smoker breathing out carbon monoxide into my lungs, then coughing up the other lung from the triple-sized exhaust from the fully-sick WRX that’s just driven past. It really is awful.

Sure, I haven’t been much fun for the last four months. And have only climbed at Upper Shipley to project one route. And sure, I cried yesterday because I made a really bad cake. And I am scared I will fail my exams in two weeks. But, I did my project. And I know sacrificing these last four months is an investment in my future Quality of Life. My course has been really inspiring and knowledgeenhancing. And will hopefully help nurture me into being a good Exercise Physiologist, complete with great job satisfaction. And more importantly, it will give me the freedom to balance climbing trips into my life. Like more trips to Europe. The United States. Canada. Rocklands. China. New Zealand..... So, I beg you to ask yourself, are you happy with your Quality of Life? And if not, what are the barriers? If your dream is to climb in Kalymnos, book a ticket. If your dream is to Boulder V10, skip watching Master Chef and go dangle on a hangboard. If you can’t imagine anything better than doing a poo into a ziplock bag and carrying it up El Capitan, do it. Along the way you’ll come across doubters, and people you thought would be there for support will turn their back, or give you a hard time because they can’t see beyond their life’s current drama. But, stuff ‘em. Because it would be really sad if sleeping was the best part of your life. Andrea Hah is sponsored by Big John Retreads, Cousin Trestec, Tenaya and Black Diamond.





Ignasi Tarrazona on Pope's Prow (V6, Buttermilks.


Even with the embarrassment of riches that is good rock in North America, in winter – if you boulder – there are only two places to be: Hueco Tanks in west Texas or Bishop in eastern California.

dirtbagger, you have to pay to climb. In Bishop though you can climb and, depending on where you stay, camp for free – not to mention the fortuitous proximity to hot springs.

When guidebook author Mick Ryan started up the Bishop hype campaign in the 90s, I’m told one of his favourite phrases was, “Better than Hueco!” It’s not. For sheer quality of climbing, the small cluster of rocks near the Mexican border is undoubtedly the better destination. However, while Hueco is situated just outside the cultural wasteland of El Paso and its sister city Juarez (incidentally, the murder capital of the world), Bishop sits among the picturesque snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Climbing in Hueco Tanks requires jumping through many absurd administrative hoops and, perhaps most offensive to the

Climbing in Bishop can be divided into two major areas: the volcanic tablelands to the north of the town, including the Happy and Sad Boulders, and the granitic glacial debris to the west, which includes the jewel in Bishop’s crown, the Buttermilks. The climbing in the Buttermilks covers a variety of angles, but almost always involves crimping due to the patina on the boulders, making it very unusual for granite.  Unlike the granite in Yosemite, the crux mostly comes well before the topout, and unlike the volcanic rock of the Happy and Sad boulders, the Buttermilks is pretty much bombproof.




Due to the quality of climbing, fame of the area and ease of access, quite a scene develops in Bishop over winter, so although I was travelling solo, I easily managed to acquire a crew, the core of which I had met in Yosemite. Hiroyuki ‘Mats’ Matsuuchi was a mountain guide and climber from Tokyo, Japan, while ‘Pavi’ (we will just call him by his nickname) and Ignasi Tarrazona were boulderers from Spain, travelling around, ‘American-style’ (as they put it), in an enormous RV. Pavi’s nickname derives from the contraction of the Spanish for ‘Fucking Javi’, and his antics around the campfire proved it a most apt moniker. Ignasi represents Spain at the bouldering world cups, and I’m pretty sure even his underpants had his sponsors’ logo on them, but if that’s what it takes to be a pro climber, then good luck to him. We dubbed ourselves Team International, and were joined at various times by French, English and Czech climbers, along with the inevitable Canadians and Americans. Although Mats, Pavi and, of course, Ignasi, were considerably stronger than me, they were all also more than happy to spot me and see me send my projects (which they generally warmed up on), ensuring we all left as firm friends. Bishop’s undoubted ‘place-to-be’ status means it’s a great area to see superstars strut their stuff. A highlight for me was watching Canadian Sonnie Trotter working Ambrosia, the V11-highball made famous by Kevin Jorgenson. Hanging on a fixed rope about 10 metres above the ground he pointed at three holds in turn: “That’s loose, that’s loose and that’s loose. I’m not sure whether I should yank on them to test them or whether that will just make them more likely to break when I actually go for it.” He lowered a few metres and pulled back on, locking one of the suspect holds off at his hip. A few weeks later, on my last day in Bishop, I was sitting on my own in the Black Sheep coffee shop checking the weather forecast. Trotter walked in, and noticing what I was doing, asked if he could see. I told him there was a good chance of precipitation the following day (Monday), hot conditions on Tuesday and perfect sending conditions on Wednesday. On Wednesday I got a message from my friend Pete saying he’d just watched Sonnie do Ambrosia, so naturally I like to think I played a small but important role in that ascent. During my time in Bishop I also witnessed lesser known but no less talented climbers. Rising British star Shauna Coxsey demonstrated phenomenal crimp strength that made her right at home on the tiny granite edges. German-born Squamish local Steffi Mathar crushed V double-digits with ease and style, and an unknown Vancouverite flashed the stand start to Chris Sharma’s famous problem The Mandala (V12) like it was a warm up. Most impressive though was San Diegan student Dan Beall. The guidebook describes him as a climber of particular strength and bravery, so dubbed after beating some of the strongest climbers in the world to the first ascent of a particularly terrifying highball, but it doesn’t describe his genuine humility and irrepressible psyche. One night, Pavi Casas fighting Evilution (V10 to the lip), Buttermilks.



Steffi Mathar on Bubba Gump (V10), Buttermilks.

while the rest of us sat around the fire drinking beer, Dan went and did the third ascent of Direct North, a V14 on the famous Grandma Peabody boulder. Returning to camp, he sat down and joined the conversation like nothing had happened. During my trip I found that in many cases the stereotype of the brash and arrogant American is not undeserved, but Dan was clearly the exception. For the travelling Australian, there are a number of aspects of bouldering in the US that are unusual. First is the sheer number of climbers. For example, I only once saw The Hulk, a V6 that gets four stars out of a possible three, with any less than 10 people surrounding it. On my second day climbing in Bishop, Halloween weekend, I think I saw more climbers on one day than there are in all of Australia. Secondly, Americans seem to love all manner of intoxicating substances. Warming up at 9am with a beer in hand is pretty much standard, and various legal and illegal drugs are ubiquitous. Thirdly, a lot of American climbers are gym-bred and have no clue about spotting or indeed any outdoor climbing etiquette. This by no means applies to all of them, but I found it best to assume that even if someone said “I got you bro!”, they almost certainly didn’t. Rest days in Bishop are made particularly pleasant by the proximity of hot springs. A few miles south of town is Keough’s Hot Springs, a commercially run caravan park with a large hot pool and swimming pool and, most importantly, showers. It’s also possible to get a free


Ignasi Tarrazona soaking up beautiful Bishop on Saigon Direct (V9), Buttermilks.

hot spring experience at 7pm each night when Keough’s closes and vents water into a nearby drainage ditch. I never took advantage of this, however, as much more pleasant free hot springs were available some 40km away, towards the famous ski resort town, Mammoth Lakes. The locals will be able to give you directions to the better known pools. On one visit to the hot springs a friend found a large ziplock bag, weighed down by an unopened wine bottle, containing a large amount of marijuana and hash, and a note that read simply “Enjoy the life!” Suffice to say, he did. Some of my fondest memories of Bishop come from the parties. Often planned because the next day had been deemed a rest day, sometimes – and these were the best – an impromptu party, and the ensuing hangover, would dictate the necessity of a rest day. Planned or spontaneous, more often than not the party was wherever Pavi was.

Ignasi Tarrazona, Central Direct (V10), Buttermilks.

On Halloween our neighbours, a group of mountain guides from Chamonix, got some beer and a large bottle of 100 proof Bacardi and cranked some music. Pavi took one of Mats’ sleeping pills (about which we knew nothing more than that it was called Halcyon) and started drinking Budweiser. By the end of the night he’d broken a pole in Mats’ tent, almost fallen in the fire more times than any of us could count and fallen off the roof of our neighbours’ campervan, where he had been dancing. There’s also 23



James Morris lets the setting soothe some of the pain on Pain Grain (V5), Buttermilks. Photo: John Palmer

a photo of him with a demonic look on his face and an American flag inserted in his anus. I’d gone to bed by that stage so I’m not sure of the details. It’s fair to say Pavi knows how to party. As hard as it may be to believe, an even more outrageous display occurred on his last night in Bishop. Despite sub-zero temperatures, Pavi had a predilection for getting naked. On this particular night, for reasons unclear to all, probably including himself, Pavi decided the best place for his headtorch was on his scrotum. This delightful image was complete when he went to get more firewood, and Pavi was visible some 20 metres distant as only a well-illuminated nutsack. Returning, with a pleased look on his face, he put wood on the fire and sat his naked buttocks down on a crashpad. Now, the chain of outdoor retailers in the US called REI is also known by cynical climbers as ‘Return Everything’, as they often accept returned gear that has clearly been thrashed, giving a full refund. This thrashed gear is then sold on at incredibly cheap prices at clearance sales. So spare a thought for the hapless climber, thinking they got an absolute deal on a pad, which unbeknownst to them is actually drenched in Pavi’s ball-sweat. In some ways during my time in Bishop, the climbing was secondary to the experience of being in an amazing place with a bunch of great people. Make no mistake though, the climbing is undoubtedly worldclass, with all angles and styles represented. So, if phenomenal climbing in a breathtaking setting sounds like something you might enjoy, I highly recommend Bishop. Just take care when buying secondhand crash pads. Enjoy the life.

vids and links.

HEADING TO BISHOP? Get the beta here with camping details. 25

Team America. FUCK YEAH! *

(*And one Gnarly Finn)




Dave Graham performing for the crowd a few days after completing the Wheel Of Life (36) by revisiting the end moves during an attempt of Pretty Hate Machine (V13).

After doing the Wheel of Life (36), Ian Dory decided that wasn’t enough for the day, he set his sights on repeating Pretty Hate Machine (V13).


Nalle Hukkataival working Quitline (V12) at the Snakepit. Long regarded the hardest dyno project in Australia after Klem Loskot tried and failed, it took Nalle a dozen or so attempts over about 20 minutes to tick. The sequence shows one of the unsuccessful attempts, on the send he went double-handed to the break.




SAGE ADVICE CLICK FOR A SHORT VIDEO of man mountain, Zac Vertrees, proving link-up is not a dirty word as he repeats his Mt Arapiles' neoclassic, Treat 'em Mean Keep 'em Keen (29), which reportedly combines all the best bits on the back of the Pharos. VIDEO: Brett Williams, Sidetrip Productions



proudly supported by

Sheila Binegas on Nancy, V5 FearFactory, Sydney Photo: Nick Fletcher



Nick Stubbs enjoying the less-travelled classic, Worm on a Razor (19), The Grotto. 33


Colin Lu displaying the next revolution in climbing fashion while flying through Pale Yellow Underwear (24), Thompson’s Point 35



INTERVIEW: Ross Taylor IMAGES: Damien Gildea



Damien Gildea in Antarctica.

I’m always curious how Australians get into mountaineering, especially those who grew up in rural NSW? I did a bit of bushwalking at school in Goulburn, down in Bungonia and Ettrema Gorges, and the Blue Mountains. Then I went off to uni at ANU in Canberra and drank a lot and didn’t do much of anything else. But I always had an interest in mountains. I did some trekking in Nepal in about 1989 and got more interested. I realised that if you live in Australia then you’ve got to start rockclimbing, which I did in ‘92. After finishing uni I went to Sydney where I climbed four days a week in the Blueys and Lindfield while working in a supermarket stacking shelves. I saved up and at the same time I got a scholarship to Cambridge, and in 1993-94 I did an alpine course in Switzerland at the International School of Mountaineering. Most people go to New Zealand from Australia but I always thought about how bad the weather was and figured that because I didn’t have much money I didn’t want to sit around in a hut for a week and waste it all. While I was at Cambridge, I went to the Alps twice and did a bit of ice climbing. Then I came back to Australia in ‘94 before heading off on my first expedition in 1995, which was to Pakistan. You’re known as an Antarctic mountain expert, or the Antarctic expert, how did that happen? It’s a crowded field... When I finished at ANU I couldn’t get a job because I had studied Arts, badly, so I did Honours in Antarctica & Southern Ocean Studies at the University of Tasmania. Then at Cambridge I studied for a Master of Philosophy in Polar Studies. So I had an academic entry and at the same time I was climbing, and I thought I’d combine my Antarctic academic knowledge with 38

my climbing enthusiasm. I knew from what I had done that there was no compilation of climbing in Antarctica. Originally I planned to write an article for the American Alpine Journal and it just ballooned and eventually became a book that I published myself not something recommended in those days, but for such a niche subject it worked out well for me. So you hadn’t actually climbed down there at that stage? No, I was all talk. But writing the book I realised what had been done and what hadn’t, so when I came back from climbing in Bolivia in 1999, all through 2000 I was trying to raise money to go to Antarctica to climb Mt McClintock, the highest mountain in the Australian Antarctic Territory. In the end I pulled the plug on the sponsorship thing and went to Alaska and climbed Denali. Then partly through luck and being available I got asked to help with a South Pole expedition, guiding a blind man. We did that in December 2000 to January 2001. So my first trip down there was a 1130km South Pole ski trip. The blind guy actually pulled out after 400km because he had Raynaud’s phenomenon (a condition that affects bloodflow to extremities), which he didn’t tell us beforehand. However, his friend John continued on with us so we got to the Pole. That was cool as it was really only the second time a South Pole expedition had been guided like that, but as a climber it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. It’s kind of boring and monotonous and doesn’t take a lot of skill. It’s one of those things that probably sounds more impressive to other people, but it is good to do those big name things every now and then just to know what they are like. Anyway, when I had just gotten back from that trip I got a phone

British climber, Steve Chaplin, descending from the summit of Mount Gardner after making the fifth ascent in 2006.

Gildea placing a GPS receiver on the summit of Mount Shinn, Antarctica’s third highest mountain, to ascertain its previously unknown height.

call from a guy in the States saying he had read what I had written about Antarctica and the organisation he was involved with (the Omega Foundation) would help fund me if I wanted to do anything. Because I knew a bit about the mountains and heights and what had been done, I knew that the third highest hadn’t been measured exactly, so when I was offered this opportunity I said let’s go measure it with a GPS, and that’s what I did sponsored by the Omega Foundation and helped out by Geosciences Australia.

“ You hear people say that Antarctica is this beautiful and fragile continent and you think, “Fucking Antarctica, it’s trying to kill me!” How many subsequent climbing trips did you do after that first one? About eight. When I came back from the South Pole and got that phone call I thought, “Oh yeah, cool, I’ll be going down next season.” Then I got another call saying there’s a trip down the Antarctic Peninsula going, if you want to be on it get yourself to Argentina. So I hopped on a plane and guided climbs off a ship. So my first Antarctic climbing trip was actually one month after the South Pole. Most mountaineers go to Antarctica and they climb Mt Vinson because it is one of the seven summits, but in your mind what is classic Antarctic mountaineering all about? Everyone thinks of Antarctica as this big, white, flat thing but

it’s got quite a variety of climbing. You’ve got ship-based stuff on the Antarctic Peninsula where you can climb some small peaks straight out of the water. Then there’s Mt Vinson as it is on the Seven Summits circuit. In the Transantarctic Mountains you’ve got what the Kiwis and the Americans used to do with dog-sleds years ago: big, snowy, high peaks and not so hard. I don’t know that there is any one ‘classic’ style. In your mind though, what is the classic Antarctic mountaineering trip? For me the classic thing to do is to fly into either Vinson or somewhere nearby, and from then on travel by foot or skis, climbing first ascents along the way and measuring them with a GPS, then finishing back at Vinson. If you’re operating in the range there there’s not really any way without going in and out of Vinson Base, it’s just the way the logistics work. I’ve climbed Vinson three times but I’ve been in and out of base camp seven or eight times. What are the highlights of the time you have spent down there? Three things; I’ve attempted Mt Tyree two or three times, and I’d still like to go back and do it. It’s the second highest peak in Antarctica and we’ve either been weathered off or the conditions weren’t quite right. So even though I haven’t climbed it, it’s still a strong memory. Another of my favourites was Mt Anderson in January of 2007, with Jed Brown. It was a first ascent and was probably the highest unclimbed peak in the range at the time. It was perfect weather and we went straight up the West Face; it was about 1300m vertically, with mixed climbing down low, then a couloir, then a 39

ridge and a bit of a face at the top. It was relatively steep and we only used the rope on a couple of pitches, so we basically simulsoloed the bottom half of the route, which is the steepest bit. The following year we went back to Mt Epperly, which is about the fifth or sixth highest peak in Antarctica. It had only been climbed once by Erhard Loretan, the famous Swiss climber and it doesn’t have an easy way up. We made the second ascent by a new route on the South Face. It’s 2300m vertically, so it was quite long and a little bit soft; it took us longer than we thought, 35–40 hours non-stop single push. We only used the rope on the crux, which was a mixed pitch, but mainly just simul-soloed the thing. It was a big experience, both physically and mentally, and I had some hallucinations on the way down. Did you hallucinate any giant bats like Andrew Lock did recently? No. But our route is called the Fifth Element, because I had one of those ‘third man’ experiences. Camilo (Rada) was up ahead of me in the couloir so we were about 1600–1800m up on the face, and I just had this constant feeling there was this other guy–average height, brown hair, I never saw his face–up to our left. I remember being annoyed he wasn’t helping Camilo break trail. And the thing was when we were up there Pachi (Maria Paz Ibarra), who was down in basecamp, also had a sense there was someone else on the mountain with us and that is how we came to the name the Fifth Element, because there were four of us, but there was this fifth person.

The only two routes on Mt Epperly: left, the 1994 Loretan route; right, the 2007 Omega Foundation route, the Fifth Element.

The Omega Foundation basecamp beneath the Southwest Face of Mt Epperly.

I don’t think people understand a lot about these things. When I was coming down I was on my own because Camilo and I were separated. I was downclimbing because the snow was in really bad condition and you couldn’t just walk, you had to frontpoint down for 2000m. It was quite tiring, and the snow was kind of greasy and horrible, and I hallucinated these three people sitting at a desk over to my left. They were whispering amongst themselves about my climbing, which wasn’t super stylish as I was exhausted, and I was annoyed that they were whispering about me. Then off to the right, Conrad Anker was sitting in the snow wearing a yellow one-piece suit saying nothing. I’ve known Conrad for a while, he has done a lot in Antarctica climbing-wise, and so he has always been in my mind. But the thing about these experiences is, you don’t question them. You don’t think “Oh I’m having a hallucination that there are three people sitting at a desk on the side of a mountain in Antarctica”, you accept it absolutely. It’s your reality and that total acceptance of it, unquestioningly, it’s kind of mind-blowing. It’s not conscious and yet it is not unconscious, as you’re moving, and it seems normal that there is another guy there and what the fuck are those people talking about, it’s quite a head trip. Have you had any close calls? Not really, I am boring and cautious.


Says a man who has gone 40 hours without sleep while mainly soloing… Yeah, well that turned out a risky thing, but it took longer than expected, partly because the mountain was 200m higher than we thought. Normally you call the company that flies you in, every 24 hours, but I didn’t take the satphone with me just to save weight. So, when we were gone for more than 24 hours they were worried about us. Normally they would send a plane to look for you but because the weather was bad they didn’t. So in terms of risky things I’ve done that was probably the riskiest, but there have been other times. Because you do a lot of soloing you sometimes have a bit of a slip and you think that’s a bit dodgy, but it’s not really super technical climbing, it’s a lot of moderate or intermediate alpinism but unroped and quite long.

“Antarctica is huge. It’s twice the size of Australia. It’s hard ice, terrible fearsome weather, it’s a dangerous place and it is big and it’s harsh and it can be terribly inhospitable. You can’t live there.” You have obviously built up a bit of a connection with Antarctica. Having spent so much time there, what is it that you love about climbing down there? Initially it was these spectacular mountains, and so little was known about them. That was really intriguing. If they had have been just big snowy humps that happened to be high then it wouldn’t have been as interesting. But peaks like Epperly, Tyree, Anderson and Craddock, they are quite big, steep mountains. I like Himalayan trips as well, but I get sick of dealing with porters and red tape and yaks and all that sort of stuff. When we go to Antarctica we are just dropped on our own and we do our thing – just us and the climbing. You can take that for granted, but when you do the stuff in Nepal or Peru or whatever, you also do all this stuff that is not really climbing. Anyone who goes on expeditions it is are glorified baggage handling for a week and about three days of climbing. Whereas in Antarctica it is more efficient in that sense. Horrendously expensive, but you get down there and no one else is on these mountains, and there was often no route and no knowledge and you just go and make it up as you go along. There are a lot of clichés about adventure and challenge but I try not to think of it in terms of clichés. It’s just what I prefer doing. For someone who is not used to that environment it is quite a fearsome-looking, inhospitable environment, how do you experience it? I mean it is, it’s funny, I wrote somewhere that the term “fragile

Antarctica” is for hippies in armchairs. Antarctica is huge. It’s twice the size of Australia. It’s hard ice, terrible fearsome weather, it’s a dangerous place, it is big and it’s harsh and it can be terribly inhospitable. You can’t live there. When I write articles people often want me to compare it to somewhere else and I say, “In the Himalaya you can literally walk down off Everest, walk to a village, walk to a road, walk into town.” In Antarctica you can never walk home, you are always stuck there. So there’s the isolation, the weather – you know, you get caught out in a bad storm and it’s relentless. In a storm there you realise just how insignificant you are and how brutal Antarctica is. And then on another day it’s sunny and you walk around in a T-shirt. So you get these extremes that can lull you into a full sense of security and then it wipes you, just like that. What’s the worst weather you have experienced? I suppose in 2007, four of us were camped next to Mt Epperly: Camilo and Pachi in one tent and me and Jarmila (Tyrril) in another. A big storm came in and in that area the big storms always come in from the east or the northeast, and when they hit it’s like being underneath a crashing wave. They hit Vinson, come over the top and the wind races down the west side of Vinson and it just hammers whatever is on the west side, which is where all the climbs are. We were – as the crow flies – not very far from Vinson Basecamp, but in walking terms we were about eight hours of difficult navigation away. So when this storm hit we had no chance of being able to walk out of there. We were using Mountain Hardware Trango tents, they are very good, but they have a weakness in the back corner if you get a gust coming down – and I mean a really strong gust. So this storm hit in the middle of the night and Camilo comes over to my tent and pokes his head in and says they’ve just had a pole break and they don’t think their tent is going to last, so they might have to come in with us. Three minutes later this huge gust comes down and breaks our tent. You could see the light through the inner and there was a huge hole in the fly the size of a couple of basketballs. That means the wind starts rushing in between the fly and totally fucks the tent. Then it starts blowing snow into the vestibule and filling it up with snow. Both tents got slammed within about five minutes of each other. Jarmila and I spent eight hours sitting there with all our gear on, our boots and down jackets, ready to escape, but we didn’t have anywhere to escape to. The tent was slowly deteriorating around us, so the best thing that we could do was to just lay down and wrap it around us in our sleeping bags and wait, but that storm had been going for eight hours and they can last for days. I knew if it went for two or three days we wouldn’t make it, we’d be dead. You hear miracle stories and all that sort of stuff, basically even with a bit of food in a storm that bad you’re not going to last 48 hours. That is pretty sobering. Obviously in the end it didn’t last 41

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Damien Gildea soloing mixed terrain on the lower half of the West Face of Mount Anderson during the first ascent. A shaft of sunlight hits Chilean alpinist Camilo Rada as he ropes up for the crux pitch, nearly 2000m up the Southwest Face of Mt Epperly. A self-portrait in the evening sun, approaching the 5600m High Camp after summiting Denali, Alaska, alone in May 2000. Damien Gildea on the summit ridge of Mount Anderson. Gildea and Jed Brown ascended and descended the face in shadow to the right. Gildea doing a mock sponsor shot at the South Pole, January 2001, after guiding a 1,130km ski journey from Hercules Inlet.


that long, and we were able to get out. But when you’re sitting there you’d do anything to make it stop, but no matter what you do it’s not going to. That’s how it is. You hear people say that Antarctica is this beautiful and fragile continent and you think, “Fucking Antarctica, it’s trying to kill me!” But it’s not normally like that and I hate expeditions that play up how dangerous it is, because Antarctica is generally pretty safe, even more so for Pole walks, and I hate how many adventurers frame their Antarctic trips in such an adversarial way, Man vs. Nature bullshit. It’s a dance, not a fight. We were always very cautious in our climbing choices. We probably could have climbed more if we had taken more risks, but the consequences of an accident down there are severe. There is only one person that has ever died in the whole of the Sentinel Range in nearly 30 years and that was a terrible freak accident to a very good climber. No one else has died and we didn’t want to be the next. You published your second book a year or two back, can you tell us what it is about? It is basically everything about Antarctic mountaineering in one book. It’s called Mountaineering in Antarctica: Climbing in the Frozen South. It’s an overview, a history, not a guidebook, but I made a point to highlight what was still unclimbed and what were good things to do in the future, so in that sense it is a guide for the future. It basically details the climbing history and the areas, what the mountains are like. Conrad Anker called it a magnum opus. Do you feel like it is your magnum opus? I hope not, I think they are meant to come at the end aren’t they? I still have plans to go back, but I took the opportunity because book publishing is such a marginal thing now, you don’t often get approached to write a big book and I tried to get in everything I possibly could. I guess it was also a way of downloading my brain because I had been accumulating this information since about ‘97 or ‘98. I had been directly and indirectly collecting stories over the years, some of them were in my head, some of them were on paper, scrawled in bars around the world, but the book was a way of bringing that all together, particularly the stories of a lot of older Antarctic adventurers that had never been written down. It’s not a perfect history but I think a lot of people, particularly the older guys, were happy to get it down on paper, that was also one of the reasons for doing it. It’s wasn’t altruistic, it was for my own benefit, I enjoyed doing it so I was going to do it anyway, but certainly one aspect of it was so that these old guys could get their stories told.

frame their Antarctic trips in such an adversarial way, Man vs. Nature bullshit. It’s a dance, not a fight. We were always very cautious in our climbing choices. We probably could have climbed more if we had taken more risks, but the consequences of an accident down there are severe. There is only one person that has ever died in the whole of the Sentinel Range in nearly 30 years and that was a terrible freak accident to a very good climber. No one else has died and we didn’t want to be the next. You published your second book a year or two back, can you tell us what it is about? It is basically everything about Antarctic mountaineering in one book. It’s called Mountaineering in Antarctica: Climbing in the Frozen South. It’s an overview, a history, not a guidebook, but I made a point to highlight what was still unclimbed and what were good things to do in the future, so in that sense it is a guide for the future. It basically details the climbing history and the areas, what the mountains are like. Conrad Anker called it a magnum opus. Do you feel like it is your magnum opus? I hope not, I think they are meant to come at the end aren’t they? I still have plans to go back, but I took the opportunity because book publishing is such a marginal thing now, you don’t often get approached to write a big book and I tried to get in everything I possibly could. I guess it was also a way of downloading my brain because I had been accumulating this information since about ‘97 or ‘98. I had been directly and indirectly collecting stories over the years, some of them were in my head, some of them were on paper, scrawled in bars around the world, but the book was a way of bringing that all together, particularly the stories of a lot of older Antarctic adventurers that had never been written down. It’s not a perfect history but I think a lot of people, particularly the older guys, were happy to get it down on paper, that was also one of the reasons for doing it. It’s wasn’t altruistic, it was for my own benefit, I enjoyed doing it so I was going to do it anyway, but certainly one aspect of it was so that these old guys could get their stories told. Thanks for your time Damien.

Thanks for your time Damien.

You can find out more about Damien’s book, Mountaineering in Antartica: Climbing in the Frozen South at




Some say there are no steep problems at Castle Hill because all the steep walls are blank. Here Zac Orme attempts to prove why those people are only half right, on the steep and virtually holdless Komodo (V11).



Proving he deserves what is one of the the best nicknames in the business, Pete the Radness levitates on the crux ‘go-again’ move of one of Flock Hill’s best and hardest, The Little Book of Calm (V12). 46


Esther Packard-Hill tunes into File Under Easy Listening (24), perhaps the best groove at the Wall of Sound, Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Photo by John Palmer. John is also a great writer, we recommend reading his column at, called the Palmersutra, this one is particularly funny.




IMAGES: all uncredited images Tom Williams

Evening light shifts between the mountains, making Tutoko and Madeline loom above the horizon. The snow on their flanks blushes for a moment as the sun’s rays lift clear. Then, growing from the shadows, blue crevasses line their flanks with the death of summer. Talbot is a declivity across the valley, brooding above the ascending gloom, and that gulf of night air is a kilometre deep.

the chill and why rise at nine when 9.30 will do? The route we have planned could be as short as a hundred metres; who knows, no one has climbed the face before. If we complete the route by mid-afternoon we can keep the packs as light as possible: an ice axe, crampons for the final approach, a jacket and a warm top. We’ve honed climbing gear to a very minimum. Light and fast is the plan.  

I turn back from the door; if memories of old climbs fade like daylight, we have returned to make a new beginning. The pasta bubbles on the cooker and I think, this is heaven. The last time we’d come up here to try our climb, we’d ascended the endless grass bluffs and rubble gullies of Mount Crosscut as part of a one-day attempt. Then, confronted by impassable late-summer crevasses, we had turned tail and walked away. Years have passed and, perhaps, lessons have been learned. We have three day’s food and a perfect weather forecast.

But, we take the long route around the side of the glacier and down to its base. Closer in, the cliff looms dark granite high above us. There is an apron of steepening slabs above the snow and there, a great white vein of quartz sweeps up. We follow it. The cliff is complex, but amid its jumble of slanting slabs, gable ends and niches, a single line resolves itself on extra dark rock: some cataclysm has sheared one zone smoother than the rest, conchoidal, clean. Cracks fracture it all the way up, but they are slender and attractive. “Ian,” I say, “forget everything else, this must be our route.”

As the night settles outside, a crescent moon gives Orion the final slip and our little room, high upon the mountain, holds the only light. If the hut is luxury, how languid is morning – coffee steams 48

He takes the first pitch and it isn’t easy throughout its 40m: off-balance, grade 16 with the occasional runner. Carrying a

The alcove, with the scimitar just visible, directly above the author. Ian Brown.

pack does not help, but eventually he calls down and I follow, finding him on a ledge. There is a short pitch above his belay that looks problem-free so I climb up to an alternative belay point 15m higher. Stopping on top of a small buttress, we regroup in preparation for the next pitch, a long one to the base of the concoidal fractures. It proves to be tricky, and a rope stretcher: a lot of little slabs jostle each other, all abut with independent bases yet slyly linked by ramps. Route finding is an issue and, if runners are scarce, at least the rack is light from the start. Delicate moves balancing up between the slabs, grade 18. At the end, with no rope left, there is a little ledge. Still moments on belay. Below, the sun creeps across the snow and liberates a boulder from a sump of foundered ice. Half the size of a small sedan, it bounces into action and clears the bottom of the glacier in 100-metre bounds, rocketing out over the Cirque Creek wall from its last rebound. With Ian up, we turn our thoughts to the symphony of petite overhangs and possible ledges that hang directly above us, and consider the discord of further rockfall. Thus, we decide to investigate the promise of a vertical crack that disappears into the steepness from the right end of the ledge. Ian steps up and out of sight on small footholds and I hear him tinkering with runners. He makes unhappy noises amid which the word “off-width” is prominent. The rope needs feeding out and reeling in. He comes down. Handing over the rack he suggests I leave my pack behind.   It is indeed an off-width, soaring, smooth and parallel sided for eight or nine metres. Our largest piece of gear is only wide enough for a tight fistjam, but Ian has been halfway up the crack, reaching a chockstone that he has slung as a runner with great effort. But, he lost heart in the process as the rock rattled loose within the crack. Not having been the one who clipped this dodgy runner, I can pretend it is solid as long as I don’t fall off. The off-width goes at grade 19. There is a little stance at the top and I haul up the pack. The rest of the 40m pitch is a hazy collection of moves on a slight left diagonal; the occasional runner, all good. The belay ledge is flat, a plinth where porcelain blocks repose, razor-edged from frost shatter. I sidle across to its detached end and look up at the sharpest of the cracks that have drawn us up here, having second thoughts: apart from how very hard it looks, the crack leads up to some testy overhangs that adhere unconvincingly to the cliff. When Ian arrives we agree to continue on the less obvious, left-leading diagonal that we have been following. The next pitch is short and tricky. Darrans granite is loaded with little ramps that promise and tease, follow one and it slips around a corner, morphing into something unexpected. The crux of this pitch lies in one of those transitions and there is only one way to move up as the crack shifts between planes, with the left foot high. This leaves one inclined to reach for a counterbalance in the only available handhold, a high, shallow slot that proves too narrow for 49

Ian Brown scooting up the quartz seam to the base of pitch one. 50

“You know your day has gone badly wrong when one tiny RP placement feels like the last rabbit left in your hat. Yet, without that lonely little runner, some delicate moves left across a hanging slab would be unthinkable.” even an index finger. The key lies in the use of the counterintuitive hand, little finger downwards as you rock, disconcerted, on to the foothold at grade 19. Above, there is a verandah-like ledge beneath an angular arch and standing there feels like deliverance, until one looks up. A shallow corner climbs steeply out of the alcove. It holds a sharp dilemma in the form of a scimitar of granite, suspended miraculously from its slenderest tip. The thing must weigh 10 or 20kg. Suddenly, I feel a little tired. Who was it who said, “Barely more than 100m?” But, remembering that Ian’s preference had been for an easier climb starting higher up the snow, I give up on this line of thought. We have climbed 170m and the sun is upon us. A drink of water would have been nice. The top can’t be too far away. Ian leads a short pitch down and left to escape the alcove. From his new belay there is a more comforting view: a sharp arête soars on the same diagonal we have followed, and shadowing it is a corner crack that promises more conventional climbing than below. I shoot up it, feeling a need for speed as the day rolls on. A very large block appears, suspended solidly in the crack but demanding a steep and committing layback to round it. I don’t want to commit to such strenuous moves, but there seems little choice. Then, after some enjoyable jamming, there comes a chimney: not the type you climb readily into, but the type of chimney that is exhausting to enter, and then spits you out. Which it does. Fortunately the arête is a step away and on it is a foothold big enough to rest on. I take off the pack, clip it into one of the too-few runners and recommit to the chimney, this time managing to bridge around the outside of it. The arête and corner converge, ending simultaneously at an overhang. There is no belay. Yet, with typical Darrans serendipity the overhang can be outflanked by balancing left on to the last gasp of the arete. The move surrenders as a repeat of the foot high, little finger down move, but harder. Only after that do things turn grim. You know your day has gone badly wrong when one tiny RP placement feels like the last rabbit left in your hat. Yet, without that lonely little runner, some delicate moves left across a hanging slab

would be unthinkable. The slab reels above a void while being simultaneously oppressed from above by overhangs. It may lead to who-knows-what, but it does provide an alternative to the belt of runnerless bulges I find myself looking straight up at – they are no option at all. The slab moves go at grade 20 and, higher up, it is possible to regain a new, mirror image of the previous corner. There are ledges and even a belay, which is just as well given how little rope is left. Bless those rabbits. When Ian gets to my pack I throw him a bight of rope so I can haul it up. I say “Send me your pack too,” but he opts to soldier on, encumbered. At the belay, in looking up at the new corner, Ian needs all of his old-school fortitude, and to ditch his pack: in the corner is a fist crack that is very sharp, steep, sustained and long. It is wider than our one wide cam. Any climber shaping up to a scenario such as this should be reminded that it is expressly forbidden for a leader to fall, factor two, straight on to the belay. And, thus admonished, our leader does not. After several metres of very rapid fist jamming there comes a narrowing in the crack, thus allowing the large cam to be slid up the fissure for several more metres. Eventually the fist crack meets another fault line travelling up the cliff on a right diagonal. Together they form a dank niche, the top of which can be exited onto an exposed but easy, if runnerless, right-trending ramp. At 40m, the top of the ramp has a foot ledge and a couple of cam placements. A headwall looms above. We regroup and agree that we are both wasted. It’s a shame, because the sun is now so low that evening shadows are racing up the cliff towards us and we need to get off this climb, fast. There are three alternatives for what we sincerely hope will be the last pitch. One largely crackless corner looks very hard and has a large roof. A middle line also overhangs, but not enough to have shed some obvious, loose blocks. The leftmost weakness would not please Goldilocks either, but may just slip around the overhangs of the headwall: a 15m climb past two lousy runners reveals that, sadly, it does not. Nor are there any more runners. With cramping hands I climb back down to Ian and there is not much to say. I remember the luxury of the hut and try to recall, 51

what were those lessons we were supposed to have learned about these mountains? Dumping the memories, I start traversing right, across the top of the easy ramp, hoping in a last ditch kind of way to encounter the shoulder of the face. And, after 20-horizontalmetres, the low-angled rock stops abruptly. Above, slab blends with arête as the headwall ends, forming a pillar. Looking down, I see a ridge climbing out of the evening shadows and butting into the base of that pillar. Ian comes over and quickly downclimbs to the ridge, placing a couple of runners for me to follow. We are off the face, but not the mountain.

at least 200m higher than where we stand. There are no walk-off routes on this side of the mountain. Before we roll the ropes we do another pitch down and across the mank and snow of the gully. Moving on to the buttress, we too chase the sun.

The eclipse of day comes racing up the ridge from Cirque Creek. Its penumbra swallows us, chasing the weak sun back up the pillar we have abandoned. To the right is a rotten gully, and beyond that, a buttress built entirely of loose blocks that prop each other up. An unedifying construct, it climbs out of sight. The summit is

The loose blocks are each a little column. If they sway or clatter, they have at least a socket base and so stay put as we pull up past – usually. We stay out of each other’s fall line and soon enough regain the sun. But not for long: the buttress tapers and steepens until it supports just one last column that leans against a larger face. Out comes the rope. A harsh, grade 15 pitch clears this step before the buttress resumes. Ian dislodges one block down that triggers an ever-growing avalanche, which booms and rumbles for minutes. The smell of bursting stone comes wafting up, passing by like incense, an offering to the early stars. We re-roll the ropes and continue.

ABOVE LEFT: The crag with the quartz vein at the base. The

ABOVE RIGHT: The author looking back down from the alcove.

first pitch starts right of jagged vertical steps in the snow

Ian Brown.

apron. The off-width pitch is dead centre at two thirds height. The final section of the route goes up past the pillar, the highest vertical step at top of crag, on the same diagonal as the yellow alcove. 52

It is completely dark when we reach the summit. But, as if it waits for us, a last sliver of orange moon hangs above the horizon. We use its glimmer to pass straight on, down the other side. Far below, snowfields hint at the direction of the hut as we grope and straddle from rock to rock, though we know in our hearts that soon enough we will have to stop and face up to a long, cold night. I brood again about the lessons I am supposed to have learned at my time of life: any other climber would have packed a torch, or food, or water. Ian speaks out, startling my reverie as I teeter between two rocks. He savours a fact that he slowly reveals: he has in fact, attached to his penknife, a tiny LED light, just big enough to hold between one’s teeth. His son gave it to him for his birthday. He loves his gadgets, good old Ian. The summit ridge descends steeply, then suddenly bifurcates. An argument breaks out about which way to go, but is easily resolved by the person who owns the torch. Fifty metres further and we reach the bluffs. We knew they were coming. They breathe cold malice up from the snow. A long night looms ahead. Thirst. We have a final choice to make.

Ian atop the first 'pinkie down' move.

The first abseil goes very well. Ian scouts around and finds a bollard that he feels certain is solid. I take his word for it, pass him my rope and sit still in the dark as he sorts out the anchor. He stuffs the ropes into his pack for a bag abseil and heads down. The moon sets and where I wait there is only darkness. A second abseil also goes very well: there is another good spike belay and we solve the problem of the second person having to clip the ropes blindly by both clipping in before the first person descends. There are few loose rocks. The third abseil has an excellent wire placement for an anchor. Confident of reaching the snow, we don’t stow the ropes in the pack. A rockfall we dislodge destroys both ropes. Fortuitously though, the worst damage occurs at a rock apron, next to the start of the snow slope. We try to pull the ropes down, but a severed sheath snags in the belay sling after one rope end has gone out of reach. We abandon them. The snow slopes are steep for 100m, but still soft enough to kick steps in. Change boots, axes out: we kick and step cautiously down to the broad terrace on which the hut is built. There are pools of melt water and we plunge our faces in and drink until our heads ache unbearably with the cold. It takes half an hour to find the hut. At the end, we can hear the breeze whistling through its cables. We shuffle in, find our headtorches and return into a world of light and domesticity. Ian busies himself, cooking us dinner with the last of the water, so I take a big pan out to search for another pool. At the threshold, my beam of light probes the greater darkness. The mountains are hulks now, blacker than the night. It is 1am and I pause, caught between two worlds. 53

Bryson Klein adding his voice to the chorus shouting Top One Thommo (27), Thompsons Point.


WORDS: Matt ‘Master of the Mid Gra



ade’ Adams IMAGES: Nick Fletcher

It might be only a few moves long but Girls in the Hood (24) spits off more than a few suitors, The Hood Area. Climber unknown.


Lucy Stirling setting up for the long crux move on the South Central classic Scum (25).

The author pushing the mid grades on A

Now·ra /ˈnaʊr/

Thompsons Point

1 located on the South Coast of New South Wales approximately 160km by road south of Sydney, with an estimated population, together with its twin-town Bomaderry, of 34,479. It is the commercial centre of the City of Shoalhaven and geologically situated in the southern reaches of the sedimentary Sydney basin. The region is a farming community, sustaining a thriving dairy industry and a number of state forests, but is also increasingly a retirement and leisure area for Canberra and Sydney. The name Nowra, originally written by Europeans as ‘nou-woo-ro’ (pronounced Nowa Nowa by the Aborigines of the area), is an Aboriginal word for black cockatoo. 2 home to the Neighbours’ star Ashley Paske (1989–1991). 3 Geoff Weigand said it best, however: “Nowra is Australian for Power.” (1994)

This is the sector that no other crag in Australia can offer, routes for all levels of ability on quality rock! I hear you say what about Araps? Yep, great cliff, but it don’t have no Grease Cave. Sitting on the east side of the Shoalhaven River, this outcrop consists of some stellar walls, slabs and overhanging stuff, plus killer roofs from grade 15 to 32. Thommo’s has it all – what more could you ask for? If it wasn’t for Dave the Dude and his visionary ascent of Broken & Barbed (20), Thompsons Point may not have been developed. Ant Prehn and Giles Bradbury added some classics and left stating, “all the good lines have been done”, then came Steve Bullen and the rest is history.


Crag Fact: The first P bolts (commonly called ring bolts these days) placed in Australia went in when locals rebolted Still Life With Chalkbag’s first pitch.

Rob LeBreton on the awesomely steep Aloha Paradise (30), Rosies.

Attack Mode (32), PC.

The Grotto

The ‘To Do’ List Santa’s Little Helper (15), Sloth (16), Hang on (17), Vanderholics (18), Day at the Beach (21), Still Life With Chalkbag (23, 1st pitch), Butterfly Wall Direct (24), Cowboy Junkies (25), Top one Thommo (27), Concrete Petunias (28), Slip Slop Slap (29), Say you don’t want to slip it in (30), Sexy is the Word (31). One of Thompsons Point’s mega-classics is Top One Thommo. Click below to read Rob LeBreton’s account of the route’s first ascent.

This is where sport climbing started at Nowra. A lot of guys from Wollongong and Sydney were hacking away at the crag’s natural crack lines and topping out in the style of the time, but Graeme Hill changed everything when he placed anchors where the climbing stopped on Belgian Tourist Wall, setting the scene for what is now standard practice. Maybe due to its dark-black, towering walls, it hasn’t attracted the masses, but it’s probably also due to the ultra-thin and technical nature of the routes, many of which have not seen a second ascent 20 years after they were first done. The ‘To Do’ List Blade Flake (13), Depleted Gonad Circumference (18), Worm on a Razor (19), Bondage & Discipline (23), Zimbabalooba (24), Evil E (27), Conehead & The Barbiturates (28), Pimp Behind the Wheel (30), Married & Mortgaged (31). 57

Jacqui Hume staring the rock into submission on Orca (18), Thompsons Point.

PC (aka Planet Cock)

The Creek

When Dave the Dude found this mega cliff on the dark side of the river it was kept secret from developers Rod Young and Graeme Hill. Dude was a little concerned about revealing its location because Rod would have climbed the routes on mixed gear and Graham would have put in carrots with no hangers! Aren’t we glad Dude kept it secret. Now we are blessed with a crag equipped with stainless steel ring bolts. Okay, so this place ain’t appealing to the eye, but what it delivers in climbing is hard to match. When Dude first scoped the Attack Mode flake, something was in the making. It took Robbie LeBreton to see the line of underclings to the flake and the hard top-out to the anchors. Years of thrashing saw him come close, his best shot was captured on film “Coming at ya Hyper”, but Chris Webb Parsons took the prize 13 years after it was first bolted in ‘91 and White Ladder (34) was born. It hasn’t seen a second ascent to date.

The home of hard climbing on steep rock: Cheesedale, South Central, Bartondale and the impressive Rosies – a climber chasing numbers couldn’t ask for more. Paul Westwood found most of the crags along the creek and was very keen to grab the lines that suited his style: short and bouldery. He put in the effort when making the track to Cheesedale, a full day of macheteing. It’s at Bartondale that Martin Lama went on a bush-bash to get a better view of crag and found a rotting corpse! The kiddies are still actively equipping routes here and it could see another collection of South Coast hard numbers.

Crag Fact: Rob LeBreton’s Dude Food was the first new route to be equiped with rings in Australia. The ‘To Do’ List Trigga Nigger (25), Church of Christ (26), Hard Candy (27), Brother in a Body Bag (28), Dude Food (29), White Ladder (34).


Crag Fact: Stuart Wyithe’s Ain’t No Sunshine wasn’t the intended name, it was supposed to be called Funky Gripsta. It was renamed without his permission after his housemates of the day decided it was okay to open another person’s mail, intercepting a letter from his girlfriend who was missing her boyfriend so badly that she wrote as the first line in the letter: “There ain’t no sunshine when you’re gone...” The ‘To Do’ List Silver Hands (19), Bitch Itch (20), Gas Krankinstation (23), Wham Bam Thank you Ma’am (24), Mega Mac (25), Sex Machine (26), Brown Badge (27), Ain’t no Sunshine (28), Frostie (29), Cheese Monster (30), El Maco (31), Beef Meister (32), Strangers on the Shore (33).

Thin and technical, an unknown climber moves through the middle section of A Very Nice Piece of Cake (25), Thompsons Point.


MICHAEL MEADOWS LOOKS BACK AT AUSTRALIA’S VERY FIRST ASCENTS AND TRIES TO ADD THE WHYS TO THE WHENS. WORDS AND IMAGES: Michael Meadows As I suggested in my previous column, the first examples of climbing in Australia in a form recognised as such today appeared in the early part of the 20th century. Mountaineering had been a leisure activity in Europe for a hundred years before the earliest known comparable activity in Australia emerged. Although our mountains barely rate when compared with the highest mountain ranges in the world, Europeans here began heading for the heights almost as soon as they had set foot on the new continent. A decade after the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, 25-year-old explorer Matthew Flinders, during his epic, two-year circumnavigation of Australia, scrambled onto the summit of Beerburrum in the Glass House Mountains north of Brisbane. He described the climb as ‘very difficult’, comparing it to an earlier ascent of Mount Direction in Tasmania. Flinders’ reason for climbing mountains was primarily scientific, as was the motivation of the like-minded who followed in his footsteps over the next 100 years. The summits of peaks for explorers like Flinders had obvious benefits in terms of offering a high vantage with which to assess the surrounding landscape. But is it possible some of these early adventurers were also inspired by the lure of a first ascent? Imagining the heights Mountain landscapes have always had a strong impact on people. Early settlers in Australia saw the 3500km long Great Dividing Range as a barrier – an annoyance, rather than an attraction. It 60

was only around the turn of the century that mountain landscapes began to be described in terms of their intrinsic value – as part of a national heritage. The earliest descriptions of mountains saw them as wild, remote, dangerous places with little or no relevance to everyday activities. But they were also revered. Philosopher Yi-Fu Tuan reminds us that people in different parts of the world considered mountains to be places where the earth and sky met. He writes “They were central points, the world’s axis, the place impregnated with sacred power where the human spirit could pass from one cosmic level to another.” Different cultures have incorporated mountains into their philosophies in different ways: Indigenous people across Australia commonly used some of the landscape’s high points as communication stations, while others were and still are sacred. Before white settlement extended its reach, it was common for Indigenous people in Southeast Queensland to send smoke signals from Main Range high points including Mt Roberts, Spicers Peak and Wilsons Peak. Indigenous custodians of the Mount Buffalo Plateau in Victoria made regular visits to the Horn and the Cathedral, suggesting they were significant ceremonial sites. The Chinese saw mountains not only as mysterious places but also as suitable sites for temples – a practice adopted by mountain-dwelling peoples in many parts of the world. In Nepal, climbing is forbidden on peaks of particular significance to local

Mt Barney’s West Peak—seven metres higher than the East Peak—was first climbed by local Queensland adventurer Harry Johns in 1904.

communities. On the world’s third highest peak, Kangchenjunga (8598m), for example, climbers are requested not to step on the summit. This reverence and respect for high places is common, with many such locations in Australia used as burial sites – the cliff faces on Mt Ernest, near the Queensland–New South Wales border, for example. Incas had explored the high Andes long before Columbus’s voyage of discovery in 1492 and many burial sites and artefacts have been found at high altitude, one on the 6720m summit of Llullaillaco. Over time, ways of looking at mountains gradually changed in both Eastern and Western cultures with religious attitudes giving way to a “feeling for the picturesque”, eventually considering them as a modern recreational resource. The time was ripe for the ‘invention’ of climbing. Perhaps the first recorded serious rockclimb occurred in the same year that Columbus embarked on his voyage to the ‘New World’ when King Charles of France ordered one of his knights to climb the 2000m Mt Aiguille, near Grenoble. The team used an array of ropes and other technical aids, such as ladders, to reach the summit. As the Second Fleet of transported convicts set sail for Australia in 1790, poet William Wordsworth embarked on his own journey – through the Alps. He had climbed previously on local English crags as a boy looking for birds’ eggs. When he cast his eyes on the valley at Chamonix for the first time, Wordsworth was smitten by the scene and soon afterwards described himself as “an Islander by birth, a Mountaineer by habit”. Up to this point, the word ‘mountaineer’ had not been not used as it is today. Wordsworth’s almost throwaway line created an idea that would capture the hearts of many. In 1794, an extraordinary thing happened: four young Englishmen climbed Mont Blanc – for the fun of it! They attracted widespread criticism but it was a defining moment which ‘invented’ mountaineering as a recreational activity. It happened at the same time as a new country was being ‘invented’ on the other side of the world. Colonial newspapers and magazines, starting with the launch of Australia’s first newspaper in 1803 – the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser – played a significant role in spreading new ideas of mountaineering and climbing to a population who knew little or nothing about their own environment, let alone this emerging recreational activity.

The first edition of Australia’s first newspaper…excerpts from Patrick Logan’s journals of his expeditions into the mountains of Southeast Queensland were published in this newspaper in 1827.

The first ascent of the highest mountain in the colony In the last column, I mentioned the first European ascent of Mt Barney. It was – and remains – among the most difficult of Australia’s highest mountains to climb and thus represents a significant milestone in the evolution of climbing in this country. 61

An artist’s impression of Mt Warning in 1876 Town and Country Journal, 22 January

So it is worth re-visiting that historic moment to perhaps gain some insights into the motivations behind the desire to climb to the summit of an unknown peak. It was just after dawn on a crisp, frosty morning in early August 1828, on the Logan River, about 100km southwest of the new colonial outpost of Brisbane Town. Five men left their camp on the bank of the river and began their climb of an unnamed mountain, rising up from the plains before them “with a grandeur that baffles all description”. The expedition guide, Captain Patrick Logan, believed they were climbing Mt Warning, the majestic volcanic peak named by James Cook almost 60 years earlier. The climb that day was remarkable for several reasons: it proved beyond doubt that the explorers were on the wrong mountain; and it was, at the time, the highest known summit in the colony of New South Wales. Logan was the 36-year-old commandant of the newly-established Moreton Bay penal settlement. He had been in New South Wales for three years and his forays into the countryside had filled in significant gaps in the sketchy maps of the Moreton Bay district, including climbing and naming Mt French, near Boonah, destined 140 years later to become one of Australia’s premier climbing cliffs – Frog Buttress! Trained in the British army, Logan was a brutal disciplinarian and his reputation for cruelty towards convicts – occasionally ordering punishments of 300 lashes – has tended to overshadow his other achievements.

The East Peak of Mt Barney. Logan’s first ascent route was up the steep ridge to the right of the face

Logan’s party included the colonial botanist, Charles Fraser, 40, the distinguished English scientist, Allan Cunningham, 37, and two convicts. Cunningham’s prime objective in the colony was to seek out a route from Brisbane, west across the Great Dividing Range, to the Darling Downs. This must have played on Cunningham’s mind as they set off towards what he described as the “stupendous range of mountains whose broad dome-like and conical summits, of rock for the most part, denuded of vegetation, and now fully open to our view, presented a specimen of bold and rugged scenery not to be found in any explored part of the country.” After several hours’ climbing up a steep, exposed rocky ridge, they reached a point about 250m below the summit where they could see the huge, vertical east face of the mountain. Fraser was in awe of its “really terrific appearance, being a perpendicular mass of rock, unvaried by even the smallest trace of vegetation, except a few straggling lichens”. Almost 140 years later, John Tillack, Donn Groom and Les Wood made the first ascent of the classic East Face of Mt Barney route. A hundred metres further up the ridge, Logan and his party were in for another alarming experience – the summit of Mount Warning some 50 kilometres to the southeast. It was indisputable proof that they were on the wrong mountain! The sighting of Mt Warning and the sudden appearance of a vertical cliffline barring further progress up the ridge, encouraged Cunningham and then Fraser to


abandon the climb. Undeterred, Logan took off his boots and socks and continued up the final steep, headwall alone and barefoot. Why did he continue, knowing that it was not Mt Warning and especially as the difficulties on the ridge are greatest in the last 100 metres? Was it simply to get a better view of the surrounding countryside? Or was there something else driving him on to the summit that day: the prospect of being the first European to stand on the highest known mountain in the colony? While the two scientists’ journal entries of the day’s events ran to many pages, Logan’s summary was barely 200 words, including this brief description of the climb: Started at sunrise, and after two miles walk up the valley, commenced the ascent seven minutes past 7 o’clock, and, after considerable difficulty, I succeeded in reaching the summit at 12 o’clock: the rest of the party failed in the attempt. Two years later – a few weeks before his 39th birthday – Logan was dead, killed either by Indigenous people or convicts. The evidence is inconclusive. Two years after Logan’s death, a report of the expedition by Cunningham read to the Royal Geographical Society of London in 1832 relegated the details of the first European ascent of Mt Barney to a footnote with Logan’s name omitted. He estimated the height of the mountain at 5700 feet (1737m), describing it as “an elevation by far the most considerable that has been measured and ascended by Europeans in that country”.

Looking south towards the New South Wales border from high on Mt Barney’s Logan’s Ridge to Mt Lindesay and Mt Ernest (closest).

Logan’s first ascent marked the start of an era of exploration of virgin summits by distinguished visitors and enthusiastic local settlers. This early phase of the emergence of climbing in Australia would last well into the 20th century. Whatever the reason for Logan’s feat, it was a remarkable moment in the era of exploration which was defining Australia in terms of European values and expectations. But this was not Europe and many European ideas did not easily translate to this strange new land. Mountaineering was one of the ideas that was gradually reinvented as more adventurous settlers ventured into Australia’s extensive mountain landscapes. With mountaineering yet to establish itself as a popular sport in Europe, it seems unlikely that ideas of mountaineering – other than those related to scientific observation – influenced these early explorers. On the other hand, it is highly likely that they were at least aware of the emergence of the new recreational activity in Europe, although how this influenced their desire to make a first ascent is, of course, impossible to determine. Nevertheless, it seems almost unthinkable that a basic human desire to be the first was completely absent during these early experiences on the colonial summits. Michael Meadows

The first ascent party in 1828 were suddenly confronted with ‘a perpendicular mass of rock, unvaried by even the smallest trace of vegetation, except a few straggling lichens’.



Matt Robertson styling on One Way Ticket (5.10b/20), Clocktower. Photo: Vaughan Neville.


Last summer I needed to get out of China on a visa run and was thinking of a short holiday somewhere new. I was dreaming of beaches and a bit of climbing but wasn’t in the mood for the usual Thailand-style climbing holiday. Then it struck me; my friend Matt Robertson had been raving for years about how I needed to check out the climbing in Taiwan. So that was it, I packed my bags and headed off. On landing in the capital Taipei, I was pleasantly surprised from the get go. Taiwan is a super friendly place with smiling, approachable people, great food, perfect weather, astounding scenery and, of course, perfect sandstone sport and trad climbing on cliffs nestled on the beautiful north coast that stare out over the azure blue Pacific Ocean. The main area is a several-kilometre-long stretch of orange stone perched on perfect coastal ledges that goes by the name ‘Long Dong’ 龙洞 – snickering aside, the name translates to Dragon Cave, and is taken from the name of the huge cave half way along its immense cliff line. 65


“The entire local climbing community has been incredibly supportive and encouraging, and it’s been great to see the collective energy build.”

With so much to offer the climber looking for something new

and photography so it seemed natural for me to share my passion

in Asia, I caught up with long-term ex-pat, Long Dong local,

for this place with climbers in Taiwan and around the world.

guidebook author and all-round nice guy Matt Robertson to get the

It’s been an amazing experience working on this book, with


many people in the local climbing community contributing in so

So Matt, Taiwan has been your home for some time now, what

many ways, with some very talented guys and girls dedicating

makes it such a special climbing destination for you? What

tons of hard work to the project, particularly in areas like design,

features make Taiwan climbing and its scene unique?

translation and editing where I really needed outside help. The

Taiwan is loaded with awesome natural landscapes and a

finished result truly is a massive team effort and I’m really pleased

welcoming culture. I first came here ten years ago to check out the Northeast Coast sea cliffs, which I had been told might offer

by how well this book turned out – it’s proof that teamwork, dedication and passion can create a finished product that inspires

some good climbing, and found much more than I’d hoped for:

people to get out and climb.

friendly people, a fascinating local culture, mountains, beaches

The entire local climbing community has been incredibly

and, at Long Dong, a two kilometre stretch of sandstone crags

supportive and encouraging, and it’s been great to see the

rising right out of the Pacific Ocean with hundreds of fun routes on

collective energy build. More and more people are climbing at

excellent features. There’s both sport and trad tackling awesome

Long Dong every year and taking up initiatives such as re-bolting

roofs, cracks and faces, all in a beautiful setting that always makes

programs, trad climbing courses, and rescue seminars at the

me feel like I’m on vacation in some exotic island paradise, which

crags. A big climbing festival is in the planning stages and should

actually, I guess I am.

come about in the next year or two.

You have just finished the new edition of the Taiwan climbing

For those people interested in getting to Taiwan to climb where

guidebook; tell us a bit about the process of putting that together

can they get all the information they need on where to stay, what

and how you came to be so heavily involved in the Taiwan

to eat, where to buy the guidebook?

climbing scene.

The Rock Climbing Taiwan website ( features

Well I’ve always been super stoked on the climbing here and I

information, travel beta, maps, climbing photos, and stoke to get

believe Long Dong is exactly the kind of place climbers in other

you psyched on one of the top climbing areas in Asia. The new

countries would be very interested in coming to. In addition, I’ve

guidebook can be purchased on the website.

been very fortunate to be treated so well by not only the local

Thanks for the beta Matt, personally I can’t wait to get back to

climbers but also the whole country, and I’ve felt motivated to give something back and contribute to the climbing community here and to Taiwan. I’ve always been really stoked on climbing guidebooks

Taiwan and I’m sure more and more people will be adding this spectacular location to their Asian climbing bucket list!

IMAGE OVER LEFT: Matt Robertson on Sea Dogs

IMAGE OVER RIGHT: Matt Robertson and Stephen Parr on

(5.9/18), Clocktower Area. Photo: Vaughan Neville.

Via del Drago (5.10b/20), Grand Auditorium. Photo: Tony Chen. 67

Peihua Wu taking on Cunning Linguist (5.10c/21), Cathouse. Photo: Matt Robertson.


‘MUST DO’ ROUTES Dream of White Dragons (5.9/18 trad) Twenty five metres of overhanging jugs and hand-jams, on perfect stone and in a great position above wildly crashing waves. Sky Ladder ((5.10/20 sport) A great line offering one roof after another on big holds on a wall shared by many other excellent sport routes. Hippie Ticket (5.11a/21 trad) Great combination of steep finger crack followed by an exposed hand-traverse along the edge of a roof. Incomparable (5.12c/27 sport) Just one of many excellent sport routes at the Basement, a 25-metre wall just above the sea with dozens of newly-bolted routes ranging from 5.9 to 5.14a. The Great Roof (5.13b/29 trad) Sixty metres of excellent climbing with a four-metre roof split by a flaring offwidth crack.  A proud redpoint if you free it, or a fun and simple 5.9 A1 if you don’t. The Real Legend (5.13a/28 sport) Continuous power-endurance up a gorgeous, overhanging arête. If this goes easily for you, then be sure to check out its equally classic neighbor, Golden Legend (5.13d/31). 68

Xiao Wei on The Real Legend (5.13a/28), Golden Valley. Photo: Matt Robertson

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Is climbing just a substitute for the loss of our hunting roots? Is climbing harder just a matter of channelling the beast within? Steve Kelly investigates WORDS AND IMAGE: Steve Kelly There are a lot of angry people out there. Trust me, I am one. Or at least that’s what the wife tells me. I defend myself by simply stating that men the world over are (in general) angry. I think it has something to do with that Women’s Liberation movement, where the tide turned on men and they suddenly found themselves baking Vol-au-Vonts, doing the washing up and occasionally having random heart-to-heart conversations with kindergarten teachers. Where has that hunter-gatherer spirit gone? The flame that allowed man (in bare feet) to chase down a rampaging buffalo armed only with a pointed stick and the dried up root of an aloe bush. Nowadays the only thing approaching a man at speed is either a frying pan (decisively launched across a room by one of those aforementioned Women’s Lib characters) or a Mazda CX-7 (generally driven by one and the same).


This brings me to climbing. These reasons (and more) are presumably why you see so many images of angry-looking men unleashing their kitchen-chained physiques onto the cruxes of

rock climbs all around the world. There is definitely a lot of built up angst behind those pictures – and why not? If you can no longer track down and beat the living breath from a 780kg wild buffalo with your bare hands, then you may as well try and do it to a piece of rock. Simon Mentz was on the money when in his Grampians Select guide he captioned a certain photo of Andrew Lindblade climbing Danielor-Tiger (30)” “Andrew Lindblade displaying that simultaneous feeling of calm and aggression that only mass murderers and hard climbers seem to experience.” What more clarification do you need than that, I ask? Now I know it’s a bit of a bummer that we persons previously known as ‘neanderthals’ would love to go on a riot two nights a week, burn a few grass huts and visit the neighbour’s wife for a bit Strip Twister, but much to the disillusionment of males everywhere, things have moved on a bit. Apparently those undertakings are now against the law. Nowadays we are expected to wear suits and ties, say please and thank you, drive under 50kms per hour in built up urban areas, eat with a knife and fork, vacuum lounge rooms, wear washingup gloves, become lifetime members of Bunnings, get excited about Ikea catalogues, understand what ‘bathroom cleanser’ means, mow lawns, fix gutters, wipe bottoms and to top it all off – occasionally speak to kindergarten teachers. And so what in this world could possibly take us out of this nightmare of interior decoration and continual search for the ultimate motor vehicle deodoriser? Where could we reclaim the spirit of man, the alchemy of the primitive soul, the foundation of a decently arranged free-for-all bloodbath? Well, climbing, of course. Anyone take a look at the back cover of the Grampians Bouldering guide of Ben Cossey on Dead Heat (V11)? Does that look like the face of a man you’d want to share a tapestry class with? Equally so, I doubt there are many young women showing their mothers an image of Nathan Hoette grimacing on the crux of Gridlack (32) and saying ‘He looks like the sort of guy for me Mum!” (Sorry Nath.) The bottom line is this: to climb something at your absolute limit, you’ve got to let go a bit. There’s no point in patting the sabre-tooth tiger on the head hoping it will lay down long enough for your hairy caveman arse to stick a tree branch down its mouth. No sir. You’ve got to grab it by its ears and headbutt the fucker. Images speak volumes and one only need refer to recent climbing magazines to be exposed to numerous facial expressions, none of which were born from sipping camomile tea in a mothers’ meeting at your local library. Indeed, if you took passport photos of individuals’ faces bearing down on boulder problems or route cruxes alike, they’d probably wouldn’t be let out of the country.

They’d never be let out of the hospital. This brings us to an interesting point. What of the men out there that aren’t considered ‘angry’ yet still climb hard things? Well, let me know when you meet one. I know there are some that on the surface seem like a male version of Mother Teresa yet still pull off Punks in the Gym (32) in a three-day effort (no names mentioned Stevie) , but in reality it’s always the quiet ones that are the most dangerous. Just ask the FBI. Now you may say that being angry is a bad thing and doesn’t lend itself to smooth technique and fast redpoints, but I beg to differ. If you always climb something all cool, calm and collected, then chances are you are either operating well below your limit, or you’re French. Trust me. There is a line, and you have to cross it. It isn’t about swearing at the rock and throwing tantrums – after all, you are not going to get much of a reply, are you? What we’re talking about here is what your therapist advises (or will do when you go see one): you need to channel that aggression. This means knowing when to unleash the wild physique (yes – the kitchen trained one). Why do you think the climbing world is currently being taken by storm by teenagers climbing grade 36’? The simple fact is this: all teenagers are angry. You’d be too if you still lived with your Mum. So many times I see people falling off things that physically they could do in their sleep – yet under pressure they fall apart. Mentally there aren’t many people that could line up in battle armed with just a shield and a spear and then go running off in the vague direction of 1200 smiling British troops armed with loaded artillery. Those Zulu lads had real spirit… Can you imagine (just for a minute) what it would have felt like being a British infantryman in 1879, holed up behind a dry stone wall stoking a one-shot MartiniHenry rifle whilst 20,000 spear-toting warriors bore down on you with a look on their faces suggesting ”You’re going to die brotha!” Well, what if the rock felt like that? And that’s what I’m talking about. It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and taste some metal, whether it be running it out five metres on a slab or executing the crux of a route three grades harder than you’ve ever been on. Take the bull by its horns and throw the bloody thing over your shoulder. Grab that white spot and pull. Tell that hold that you OWN it. Give the finger to the potential six-metre whipper. Get out of that trench and run towards that overrated machine gun. What’s the worst that could happen? All that said I guess the next question is this:  What of the women? Are they to be left out of this? Don’t they get angry? Don’t they need to channel some internal rage (without throwing fry pans)? Aren’t they sick of ironing boards? Hell yeah! But this article has a word count limitation… 73



Sheila Binegas all aboard the powerful Sushi Train (V8), Crumbly

Chris Flowers cranking through the final few moves of Y2K (V5), The Trenches.


Ben Browne on the super classic arete Frankenstein (V0), Fear Factory.

Sheila Binegas warming up for another Sissy Crag session.

When I first moved over to Australia, seven years or so ago now, I had my heart set on Melbourne. Given Melbourne’s proximity to the Grampians and its endless bouldering possibilities and the steep, relentless wall of Taipan – who wouldn’t want to live there? I’d seen the Gramps many times in the magazines and was looking forward to replacing my home crags of the Peak District with the countless lines of the Victorian icon. Unfortunately, perception of distance doesn’t travel well between the UK and Australia and I quickly realised that the Gramps wasn’t quite as convenient as I had previously thought. So, slightly dismayed, I opted for Sydney. Sure it’s the place where everyone wants to live, but it isn’t exactly up there on the global hit list with Font, the Buttermilks and Cresciano. My attention turned to routes and I started getting fit for a future of ticking Blueys’ classics. But on arrival in the Promised Land I was quickly, and rather happily, set right. Sydney have some awesome bouldering venues, 76

James Perry traversing the end of a bloc at Lindfield. which kinda makes sense when you realise the whole place is built on sandstone. My first trip, which I remember clearly, was to Sissy crag – a small but relentlessly steep cave crafted from the finest rock available. I had seen some pictures previously of the sweeping, contoured orange and red slopers and was swiftly shut down by pretty much everything. I was, however, sold. Since then I’ve been to pretty much every venue, from the Fontesque boulders of the Balkans to the bush settings of Ku-ringgai Chase National Park and the ocean hangout of Palm Beach. South of the river, spots like the Villas ensure there is a quality venue nearby, no matter where you might live. Even the biggest venues aren’t particularly extensive, but the problems tend to be good quality on solid sandstone. With a few exceptions, at most places there aren’t huge numbers of problems in the upper grades, but for the middle numbers (v4 to v7ish) there are countless lines. The Sydney Bouldering guide, though a little

dated now, is the best starting place for aspirant visitors. There’s a good selection of crags including directions and other relevant information. Bear in mind that some of the venues, particularly in Ku-ring-gai Chase may well have been found (and photographed) following a bushfire and just because the crag is included in the guide doesn’t actually mean you stand any chance of finding it. It’s also worth noting that the guide is well in need of a rewrite. Any takers? Much of the development was done in the mid- to late-90s, but there’s still a dedicated few heading out, discovering new venues and cleaning lines. Over the past year or so there’s been new blocs opened up from Manly Dam in the north to St Helens Park in the south. There’s even problems high above Bondi on its northern reaches – albeit with a slightly atmospheric drop zone. With so much rock around it’s inevitable that there will be plenty more classics to discover in the future. Enjoy!


Scoots Walter cruising the Frontline classic Paratroopin’ (V8).


Dan MacKay biting hard and bearing down on the Fear Factory test piece Pete’s Arete (V7).

Best for Rookies

Lindfield, Fear Factory, Frontline

Best for Warriors

The Villas, Crumbly, Bonnet Bay

Best for the Rest

The Trenches, Frontline, Sissy

James Perry all stretched out on a typical Lindfield wall.


TOM BUSH FOLIO Heather Trevarthen making the Cheesdale Cave look like something other than a dank, dark hovel as she styles across Non-Dairy Cheese-Like Substitute (30), Nowra. 80


Carl Godfery on Ness Is Best (25). Dogs, Cats and Apples Wall, Porters Pass, Blue Mountains. 82



Fiction -

WORDS: Imovane Haford

He stepped zigzagging edges bordering the bulge of rock. He placed a hand chalk-whitened on the sandstone, it looked skeletal on the red surface. The wall reared up in a vertiginous eruption, it brinked and bulged, then levelled into a scoop before looming into a roof. “Hello old foe, old friend.” he said in measured breath as he found the first holds. The rock was monolithically silent. “Smash it like a boiled egg,” mumbled the belayer. He looked over his shoulder, then back at the oppressive wall. The thing was staunch and sublime. The morning was cold, the only thing that seemed warm was his sweat. “We’ve come 290 kilometres and driven four hours, I’ve thought about you for a fortnight - last night and this morning, it’s all we talked about as we walked up here. I can see all your moves in my head, I can even feel them.” The great red drop was quiet. Its radiance was like gravity. He turned onto an edge and reached up to a sharp crimp. He hauled hard, his feet trailing sloppily before finding purchase. His hands were cold and awkward. The crimp’s teeth bit into numb fingers. His breath increased and the slideshow of doubt began its reel. His balance unsteadied – he considered hanging from the draw – he thought of excuses for going back down – today just isn’t the day – he pictured the warm soup and cold beer back at camp. Retreat just this once. The bickering thoughts were a dizzying din. The rock was impassive, though it seemed animate now in his clasp, and in the shifting light. An armadillo spine, the plates bristling. He jolted through a few moves and found the scoop and he brought his legs up under him to rest. He stared hard at the features, they looked foreign from this angle and the motion of his heartbeat made it all throb. “How the hell do I do this bit? Look at what I can fall on - shit –” he looked down at the belayer, who benignly looked back with a thin smile, roughly equivalent to a thumb’s up for a kamikaze pilot 84 4 8

skirting down the take-off runway. “Shit – will he even catch me – this crux is insane – where do I put my feet - on the air? I’m gonna be pumped way before I even get near-” He stared blankly at his hand on the hold, there was a gut wrenching disconnect, he looked away to a nearby crag. “Why didn’t we go there. This was a bad idea.” The rock’s silence was sonorous, it resonated in his hand. It didn’t exactly speak, nor did the words come purely through vibrations, but its iridescence and form had a language. There was something like a whisper, part breeze, part shimmer of sun and part elevation. The climber leant in hard to rest. The whisper was so soft the climber had to strain for total quiet.  A message came without words, the way gestures can speak, the rock’s presence, size and history were profound gestures.  In deep waves the voice came and the climber distinguished a rhythm. He laid his cheek against the rock, vertigo must be messing with me, but the rock continued its husky chant. The trail of sound could have been saying ‘Here‘ though as it lingered it might have been ‘Now’. “What? Did you say something?” he whined down to the bored belayer who was absently inspecting a gammy flapper on his free hand. The climber gazed toward the sun and traced it back along the glowing titian and rust coloured brace that trussed sky and ground. The column blazed and he bore down on clumsy white knuckles, trying to milk it or align with it. “Here - now - always.” The voice strummed on “I hear much talk, the skirl of winds, bellowing contrails of thunder, the percussion of faults, they speak of seasons - they talk as company. But your talk is a sagging pack on your shoulders that also lashes your hands and muffles your grip’ it murmured ‘You saturate these few moments with chastising ambition, as if these minutes could make a whole story, but these are just movements within movements.  Use care and here in my bows you are safe.’ The ebb resonated as a tuning fork on finger-tips. “There are days when a man slithers up over me, soft as a wet leaf, panting and coated in dew.  You scream bird sounds taark-slaarc.’

The sounds rolled familiarly. “Ah ha, slack or take. It’s something we say to – well to feel safe – it’s how we communicate from a distance-“

Into the crux, he was melding his shape to the rock, the sequence strung like a strand of beads. The moves came fluently and he expelled his exertion.

‘This distance is a fraction, straining to my pinnacle for no reason but to return to the ground. I’ll speak of history, of the man who first ascended and those who followed.” The conversation thrummed.

“Gzzarrgh!” the climber grunted proudly.

“I was once a single grain of sand that ceased to roll in a current, stirring a catchment of glacial motion, accreting minerals and quartz. Amber feldspar swirled a blaze in my sills and I grew. At the right angle you can still see it glisten.” And as the climber brought his gaze close, it did glisten. “I jutted with faults and my planes rose before they were razed. Wildflowers came and went as low fog that clears with day, hot and dry. Sea swelled as time immemorial cut away troughs like cradles. Men and women struck fires and painted themselves in my caves, using clay and bark and soot. Small children left ochre palm prints to shine in my quartz.“ The rock continued to oscillate around the wrapt climber, there in its scoop. “And what about the guy who got the first ascent and the others who’ve – ticked this route? How’d they get this desperate crux? How – where-” “The stories are seamless. The man who first scaled me, his partner called him Monty. He was a stocky and honourable man. He pounced from my rafts on a vast grey day late in a season. A good season.” “Two thousand and two – it says in the guide.” “Yes, passed down without bark or soot.” “Now I guess we do it with chalk or argue about it on the net-’ and the climber looked at his hand on the rock, streaks of orange, streaks of black, he felt it thick and dense as if it might go on without end.

“Did you just say gizzards? Or you saw a lizard?” the belayer screamed but the words hardly entered his ears. He powered on, arms slipping into holds like tying knots, toes deft pinions of axis. Then he made the final move and his body swayed away and back into place, out into air, back to the face. “Pff-pfff” the climber sounded with each taught exhalation. “Yes mate, get it! Use the Lamaze technique!” The belayer said, as he watched his partner mantle over onto a horizontal break. “Woah! That’s the way, channel the lizard! Smash it like a Greek plate!” His hands found the apex and clipped in safe. He screamed and flailed, the thrill rushing about seeming to carry a fine moat of chalk. “You’ve moulded your shape to this monument of rock, from here you see just as far as I do. Pause in the solidarity, look out at the land’s colour turn blue.” The grassy patchwork of the Wimmera dipped and spanned, a wash of sunlight glowed through errant pelts of rain that fell in elusive flashes. As if clipping in was also opening his eyes. The rock was bronze in the luminescent relief and the horizon’s weld was incandescent. “It’s fucken beautiful.” He gasped as he dangled, suspended amidst the haze. “Hey – uh before I lower off I need to know -” the climber said as he motioned he was ready to come down. “Ask -” the crag stated as it returned to inertia. “Why do you sound like Arno Ilgner?” he asked the silence as he descended.

“What about the climbers who followed him?” “Yes,” the rock’s drone immersed him. “Looking from here, you haven’t got far to go-‘ So the climber craned from the scoop at the red face and saw signs everywhere, as if before then had been a capsule. A tiny ledge said crimp on me, a stemmed slant said smear on me, a bulge said throw to me. All of this written in the rock, not like reading but intuited by the same process of compiling shapes. He threw long and accurately at the sloper, arcing fluidly and catching it in a moment of weightlessness. The hold fit his hand perfectly, as if it had been waiting.

85 5 8

Corey Batten climbed well for a convincing win in the Open B Male category.





Matera Pascale took the long trip over from New Caledonia and put in a strong performance. She may have been the only Masters Female competitor but she would have also placed third in the male event. 86


Daniel Fisher shakes a clenched fist as, after navigating the technical roof section, he comes unstuck on the tricky headwall. Still, it was enough to surpass Liam’s Brown’s high point and ensure his victory in the Open A Male.


ck Fletcher

A contorted but composed Monique Forestier translated a great year on the rock to plastic and took out Open A Female.



WORDS: Ross Taylor IMAGES: Josef Goding


Dreamtime. The name sounds idyllic, and indeed the location is, nestled between the spiny ridges of the Serra Range. But in my memory it is a location tinged with an epic flavour: endless ankle-busting scree slopes to slide down, ripping holds, flat Ryobi batteries, blunt drill bits and the time we heard a noise when we were having lunch at the top of the wall and looked down to see our pack – loaded with drill, battery and bolting gear – drop off the top of a 60-metre-high wall. But nevertheless, don’t let our incompetence put you off, because Dreamtime is ace. Not ace in an easy access, don’t-have-tothink-just-climb way, but because it is a crag full of character and characterful climbing. The style is unusual, not steep, but interesting, technical and often sustained, while the rock varies from superb and Arapilesean to strange, flaking edges that unexpectedly pop off – but these will clean up with traffic. A little history The first development was done in the early 1970s by Keith Lockwood and a variety of partners. Keith’s routes are long, wandering, adventurous trad routes. In the late ‘80s Steve Monks visited to, as usual, put his name to a classic line, Witana Wall (23), although unusually for him he missed the best line. The early ‘90s brought a smattering of visitors; an obligatory route by Chris Baxter, several by Wayne Maher (for a while the Master of the Serra Range), and even the author chimed in as a pimply teenager. Lockwood had had a vision of keeping Dreamtime a purely trad climbing area, unbesmirched by the clattering of drills and the gleaming of bolts. But all that ended with the recent Josef Goding-era, and now there are a host of bolted routes for sport climbers to enjoy. Joe and co snagged some sweet lines, but the King-line, Carmina Burana (25), fell to Ingvar Lidman. The master of the mid-route lay down rest, Adam Demmert, has also been

busy, climbing some trad lines and a few bolted things, but mostly dropping shit off the top of cliffs. A word of caution, if you value your scone, wear a helmet here. You will find yourself slipping and sliding on endless scree – and the top of the crag is no different – and all that scree has come from somewhere... It is also easier to access the area with a 4WD, as the track in requires a bit of clearance. Coming from Melbourne, you are best driving south from Ararat and coming over Yarram and Mirranatwa Gaps.

SIX of THE BEST Bunjil (17, two pitches) An exciting trad route for the grade due to a few runout sections. Not Drowning, Waving (18) A short, technical sport route with good face climbing. Pot of Gold (21, two pitches) The first pitch is stellar, as for the second, this is what rap-offs at the end of first pitches are for.

Moon Safari (24) A long, sustained and thought-provoking pitch. Red Chilli Nights (25) Short and punchy, this was a good find by Adam Demmert. Carmina Burana (25) The line of the crag – and possibly the Serra Range – a tricky face and corner, followed by a thin headwall in a spectacular position.


THE END of PUMP WORDS: Duncan Brown IMAGES: Ross Taylor

You’re hanging on the end of the rope again, wondering why you’re here for the umpteenth time. You seemed so close, you were sure it was in the bag. The moves aren’t hard – you can do them all off the rope easy as, but you just can’t get through in one push. You’re pumped, you can’t recover. Every move is a battle to hold what should be enormous jugs. With enough lactic acid coursing through your forearms holding even the biggest holds is a Herculean task and you don’t feel like Hercules. Sound familiar? Of course it does. We’ve all been there and most of us have a basic idea of the physiological reasons behind it. (If you don’t, Google it, there are a million and one articles about endurance sports, the different energy systems involved and the lactic acid response.) So the question is not what is it, but what 90

we can do to reduce its effects? What training will give us more endurance? How do I become a pumper? The good news is endurance can be obtained quite quickly, if you use the right training methods. In this article I am going to outline some specific methods for training endurance, either in the gym or at the crag. But be prepared, training endurance involves hard work both physically and mentally, and being pumped for a whole training session is fairly unpleasant. Stick at it though and you will reap the rewards in no time, so grit your teeth, knuckle down and learn to love the pump! CAPILLARITY TRAINING This exercise is a great warm up for an endurance session as well as having several specific benefits of its own. Capillarity Training

Sepo Chris Bailey milking the best from an awkward stance on Not Too Bad (28), Taipan Wall

entails low-resistance, high-volume workouts at far below your maximum (perhaps 20–40 per cent) for extended periods of time, which encourages improvement in the capacity and efficiency of the capillaries in the muscles used. This means getting on an easy wall, preferably pretty much vertical, and moving around constantly for 20–40 minutes. Use this as your warm up and cool down. Focus on technique: making your movements smooth and efficient with flawless footwork and steady breathing, and you get a technique and capillarity workout in one. Important note: stay well below your lactic threshold and ensure you never actually get pumped. As an added bonus, practise resting. Get into some less-than-ideal resting positions, learn to relax and make the most of them, so that when you are in

less-than-ideal resting positions on routes your body will be more capable of taking advantage of them when it counts. The ability to rest en route is a handy arrow in the quiver contra pump. INTERVAL TRAINING Interval training simply means alternating timed repetitions of work and rest. The work can be used to target a specific aspect of your training, be it power, anaerobic endurance or endurance. For endurance you want to choose either a long route, combination of routes (climbing up and down to link routes in the gym, for example) or boulder circuit of anywhere from 50 to 100 moves. Perform one circuit followed by a set resting time then repeat six to 10 times. As you improve, adjust the variables – length of the route, difficulty of the route or rest time – to increase intensity. 91

For example; choose a suitable route you can do cleanly about six times with 10 minute rests between laps. Once you can complete 10 laps without failure reduce the rests to eight minutes, then six, when the rests get too short, increase the difficulty of the route and back the rest time off to 10 minutes again. This way you are constantly putting pressure on your body to compensate for stress. The flexibility of this type of training means you can use it consistently throughout endurance training periods, varying it according to improvement. HANGBOARD A lot of people think a hangboard can’t really be used for endurance training but guess what? A lot of people are often wrong. With the use of a chair to limit the amount of weight on the fingers you can successfully train endurance on a hangboard quite simply. Place the chair far enough away from the hangboard that you can hang with your body extended and your feet on the chair, in an approximation of a very steep wall. Start by setting your stopwatch 92

to run a one minute set followed by a 30 second set, repeated 10 times. Hang from your chosen hold (something you can complete the sets on successfully, of course) with your feet out on the chair for one minute then rest for 30 seconds, and repeat this through 10 sets. You should be feeling a deep forearm pump early in the workout and have to push through it till the end. If not, use a smaller/worse/slopier hold or put the chair further away or both, so that you get properly pumped. When you are completing the one minute sets easily you can increase the hang time. For example, 75/30 hang/rest, then 90/30 - just increase it slightly yet progressively until you are doing long hangs, perhaps up to three minutes, then move to a smaller hold, go back to one minute hangs and 30 second rests, and start the progression again. This is an easily measurable routine that simulates a very long and pumpy climb and can be increased gradually over time, improving your route endurance almost endlessly.

PHYSICAL ENDURANCE Being on a long route for an extended period of time means your whole body is being worked, not just your forearms. We have all missed that last crux hold as we slapped futilely in its general direction because our backsides were miles from the wall. In short, our whole body needs to be able to perform for the duration of the climb so paying some attention to other strength and conditioning aspects of our training can help immensely. About 20 to 30 minutes at the end of your wall session should be dedicated to a mixture of core, stability and general strength training, with a definite focus on core training. For some ideas check out the Total Circuits at

ABOVE: Bailey feeling the burn and fighting the pump as she cranks through Not Too Bad (28), Taipan Wall

So, while the seemingly endless endurance all of our climbing superstars appears to be something bestowed upon them by some divine force out of reach of we mere mortals, I can assure you that with some dedication, patience, a stopwatch and some good old fashioned elbow grease (and maybe a patient belayer) you too can be laughing in lactic acid’s face as you clip the chains on your next enduro project. 93

The Caffeinator


“You don’t climb then go for coffee, coffee is part of climbing.” Wolfgang Gullich Psychologist Abraham Maslow first introduced his concept of the hierarchy of needs in 1943. He suggested that humans are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving onto other, more advanced needs. The hierarchy is often represented as a pyramid. The lowest level being made up of the most basic physiological needs; Food, water, sleep and shelter. Sadly, Maslow forgot one vital step – coffee. This is never truer than when we are camping on a climbing or bouldering trip. Unless someone decides to set up a cafe at Buandik campground or Moonarie, we are reliant on simple brewing methods. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy outstanding coffee at the campsite before a day of crushing at the crag. Most of you reading this would have brewed up coffee at a campsite. I’m not reinventing the wheel here. What I’m about to impart are some basic tricks that will elevate your current coffee camping experience to the next level. For a brew method that best emulates an espresso, you can’t go past the stovetop coffee maker or Moka Pot, which is probably the most widely used coffee maker amongst climbers. The key to producing a quality stovetop brew is using quality beans from your local specialty coffee-focused cafe or micro-roaster, and grinding on demand. Freshly ground coffee can be yours with the addition of a hand grinder to your camping kit. In these times of instant gratification, the use of a hand grinder will yield better cup quality with the bonus of acting as a great forearm warm up before hitting the rock. A vacuum-sealed container is also a worthy investment, for keeping leftover ground coffee fresh at the crag. With regards to brewing, use a medium grind, take the pot off the heat just before you hear that gurgling sound at the end, and wrap a wet tea towel around the base to prevent over-extraction. For the hipster climber into single estate/micro lot filter coffees, the Aeropress is your best option. It’s a simple and quick method that can nicely highlight the characteristics of your bean of choice. If you want to explore this method more, your local specialty coffee barista should be able to point you in the right direction and if you really want to geek out, check out the brew methods link: LEFT: VL’s resident hipster editor proving you can take the boy out of Fitzroy, but you can’t take Fitzroy out of the boy. 94

Reviews ROCKCLIMBS AROUND MELBOURNE (IPHONE APP) By Glenn Tempest (Open Spaces Publishing, 2012,, RRP $14.99) A wise head I know never misses an opportunity to extol to me the maxim local crags are the lifeblood of climbing (thanks Mr Hawkshaw). And that is a pearl of wisdom indeed. They are the spots where most of us started our lives in the vertical and where we often feed our desperate need to move upwards over rock. Down here in Melbourne town, with The Arapiles and The Grampians if not quite on the doorstep just over the back fence, it is cool to slag off the local lumps of rock that really are on the doorstep. I’ve never bought into that, there are some cracking climbs within an hour or so of the CBD. Take the delightful Spiegels Overhang into Traverse of the Gods and finishing up Greg’s Direct in the Cathedrals; the most travelled 21 in the land, Boogie till you Puke on the Omega Block, Camels Hump; and Redex Irlont Sudano (24) at the very well patronised Falcon’s Lookout, Werribee Gorge. All arse-spankingly good fun.

Helpfully, Open Spaces is introducing us to The Future, starting with the fine Araps guide and now with their new iteration, Rockclimbs Around Melbourne. The app covers the eight crags that are (almost) within spitting distance of town. you can navigate it using maps and topos, alphabetical route lists or grade lists. You can filter for stars, trad vs sport and aspect, allowing for your climbing decisions to be made according to sun and shade. I used it to take me out to Black Hill on a very cold Saturday and it certainly did all the things that it needed to do; it got me to the crag, helped me zero on what I wanted to do, got me to the bottom of the route and then told me how many carrots I would be be putting wires on as I had forgotten my bolt plates. Fortunately, the app is self contained and doesn’t require an Internet connection as my coverage was patchy at best. There are still some glitches (I got stuck in the ‘Additional’ section of the ‘Search’ screen in an inescapable loop of selecting and deselecting ‘Bold’ as if the climbing gods were cursing me for my lack of cojones and had to hard reset my phone), and my main wish would be for a ticklist that interfaced with The Crag’s database, but they are minor quibbles.

Cue Rockclimbs Around Melbourne, the app. To decry print as dead is nothing new – just ask the good people of Fairfax – and guidebooks are not immune. Yes, we all love paper, we love sitting around the campfire with them, and reading them when we are in I like digital guides and they are only going to get better. Print the dunny. But that’s all conditioned, not innate, and I spend more will not die completely, but the future is binary and it is coming. Meanwhile, ¡Viva la local! time on my phone in the toilet than just about anywhere else! Digital is coming and we must all deal with it. Simon Madden BOOK REVIEW 9 5



By Brian Mattick (Canberra Climbers Association, 2012,, RRP $32.95) In reviewing a new guidebook it’s impossible to avoid also critiquing the area it covers. After all, buying a top notch guide to a terrible crag is like paying someone to sugar coat shit. Luckily, Blue Lake is a fantastic and under appreciated climbing area. Mattick’s bold claim of “The best easy and moderate traditional climbing on granite in Australia” is bound to have the New England locals up in arms. However, seeing as nobody ever goes on a climbing trip to Armidale, who cares what they think? The new guide describes 80 routes in the NSW ‘Alps’, up near Australia’s least smallest hill – Mount Kosciuszko. Most are concentrated in a compact area around the shore of the utterly charming Blue Lake. The remaining dozen or so routes are distributed amongst a handful of smaller crags scattered about the main range. A large component of the climbing magic at Blue Lake is the incredible alpine setting, high above the tree line with a decidedly ‘un-Australian’ feel. For a full simulation of the European experience, pack your lederhosen, a baguette, maybe a tapas or two, and save yourself the airfare. In early summer the carpet of wildflowers is yet another drawcard. Camping is somewhat problematic, and the book is deliberately vague in suggesting suitable locations. This is due to the fragility of alpine vegetation, meaning climbers are implored to abide by national park camping regulations, and to exercise common sense in minimising environmental impact. This is deepest trad territory, with no bolting allowed. However, the local granite is endowed with many horizontal and vertical breaks, providing well-protected crack and face climbing on largish holds. The fine grained and water smoothed texture of the rock is more skin friendly than most Australian granite, and a joy to climb on. Access to the cliff top is via grassy slopes, allowing for simple descents. These features, combined with the abundance of moderate routes, mean Blue Lake provides an excellent venue 96

for relatively new trad climbers to learn and practice their skills. In fact, three quarters of the climbs are lower than grade 20, and half are graded 14 or less. Mattick’s book provides all the elements to assist climbers in their journey from the couch to their chosen climb. Inspiration, in the form of excellent colour photos. Direction, via modern photo topos. And of course, the motivational power of a physical book sitting on the shelf between the Wolgan and Point Perpendicular guides, reminding Sydney traddies that there’s more to life than wobbling up crumbly sandstone. The author’s old-school leanings are evidenced by the strong focus on the history of the crag. Whilst the efforts in trying to pinpoint remote and forgotten routes established in the ‘60s is nothing short of heroic. One interesting feature is the avoidance of bullet point style delivery – Gen Y climbers will need to adjust to reading entire paragraphs of text, rather than skimming information. This book does have its quirks. Among them its amusing dismissal of bouldering; “No one has discovered a concentration of wellfeatured boulders in the park.” In fact, there is quite a lot of potential, and pad people could do a lot worse than spend a day exploring the main climbing area or down around Hedley Tarn. Clearly the author is displaying a classic trad beard in the sleeve photo, rather than neo-classique hipster bouldering beard. Also, a full page listing of potential helicopter landing sites provides a valuable resource in the event of an emergency... or the option of a very short commute from Sydney or Melbourne. You won’t regret heading up there next summer (or this winter) to check out this great crag which you’ve heard of but have never gotten around to visiting. Damian Javanovich Buy the guide at

WESTERN GOLD (FILM) By Alex Savage (Savage Film, 2012,, US$14.99) When I first went to the US as a scamp, way back in the dark days of the ‘90s, the thing that struck me about the place was how beautiful it was. After ducking down the West Coast from (Oh) Canada, I drove across the country from Portland in Oregon to Boston in Massachusetts and my mind exploded in rapturous delight at the contours of the dramatically changing landscape. That journey broke apart the way a little boy thought about land masses. The only other place I’d been was Australia, where you drive an hour from the coast and it’s dry and flat, two hours and its drier and more flat and so on until you get to the other side*. Such a big place with so much variety of landscape, it is beautiful. When I watched the bouldering flick Western Gold, the awe of that little boy was rekindled again. It really is a beautiful movie, blessed with a sense of discovery rather than merely display and a serene ambience largely free of the usual whooping and a-hollering (though I have to say I love to whoop and holler as much as the next man, even when the next man is Sharma). The film kicks off in some place called Leavenworth in Washington, drops down through Idaho (heretofore apparently only well known for its ‘famous potatoes’), and Red Rocks, where it avoids the cesspit of Las Vegas nicely, before tripping back up to Wyoming and finishing in Squamish, British Columbia. It covers a lot of ground you won’t have seen before. The action is paced well enough with just sufficient scenery and establishing footage of an area before diving into the good stuff, boulders. There is enough crushing of rock to satisfy our pornlike tendencies for hard climbing while also giving the everyman-

and/or-woman an opportunity to relate to moderates down to V5. Much of the harder stuff has the added drama and aesthetic power of being on exposed highballs, because who doesn’t like seeing people in imminent danger of contracting a permanent limp? It was interesting to see that footage of the toprope rehearsal of a problem – the dirty little secret of boulderers – included in the film but it does fit with the lack of pretension in Western Gold in general. The stir crazy Into The Wild-esque scenes are a touch on the melodramatic and indulgent side but I can forgive that for the underlying feeling of exploration the film gets from Alex often being alone or with few others. And it is great to see him like a beast of burden and suffering for his art as he lugs four pads and his full film kit out to take on the striking Green in the Face (V13) by himself. Ballsy climbing and impressive rigging. Alex has done a great job on this, his first feature, do yourself a favour and get the HD download and don’t miss out on the outtakes, which might not have made the cut but are well worth your time. His site also hosts his short on bouldering in Switzerland. You can also read a short interview with Alex Simon Madden * yes, I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, and I know all about our diversity but the thing about poetic license is you don’t have to sit a competency test to be awarded it. You just have to have your own magazine. 97

The mountains around Bishop, USA. John Palmer 98


PETZL NAO The future is Nao, and it is frightening. Not only do we have to worry about artificial intelligence making us redundant then taking over the world HAL 9000-style, but now our headtorches are going to be cleverer than us. The Nao is the first headtorch to incorporate ‘adaptive lighting’ - it has a built-in sensor that recognises the user’s needs and changes both the intensity of its two high-power LEDs and also the shape of the light they throw accordingly. So, if you are looking at a guidebook pressed close to your face the beam will be wider and less powerful, while if you are looking up at something distant, say benighted aid bumblies stuck halfway up the Seventh Pillar, it will increase the intensity of the beam of light and narrow it. Clever stuff. Petzl claims the torch needs less manual adjustment and also has longer burn times due to the inherent increase in operational efficiency. Not only that, you can customise the Operating System if you so desire, while the headtorch comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery that charges using a USB connection. And all of this only weighs 187gms.

If you like your rope as light and skinny as a supermodel (or a competitive sport climber), then the Tendon Master 8.9mm could be just the cord for you. The Master 8.9mm is apparently Tendon’s first ‘triple rated’ rope: it can be used as a single, a double or a twin. As you would expect for a single rope that is under 9mm, it is very light, weighing in at a waify 52gm/m. It comes treated with what the nameologists at Tendon call the Complete Shield, which involves not only a Teflon coating but also the application of NANOTECHNOLOGY (which is always more powerful when capitalised), to stop moisture, dust and other bad things that you don’t want to from getting in your rope. The Master 9.8mm is rated for five UIAA falls. Master 9.8mm 60m RRP $294.95, 70m RRP $339.95.


BEAL DIABLO 10.2MM ROPE Those devilish French makers of cords, Beal, have a new rope on ze market, ze* Diablo 10.2 (it also comes in a 9.8mm). Chief among the innovations the Diablo boasts is what Beal has dubbed the UNICORE process, which basically means it has managed to link the core and the sheath of the rope in a way that limits movement between the two parts. Beal claims this means that the Diablo suffers less sheath slippage, offers better handling and lasts longer. To quote Beal, “The climber has the sensation of handling a much thinner and lighter rope because of the increased running fluidity, whilst retaining the assurance of a rope of higher diameter.” The Diablo is rated for seven UIAA falls, and is quite light for its diameter at 64gm/m.

WATCH A video about the Diablo (in French, with subtitles), which features the very lovely Nina Caprez, some superb examples of the ‘French blow’ as well as some info on the rope. Beal Diablo 10.2mm rope 60m RRP $329,  70m RRP $379. Distributed by Sea to Summit 1800 787 677 *VL is more accomplished at ascents than accents, as you can tell.


MOON PHATBOY FINGERBOARD As it says on the Moon website, “Finger strength is what sets great climbers apart from merely good climbers.� While it may seem sadly prosaic to calculate the poetry of hard climbing thus, it is probably true, and the humble-yet-often-humbling fingerboard is one of the tried and tested ways of improving your attachment to the rock. Many, many climbers will have hung from the Moon Fingerboard, so the indelicately named Phat Boy Fingerboard will be immediately recognisable by its distinctive silhouette - the main difference in this iteration being that it is aimed at... well, fat boys, i.e. mid-grade climbers (not that we are suggesting mid-grade climbers are all fatties, no, we leave that imputation to Moon...), that and the holds are actually fatter (bigger, or perhaps phatter). The Phat Boy has a good number of edges and pockets to account for a range of grips, an excellent texture straight out of the box, and is also compact (70cm x 14cm x 4cm), making it a good fit for those whose homes are not McMansions. Moon Phat Boy RRP $159.95



Vertical LIfe Issue Two  
Vertical LIfe Issue Two  

The second issue of the digital climbing magazine Vertical Life