#3 • SPRING 2012 • AU/NZ
EXPEDITION: THE SHARK’S FIN MERU CENTRAL, GARWHAL HIMALAYA
Mugs Stump’s early Shark’s Fin attempt fails because of an avalanche resulting in a dislocated shoulder
Conrad Anker, Doug Chabot, and Bruce Miller are repelled from the Shark’s Fin due to loose snow and lack of gear
Conrad Anker approaching one of the route’s hardest mixed pitches. Photo: Jimmy Chin
JUNE / Heavy snow pins the team to the wall for days. On day 18, the team gets within 100 meters of the summit, but no further. A two-day rappel brings the team to safety
2009 - 2010
Insights during ferocious storms guided innovation as Conrad, teammates and The North Face engineered a complete kit for Meru conditions
Hiroyoshi Manome’s fourth attempt ends when his partner breaks an ankle at 6,050 meters
Multiple international teams fail to reach the summit of Meru Central via the Shark’s Fin
“At your coldest moment, new ideas strike because they must.” —Legendary alpinist Conrad Anker utilizes every skill learned in his 30 years climbing on the first ascent of the Shark’s Fin Knowledge is gained through experience. Twice denied, Conrad Anker was determined to climb the perfect line on Meru Central. Drawing from Conrad’s expedition notes and collaborative sessions with the team, The North Face product innovators developed a head-to-toe system of apparel for each athlete’s climbing style and the environmental conditions of the Shark’s Fin. The FlashDry™ Baselayer, Radish Midlayer, Meru Shell and Bib, and Shaffle Jacket combined to function as a totally integrated protective and insulating system for alpine, mixed, and aid climbing in -20 degree temperatures. Conrad, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk reprised their 2008 epic and become the first team in over 30 attempts to complete the Shark’s Fin.
To check out The North Face Summit Series® visit: thenorthface.com.au For stockists info visit us online or call Ph: 02 8306 3311
OCTOBER / Conrad in the Radish Midlayer, featuring longer sleeves and thumb loops for fluid climbing, balaclava hood that goes under the helmet, and chest pocket so Conrad’s glasses are always at hand
OCTOBER / Staying warm on the summit in the Meru Shell and Shaffle Jackets. Expedition leader Conrad Anker and team claim the first ascent that eluded over 30 previous expeditions
Image: Claire Langmore: James Kassay on Ulan Bator 7b+, Rocklands, South Africa 4
SPRING 2012 VISIT US ONLINE www.verticallifemag.com.au www.facebook.com/VerticalLifeMag www.twitter.com/VerticalLifeMag Instagram @verticalifemag www.vimeo.com/verticallifemag Disclaimer
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 2/20 Donald St, Brunswick, Victoria, 3056 Telephone 0417 295 495 Founders Simon Madden + Ross Taylor + Patrick Kinsella + Chris Ord + Terry Wogan + Heidi & Peter Hibberd Publishers Adventure Types 2/20 Donald St, Brunswick, Victoria, 3056 AU Editors Simon Madden email@example.com + Ross Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org NZ Editor Tom Hoyle email@example.com Associate Editors Pat Kinsella + Chris Ord Advertising Terry Wogan firstname.lastname@example.org Design Jess van de Vlierd www.devlierd.co.nz
Chief China correspondent + Training Guru Duncan Brown Senior contributors Steve Kelly, Andrea Hah, Michael Meadows, Duncan Brown Senior photographic contributor Nick Fletcher Contributing writers Nick Fletcher, Krish Seewraj, Oliver Kerr, Dale Thistlethwaite, Tim Grosvenor-Jones, Chelsea Brunckhorst, Pete “The Radness” Allison Coffee consultant Johan von Shag Photography Troy Mattingley, Josh Windsor, JJ O’Brien, James Morris, John Palmer, Ross Taylor, Tom Hoyle, Steve Kelly, Krish Seewraj, Oliver Kerr, Hamish Kerr, Nalle Hukkataival, Jim Newlands collection, Tim Grosvenor-Jones, Peter Jackson, Chelsea Brunckhorst, Neill Lamb collection, Spiderman Studio, Simon Madden, Simon Middlemass, Matt Schimke, Simon Young, Julian Saunders, Glenn Tempest collection
Cover Image Keeping demon sandflies at bay is only the start of the battle when climbing on the west coast of NZ’s South Island. Then there’s the jungle, rain and the conservationists. At least the scenery is good, as Rachel Williams finds out on Ill Peripheral (24). Troy Mattingley Credits image Abond hard at work bolting in the Niu Ping Dong cave, Le Ye, China. Superman Studios Contents image Zac ‘Bob’ Keegan on Let Me Up (22) at Wellington’s atmospheric Ship Rock. Tom Hoyle Foundation Supporters Climbing Anchors www.climbinganchors.com.au Expedition Equipment www.expeditionequipment.com.au Frontier www.thefrontier.com.au Scotty Dog Resoles www.scottydog.com.au Sea to Summit www.seatosummit.com.au Spelean www.spelean.com.au The North Face www.thenorthface.com.au 7
Cont 10. OZ EDITORIAL The Past is Present by Simon Madden and Ross Taylor
36. PROFILE FEATURE Chelsea Brunckhorst profiles Victorian climbing legend Bob Bull
12. NZ EDITORIAL Tom Hoyle on Breaking Bad
44. SHORT PROFILE Tim Grosvenor-Jones on eight-year-old climbing sensation Angie Scarth-Johnson
14. FOLIO Troy Mattingley captures some Castle Hill action 16. COLUMN Steve Kelly writes on winners and losers and the art of being famous 20. FEATURE Tom Hoyle reflects on the Golden Age of sport climbing 28. PHOTO FEATURE Nick Fletcher photographs the Blue Mountains action 34. TOPO Nalle Hukkataival shares his bouldering topos to the Gallery in the Grampians 8
46. FEATURE Duncan Brown goes in search of virgin rock in China and comes up trumps 54. FOLIO Queenslandâ€™s Coolum Cave in the frame 56. FEATURE Oliver Kerr learns never to trust the Swiss on the Eiger
tents 62. COLUMN Andrea Hah on the five stages of grief
80. INTERVIEW Tom Hoyle speaks to young New Zealand gun Josiah Jacobsen-Grocott
66. HISTORY Michael Meadows reflects on the life of Queensland climbing stalwart, Neill Lamb
84. TRAINING Vertical Life’s resident training guru Duncan Brown gets to the core of the issue
71. FEATURE Krish Seerwaj explores the climbing potential of Western Australia’s South West 76. FOLIO Simon Young captures a different kind of ‘onsight’ of the Totem Pole 78. FOLIO Footloose and fancy free by Josh Windsor
88. THE CAFFEINATOR Blackheath’s latest cafe addition, Anonymous, gets reviewed 89. NEW GEAR
Shoes, ‘biners, hang boards and more
94. OBITUARY Dale Thistlethwaite reflects on the life of Jim Newlands 96. FOOLSCAP
Pete ‘The Radness’ Allison
Editor’s note AU
The PAST is In Chelsea Brunckhorst’s excellent article in this issue, ‘El Toro’, she writes about walking into the crag with ‘60s climbing legends Bob Bull and Peter Jackson: “It is a scene that is familiar to me. The dry humour, musing over epics, and generally revelling in one another’s company.” Perhaps the scene is familiar to Chelsea because there is a timelessness to this banter – it could be from any era, from any crag and between any two climbers who have long climbed together. It reminded us here at Vertical Life of two competing yet coexistent ideas: that change is irresistible and that there is nothing new under the sun. Despite appearing in opposition, the two don’t have to be reconciled for after all, life is nothing if not a messy milieu of contradictions. Often hand-in-hand with this idea of change comes a poetic interpretation of entropy – the process of collapse that sees systems go from an ordered state to a disordered one. The cliff will always crumble and fall to Earth but never draw itself up and reform. The crux hold on the Equaliser (28) will always snap off and fall to the ground but never rise up from where it lays and return to the cliff of its own accord. This process is expressed in a societal sense as nostalgia. The valorisation of a bygone time that came before an imagined ‘fall’; an era when things were better, more real, more pure. And climbing does not escape this sentiment that the past was superior with many an old climber lamenting its passing and many a young one holding it up as a mythic paradise. 10
Reading Chelsea’s article we felt a sense of timelessness free from the collapse of entropy. Indeed, it makes us ask has much changed at all? Will climbing always at its core be the same, with different faces and different gear on different routes but governed by the same human interactions? The routes may be harder or of a different style, the scene larger, but there is still the same piss-taking and camaraderie, the same competing with nemeses and co-operating with companions, the same search for peace or validation, the thirst for thrills and the moments of calm spent staring over treetops, alone in your mind and totally content. Peter Jackson says about the ‘60s, “I think probably there was a golden age of weirdos. And there was this standoff, separation, from the rest of the society because we knew we’d found the golden cup of what life was all about, which was climbing.” If you asked climbers from the ‘70s what was the golden age of weirdos was, we are confident they would say the ‘70s, and it would be the same for climbers from the ‘80s, the ‘90s and Noughties. Similarly, Chelsea writes of Bob and Peter belonging to a clique of climbers who dubbed themselves the ‘Piss Flaps’, it is a name designed to shock, which to us is just an antecedent to more modern cliques who came up with their own amusing titles for their loose and unruly confederations; the Wasters, the International Turkey Patrol, the A-Team, TGL. And the discovery of a climbing ‘golden cup’ that
A cast of characters camping at Mt Buffalo in 1977 though it could be from any time, including Matt Taylor sitting on the left, a content looking Glenn Tempest, Wendy Shleton and a very filthy Phillip Armstrong. Glenn Tempest collection
s PRESENT imbues an individual’s life with meaning seems as timeless a concept as we can imagine. Even to those who have lived through historic events – those who ‘were there’ – it seems the passing of time is often a veil that makes the past appear totally removed from the world we live in today. Nostalgia is a powerful filter, it colours events in ways that make it hard to discern what really happened. Add the blurring of time’s passing, the gilding of storytelling and humanity’s penchant for creating legends, and it often feels as if the past was so very different to now. The truth, though, is that wrestling with the human condition is largely the same. When you read a story like Chelsea’s, you can easily recognise the echo of your own experiences, and perhaps this is what allows her tale to leap the gap between past and the present, and 50 years fade to nothing. Chelsea’s article provides a clue that maybe the past wasn’t so different, that we are all – regardless of the era in which we climb – simply fumbling through this thing called life, lurching around, entering each other’s circles for brief periods, then spinning off into other orbits, looking for solace or a sense of place, and using the rock to bring us together as people, and to bring our lives together with meaning and purpose.
WELCOME While he has been with us since the first issue, we would like to officially welcome our NZ Editor, Tom ‘Gomez’ Hoyle on board in the truest sense: this issue sees him writing the first of what we hope will be many editorials for Vertical Life.
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:
Simon Madden + Ross Taylor 11
Editor’s note NZ
Tom Hoyle about to bring his trip to a tragic end on Xavier’s Roof (V11), Bishop, USA. James Morris For me, one of the best possible climbing experiences is being at an amazing area for the first time, soaking in the excitement of seeing great lines for real and then climbing some of them. Earlier this year I had the good fortune of travelling to Bishop, California. On the first day we were at the Buttermilks, things were going swimmingly and psych had spooled to an all-time high. Then, while attempting a reach off a high heel prop, my knee made a horrific graunching sound and I felt the insides shift. As it turned out, I wasn’t completely immobilised, and was still able to hobble around. After ten or so days I could weight it within a limited range of movement, so I decided to try and climb a few easy boulders. The next thing I knew, while pulling on a slopey pinch, my middle finger made a popping sound and I felt the tendon flap about like a loosed bowstring. As you can imagine, my psych slackened to match and I took the next available flight home. That was in early April and I’m still months away from full recovery. What I find interesting about these events is the way injuries occur to different people and how we respond to them mentally. Injuries are part of sport, and climbing is one in which we push the design limitations of our bodies. Over the years I’ve noticed that in terms of injury susceptibility, climbers fall into three distinct groups. Type 12
BREAKIN A climbers, who never seem to get injured but also never get any stronger. Their theme song is ‘Plateau’ from Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York album. Type B climbers gain strength through training but get injured shortly after, meaning time off and lost gains with the cycle repeated ad infinitum. While training, they prefer to listen to Tina & Ike Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. Type C climbers get stronger at a steady rate, perhaps without the quick gains of Type B, but also without the serious injuries, meaning their performance improves consistently over time. This type is the rarest and is generally the most successful at hard climbing. They only ever listen to ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Diana Ross & The Supremes. If you come across people who claim to be climbers and whose injury patterns and music tastes are outside of what I’ve just described, they are phonies. Being classic Type B, I spend about half my time injured and the rest trying to get back to where I was, much like a problem gambler. On getting injured I’ve noticed a regular pattern that starts with devastation. Depending on the circumstances, this can last for days or minutes and is usually followed by upbeat optimism about getting the rest of my life back. Of course, the next two weeks involve
NG BAD increased irritability as my climbing addiction goes cold turkey. This is usually the period where I end up trolling internet forums. Once that settles down and I get used to being a couch potato again, I go through a period of being really, really psyched. I make plans about future projects and missions, in preparation I buy gear I can’t use, I dream of bolting entire new crags, I draft emails to arrange meetings to meticulously plan new developments, I invent ridiculously complicated training regimes I’ll never stick to and most of all I daydream about how hard I’ll try when I can climb again. It’s a wonderful feeling of anticipation which has zero release because when I do start climbing again I immediately realise how weak I have become and how long it is going to take to get back to where I want to be. This is the central problem in climbing for me. If I’m holding back through fear of injury, I’m not really climbing, just going through the motions and wasting precious days. The essence of climbing is trying really hard to achieve something at the limits of what is possible. How likely are you to get injured while trying your damndest to do the impossible? If you are Type B, quite likely indeed. This a serious
conundrum: if I restrain myself to avoid injury and climb more, I’m not climbing the way I really want to and remain unsatisfied. But if I don’t hold back, I’m exposing myself to possible injury and no climbing at all. Even worse, as we get older the chance of injury increases and this in turn leads to a fear of becoming a fat, old guy who never really tries and just talks about climbing, most likely in articles in online climbing magazines. Years of reflection on this problem have brought me to regard the following possible solutions: (1) Don’t get injured. This is ideal but still needs a lot of practical work to back up the theory. (2) When you get injured, don’t even think about climbing, dive into something else with equal passion. This can be very effective, but carries the danger of finding satisfaction in that other thing and never returning to climbing. Some people are ok with this, I am not. Which means the only viable option is (3), throw caution to the wind, try really hard at every opportunity and never, ever surrender. [Disclaimer: (3) may result in injury.] Tom Hoyle
For a moment in the evening autumn light Stuart Duncan becomes Ron Burgundy on Great Odins Raven (V6), Castle Hill, New Zealand. This bizarre dyno will either spit you off onto the pads waiting below or have you exclaiming this funny line from the movie Anchorman. Troy Mattingley 14
Winners and Lo AND THE ART OF BEING FAMOUS STEVE KELLY ON COMPETITION, STARDOM AND CASH WORDS: Steve Kelly IMAGE: Jon Cook
Human beings are a funny lot. There’s a whole lot of people out there that can’t do without competition. From the earliest of ages children are immersed in it: soccer, athletics, swimming, tennis, cricket and yes – even golf. Our world thrives on competition. Of course, it goes a whole lot deeper than that. Outside the sphere of sporting events the ‘drive to be the best’ permeates everyday life like a well-known pop song that’s been used in an advertising campaign for front-loader washing machines. Speaking of television, it is full of it. Master Chef, The Block, The Biggest Loser, Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Voice, The X-Factor – all about becoming Numero Uno. Whatever happened to the likes of The Young Ones? Now there was a band of social misfits that lived in squalor and who never saw a front-loader in their lives. It’s not that competition is strictly a bad thing. Some pastimes are positively tailored towards it. If you ever want to be exposed to a study of unyielding competitiveness mixed with raw determination (not to mention humour), drag up an old copy of the documentary Pumping Iron, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, it’s about bodybuilding but the emotions conveyed through the drive to be the absolute best are human characteristics that haven’t faded in the slightest since it was filmed way back in 1977. In the world of climbing we are not immune, although we pretty much used to be. Well, prior to Jerry Moffatt anyway. Okay it probably 16
wasn’t his fault entirely – he lived in a cave for nearly two years after all, hardly what you’d call ‘the European way’ to stardom. The first recognised climbing competition was held in Italy in 1985 at a place called Bardonecchia. There on a sunlit day someone by the name of Stefan Glowacz took first prize, despite wearing blue-and-black speckled tights and white socks (Jerry got his moment though, famously winning the first ever World Cup, held in Leeds in 1989). Back in those early days not every climber was a fan of competitions entering ‘the sport’. In one meeting of the British Mountaineering Club (BMC) in 1993 the somewhat conservative Ken Wilson (author of the seminal work The Games Climbers Play) summed up his thoughts with, “If competition climbing ever reaches mainstream television, then it will be a very pervasive propaganda influence indeed. The scene of young people going up cliffs, clipping into bolts and being safe, will commend itself to a vast swathe of vested interests that we haven’t yet faced.” (One can only assume that he has since sought professional counselling now that Red Bull sponsor bikini-clad deep water soloing festivals.) However, in the same meeting the BMC President responded by saying there had always been competition in climbing. In fact, he recalled an incident 40 years previously, after the first ascent of Everest, when Alfred Gregory was asked by a reporter how high he had got and he said, “Well, I helped to establish the top camp at
For love or money? The Couer de Lion (V7) in Fontainbleau reminds us of why we climb. John Cook
Losers something under 28,000ft.” “Oh, so you came fifth,” said the reporter.
winning the FedEx Cup, and that’s just the bonus money.
Still, being ‘in it to win it’ is a far cry from what many climbers consider to be their core values. Outdoors there are no races, no placings and no trophies. You, as an individual have the peculiar predilection of travelling miles to a remote area and becoming addicted to a single piece of rock that may cost you pain, anguish and a lot of petrol money, only to walk away from it with nothing but thin fingertips and a car full of dirty camping gear. From a non-climber’s perspective it must all seem rather strange.
If that’s all too hard buy a horse and teach it how to race. That way you won’t have to walk anywhere (except to the bookies) and you can win $6 million, providing the horse has similar interests, and you take out the Dubai World Cup Night.
If, on the other hand, you’re hungry for money and fame, you should opt for soccer instead. Yes, I know it’s probably too late for you but perhaps the team prize money for winning the FIFA World Cup ($31 million) might jolt you into some white shorts and much needed training. If you’re thinking that’s a lot for kicking a ball about, you probably don’t follow the English Premier League. Back in October 2010 Wayne Rooney signed a five-year deal that netted him $376,000 per week. Now if team sports aren’t your deal (probably the case considering you’re a climber) how about tennis? The Wimbledon Men’s Final paid out $1.8 million, and how hard can it be to get there? Alright, probably very hard, particularly on the ankles, so maybe try golf instead. You even get to ride around in a buggy and have some poor sap carry your clubs for you. You can pick up a cool $10 million for
If you think making one of our four-legged friends do all the work is a bit unfair, you could always run yourself. Now there’s a sport that has it all: start and end times, rankings, finish lines and a lot of thin people. You’d probably fit right in. Then again, the prize money is somewhat dismal. Even the famous Boston Marathon will only garner you $150,000, and that’s if you can run faster than the Kenyans. I know, I know. All of this is not what you became a climber for, is it? You don’t care about prize money, fame or having your face transposed onto the side of a public transport vehicle. To you climbing is more than that. It’s about being at one with the rock. Dealing with run outs four metres to the next protection. Camping with friends, sharing belay ledges, drinking strong coffee, sharing beta and, most of all, rising to the challenge a classic line throws at you. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you get paid for it and it doesn’t matter if anyone knows about it, because in our line of work there is only one true star, and that must surely be the rock itself. 17
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Golden Age The
OF SPORT CLIMBING TOM HOYLE PITS THE OLD SCHOOL AGAINST THE NEW SCHOOL TO FIND OUT JUST WHEN CLIMBERS HAD IT BEST. WORDS: Tom Hoyle IMAGES: Uncredited images by Tom Hoyle
John Palmer on the spicy and spacey The Oxidator (21) at Up De Do Da Buttress, Whanganui Bay. The route has a bare minimum of bolts and a whole bunch of ways to hit the ground, including the final crux, which is ‘protected’ by a small wire in what is essentially compacted pumice.
RIGHT: Matt Evrard quickly adapted to the slimmed-down sport-climbing future. Here he is on an early repeat of the Arapiles’ cracker Slinkin’ Leopard (28).” Simon Middlemass
There is little doubt we are now living in a golden age of sport climbing. Consider that we have: multiple 9b (37) routes scattered through Europe; 8c+ (34) onsights; Dani Andrada, limestone sport route–machine and veteran of more than a thousand 8a (29) or harder ticks, bolting up a storm in Catalunya and leaving a host of hard projects in his wake; former teen-sensation Chris Sharma living in Spain, now matured into a limestone sport route maestro, climbing hard projects and bolting his own; former child prodigy Adam Ondra, matured into a teen-sensation and climbing anything in sight without regard to people’s views of what is possible; climbing gyms spreading throughout the lands and bringing more and more people into the sport; big time sports apparel company Adidas recognising climbing as a growing market and bringing in real sponsorship dollars and their promise of increased professionalism; an online Australasian climbing magazine of a standard never before imagined; and Jens Larsen. Not only this, but we’ve got better, more comfortable shoes we can even wear without socks; we’ve got single ropes 9mm thin and lighter than spider’s filament; we’ve got harnesses that allow us to fall and remain fertile; and we’ve got the internet, with its online topos, forums on which to discuss important downgrading events, sites like 8a.nu to tally our points, and climbing videos featuring inspirational people to look up to, like Ivan Greene. At first glance we seem better placed for information, gear and routes than ever before. The sport climbing locomotive is up to full speed – all aboard! All this suggests we are in A golden age of sport climbing, no doubt, but is it THE golden age of sport climbing? It’s not a foregone conclusion. Travel back in time with me: it’s the early eighties and the Cold War is on in earnest, the threat of global thermonuclear war lurks in the shadows; the big-haired, shoulder-padded power dressers of the corporate world freak you out with their ostentatious displays of wealth, and their cannibalistic avariciousness drives you to the fringe of society; Keith Moon, John Lennon, John Bonham and Sid Vicious are all only recently dead and Bob Dylan has died and been born-
“You don’t have a job and you don’t want one, because ALMOST EVERY BIT OF ROCK THAT IS NOT A CRACK REMAINS UNCLIMBED.” 21
Early sport climbing evangelist Brian Alder on his route I Might Like You Better If We Slept Together (27), Hanging Rock. Fittingly, the eye in the triangle symbol on his tights also appears on the US $1 bill with the phrase *Novus Ordo Seclorum (*a New Order of the Ages). Simon Middlemass
again as a Christian, so you turn to Joy Division, only for Ian Curtis to kill himself. You don’t have a job and you don’t want one, because ALMOST EVERY BIT OF ROCK THAT IS NOT A CRACK REMAINS UNCLIMBED and you’ve got your hands on some carrots and fashioned a bunch of hangers out of cut-off bits of angle iron. It must have been a great time to be a climber. Sure, you weren’t supposed to put bolts in, but you got into climbing to get away from people telling you what you could and couldn’t do. There were plenty of excuses for turning your back on the world and everywhere unclimbed future-classics beckoned you, the future-legend. Some people think there is too much made of the disaffected-youth-findsmeaning-through-climbing lore, but I think it’s pretty clear there were a few mad keen climbers with the inclination to walk away from the mainstream and adopt climbing as a lifestyle. Better yet, some had seen the new wave of bolts placed on rappel in previouslyunprotectable bits of rock across Europe, they recognised the potential of all the heretofore ignored non-featured walls and were prepared to try to climb them. Sport climbing boomed, while the traditionalists scratched their beards and retreated into the mountains from whence they came, the new wave were making their own chalkbags, discarding their hexes and double ropes, and putting on brightly coloured lycra. More importantly, they were bolting routes and climbing them, starting 22
with blank slabs and faces, then moving into overhanging country. As they did so their well-developed calves, accustomed to smearing and standing on little edges for long periods, wasted away into little sticks, while their forearms and shoulders swelled with muscle. Every now and then, some of them even fell off a route without dying. What a time to be alive. Nevertheless, it’s true that in our Golden Age right now we have the opportunity to try those classic eighties routes, plus all those that have been done since. To put it another way, we can still listen to Joy Division and mope about the death of Ian Curtis, plus we can listen to the entire New Order back catalogue. We might not like electronic dance music as much as simmering mid-tempo rock, but we have the option to choose. So, if we are curious about what it was like to climb back in THE Golden Age of sport climbing, we just need to go and climb routes from that era. We might never be part of history in the same way, but many of the glorious aspects of that time are still available to us now. You can wear a cheese-cutter harness if you want. You can find a pair of climbing shoes that don’t work too well, put socks on inside them and throw yourself at the cliff with reckless abandon. You can use hexes and double-ropes. Then, when you are on the sharp end of some badly-bolted, run-out slab death route with your life flashing before your eyes, imagining the eighties is effortless. It’s that part of your life that passes just before the nineties.
RIGHT: It took a while after there were bolts for people to realise they didnâ€™t have to restrict themselves to climbing the cracks. Here Marty Beare styles up Pulse Constricter (21), Castle Hill. Simon Middlemass
ABOVE LEFT: Dave Fearnley was a master of the new way. Here he shows he was pretty handy at the old way too, with gear and double ropes on India (28) at Arapiles. Simon Middlemass
Zac Keegan on When We Were Kings (24), De Do Da Buttress, Whanganui Bay.
Eighty’s Ethics: the why and how Eighties climbers cop a bit of flak for the way they did things, but it’s a bit unfair given they were making it up as they went along, pioneering the placement of bolts as well as the styles of climbing faces and slightly-overhanging terrain. As we are so often told around the campfire by wrinkled beardos, hand-drilling a bolt while hanging off a skyhook in some antique cheese-cutter harness is not pleasant. So 30 years ago it was difficult to equip routes and many of them – be they a dog’s breakfast of mixed bolts and gear, or just plain run-out – are considered dangerous by modern standards. After all, building your own clip-up is easy these days with 36-volt battery hammer-drills, engineering-grade stainless steel and properly designed hangers and glue all readily available. And some people have unleashed all this advancement on those old school routes, rebolting them with newer technology, possibly leaving them run-out but with good bolts or even retro-bolted with fixed protection added where previously there was none. Many of these retroed routes don't really belong to that Golden Era anymore, so they may be approached with the same mindset as more recent routes. Those that still retain their original hardware are doubly hazardous, as not only will you take a big fall if you come off, but what you are falling on has both suffered the ravages of time and probably wasn't even that good to begin with. Some of these are badly equipped and deserve better. Other run-out death routes though, despite the risks, or because of them, have a history and character that should be respected. They provide a unique climbing challenge and I think it is ultimately better for climbing for there to be variety of routes to throw ourselves at, with some a bit riskier than others. Climbing is all about the challenge, after all. It seems a shame that some outstanding routes are ignored because they are dangerous or of an out-of-favour style, while mediocre routes see more chalk than a weightlifting bar just because they have a bolt every metre. Fortunately, everybody can enjoy the old classics that characterise the Golden Era of sport climbing if they are prepared to adjust their usual approach. The following are some of my tips for climbing the old school classics: The times, they have a-changed since then. THE golden age of sport climbing development was heavily influenced by the values of naturally protected climbing and alpinism
LEFT: Phil de Joux on the two-bolt classic Suicide by Hallucination (26). This route was a long standing project pre-named The Jesus Factor until Roland Foster stepped up and put his stamp on it. Note the stereo chalkbags of the climber, as opposed to the oversized version of the belayer. Also, short shorts and Adidas three-stripes were as popular as tights, at least amongst onlookers. Simon Middlemass
and the attitude that the leader shouldn't fall prevailed for years after bolts arrived. Remember, the people that put these routes up are those old guys you see at the gym who always maintain three points of contact with the wall and never move faster than a reptile in winter. Their whole approach was based around the reliable, soundly-executed climbing sequence, not the powerscream and dyno through the crux approach. It is the change in values from 'the leader doesn't fall' to 'the leader falls more often than not' that makes old school routes seem dangerous. Play your old school cards right though and if nothing else next time you dyno through the crux on a steep and epicly-hard modern route to find yourself toxicly pumped on the final vertical headwall and about to blow your onsight, you will be able to channel the death-route fear and trick yourself into not being allowed to fall. Hold on. Let’s play pretend you’re the first ascensionist. The old guys will be quick to proclaim “onsight is the best style”, but they are often a little more reticent about what “best style” they did many of their climbs in. When it comes to something scary, chances are they pre-inspected it, they might have top-roped it before leading or even yo-yoed to work it with lower risk. Rap into the route, clean the spider webs from the holds and check the bolts and supplementary gear placements. You might find that although it looks run-out from the ground the hard bits are all protected by the bolts and the climbing between the bolts is actually a lot easier (those old guys had some cunning). Downclimbing is not a dirty word. Try old school routes at a grade where you know you have something in reserve and are solid. This doesn't mean usually-redpoints-within five-tries solid, it means usually-onsights-and-can-downclimb-outof-danger-or-difficulty solid. Assessing danger on the fly, retreating to stances, knowing when to go for it, these are critical tools in the climber’s kit. Superhero yourself. Finally, if the route is still a scary proposition even after preinspection, cleaning and top-roping, don't despair, you'll feel a lot braver once you've donned a pair of lycra tights. It's no coincidence that superheroes wear lycra.
RIGHT: A real character of the era, apparently the perfectionist Bill McLeod saved his best tights for the hardest ascents. Here he is on the mega-slab Adios Gringos (25) at Castle Hill proving the tights were only a part of his finest ensembles, each costume item is clearly chosen with deliberate care. Simon Middlemass
Simon Weill The Taken V11, Grampians, Australia
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Photo: Josh Grose
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Great fashion is timeless, Dave Fearnley makes sure rope, shoes, socks, harness and tights are all singing the same tune on India (28), Arapiles. Simon Middlemass
A Fine ticklist of ‘80s Australasian Routes for the Budding Time Traveller Dooduudooduudooduu... (22), Whanganui Bay, NZ Forty metres long, 14 bolts and with only a brief overhang, you might think it a pretty casual outing. And you'd be wrong. Most of the bolts are in the first half and by the last section, the onomatopoeic title referencing Jaws’ theme music really starts to resonate. Simon Vallings, 1983 Ride Like the Wind (25), Mt Arapiles, Oz Your classic Arap’s chop-route, Ride Like the Wind was led onsight by visiting American climber Mike Graham. Originally a project of Mark Moorhead, who had placed the first bolt, the second was put in by Graham, who rapped down the route backwards with a scarf over his eyes to preserve the onsight, before turning to place and placing it under guidance from Moorhead. Despite the bolts, blowing the final moves would probably see an ugly decking. El Topo (27), Whanganui Bay, NZ A classic of any era and the first grad 28 in New Zealand. This 25m route up a beautiful, sheer wall has a gorgeous minimalist sequence on small pockets, all the way to the top. Just four spaced bolts protect it, so a fall from below any of the them or the anchor will put you frighteningly close to, or splatteringly through, the ground. Roland Foster, 1984 The Rage this Season (24), Mt York, Oz Put up by Warwick Baird, this desperately thin and poorly-protected face may have had only one ascent in its original state before being retro-bolted, although the word is that the bolts have since been removed.
On Patrol In The Ruins Of Your Body (23), Whanganui Bay, NZ Originally climbed with scant protection by Dave Fearnley, this was retro-bolted and retro-chipped to make it more consumer friendly. Some people think it's still scary, despite eight bolts over 20 metres. Dave Fearnley, 1983 Moral Turpitude (24), Booroomba, Oz We are letting this one sneak on the list despite being put up in 1979 because it was one of the first routes rap-bolted at Booroomba. The FA was very controversial as the man who bolted it, John Smart, had up until then been a trad enforcer for the area. The trad-ethic bubbles through and this is no clip-up as despite the two bolts he added, if you stuff up the first clip you will deck from 15 metres up. Jesus Chrysler (25), Castle Hill, NZ This blank face on the amazing Rambandit boulder was set up by John Allen as the ultimate one-bolt challenge. Climb up to and complete the crux at about ten metres, clip the bolt and then top-out. It wasn't lead successfully until Dave Fearnley took up the challenge in 1988. Bodies (22), Lyttelton Rock, NZ So named because a fall will leave you the "gurgling, bloody mess" described in the Sex Pistol's song of the same name . Four bolts over 20 metres and a cam placement that people rarely find. Ton Snelder, 1985
Winter NICK FLETCHER CAPTURES SOME WINTER CLIMBING ACTION IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, AND WELCOMES THE RETURN OF SPRING WORDS AND IMAGES: Nick Fletcher
All round Mr Nice Guy, Andy Richardson, attempting his project at Diamond Falls.
Winter in the Mountains can be brutal, it’s a bitter wind that blows down the main street of Blackheath. Walking into that stiff, buffeting westerly is tough enough, let alone trying to keep warm at the crag, shivering away in your downie, before stripping down and starting the race up the wall against numb fingers. Most of us who live in Sydney fear the thought of climbing in the Mountains when the mercury drops and any hint of wind can turn an acceptable day into a test of intestinal fortitude, or more likely, a hasty retreat to the pub. We generally satisfy ourselves with social mornings on the blocs, or drive down the coast to enjoy the sunny climes of Nowra. But spring has definitely arrived and there’s a distinct warmth in the air, and with it comes the best days to be climbing in the Blue Mountains. The crags that have remained in shadow during the winter days are now the venues of choice and with so many to choose from you can visit somewhere different every day. So don’t hang about, I hear it’s going to be a warm one this year. Spoogy rock, sweaty hands, lethargy, sunburn – when’s it gonna get cold again? Can’t wait for winter... Escape Velocity (24) provides an exciting excursion up the soaring walls of Porters Pass for Rich Brailey. 30
It may be a soft touch at 27, but Naval Aviator is a Bowens Creek classic. Steve Ahern lines up the crux crimp. 31
Returnity (28), on Sail Away Wall at Porters Pass, is no pushover with the crux drive-by tricky to stick â€“ if you make it to here like Holger Moeller, just donâ€™t drop the next few moves to the anchors.
THE GALLERY BOULDERING Topos NALLE HUKKATAIVAL SHARES HIS HAND DRAWN TOPOS TO THE LATEST GRAMPIANS HOTSPOT TOPOS: Nalle Hukkataival WORDS: Vertical Life Not so long ago the bouldering at the Gallery was a badly kept secret, and irrespective of how bad the secret was, most people couldn’t be arsed walking in anyway. But all that changed with the arrival of Nalle Hukkataival, Dave Graham, et al. Stunned by the quality of both the rock and the lines, they feasted upon the area and left behind a host of high-quality hard problems. Already, a few boulderers have travelled south to repeat some of these neoclassics, but most have probably stayed away because there is no guide to the area. Well, there is still no guide to the area, but what we can bring you are some of Nalle’s hand drawn topos, together with a very rough map. The topos cover two areas, the area immediately in the vicinity of the Gallery crag itself, including the outstanding Cherry Picking (V13), and a second area called the Amusement Park, which is just a short walk west of the Gallery. VL loves hand-drawn maps – they are beautiful and personal, imbued with the sense of adventure and exploration at the heart of development – and we are delighted Nalle allowed us to share his. Enjoy!
TO DOWNLOAD HIGH RESOLUTION PDFS OF NALLE’S TOPOS, GO HERE
A PROFILE OF A COMPLEX CHARACTER AND CLIMBING LEGEND WORDS AND UNCREDITED IMAGES: Chelsea Brunckhorst
Bob Bull: A rogue misfit? A small player? Or the stuff legends are made of? Chelsea Brunckhorst speaks to a complex character from the colourful fabric of Australian climbing history Legends aren’t hard to come by in the puny microcosmos of Australian climbing. In fact, you could argue that the word ‘legend’ is something of a prefix for anyone who tied into a rope on Terra Australis before 1983. As much as this suggests that enrolment into this league of legends is automatically granted by date of birth, I don’t believe this is true. “I have been lucky over the years to be in the right place at the right time,” is what Bob tells me in our very first correspondence. That was back in January. I remember because we first determined to meet in late summer, but our plans collapsed when Bob – admirably a volunteer fire fighter for decades – volunteered to fight fires sprouting in Victoria’s west, which was then his home. It’s now August. Snow garnishes Mt Wellington’s windswept 36
summit, and my last words from Bob, on the shoulder of a twisted Tasmanian road, are “If you still wish to persist with this article, I’m on the phone.” He is smiling. The lines around his eyes are deepened, his nose is longer than ever, and his leathery cheeks puffed out. I can’t help but think he is glad to have, for the umpteenth time this year, escaped my ruthless interrogation. Of all the people I have had the good fortune of interviewing, Bob Bull has been the hardest. He was deliberately evasive – indeed, I chased him all the way to Tasmania – and his enduring bashfulness led me to question, as he asked many times, why I would want to interview him. But I was loath to believe that he isn’t a legend of sorts – and that becoming one could be so accidental. To many climbers, Bob Bull’s name is familiar. It carries the scent of polished Arapilesean quartzite, of long run-outs, and rudimentary ironmongery. Over his 50-odd years of climbing, Bob estimates he has been involved in over 100 first ascents. He calls himself a ‘small
“It escapes me though why we didn’t think of abseiling down some of these things, like routes on Castle Crag. You just think, how stupid were we? It had nothing to do with ethics. We just hadn’t thought of it.” player’, but it probably depends on who you’re comparing him to. It is difficult to build a clear picture of his achievements, mostly because of his modesty. (I ask which areas in Tasmania he’s had a hand in developing, and he tells me it was “An obscure outcrop in the Wellington Range and the hills around Collinsvale. Nothing too exciting.”) What most climbers will associate his name with is Arapiles’ ‘Golden Era’: the time shortly after Victoria’s beloved world-class cliff was ‘discovered’ by climbers in the mid-’60s, and when many of the Mount’s outstanding lines were climbed. Of all of these, it is probably the first ascent of the Watchtower Crack (16) that remains the most storied. In his 1978 Arapiles guidebook, Keith ‘Noddy’ Lockwood exalts it as “a dramatic day of terror, illness and rebellion”. The daunting “200-foot layback” is arguably the most commanding line at the cliff, and was famously climbed in 1965 by a party of four that included John Fahey, Peter Jackson, Ted Batty and Bob Bull. The ascent was notable mainly because it was such a major line, but in some ways it overshadows Bob’s other – probably more impressive – successes. Under a baking December sun in 1964, Bob was part of the trio including John Fahey and Peter Jackson who opened up the first route on Arapiles’ slick Right Watchtower
Face, the slinking Salamander. At grade 14 some believe it was the Mount’s hardest route at the time. Completing the set, Bob also joined John Fahey to establish Hot Flap (14), the first route to breach the Left Watchtower Face. At Arapiles only Tiger Wall’s Syrinx (10) is as long, and it was a serious outing before the invention of cams. Bob recalls the climb as having “no runners, just moss city. I remember it being a 40°C day and we didn’t take any water, and it took a long time. We were very slow climbing in those days – we never knew when we’d have to reverse, you see. And some of those run-outs, if you fell you’d be gone. It’s interesting that I do it now, and it’s just such a joy. Now you’d just take the kids up it.” But Bob’s finest hour during this time was probably when he unlocked both pitches of Eurydice with Ted Batty and ’60s great Peter Jackson in tow. The sustained classic that hangs proudly on the Mount’s iconic Bard Buttress overlooking the campground is still a solid grade 18, which would have tipped the scales back in 1965. In that era, when protection was scant and in the form of wiggled in home-made engineering nuts, Bob’s accomplishment would have been heralded as a VS (Very Severe, this was a time before the Ewbank system came into play) – just about the hardest freeclimbing difficulty in Australia back then. (There was only one HVS, 37
the now also graded 18 Fang.) Unbeknownst to young 17-year-old Bob as he pulled onto the welcome broadness of the Bard Terrace that afternoon, it was the dawn of something new. “At the time it was more unrelenting than anything I’d done,” Bob recalls. “I had an epic the first day, and the bolt at the bottom took me half a day to put in. Standing there on lead, you didn’t want to fall. So I couldn’t have a proper swing. It escapes me though why we didn’t think of abseiling down some of these things, like routes on Castle Crag. You just think, how stupid were we? It had nothing to do with ethics. We just hadn’t thought of it.” It is interesting that despite being involved in pioneering some of the first routes at Arapiles – including the grand hat-trick of opening up both Watchtower Faces and the Watchtower Crack itself – Bob says: “In hindsight I don’t ever take much pride in my climbing past. Although I look back with a great deal of satisfaction.” Bob is a Melbourne boy. His introduction to climbing is “all a bit hazy”, although he has fond memories of joining the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club on trips to the Cathedral Range, hurtling along the infamously sinuous Black Spur road in the open back of a carpeted furniture van being used to transport trip participants. Neither Bob nor Peter can remember when they met, but it was some time in the early ’60s, and many of their small adventures took place at Hanging Rock – a spooky outcrop of volcanic rock rising out of a plain in Central Victoria. Here Bob climbed his first new route, called El Toro (13) – Spanish for ‘the bull’. Climbing is banned now at Hanging Rock, but Chris Baxter describes it in an old RockGUIDE as “a testing lead” climbing a slender buttress and a thin rib that leads to a dank chimney. He gave it a star. “I do remember El Toro,” Bob tells me. “Fifteen metres of rope run out. It was one of the first routes where I placed bolts on lead. It was…mossy and a bit necky…no pro…and the sort of climbing I still enjoy, that face-climbing stuff. There weren’t many of those buttresses at the time that hadn’t been climbed. It was certainly doable, it was just the no pro thing. If you go look at them now they’re mossy as all get out, because nobody climbs on them anymore.” “Hanging Rock was a sort of special place at the time,” he adds. “You know, especially for early Victorian climbing. I mean, in the ’50s and ’60s, it was a microcosm of climbing. The winters used to be wetter than they are now, and we used to dream of going to England, so we’d go up to Hanging Rock and just boulder in pouring rain, hour after hour.” After El Toro, it wasn’t long before Bob visited the newly discovered Arapiles and partook in its ‘Golden Era’, which, as I wrote earlier, is probably what he is most well known for. It was about this time that the Peter Jackson–Bob Bull duo discovered the brooding Grampians cliff Bundaleer, famously bush-bashing through thick scrub before chancing upon a road right next to the crag. After climbing the first 38
With eyes that speak a million words, Bob making an early attempt at Basilisk (16) at Bundaleer, the Grampians. Peter Jackson collection
routes, they turned their attention to the Ogive (then M4), pitoning and wedging their way across its roof in a three-week siege. “It was a job of work,” Bob remembers. “But too inviting not to do.” Eighteen years later, Kim Carrigan freed it at grade 28. Following just two or three years of pioneering new routes at the Grampians, Arapiles, and even on the frighteningly wild palisades of Cape Woolamai (where many of their routes remain scarcely repeated), Bob, followed by Peter, set off for the Motherland: England. “I think Bob’s finest hours were in Britain, actually,” Peter reflects. Bob climbed extensively there, starting out in the Peak District – the scene of some classic hard-grit routes and milestones in British climbing. But it was in the Lakes District where Bob developed lasting friendships and achieved some significant routes while living near Borrowdale with his wife Angela, Peter says. Bob tells me it wasn’t unusual at the time for many Australian climbers to be students of British climbing, I guess in much the same way many of us today may be curious about climbing in Europe and America, where the industries are bigger and more developed. In fact, influenced by UK climbing, it was Bob who first brought engineering nuts to Australia. By the time Bob returned to the Southern Hemisphere he had a family, with whom he set up a home on the back of Hobart’s Mt Wellington. There they lived until Bob’s job brought him back to Victoria. Months passed after my initial contact with Bob. I got the odd text or email, mostly to remind me that there are probably, in Bob’s words, “more interesting” climbers than him to profile. In the ensuing autumn and winter I got married and caught up with other work, while Bob sold his house in Ballarat to move back to Tasmania. But still his story burned brightly in my mind. Here he was, a Victorian legend, convinced his contributions to climbing were “barely significant”. Was he right? Was he simply in the right place at the right time? A legend ordained by time? In the manner in which we guard the glossy representations of our favourite heroes, I refused to believe it. And I justified my conclusion by asking myself a very simple question: Had I been in Bob’s shoes in 1964, standing at the base of the Mount, surveying its length with a pitiful assortment of gear (Bob says he doesn’t know when it dawned on them to have their engineering nuts attached to separate slings so they could place more than one piece of gear), would I have had the strength of character to walk boldly into the unknown? The answer is no. While Bob did his best to slip out of being profiled, clues to his character came in the form of a pile of aged photographs Peter sent me to go with the story. There were two that divulged more about the man: the first was a portrait in which Bob’s boyish innocence totally juxtaposed the sharp pitons hanging from a rope sling around his neck, like a cluster of black teeth on some morbid 39
Bob sporting a necklace of ironmongery like it was of shrunken heads during the siege of the Ogive, Bundaleer, the Grampians. Peter Jackson collection 40
carcanet. The second captured Bob mid-air, on lead, both arms flung forward in wild abandon, with the rope tied to his waist and barely a skerrick of gear visible. Both uncovered facets of Bob that Peter would later explain: the paradox and his unfaltering nerve.
Bob leaping on the first ascent of The Flying Dutchman (11), Chimney Pots, the Grampians. Peter Jackson collection
“He’s a very cool guy,” Peter tells me. “And I don’t mean that in the modern sense. He has a cool head.” “I remember one time when we were travelling around England with my wife. We pulled up in this vacant lot somewhere in the midlands. Bob was outside our van when I saw these two giant Alsatians come leaping out of a gate, barking their heads off. I was scared for him – I was yelling! Call them back, I said to their owner, he’s only going to sleep there! Bob saw them coming, but just sort of dragged on his fag and walked quietly, pacing backwards and forwards. And the dogs just stopped. I mean, this isn’t about climbing, but it sort of is. He was – and still is – highly intelligent, calm and caring. But as a young bloke also a wild, renegade sort of character.” Bob had something of a wayward reputation, it seems. “At times he generally came across as just some sort of rat bag to some of the VCC climbers,” Peter admits. “He’s not, but he did some wild things. Look, there was a small group of people, of whom Bob Bull was definitely a core member. I was too! We didn’t have a leader, but we had a name: PFs…which stood for ‘Piss Flaps’. In other words, vaginal lobes, okay? [Laughs] Sorry. No, I’m not sorry – I mean, that’s just factual.” Apparently the group included Bob, Peter, John Fahey and a guy called Glen Deveraux, who Peter says seems to have vanished into the folds of history. “We tried to shock people by being particularly crude and rude,” Peter chuckles. “The name came from when a bloke – I can’t think of his name, a Melbourne University Mountaineering Club bloke – was talking one day and he said ‘Fucking piss flaps, she wouldn’t speak to me...’ Bob Bull was a great one for latching onto figures of speech.” Being a member of the ‘Piss Flaps’ gang wasn’t the only offbeat memory Peter shares with Bob: “Sometimes I look back on my experiences with Bob and think, how bizarre. At one time we read a book called Brighton Rock by Graeme Green. And in it was a punk thug called Pinkie, who used to carry around razor blades for slashing people’s faces. What you did was put a razor blade between two slabs of cardboard, and then tape it up. Can you believe, Bob had made some of these! I said, ‘You’re not going to use them or anything!’ And he said ‘Aw, no. But it’s fuckin’ interesting, isn’t it?’ And as he was leading this particular pitch, one of these things fell out of his pocket. I could see this little cardboard rectangle tumbling down the cliff face! With razor blades! And I thought to myself, how bizarre. “But you know,” Peter waxes. “I think probably there was a golden age of weirdos. And there was this standoff, separation, from the rest of the society because we knew we’d found the golden
Bob seconding the third pitch of Arab (16) on the first ascent, the Mt Arapiles. Peter Jackson collection 41
cup of what life was all about, which was climbing. You know, the excitement of things. It’s a bigger and deeper thing than that, and I think that Bob’s always understood that too.” Clad in a grungy cotton hoodie that, if I knew anything about bands or music, would remind me of some moody artist, Bob strides ahead of me along Mt Wellington’s rocky Organ Pipes Track, sidling its namesake crag with views of Hobart shifting in the billowing clouds. I can hear Bob engaged in light banter with Peter although I’m too far behind to hear the exact words. It is a scene that is familiar to me. The dry humour, musing over epics, and generally revelling in one another’s company. As we drop towards Ferntree, I am glad I left the dictaphone in the car. It is interesting hearing Bob’s views on climbing after 50-odd years of doing it: “Too many people make too big a deal out of the skills you need to climb,” says Bob. “I mean it’s pretty bloody basic. You stuff something in a crack and wedge it in so it doesn’t come out. And yet the masters of society go on like it’s some esoteric skill, inaccessible but to a select few. And it’s just not.” Reflecting more, he says: “It’s amazing, the situations you get yourself into, isn’t it,” trailing off. “People think, oh you’re rockclimbing, it must be such hard work. But I just think how many times it’s just being on the cliff wall, gazing. Sitting on this magnificent ledge, gazing and doing bugger all. You’re there for so long, you can watch the sheep moving to follow the shade around the trees… How good is that in the modern world?”
Bob making the Traverse of the Gods on Gregs Direct (14), Cathedral Range. Peter Jackson collection
Watching Bob, I can believe all the things I have heard about him. The nonconformist demeanour, the brilliance, his cool head. But there is one other thing: a quiet compassion. “I miss them,” Bob says, referring to his Western Victorian Climbing Club friends he left behind in Ballarat. “I was out every weekend, and at least once a week. They were a great crew.” As I wave him off, I can’t help but think there is even more to him. “I’ve contained myself,” Peter tells me over the phone. “I haven’t told you any of the really interesting things. Bob’s story is very interesting, really, but he probably doesn’t want it all dragged out. “Just remember, all these people you meet in climbing, their characters are important. Bob is a highly sophisticated and complex character. He’s certainly not an arsehole. Lots of people from the ’60s saw Bob as a young, stupid idiot. A vandalistic nutter, which – well, maybe he was – but the essence of the man is, he is a very compassionate person of great capacity and complex abilities, as he has now ultimately shown.” Until early this year Bob lived in Ballarat – newly retired and furiously developing new routes on the granite tors in the area. He is rumoured to be cranking. Now he resides in Hobart. At 65, he describes himself as a “whipper-snapper”. Many thanks to Peter Jackson for helping me with this story. 42
Bob leading El Toro (13), Hanging Rock. Peter Jackson collection
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EIGHT-YEAR-OLD ANG IS PROVING THAT THE THE HARDER IT IS F WORDS AND IMAGES:
As we get older, with creaking bones and stiffening muscles, it’s easier and easier to get engulfed in jealousy and bemoan that youth is wasted on the young, with their carefree minds and elastic bodies. Canberran Angie Scarth-Johnson isn’t wasting time though, she’s not even waiting until she is a youth. Angie is eight years old and although she has only been climbing for 13 months she is the current Australian under-11 National Champion in both lead and speed. And yet Angie has no rock climbing pedigree – she does not come from climbing family – instead she fell into the sport when she wandered off on a family outing to, of all places, Olympic Park in Sydney’s Homebush. “She just disappeared,” says Claudia, Angie’s mum, “and when we found her, she was halfway up the rock facade of a nearby underpass.” While this may not have been the first of Angie’s climbing antics it was the event that set wheels in motion. “We had to think about where we could take Angie to climb things safely, we 44
didn’t even know climbing was a sport at that time.” Angie’s parents, Sateki and Claudia, soon discovered the local gyms and found themselves immersed in climbing culture. “It did not take long for Angie to be noticed in the climbing centre and recruited to the Canberra Rock Squad,” says Caitlin Horan, the coach of the Junior Rock Squad from the Canberra Indoor Rock Climbing Centre. Moreover, “In the last 12 months Angie has progressed six grades outdoors and recently won the Australian Difficulty Championships against competitors three years her senior.” Caitlin believes that the most impressive of Angie’s attributes is not her physical ability but her mental strength, and says, “Having coached junior climbers for over a decade you can imagine my excitement when Angie came my way. Not since the likes of Daniel Fisher have I coached such a naturally gifted young climber. I was amazed to see such a deep understanding of movement technique from one so young.”
With fixed eyes and strong fingers, Angie campusing in the gym.
N SMALL KAGES
GIE SCARTH-JOHNSON SMALLER THEY COME, FOR THEM TO FALL Tim Grosvenor-Jones
While Angie’s climbing abilities have certainly benefited from Caitlin’s exceptional coaching she also has many mentors in the local climbing community. Andrew Richards, who originally introduced Angie to outdoor climbing, can often be found providing her with valuable guidance at the crag. According to Andrew, “Angie wanted to lead, but since she was only seven at the time she was told she was too young to do the course, so we took her to the Blue Mountains instead.” There has been no looking back – or down – for Angie ever since, and she has quickly made a huge mark on junior climbing in Australia. In the past 12 months this amazing young girl, weighing 22kg and standing a mere 123cm tall, has ticked some serious Aussie classics, including Pood with Me (24), Pulling on Porcelain (23) Uncertainty Pleasure (22), Meaty Mesmo (22), Murdoch the Horse Fucker (22) and The Other White Meat (22), while she is currently working Mega Mac (25) at Rosies in Nowra. Angie has had no problem translating her talent from plastic to rock.
Angie and Andrew Richards sorting beta at the start of Gas Krankinstation (24), Cheesedale, Nowra.
Angie’s recent ascent of Pood with Me (24) still comes up in conversations around the gym. Andrew paints a good picture of the day’s events. “She’s smashed out the moves all the way to the top but hesitated on the last. She pulled up and looked to go for it, but stopped. Everyone held their breath as she had a second crack. She threw for the hold and looked to slip, only just managing to stick it as she fell away. Once there she easily pulled up and clipped the chains. I remember the massive squeal as she was overcome by the excitement of it all. It was great to watch.” From this elation to the occasional tantrums of an eight-year-old, it’s clear Angie, despite her age, is fully experiencing the highs and lows that climbing has to offer. We’re keen to see where climbing takes Angie, or indeed where Angie takes climbing. Her talent is abundant and her opportunities endless. Perhaps one day we’ll see her as a proud Australian Olympic climber. One thing’s for sure, this girl will conquer mountains!
Toni Arbones working out the moves on a thin 5.13a/28 project on the Riverside Wall, Little Fish Valley, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.
FROM THE OUTSIDE BOOMING IN EVERY W DEFINITELY NO
WORDS: Duncan Brown I
Earlier this year I was climbing at one of my favou good buddy Abond, all around nice guy and one o had a trip in the works. “What sort of trip?” I asked.
He was spare with details aside from that he wan began, “you’ll be getting paid to fly around China untouched climbing areas in the country. Interest “Is the Pope a Catholic?” Yes, he is.
There is nothing new in saying China is booming, stations breed like rabbits, every kind of developm
L to R: Dave Gliddon (Australia): Duncan Brown (Austral
CHINA SEEMS TO BE WAY AND CLIMBING IS OT MISSING OUT
IMAGES: Superman Studio
urite local Yangshuo crags, Lei Pi Shan, and my of China’s strongest pro climbers, mentioned he
nted me to be a part of it. “Let’s just say,” he to develop new routes at some of the best ted?”
whole cities spring up in six months, power ment you can think of is taking place at incredible
: Spaniard David Gambus (Spain): lia): Toni Arbones (Spain)
Toni Arbones and Dave Gliddon on their first ascent of the 12 pitch ‘Zun Yu’ (The Golden Trout) 5.12c/26, Big Fish Valley, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.
Duncan Brown working out the moves on his ‘Maelstrom’ project, 5.14a/32, Xian Dong, Hangzhuo, ZheJiang Province.
The team (L to R): Superman, Abond, Toni Arbones, Duncan Brown, Xiao Ting, Spiderman Paul, Monica, Zhang Yong, CJ Neff, Morgan.
Zhang Yong for once looking stumped on a sequence on the spectacular granite of the Riverside Wall, Little Fish Valley, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.
speeds and on incredible scales. It stands to reason then that the burgeoning climbing scene is not immune. There’s rock everywhere, that’s the main reason why I am here, and in the wake of the 2011 Petzl RocTrip in the Getu Valley, the drive of locals and internationals alike to climb here is at an insane level. Into this whirlwind of psych come Abond and his partner, Xiao Ting, who concocted a plan to tour around China and kick-start route development in some of the hundreds of as-yet-untouched potential climbing areas. Together with my main sponsor, Kailas, they sketched out what in every way promised to be one of the best development trips imaginable, dubbed the Kailas Rock Searching Trip 2012. The organisers invited a group of experienced route developers including prolific Spaniard, Toni Arbones, myself and another well known Australian reprobate, Dave Gliddon, some homegrown Chinese developers, Zhang Yong and ‘Spiderman’ Paul, along with 48
a cameraman named Superman. (Yes, Spiderman and Superman together on the same trip.) After months of preparation, poring over maps, unpacking and sorting endless boxes of gear and securing thousands of bolts, bags were finally packed, drill batteries were charged and we set off to get amongst it. In cahoots with an assortment of friendly locals at each area, we spent two-and-a-half frantic months travelling, searching for, bolting, and sending over 130 new routes, on limestone and granite, across five different regions of China. Nothing like this had ever been done before. Developing in China is a unique experience for a variety of reasons, not the least because as an emerging economy with a newly appeared middle class, recreational activities such as rock climbing are still extremely uncommon. Farmer’s reactions to seeing you climbing up a cliff can range from cautiously curious
to terrified and incredulous. The number of times locals have said to me, “You do know there’s a much easier way to just walk to the top?” beggars belief. Traversing the bureaucracy in China also has its own particular set of rule and mores and along with the various pitfalls due to frequent corruption in local government, comes the added frustrations of having to convince sceptical officials of the worth of developing climbing, not just for our and other climbers’ enjoyment but also for their local economy. Then you need to need to insulate yourself from the often rather mercantile police force who are in the habit of soliciting bribes and were all too ready to kick climbers out of an area. Fortunately, through a combination of good planning and strong contacts in local climbing communities we managed to avoid trouble. The only time we got close to a hiccup was when officials at a stone mine near one of the crags we were developing reported us to the police for pilfering their rock in an illegal mining operation.
First Stop – Yangshuo When you live in the hotbed of Chinese climbing – Yangshuo in Southern China’s Guanxi Province – it makes sense to start there, so we did, kicking off by opening one of the many untouched cliffs still on offer. We selected a big cliff, high up on a karst tower that looms over the Yu Long River. The sector, named Golden Riverside for the hotel at its base, was incredible. It is a little different to other walls in the area due to the steep approach (most crags in Yangshuo are at the base of towers) and the slightly more adventurous nature that comes with needing fixed-rope traverses around the lower ledges to access the walls above. What we got was amazing positions, amazing views and 30 amazing new routes. Grades ranged from 5.9 (18) to 5.14 (32), single pitch for the most part but with two multipitches including my own proud creation, Bless you In The Face, four pitches going at 5.8 (17), 5.9, 5.10 (19) and 5.11 (22). The trip was off to a cracking start. 49
Le Ye, F*@k Yeah! China is big. Long journeys are the norm, and on this trip we were going to cover some kilometres. With a Yangshuo crag accounted for, we packed people and gear into a rented bus and made the 12hour drive to North Western Guanxi Province, to the mind-boggling karst tower and sinkhole-ridden landscape around the town of Le Ye. Le Ye is no stranger to climbing – the town centre boasts a fullscale World Cup facility, complete with enormous lead, speed and bouldering walls used for national and international competitions – but astonishingly the surrounding cliffs have barely been touched. This might seem strange to most of us but large-scale route development is a costly affair and most Chinese climbers can’t fork out the cash nor take the required time off work to develop these more out of the way locations, hence why there are climbing meccas all over this country just waiting for eager drills and strong forearms. After a day of hiking around sinkholes and caves checking out potential, we settled on an area only five minutes from town. Called ‘Niu Ping Dong’ (Cattle Yard Cave), the crag boasted two railway tunnel-esque caves, the bigger of which was about 100m deep, 70m wide and 40m high, the steep walls and roofs covered by perfect, blobby stalactites. It was fast becoming the trip cliché, but the potential was astounding. We set to work bolting ground-up through the maze of stalactites. The task was made easier with the help of some prototype 10mm removable bolts a Spanish company had been given us to test. The 10mm prototypes had real advantages over the half inch standards available from ClimbTechGear.com in that you don’t need to change drill bits as you go and conserve the battery power using a half inch drill bit would otherwise rob you of. The test proved a success and the bolts are great, allowing you to ground-up bolt at a speed well beyond any other method. Routes went up in short order and by the end of our two-week stay we had bolted 40 pitches from cruisy 5.9s to open projects that threaten to go at 5.14. The mind-blowing thing is that if fully developed these two caves alone could hold about 100 routes and the area around Le Ye is littered with caves this size. (Warning: cliché ahead) This area’s potential for the future is staggering. Three is the magic number Third on the hit list was Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. The city of Xi’an is well known as the entry point to the exhilarating and historically significant ‘Hua Shan’, a monstrous granite range with huge sweeps of rock creeping up every mountainside. Abundance has become a curse in the modern world, so many choices that often simply making decisions is becoming increasingly 50
difficult. This trip was like the climbing version of being paralysed in front of an endless isle of boutique beers. Which do we choose? The local climbers had developed a handful of routes but we explored some of the feeder valleys leading into the Hua Shan Park. Initially we concentrated our efforts on two outstanding single pitch crags right on the banks of a beautiful river and within 50m of the road. Almost every pitch we opened seemed to be tailor-made for climbing, blessed with textured edges and slopers that inspired superb technical climbing – 30m of dead vertical climbing on slopey edges does an amazing job of testing the boundaries of your focus and concentration. Soon we moved to a new valley following rumours of huge walls stretching up to the sky. What we found was the Da Yu valley and a soaring 300m high wall only 10 minutes walk from the local hotel. Quickly we spied our line, a stellar sequence of features that went right up the guts of the cliff. With a team of local climbers helping to shoulder the burden, Toni, Dave and I proceeded to ground-up a super easy line of easy scrambling and 5.7 trad climbing, leaving fixed lines for the team to jumar with all the gear. At the top we located the finish point of the line and proceeded to rappel down placing belay stations and leaving fixed lines. It took two days to bolt the beast before Dave and Toni made a sensational first ascent, swinging leads, with neither falling on the sharp end or seconding. Coming in at 300m, with 12 pitches going at 5.8, 5.10 and then ten pitches of solid 5.12 (24/25). We dubbed the route Zun Yu after the local delicacy – huge golden trout served in every restaurant – and it is China’s biggest multipitch climb. The entire team was stoked to have made what we believe to be such an important contribution to Chinese climbing. Typhoon madness Landing at Hangzhou Airport near Shanghai on China’s eastern seaboard on our way Quzhou brought two things. First, really hot temperatures – after the cool of the mountains in Xi’an we were greeted by sweltering 35°C temps – and second, direct from Spain, Toni’s friend David. David was not only super psyched to join us for the Quzhou leg, he could also crank 9a (35) and it was exciting to know we were about to see some hard stuff go down.
Zhang Yong cruising yet another of his newlybolted 512b/25 creations on the immaculate stone of Yingxi, Guangdong Province. His tendency to not need to wear climbing shoes on most routes under this grade is legendary.
After a day trip to Nanjing for the Nanjing Outdoor Trade Expo (which was one of the biggest I have ever seen – thousands of people spread across five stadiums that incorporated an indoor BMX track, huge slackline arena – you name an outdoor pursuit and it was there) we made the mission down to the little village of Xian Dong, just five minutes walk from the cave we had our eyes on. After being spoilt for quality, it was obvious the rock here was not perfect, not bad, but not perfect, due in large part to the water the hills hold on to. But it was a crazy cool crag with big, steep walls and, after all, we were still in the throes of a bolting frenzy so intense 51
the only thing I could liken it to would be the gold fever in Ballarat circa 1856. With David on board, and knowing there are some super strong cats living just a few hours away in Shanghai, we weren’t scared to unleash some hard lines. All told we opened about 30 routes, including a mind boggling 50m monster potential 5.15a (36). Add six routes in the 5.14 range and those strong locals will have their work cut out for them if they want to tick the crag. The stay ended with a party bringing over 100 climbers, unfortunately the weather gods had other plans and we were hit by the outskirts of a typhoon, bringing torrential rain and raising the river that runs through the caves by about four metres. Unperturbed by the rain, flooding and wet rock the locals teamed together to build bamboo bridges and fix lines and Tyroleans and everyone soldiered on to have a blast regardless. This community, and the teamwork at its heart, is one of the beautiful things I love about China – they refuse to let conditions dampen spirits or hamper a good time! Last stop, all aboard! After a 24-hour train ride we loaded the buses in Guangzhou, southern China, and headed to our last port of call; Yingxi. Yingxi has a very similar landscape to Yangshuo – karst towers littered amongst fields of rice and orchards. The main difference being the towers are smaller and closer together. The cliffs are in general a bit shorter but the rock, well the rock is possibly the best limestone I have ever touched. Solid orange and grey stone more reminiscent of Taipan Wall in places than Asian limestone. In short, amazing. Time was not on our side, we only had four days in Yingxi, but still under the influence of the frenzy we managed to open 21 new routes just in time for the locals to throw a little party in celebration. It was a great way to finish the trip: happy, smiling people climbing fun new routes and then whiling the night away with good food, good friends and cold beer. Looking back on the trip we all feel blessed to be living in such an amazing country, which has quite possibly the most untapped climbing potential in the world, and to be here right at the perfect time, in on the ground floor in the development of a region I am certain is going to play a huge role in the future of climbing, not only in Asia but the world. Sitting in the Kailas head office in Guangzhou on the last day before heading home to Yangshuo, the team, my friends, and the Kailas staff were all smiles. But despite all that we had done, all the new lines and the new cliffs, the conversation mostly revolved around next year. Will we do it again? Heck yes. Will we seek out even more climbing potential in this huge country? Definitely. Are we psyched for more? You bet. The search continues… 52
Duncan Brown having his ‘Reality Realized’ 5.13d/31 at the Riverside Wall, Little Fish Valley, Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.
JJ Obrien styling in front of the camera on Cleared for Takeoff (26), Mt Coolum. Matt Schimke
Matt Schimke contorting throu the Hand that Feeds (31), Mt Co JJ OBrien 54
ugh Bite oolum. 55
TRUST the SWISS OLIVER KERR TACKLES THE EIGER AFTER BEING BEAUTIFULLY SANDBAGGED BY SOME DODGY SWISS CLIMBERS WORDS AND IMAGES: Oliver and Hamish Kerr
Breathe in. It’s okay – you are okay. Breathe out. I look down to the white, fluffy floor. I look left, to see my rope disappearing around the arete, to the last bolt. Fuck! Breathe in. I consider the fall onto an out of sight bolt, around a sharp corner. You’re fucked! Breathe out. I look up, spying the next bolt. Shit. Breath in. It’s four metres up through some pretty unlikely looking territory. Oh fuck. Fucking Swiss! Breath out. “You alright, Bert?” comes a voice from the fog. “Just playing spot the next bolt,” I reply. “Don’t worry, I’m winning.” It is late in the day with night quickly approaching, we are 800m above the deck. It is the 21st pitch, the crux of Le Chant du Cygne (24) on the North Face of the Eiger, and we’ve hit a snag. The climbing is hard – at our limit – describing the bolting as sparse is an understatement and the natural pro is not worth mentioning. If climbing up is beyond us the shit has hit the fan. Of our two other options, neither is appealing. Retreat back through the sharp-
edged, chossy-ledged, rope-catching, abseil-hostile territory is dangerous and unlikely. The possibility of escape is low, with no established escape route and dense fog making it impossible to spy a new one. Even if we could see a way out the unbolted, unclimbed rock is looser than a Claw Classic and has about as much reliable pro as a sand dune. And it’s getting dark. This moment had its inception in the middle of the American leg of our trip. We met a Swiss couple at Joshua Tree and quickly learned never to trust the Swiss – they stole our good knife. When we again met them at Red Rocks they stole our spoons. At Indian Creek it was our cams. At Yosemite, our bowls. We missed them at Smith Rocks and by Squamish we had wisened up enough not to let them near our stuff. At Lake Louise, however, we let down our guard and they snagged my sunnies. Never trust the Swiss. In between nicking our shit, they mentioned a little mountain back in Switzerland that had some sport routes up it: the Eiger. Not only did it have sport routes, it had sport routes at sub-grade 20! We could do that! So long as it’s not a crack or slab. Only 20 or so pitches as
Hamish Kerr seconding an early pitch; the rock may have gotten steeper but it didnâ€™t get any better.
Hamish emerges out of the murk of the fog.
well they said. Never trust the Swiss. So, we arrived in Switzerland and were mucking around on some of its smaller crags when the weather closed in. My partner, Hamish, and I were due to split up in a week and we hadn’t even considered the Eiger. It looked as if we were beaten before starting. The weather gods are finicky but not without mercy, and as we we pessimistically checked the weather report, they dangled one precious day of good weather in front of us. We had recently backed out of climbing the Nose in Yosemite and this was our chance to redeem ourselves. After all, this was the Eiger we were talking about. “Fuck it, let’s trust the Swiss.” We had two different topos, neither in English, to which Google Translate ascribed the phrases ‘navigating between terror’, ‘loose and scary’, ‘breakable dandruff’ and ‘very hard for the grade’. For some reason we still trusted the Swiss. Two 210 Franc rail tickets later and the famous train that tunnels through the Eiger dropped us at the tiny ski village of Eigergletscher, perched on the edge of the mount with the sole restaurant open only in summer. It had taken two calls to the Eigergletscher for them to allow us to stay and only then because we explained we were attempting the Eiger. We arrived in wet drizzle that dampened our spirits. In spite of this
Waves of fog lap at the Jungfra main summits of the Bernese A
we spent the afternoon scoping the approach and descent, before returning to the Eigergletscher to get an early night. Alpine start at 4am. We shat, ate, racked up and were greeted by a star-filled sky. The weather had cleared. By 5:50am we were staring up at a 2000m high shadow and our small circle of lamplight illuminated dry rock! The fast-arriving dawn showed almost our entire route was dry. At this point we were 10 minutes ahead of our optimistic schedule, and if we managed to stick to it we would be at the top with two hours to spare – plenty of time left for a quick summit bid. Hamish won the toss and headed up the opening pitch. He placed the first and only bomber cam mere metres from the ground. No more were to follow. That set the scene and the first 17 pitches, supposedly the easiest, were disturbingly hard, mentally and physically. Consistent run-outs above worthless gear required a calm head. We constantly played a game of ‘Spot the Next Bolt’, made tough by the wandering nature of the route. Despite these difficulties we kept to our optimistic schedule and remained confident. Despite periodic rockfall and the need to wade up an ice-cold waterfall that soaked us down to our armpits, we forged upwards at a steady pace with the people on the tourist track below becoming
au, at 4158m, one of the Alps.
increasingly antlike. We made it through the ‘navigating between terror’, and ‘loose and scary’ sections without an overload of fear or difficulty. We even leisurely discussed making a summit bid – our unhatched chickens were being double counted. It was early afternoon when the clouds rolled in, immediately cutting visibility to less than ten metres. Tension descended with it. Up on lead was like being completely cut off from the outside world, even your belayer. Easy banter stopped and any chatter seemed to impinge on the deafening silence. The entire expedition suddenly seemed foolish, unlikely and dangerous. At the 19th pitch we reached the Geneva Pillar and it was here our troubles really began. Five hard and sustained pitches breached this vertical crux and as Hamish set off he was soon consumed by the clouds, though his steady progress capped the tension. With the fog came claustrophobia and on the belay the air was closing in on me. As I started up the pitch my uneasiness increased, not only at the difficulty and the fog but I was learning what ‘breakable dandruff’ meant. The rock consisted of huge sheets of hollow, vertical choss largely separated from the wall behind. My chosen technique was to find the bit that looked most secure amongst the rubbish and pull it, tentatively. The next pitch was mine, and despite my trepidation it was actually easier than I expected. The bolts were much closer together and the rock seemed considerably better. the lead rotation meant this was one of my two crux
Sunset casts a suitably poetic light on topping out.
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Hamish about to lead through the icy waterfall. 60
6c+ pitches, Hamish had the 7a and I was glad for it. Smugness, however, can be blinding and I lost a critical round of ‘Spot the Bolt’ when I failed to notice the bolt I just clipped had a twin beside it. Thinking it was just another runner I kept climbing ignorant to the fact I was into the next pitch. Soon I ran out of gear, rope and balls, not necessarily in that order, and set the belay up on a single bolt. Crap. Hamish spotted the obvious belay I had missed and decided the best thing would be for him to stop there while I continued leading the pitch. The swinging leads sequence was now broken, I would be leading the 7a crux two pitches above! Double crap. No problem, keep it together. I was in my claustrophobic room, climbing ever harder moves on chossier rock. Who the fuck bolted this thing? There’s the bolt, just another two moves. Holds disappeared into the fog. Breathe in. Where the fuck are the holds!? Breathe out. Fuck – crimp on that? Breathe in. Crimp and pull. Suddenly, I was flying. “FUCK, FUCK, FAAAAAAUUCK.” Several metres lower, I took a moment to compose myself, long enough to realise this wasn’t going to plan. My second attempt went better and I made it to the next bolt. A few more bolt rests later and I was at the belay. Hamish made it up the next pitch without much trouble. I seconded, nervously noting the spacing of the bolts and lack of natural gear before it was my turn: the crux pitch had arrived. With all the gusto I could muster I started up and quickly arrived at what I assumed was the crux. A bottomless, shallow, flaring off-width requiring a huge move up to a terrible gaston before a few solid layback moves led to better holds. After a number of attempts it was clear I wasn’t going to get this sequence clean and the bolts were much too spaced to aid through, despite the topo saying you could. A thin, sandy, friable crack at the back of the off-width allowed for a couple of shallow nut placements that didn’t pop when weighted. After a fair bit of faffing, I was through and onto the vertical face above. Momentarily the tension eased. The clouds closed in tighter, the run-outs grew longer and spotting the bolts became more difficult. The climbing, technical crimping on vertical choss, was hard and terrifying. Then I could no longer find the next bolt. Nothing. After some nervous contemplation the only option was to look round the arête to my right. Out to the arête and around it, I spied a bolt – four metres above. Fuck. I was back in my white room, alone again. A fall would be disastrous. I reached up to a slopey rail, found a micro edge, positioned my feet and reached. Nothing. Shit! I repositioned my feet higher, fought the pump, reached even further and found...nothing. Again I reset, pump burning, then twisted, pushed, reached! Still
nothing. Fuckidy fuck! Muscles burning under deadening pump. I can’t do it. I down-climbed back around the arête to the safety of the bolt. Despite the fear churning my belly I made two more unsuccessful attempts. It was 6:30pm and I tried to banish thoughts of retreat. “I don’t think I can do it,” I called down dejectedly, “you should have a go.” A long silent pause followed. “Give it one more go. Leave your shoes and water and really give it all you’ve got.” I clipped my shoes to the bolt and drank the last of my water and with this small gesture I felt lighter and stronger. This is it. No pussying out. I repeated the moves around the arête, this time ignoring the upwards leading rail and traversing low instead. Holds kept appearing, though relief waned as I got further out from the last bolt. Finally, a pocket accepted a cam. It may have condemned me to epic rope drag but right then I’d have taken anything. Better still, the pocket was at the base of a left-leaning flake, which led to a crack then the ledge and bolt! I can do this! I made my way up the flake, got established in the crack and plugged in another dodgy cam. Dodgy or not, even poor pro gives some solace and the psycho-pro let me make a few more moves before committing to a heinous, insecure mantle, then the bolt! What a glorious fucking sight! Recognising this was the belay and that the crux was over, confidence surged through me. We can do this! Hamish was slow seconding, pulling on much of the gear, and as time passed the tension increased again. He arrived only to quickly leave me alone with my thoughts, but progress remained slow. The foggy whiteness seemed to be turning a darker, more ominous shade of grey. After an age I heard the call of “Safe” and the pendulum swung back towards relief. Now getting to the top was all that mattered. I pulled on most of the bolts and sat on the rope a couple of times. The final two pitches may have been grades easier but in our condition they felt almost as hard as the crux. Then suddenly we reached the top. We had been desperate and on edge for so long that it was a shock to not be, and as we stepped out of the clouds to find ourselves in bright sunshine, relief and joy flooded through us. We had climbed the Eiger, 24 pitches, 900m, 14 hours and a good dose of fear, but our eggs were finally hatched and chickens could be counted. The sun setting over a sea of clouds was majestic. It took an hour and a half to make it back to the Eigergletscher where we were greeted by a lone vending machine offering fivefranc beers and Swiss chocolate. I have never been so tired and beer has never tasted so good. When finally we met back up with our Swiss ‘friends’, we found out they had never actually done the route despite talking it up. In fact, they commented that the first ascentionist was known as an epic sandbagger. Never trust the Swiss.
TO LOSE MY ONE TRUE LOVE or THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF
*MODIFIED FOR CLIMBERS ANDREA HAH REFLECTS ON INJURY AS LOSS WORDS: Andrea Hah IMAGE: Justin Power
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler Ross wrote a book called, On Death and Dying, in which she proposed a five stage model of mourning in response to personal terminal illness, or the death and loss of a loved one. It is emphasised that these steps are neither complete nor sequential, and there are no rules governing their experience. Right now, I feel it appropriate to apply this model to my own loss of the ability to climb. For the first time in my climbing life I am injured. Of course, I have had a niggly finger. A niggly back. A niggly whatever. But I have never been ‘injured’ to the point of suffering sufficient pain to render me unable to climb or train for an extended period of time. I figure I now have to channel my energy because once this is over, I am going to be doing everything in my power to ensure I am never in this situation EVER again. I know it may be insulting to some that I even compare subacromial bursitis to death. But for me, the grieving process that I have endured over the last three months is real. And in talking to those climbers around me, I know I am not the only one. Because climbing is more than weekend football – climbing is life. So, to the stages: 1 – Denial. “Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc.” A few months ago my lecturer at university decided it would be beneficial for us to broaden our horizons with a few hours of yoga and Qi Gong in lieu of lectures. On the drive home, my shoulder felt ‘funny’. What a hilarious idea: to think I could hurt my shoulder circling a ball over my head. I kept training and climbing over the next few weeks, but my shoulder pain was worsening. I convinced myself it would go away – it was a niggle that would dissipate to nothing come holiday time. After all, it’s not a ‘real’ injury – nothing is actually broken or in need of surgery. “It will fix itself.” 2 – Anger. “ Anger can manifest in different ways.” I definitely did NOT skip this stage. Golly have I been ANGRY. Angry that I haven’t been able to fix my own shoulder. Angry that it needs fixing at all. And how EXPENSIVE healthcare is. And how POOR I am considering I am WORKING FULL TIME for the first time in my life – but NOT GETTING PAID. And angry that the Blue Mountains is in the middle of THE BEST winter right after THE WORST summer. And there is an amazing new cliff being established that I CAN’T CLIMB AT. And everyone else is having fun. And I am NOT! Because pulling a theraband from above my waist to below my waist, to above my waist, to below my waist, doesn’t quite give me that same thrill as climbing.
Andreaâ€™s other love and inspiration, Doug McConnell, proving injuries are transient and there is (hard climbing) life after you rip your shoulder apart on The Groove Train (33), Taipan wall. Image by Justin Power
“I figure I now have to channel my energy because once this is over, I am going to be doing everything in my power to ensure I am never in this situation EVER again.”
3 – Bargaining. “People facing less serious trauma can bargain or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example, asking “Can I still climb?” of your healthcare professional. Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of life or death.” Obviously, I am not going to die but it seems I fit this stage, too. I had one healthcare professional tell me, ‘Keep climbing moderates; 28s. But now is just not the time to project 32s.’ I paid that therapist good money. Firstly, since when is a Blue Mountains’ 28 a moderate? Secondly, if my shoulder is failing to engage and maxing out on Jack High (19), when three weeks prior I ticked a 31, I would say this is almost a matter of life or death, at least for my ego. 4 – Depression. “It’s a sort of acceptance with emotional attachment. It’s natural to feel sadness and regret, fear, uncertainty, etc. It shows that the person has at least begun to accept their reality.” It was a culmination of things really. It was the restless nights. Sharp pains while pushing open a door. But the breakthrough day came down in The Glen. I had flashed through to the roof on Roof Raider (29) and got to the crux, tried to let go with one arm and lock off with the injured arm, but I couldn’t. I could not hold my body weight. It’s not that I couldn’t push through the pain and do the move, there was no pain, rather my brain subconsciously switched off muscles because it knew I was trying to do something I shouldn’t. Oh how I cracked the wobblies! I felt it all: sadness for my loss; regret I had let it get this bad; fear of how long it will take to come good again, if ever. Reality had hit home.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, this soul is crying.
5 – Acceptance. “It is an indication that there is some emotional detachment and objectivity.” So, I have finally accepted I am injured. I stopped climbing completely for four weeks. My physical activity involves waving an elastic band around and walking with tape criss-crossed all over my back to fix my wonky biomechanics by keeping my shoulders in their ‘box’. I have had a corticosteroid injection and am playing the waiting game. They say with bad things come good things. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but I am going to trust them on this one because I need hope. During this process I accepted that maybe my body is telling me I need a break. Maybe I need this time to let everything reset, not just physically for my shoulder, but for the rest of my body. And my mind. Working in a rehabilitation hospital, and being surrounded by overenthusiastic Blue Mountains rock climbers, I see a lot of injury comebacks. And it’s inspiring. I might not necessarily be stronger on return. But I feel more vigour to get stronger. More passion and drive. More awareness and appreciation for the second chance at good health and the ability to do what I love.
Sheila Binegas on Nancy, V5 FearFactory, Sydney Photo: Nick Fletcher
The History Column
MOUNTAINS: Vale Neill Lamb 1936 – 2012
WORDS: Michael Meadows IMAGES: Neill Lamb collection
Neill Lamb in 1966.
Neill Lamb on ‘Salmon’s Bridge’ on the south face of Crookneck, the day after his colleague Micky Miller died following a fall on Tibrogargan in April 1954.
Climbers in the Brisbane Bush Walkers circa 1955: (from left) Margaret Hammond, Bernice Noonan, Julie Henry.
“Scrambled to the foot of the rocks, terrific cliffs, first two pitches pretty hard, took sandshoes off, climbed in socks.”
A steamy Australia Day in Queensland 1953: three climbers had spent most of the day working their way up a bold new route on the 350m south face of Beerwah, one of the Glass House Mountains north of Brisbane. The two experienced climbers – Jon Stephenson (22) and Geoff Broadbent (20) – had only just returned from their historic first ascent of The Thumb on the side of Mt Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island in Far North Queensland. For the youngest of the trio, 16-year-old Neill Lamb, it was another step in his initiation into Australia’s burgeoning climbing movement. Neill described his experience on Beerwah’s Central Rib in his diary: Scrambled to the foot of the rocks, terrific cliffs, first two pitches pretty hard, took sandshoes off, climbed in socks. Got to chimney but it wouldn’t go, so traversed to right and up a steep slab and two chimneys to easy ground. Climbed another hundred feet and had lunch. Climbing pretty hard and rocks very wet. Last 200 feet very enjoyable, raining, reached ridge and then summit. Total time of climb seven hours. Found I’d lost a sandshoe. Climbed down via great overhangs and slabs. In many ways, Neill Lamb epitomised the young post-war adventurers who created the foundations of modern Australian climbing. When we talk about climbing influences, perhaps too readily we turn to the most obvious personalities – often the loudest voices, or those climbing the hardest routes. But it was the scores of people like Neill who helped create and support the nascent climbing movement and whose contributions tend to go largely unnoticed. Like many of the earliest climbers in Australia, Neill saw bushwalking and rockclimbing as complementary. His interest in climbing began when he was 12: he found books on mountaineering – Colin Kirkus’ Let’s Go Climbing was a major influence – and then a
small quarry at Mt Petrie near his school at Camp Hill in Brisbane where he and his friends could try out their embryonic skills. As a 15-year-old, he joined the Brisbane Bush Walkers (BBW), needing special dispensation because of his youth. One of his first trips with the club involved jumping off a slow moving goods train as it crawled up an incline near the Queensland–New South Wales border! Health and safety regulations were a lifetime away. Significantly, it was the enigmatic Bert Salmon who introduced Neill to climbing although he did not share his mentor’s aversion for the use of rope as a protective device. In the BBW, he found two soulmates in Margaret Hammond and Bernice Noonan and the three would often head off on their own to climb and explore the unknown. Neill recently observed: “I often wonder about modern climbers: what are they feeling when they climb? Because so much of the mystery and the uncertainty has disappeared now.” In the late 1940s, working as an apprentice in an electrical manufacturing business, he had access to oxy-acetylene cutting gear and fashioned his own mild steel pitons, coupling these with used ex-British Army karabiners to express his powerful attraction to climbing: We’d go out to Carnarvon [Gorge] and an Italian hemp rope would go in. The first thing we did was to go and climb the Devil’s Signpost. There was a real splinter group in the bushwalkers which created quite a bit of friction. Inspired by his Mt Beerwah experience, in 1953 Neill joined Ron Brooks to put up Prometheus I (8), the first new climb on the east face of Tibrogargan since Bert Salmon’s Caves Route (6) in 1926. A rockclimbing group emerged from the BBW around this time with Neill one of its leading protagonists. There were no other
climbing clubs in Australia apart from a fledgling Melbourne University Mountaineering Club. He was also inspired by the exploits of adventurer/climbers like John Comino, Jon Stephenson and Geoff Broadbent from the influential University of Queensland Bushwalking Club. Around this time Neill and Ron Brooks made their first attempts to climb the steep and imposing Desperation Wall on the east face of Tibrogargan. They got up a pitch or two but difficulty and lack of protection forced retreat. It would be left to Ron Cox to complete the challenging route a decade later. A major influence on Neill’s climbing philosophy was former Lakeland climbing guide Bill Peascod who emigrated to Australia in 1952. Although he had ‘given up’ climbing to become an artist, in 1955 Bill was coaxed into running some training sessions for local climbers at Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point. Neill adopted Bill’s simple approach to climbing, the so-called ‘Tiger’s Rule’: the leader never falls! Neill managed to lure Bill back into climbing briefly and with Hugh Pechey and Julie Henry, they put up a second new route on the east face of Tibrogargan, calling it Faith (10). He followed this with a new route, Twin Spires, on Nimbin Rocks in northern New South Wales with Hugh Pechey and Bernice Noonan. Throughout this period climbing buildings and bridges at night was a regular pastime. Undoubtedly influenced by the exploits of their British counterparts, Neill and his cohort made regular night ascents of Brisbane’s Story Bridge, often celebrating on the ‘summit’ with a bottle of champagne. In May 1956 Neill again joined with Bill Peascod, to make the first ascent of Prometheus II (8); an exposed, largely unprotected traverse across a steep, flaky wall above Cave Four on the east face of Tibrogargan. A week later at the Steamers – a string of rhyolite pinnacles near Killarney, southwest of Brisbane – Neill, Bill and a youthful Donn Groom put up the innovative Reptile (8). Neill was back on Tibrogargan in early August, this time with university physics student Mark Andrews, making the first ascent of an abrasive chimney they called Carborundum (8). Shortly after this, he joined with BBW secretary Julie Henry and Frank Theos to make the first ascent of the 180m high Boonoo Boonoo Falls on the New England Tableland – the Belvedere Route. Neill reflected on the experience a few years ago: I remember when we climbed up the side of Boonoo Boonoo Falls, which had never been done, we just did that on the spur of the
In Julie Henry’s flat in Brisbane: (from left) Bill Peascod, Neill Lamb, Hugh Pechey, Tom Robertson, unknown obscured, and Ron Maudsley, examine a typical hemp climbing rope of the era.
“It wasn’t a hard climb. The waterfall was thundering down one side of you and the holds were just there and the situation was just magnificent.”
Bill Peascod on belay, first ascent east face of Tibrogargan in the Gla House Mountains, 21 May 1955.
t of Faith, ass
moment. It wasn’t a hard climb. The waterfall was thundering down one side of you and the holds were just there and the situation was just magnificent. You’re just there in some of these positions and the goose pimples come out…[shakes his head and laughs]. A fascination with just ‘being there’ is a common thread running through the narratives of many of the climbers of Neill’s generation. Undoubtedly influenced by the mountaineering literature of the time, Neill seemed drawn to epic ascents and with Ron Brooks in 1956, put up Titan (12), the only serious climbing route on the impressive and crumbling cliffline of Mt Lindesay on the Queensland-New South Wales border. A few years later, Neill’s passion for big faces lured him onto the equally disintegrating east face of Mt Mitchell at Cunningham’s Gap. He climbed up solo for 30m before realising the suicidal nature of his attempt and wisely retreated. Neill fulfilled one of his dreams by climbing the Matterhorn with a Swiss guide after sending back to Australia for the money to cover the cost of the ascent! “My wife says I’m besotted by mountains,” he once remarked. Always positive and encouraging, Neill continued to mentor successive waves of Queensland climbers, myself included, through the Brisbane Rockclimbing Club (BRC). I attended my first BRC meeting with my brother, Chris, immediately following our own epic ascent of the North Face of Leaning Peak on Mt Barney in early 1968. I remember Neill asking us about the climb and suggesting it was a significant achievement. It had a huge impact on us at the time. Following that first meeting, I maintained a friendship with Neill through our common workplace – the Commonwealth Health Department. He worked in the acoustic laboratory and I’d often drop in to see him for a chat about climbing and equipment. Poor health eventually forced him out of active climbing and he moved with his family to a farm near Canberra where he lived until his death.
Neill belayed by Brisbane artist Merv Moriarty attempting a new route on Mt Beerwah, 2 April 1966.
Climbing is much more than the routes we leave behind. Despite our passing, if we take the trouble to tread carefully the rock remains virtually unchanged by our presence. Neill Lamb was someone who always walked softly through the landscape. He will be remembered as a positive, generous and humble person who embraced change but with thoughtful caution. His creative influence and contribution extends well beyond a list of notable ascents. Neill’s passion for climbing is his legacy and remains something in which all of us can share. Michael Meadows firstname.lastname@example.org
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Ryan Doe reaching for the final rounded holds on Cape to Crack (17), Smiths Beach.
CLIMBING IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S SOUTH WEST WORDS AND IMAGES: Krish Seewraj
Ryan Doe carefully testing holds on Billy the Fish (20), Moses Rocks.
After five years of racking up first ascents in Central Australia, where it seemed every trip we bagged a new line, the pace of Western Australia’s sleepy south west corner seemed positively sedate. It didn’t take long to realise why WA is often referred to as ‘Wait Awhile’, but then again, eventually all good things come to those who do precisely that. The southwest of Western Australia is probably best known to climbers for the impressive Steel Wall at Willyabrup, near Margaret River, mostly thanks to Simon Carter’s spectacular photos in Rock Climbing in Australia. Many visiting climbers make a beeline straight for it, however, the shame is they often miss the amazing settings and great variety at smaller, less well-known areas nearby. Once you start to look you realise it is possible to crank overhanging limestone sport routes, balance up smeary faces on gneiss, levitate using faith on rounded, granite holds or crimp down hard in a granite quarry all within one-hour(ish) of Bunbury. Each location offers at least several days’ worth of great climbing. To spread the word about all these great places I have been busy producing a number of miniguides that capture the latest 72
development and help both local and visiting climbers. These are available on the Climbing Association of Western Australia website
When I first arrived here in late 2005 it seemed all the possible climbing areas had been discovered and developed. Then in late 2009, during a walk from Smiths Beach (not far from Dunsborough), I stumbled across an impressive-looking wall. After checking out what was known of the area it was obvious this place had been spotted before but had received little attention, and only Kym Hartley had recorded any ascents. Six weeks holiday gave me a chance to grab a couple of sessions a week at the crag, which I dubbed Smiths Beach Rocks, dragging along anyone who was keen, and within a few months over 30 routes up to grade 23 had been established. We kept Smiths Beach Rocks a fully traditional crag, with all my first ascents bar one being ground-up with no prior inspection. The one that eluded me was the very bold Holy Grail (21), its crux sequence is protected by two small RPs and so it felt very sketchy. However, this is not characteristic of the crag and the protection
Ryan Doe climbing on Just Do It (21), Wellington Dam Quarry.
here is bomber and plentiful. I am especially fond of all the routes on Camelot Wall, which sports some very heady leads through steep terrain on rounded holds, like my first route here Lady Guinevere (16) and other blind cracks King Arthur (17) and the brilliant Excalibur (19). The other walls at Smiths Beach generally provide less heady climbing but equally impressive lines â€“ how no one else who visited this area realised its potential still surprises me. Cape to Crack (17) is a great line and once you launch into the final crack it keeps going on smeary feet and slopey holds until the very end. While I did my best to jump on all the worthy-looking lines some were simply too hard and remain unclaimed. Moses Rocks is the first place I climbed in Western Australia, and with only a few harder lines it does not attract the same attention as other crags. In some ways it is the little brother to Smiths Beach, being less steep and for the most part having easier routes â€“ a place to go when you just want to have a bit of fun in an awesome setting. I was originally attracted to the place by a climb named Hathersage (15), which is a village in the heart of the English
Peak District where I used to camp. The climbing here does have similarities to grit with excellent friction. However, the boldness of many of the lines has been tamed because, unlike true grit, bolts make for a safe experience. Another aspect of Moses Rocks that caught my attention was the Zawn. While there are no hard lines the climbing starts with the waves lapping at your feet. The walls in the Zawn are steeper than the rest of the walls at Moses and offer great positions and more sustained climbs. In December 2010 I visited the crag with Ryan Doe and, as usual, popped my head over the edge to see if the Zawn was an option only to be greeted with an amazing sight. Not only was the tide out further than I had seen before and the rock was bone dry but nearly the entire base was covered in sand rather than the usual boulders. I have only ever seen this that one time and it gave us a chance to try the great-looking lines on the outer edge of the northern wall which is normally sopping wet. On that day we put up the two hardest lines in the Zawn, Hallucinations (16) and The Beach (16). Both have great technical starts and the latter has a continuously steep headwall to negotiate on slopey holds that all seem to be angled the wrong way. While nothing too serious, they
proved worthy additions to the growing number of lines established at Moses, which now sports over 70 routes up to grade 23. While Moses Rocks is detailed in the 1996 Margaret River Rock guidebook, it has been out of print for some time and is becoming increasingly difficult to come by. So I started to ponder whether I should pull all my records together and develop a miniguide. However, it was not until I again came across Kym Hartely in late 2011 that I decided it was a worthy thing to do. This was in part due to Kym also deciding to give something back to the climbing community by rebolting numerous crags in the South West, including Moses. The first time Kym and I actually met, we headed out climbing together and established Rude Awakening (17), a very aptly named climb for Rumpoles Rocks, which is located at the southern end of Moses. I wonâ€™t give too much away, so you will have to head out there to see what all the fuss is about. As 2012 wore on my family life seemed to get busier and finding time get out climbing was getting harder. Reluctantly, I decided it was time to investigate the crag closest to home, Wellington Dam Quarry. I had visited it handful of times before but had never paid it much attention, partly because it is a sport crag, but probably more a result of the scuttlebutt that implied the bolt placements at the Quarry were thoughtless, leaving the potential for some nasty falls. However, after several trips out there the place started to grow on me, and as I worked my way up the grades and chatted to other climbers I felt that other than a few lines the bolts seemed well placed. There are a few tenuous clips but the landings are usually safe enough if you donâ€™t make it. The great attraction for me was that I could get up at the crack of dawn in summer and get several hours of fun, hard climbing in and still get to work at a reasonable time. Around the same time I started to frequent the quarry I came across Dan Meester. Dan, a seasoned quarry climber had recently started to investigate and equip a heap of high-quality new lines. Dan would email me the details of what he had been up to and then I would head up there to attempt the second ascents and verify the grade. I didnâ€™t contemplate getting involved in route establishment at the quarry, having only ever placed one bolt in my climbing career and that was done by hand drilling. However, Kym liked the idea and turned his drill towards the quarry. The main wall was getting pretty congested but we managed to find a great feature and set about equipping it in one session during the pouring rain. As such we called it Raging Torrent (19), a fine line more reminiscent of traditional techniques than the crimping and cranking of so many sport routes. With relentless energy Dan pumped out enough lines to increase the offerings by over 50 percent and the quarry now has over 30 lines up to grade 27. The selection provides an opportunity to jump on relatively easy juggy walls, test your traditional techniques 74
Chris Wiggins draws Excalibur (19) on the picturesque Camelot Castle Wall, Smiths Beach.
“it is possible to crank overhanging limestone sport routes, balance up smeary faces on gneiss, levitate using faith on rounded, granite holds or crimp down hard in a granite quarry all within one-hour(ish) of Bunbury”
on fine features, push your finger strength to the limit with thin, technical and sustained wall climbing and check to see how much you are prepared to trust your feet on smeary slabs. With all this activity it seemed only right to let others know what was happening so I developed yet another miniguide. This was not only to provide details of the new routes, but also restore faith in the bolt placements from the late ‘90s by the earlier pioneers of the area including Amanda Watts, Adam Coffee, Glen Henderson, Jeremy Scott, Boyd McNamara and Matt Tiller.
offers overhanging limestone sport routes, and many will have seen the impressive photos of Bob’s Hollow and Walcliffe. These places have seen a lot of development work since publication of the 2002 Western Australian Rock, which covers both crags, if not in abundant detail. While I‘m not convinced I have what it takes to crank up Bob’s Hollow and Walcliffe’s harder lines (yet), maybe this is the next area for documenting. You may just need to ‘Wait Awhile’ to give me time train up.
So, now I have the miniguide bug and the big question is where I should focus my attention next. I mentioned earlier the South West
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THE TOTEM ONSIGHT Florian Herla onsighting the Totem Pole Highline, and hoping he doesnâ€™t pull the thing over. Simon Young 77
FANCY FOOTWORK James Field-Mitchell eschewing the three points of contact mantra on Crag Vultures (31), White Falls, North Island, New Zealand. Josh Windsor 78
Josiah making a late session sortie on Attack (V7) at Turakirae Head.
THE CO OF T
VERTICAL LIFE’S EDITOR TALKS TO NORTH ISLAND C JACOBSEN-
INTERVIEW AND IM
S NEW ZEALAND UP-AND-COMING CLIMBER, JOSIAH -GROCOTT
MAGES: Tom Hoyle
Josiah Jacobsen-Grocott (or JJG as he is known in climbing circles) has built an impressive ticklist over the last few years, climbing most of the hard problems at Turakirae Head, Wellington’s premier bouldering area. While his success so far is impressive, the most promising thing about this young climber is just how quickly he has been improving and the quiet and thoughtful way he goes about finding sequences that work for him. We spent a day climbing with Josiah at Turakirae Head and instead of chucking laps on problems he had dialled for our photo, he chose to try problems he finds hard, both to give us time time to get our shots and for him to work on his weaknesses. With an analytical mind and an attitude focussed on long-term improvement rather than short-term success, Josiah looks very much like he will keep on improving. We asked him some questions to try and find out a little more about what makes him tick. Age: 17 Height: 179cm Weight: 60kg Ape Index: +10cm How did you get started in climbing? When I was eight, after reading a book in which the main character climbed (Juggling with Mandarins by V.M. Jones), mum took me and my sister to the climbing gym. Since then I’ve been hooked, although I didn’t start climbing regularly until I was ten. You are home-schooled right? Does that allow you to get out climbing a bit more than if you were at regular school? Definitely. If the weather’s good I usually go bouldering outdoors twice a week, once on the weekend and once during the week. What’s the send you are most proud of and why? Some climbs I was proud of when I did them are: Lost Soul (21) because It was the hardest route I did on my first outdoor climbing trip; Game On my first V5; Sirens (26) because I skipped out grade 25; Fauvism (28) because the grade was twice my age when I did it. Though the send I am most proud of would probably be Trilogy (29) because I sent it on the same trip as Trinity (29) and didn’t expect to send Trilogy that attempt or even that trip. What is it about climbing that motivates you? Working out the best way to do a boulder or route, the fun moves and achieving challenges.
What route/boulder, anywhere in the world, would you most like to climb and why? La Rambla (35/Siuriana, Spain) simply because it looks like a nice route in the videos. Are there any climbers that inspire you or you look up to? Adam Ondra, because he is really good at sport climbing, bouldering and competitions. Also because he is “basically weak” (from the film Progression), so he has to make up for it with good technique, breathing, flexibility and climbing quickly. What are your goals in climbing? Are you just enjoying the ride or do you have specific things you want to achieve? My long term goals are to one day compete on the World Cup circuit, route climb 9a/35 and boulder 8C/V15. To do this I plan to get a computer programming job that allows me to work in Europe. You seem like you have a definite path worked out. The amount of rock and hard routes in Europe is hugely attractive to anyone ambitious about climbing hard, but what about the possibility of climbing hard first ascents here in New Zealand? I haven’t really thought about it. I want to improve and push my limits in climbing, and Europe seems the easiest place to do this. Also, I am interested in competing in World Cup competitions and most of those are in Europe. You have a pretty specific diet. Can you explain why? Do you find it hard to get enough protein, or is it all calculated? I am vegan for the environment and and as a response to world hunger, and also because it’s a healthy diet. Plants require less land to grow the same amount of food that animals do and produce less greenhouse gasses. It is easy to get enough protein as well as vitamins and minerals from a vegan diet, but I do take a multinutrient and add soy protein isolate to meals to increase my performance. What’s the hardest thing you’ve climbed and why (it may not be the hardest grade)? Through the Looking Glass (V11) because it took me a long time to do (nearly two months). I trained specifically for the start move working on 90° one-arm lock-offs, although I still can’t do one so I don’t know how much it helped, and I destroyed the heel of two climbing shoes on the start heel-toe cam.
the exit I found easiest. I was more pleased to have done a V11 than an FA of a variant. I get more satisfaction from repeating a longstanding unrepeated climb than doing an FA You’ve climbed a lot of things in the Wellington region, are you itching to climb in other areas or do you enjoy spending a lot of time at a local crag? I do enjoy ticking off most of the climbs at one crag like the Bronx, and there are a lot of problems at Baring Head for me to try as well as a few spots in Wellington I haven’t visited yet. I am getting bored with the Bronx though and I would like to boulder in some new areas, especially outside Wellington. I want to make some trips to Castle Hill, and have one coming up. Most of our trips away are for route climbing, at Paynes, the Waikato, Whanganui Bay and Wanaka. I’ve had one day at White Falls on Mt Ruapehu and would like to make more trips there. I am looking forward to climbing at the Darrans this summer and would like to climb overseas some time. Will your trip to the Darrans be your first? It’s an amazing place with a lot of potential for hard routes, not to mention the amazing routes already established. Do you have any specific goals for your time down there? This will be my first trip to the Darrans. We will have some time in Wanaka as well and I have project there I want to get – Tuffer  – but other than that my goals are to have fun and push my climbing. What’s the one best thing about rock climbing? The way people encourage each other, especially in competitions. Everyone wants everyone else to do well even if it means getting beaten. What interests do you have outside of climbing? Computer programming, puzzle solving and reading – especially fantasy, horror and mystery. Do they influence your climbing at all? I think my love of puzzle solving is why I like working out sequences. Is it true you listen to motivational tapes while walking to the crag? No, I listen to audio books, things like Tunnels of Blood, Eragon or Twilight. I don’t think these count as motivational.
Through the Looking Glass was a first ascent of sorts, did you find it any more satisfying than repeating something already done? For me Through the Looking Glass was Alison Wonderland with 83
DUNCAN BROWN POINTS OUT THAT A CLIMBERS’ HANDS AND FEET ARE IMPORTANT BUT IT‘S WHAT JOINS THEM TOGETHER THAT REALLY MATTERS. WORDS: Duncan Brown IMAGES: Tim Haasnoot, James Morris and Simon Madden
We’ve all been there: holding those two crux crimpers, feet pasted to the only available crystals below, pulling hard, gritting teeth and staring at the next hold, which seems miles away. You think to yourself, really? How am I supposed to get all the way to THAT? Now press pause and answer me this – where is your arse? Are
your hips glued to the wall, tight and strong? Or is your inbuilt chair cushion sticking out from the wall like a novelty light fixture? If your answer is the later you need to build a stronger core and this article is for you. If your answer is the former this article is for you because there’s no such thing as being too strong in the core.
Why is having a strong core important? While a lot of people seem to think being able to campus like a bonobo or do a bazillion one-arm pull-ups is the surest avenue to doing hard moves, the reality is that without your feet you would barely be able to climb anything, and without your core you wouldn’t be able to use your feet at all. Simply, your core is what connects hands to feet, it keeps you stable between two points of contact, it initiates your movements, and yes, it helps you look good at the beach, in short, it’s important and too many people overlook it. What exactly is my core? When most people think core they think six-pack. But having a washboard stomach doesn’t necessarily equate with having a strong core. Your core actually takes in a group of muscles circling the trunk of your body, front to back, hips to ribcage. And while it includes your rectus abdominis (your six-pack, or lack thereof), it also means your internal and external obliques, transversus abdominis, multifidus and the erector spinae muscles. Add to this a host of smaller muscles, throw in a little help from the likes of your gluteus maximus and latissimus dorsi and you’ve got yourself a core. See how sit-ups alone are going to be insufficient? How often should I train core and when? When it comes to training core strength there are a few things to remember. One is that we already use it all day, everyday. (Try sitting up straight without tensing your core and you’ll see what I mean). It is conditioned to regular work so it can be trained almost every day. The second is that you don’t want to have a tired core when you’re actually climbing so when structuring your sessions plan to train core at the end. Doing a good, targeted core workout of 10 to 20 minutes at the end of your training or crag sessions four to five days a week will be enough for most people to see drastic improvements in core strength in a relatively short period of time. Ben Cossey proving he understands the issue by working his way through the many core-tastic moves of The Wheel of Life (36). James Morris 85
Rich Ham giving hope to all who toil away in grotty woodies by proving mere mortals can do a front lever. Simon Madden
Six core exercises that are great for climbers Leg Raises A great, simple core exercise where you lay on your back, arms by your side and slowly raise your legs to 90 degrees (or beyond) then lower them back to the ground in a controlled fashion. Build the burn: add ankle weights for extra excruciating gut-busting or hang from a hangboard or bar and raise your legs perpendicular with the ground. V – Sits One of my personal favorites. Lay on your back, hands by your ears, simultaneously raise your feet and head up off the ground to about 45° then lower back to the ground. Build the burn: turn the V Sit into a V Snap by having your arms out straight above your head and snapping both arms and legs up so fingers touch toes then lower yourself slowly.
Build the burn: Extend your Plank by sliding your hands as far in front of you as possible, or opt for the Star Plank where you extend your arms at 90° from your shoulders. Boat Pose Another fantastic static core exercise. Maintaining a straight back and legs hold both at about 45 degrees from the ground, arms parallel to the ground to aid balance. Build the burn: upgrade to Roman Twists by clasping your hands together in front of you and twisting your torso side-to-side, reaching your hands out to each side as you go. Alternating Superman Similar to the plank poses, prop on toes and hands like you are the top of a push up then simultaneously raise your left arm and right leg until they are parallel with the ground, hold for five seconds and return to the start position, raise your right arm and left leg, repeat.
Plank A standard, and essential, static core exercise. Simply lay face down and prop yourself up on your toes and elbows – don’t stick your arse in the air, keep your body straight – hold for at least a minute.
Front Lever The gold standard test of a climber’s core and something most of us aspire to yet rarely achieve. This involves hanging from a pull-up bar
The Beulah Princess shaming all with her core strength at this year’s Beulah Festivus during the slack-line competition. Tim Haasnoot (or a hangboard hold) and statically holding your body parallel to the ground. While this is very hard there are some variations that are great for mere mortals. Try holding yourself in the front lever position but with your knees tucked to your chest and slowly extend one leg out to straight and back again, swapping legs in sequence. When you can do this comfortably move to having one leg out straight and one knee tucked up and slowly work at extending the other leg. Eventually you will get to the full front lever. Achieving a proper front lever is something to aspire to, not something to expect getting in a short time. Keep at it! Putting it together When you realise that nearly every exercise can be modified to include twists, static pauses and movement there are hundreds of core exercises that are effective for climbers. Just remember that climbing involves your core to both move with strength and hold static positions so you need to target exercises for both. The foundation of a strong core is consistency to ensure you’re making gains and variety to keep you interested – just doing hundreds of sit-ups will bore you to tears and only get you good at sit-ups. Try to do at least five different exercises in each of your
core sessions and vary them over time. Below is an example session to try after a training on the wall. The repetitions are a guide, to find what works for you start with this example session and increase or decrease repetitions as needed. For this example below, perform each exercise separated by a one to two minute rest. • 30 x V-sits • Standard plank for two minutes • 30 x leg raises • 10 x alternating superman (holding each side for five seconds, repeat both sides five times) • Boat pose held for two minutes • 30 x V-sits Having a strong core is essential to climbing well and in reality it is not all that hard to improve your core strength with a little planning and dedication. There are no excuses for a sagging arse. So go on, think about more than your fingers and your guns, add focused core work to the end of your trainings sessions, commit to doing them well and reap the rewards!
“YOU DON’T CLIMB THEN GO FOR COFFEE, COFFEE IS PART OF CLIMBING.” Wolfgang Gullich
WORDS: Vertical Life IMAGE: Julian Saunders When one leaves the Coffee Capital of the Universe (Melbourne) to venture North to the provinces (the Blue Mountains), one tends to leave behind one’s coffee expectations and instead steal oneself for caffeine taken as a utilitarian necessity rather than delight. It’s not easy being forced to embrace the land of the scalding, bubbly, ‘mug-of-chino’ swill. Or, at least, that used to be the case, before the new sheriff rolled into town. Sweeping through the door to Anonymous, the new cafe that sits on a windy corner of Govetts Leap Rd and the Great Western Highway, is like entering a little bit of Fitzroy in Blackheath, and not an average bit of hipster-paradise-coffee-snob-central, but one of the best. When VL stumbled upon Anonymous on a recent ‘work trip’ we were taken on an emotional journey; at first we were sceptical, then shocked, then elated, then very quickly so excited we were doubling-down on our order and hitting maximum safe levels of caffeine saturation. Quite simply, the coffee was exquisite. Yes, we know that expectation is the most important input in determining our interpretation of an experience and ours were pegged very, very low, but we verified the coffee’s quality every day for four days. Then went back to the mountains on a subsequent trip a month later, this time with high expectations. Again, 88
outstanding coffee. That’s science, as far as we are concerned that’s as good as double-blind lab tests. We even love the branding that carries with it the requisite disrespectful thwack to the back of the heads of decaf drinkers – all the blends that have been butchered by having the beautiful caffeine sucked out of them are named after James Bonds. That is, they are named for any Bond except Sean Connery as the rest as merely pale imitations of the original. Apparently there is some food that they do and we are sure that we ate something but we can only remember the coffee.* That’s where it’s at. The coffee. *Actually, we did partake of several servings of the chocolate brownies and can confirm they are excellent, particularly if you like your brownies not too sweet. FACT FILE Beans: Golden Cobra ‘Rear Window’ blend Address: 237-238 Great Western Highway, Blackheath Hours: Mon – Fri 6am – 4pm, Sat 7am – 5pm, Sun 7:30am – 4pm Web:
PETZL ANGE FINESSE QUICKDRAWS Petzl brought out the Ange ‘biner with its unique MonoFil Keylock last year and now it has released Ange Finesse quickdraw sets, which come in an array of options sure to confuse those who are easily confused (VL’s editors, for instance). The Ange – to refresh people’s memories – come in two sizes, small and large, and the Finesse sets offer people a few different options: a ten centimetre ‘draw with two small Anges (weight 63gm), great for little people with nimble fingers; a 17cm ‘draw with two small Anges (66gm); a 17 cm ‘draw with a small Ange and a large Ange for clipping (72gm); and a 17cm ‘draw with two large Anges (78gm), perfect for those with big, clumsy mitts. The ‘draws come with a Dyneema sling rated to 22 KN.
TO WATCH A VIDEO ABOUT THE ANGES, CLICK HERE Petzl Ange Finesse Quickdraws RRP From $39.95
BLACK DIAMOND MAGNETRON GRIDLOCK New from Mormon country (Salt Lake City, home of Black Diamond) comes something with even more charisma than Mitt Romney, the Magnetron GridLock. Combining two superpowers – magnetism and BD’s (slightly less super-powery sounding) cross-load eliminating design – the Magnetron GridLock may be the ultimate belay ‘biner. The Magnetron GridLock incorporates Black Diamond’s newly designed magnetic locking gate, a gate that doesn’t have any springs (when the gate is open the magnets repel each other to keep the arms open, when you close the gate the magnets are attracted to the steel and the arms are held by a catch) with the GridLock’s clever anti-cross-loading design. As anyone who has seen their belay ‘biner cross-load (particularly when belaying with a Gri Gri), the GridLock, while a tad more fiddly to clip in with, is very effective at preventing any cross-loading across the gate. While we haven’t tested the Magnetron GridLock, Vertical Life has conducted extensive testing of the Magnetron RockLock (which uses the same gate technology)
YOU CAN READ THE REVIEW HERE Distributed by Sea to Summit 1800 787 677 Black Diamond Magnetron GridLock RRP $42.95
LA SPORTIVA PYTHONS Do you like your shoes as soft and touchy-feely as a SNAG? Do you like climbing the steeper angles? Do you like shoes the colour of carrots? If you said to yourself, why yes Vertical Life, I do, then read on. The (killer) Pythons are the latest slipper from those Eye-talian shoe-making masters, La Sportiva. Securing with a nifty velcro tab, these highly asymmetrical slippers are said to be a low-volume, soft, sensitive shoe that is ideal for when the angle goes into the steep. Designed with competition climbers in mind, they are equally at home in the gym impressing the Opposite Sex with your power and precision, as they are at the Gallery or Nowra. They feature 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2 on the sole, a thin midsole and an unlined leather upper. They come in a range of colours, all of them shades of orange.
IF YOU LIKE THE SOUND OF THE PYTHONS AND YOU LOVE HAIRY CHESTS, THEN YOU CAN WATCH AN AWESOME AND STRANGELY POINTLESS VIDEO FEATURING THE PYTHONS HERE La Sportiva Pythons RRP $179
BLANK SLATE HANGBOARD While the Blank Slate sounds like the perfect belayer, sadly it isn’t a deaf-mute with endless patience and excellent cooking skills, rather it’s a new and very clever piece of training equipment for the home. The Blank Slate provides a blank plywood surface to which you can attach either individual holds (thereby creating a customised fingerboard) or an existing fingerboard, but the really clever part is that you can mount it in a doorway without having to screw it to anything, while it can be put up or taken down in minutes – making it perfect for those who are renting or don’t have a suitable space above a doorway. While it can’t hold your rope, it definitely won’t mention to anyone the fact you finished your back-two set early or can’t do a chin-up. It also comes with 17 t-nuts, a hex tool, a facility for attaching a smartphone (for entertainment or timing your workouts) and padding to prevent damage to the doorway. There is also a choice between vertical and overhanging models, while a Black Slate Slim version is also available (RRP $148.95). Blank Slate hangboard RRP $179.95 Visit
to find our more.
JETBOIL SOL TI No one likes envy at the crag, unless of course you are the object of that envy, in which case it’s great. So when you pull out Jetboil SoL Ti on a wintery climbing day and heat up some water for an afternoon hit of caffeine or a hot soup, everyone will be more than just a little bit jealous. Best of all, adding the Sol Ti to your pack is only going to add a paltry 250 grams, which is nothing (unless of course you are stick-legged sport climber, who can always find something to whinge about). The Sol stands for solo – which reflects the amount of water you can boil, 500ml – while the Ti is for titanium – explaining the unit’s very light weight. Being an integrated stove the Sol Ti is super efficient over the life of the standard canister: it can boil 12 litres of water, while boiling time is unaffected by cold temperatures down to -6°C thanks to the new ThermoRegulate Burner Technology. It takes the Sol Ti two minutes, 15 seconds to bring the 500ml of water to the boil, which is, coincidentally, about the time it takes to grind the right amount of beans for your Aeropress... Distributed by Sea to Summit 1800 787 677 Jetboil SoL Ti RRP $249.95
“It’s an MUMC tradition,” he exclaimed indignantly, “at the end of semester everyone heads to the Grampians and spends the week, well…you know, bludging.”
WORDS: Dale Thistlethwaite IM
I first met Jim Newlands while organising the 65th anniversary dinner for the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club (MUMC). Jim, an honorary life member, took on the all-important role of rallying older ex-members to attend with an enthusiasm which bordered on harassment. Thinking back now, I remember sitting in Jim’s house in Vermont, eating his famous curry (while enduring a thorough olfactory investigation by his menagerie of pets) and being struck by what an open individual he was; inviting three 20-something strangers to his home for a meal to plan the organisation of another. Jim, however, had less prosaic concerns, “Does MUMC still have bludge week,” he enquired, eyes twinkling. “I dunno, what’s bludge week?” we responded. Jim looked horrified. “It’s an MUMC tradition,” he exclaimed indignantly, “at the end of semester everyone heads to the Grampians and spends the week, well…you know, bludging.” I decided then and there that I liked the man’s style. Anyone who thought bludging was an activity worthy of enshrining in tradition was a man worth knowing. I wasn’t even much put-off when he asked me if we still sang from the official MUMC songbook recounting members who had been excommunicated in the ‘60s for creating lewd versions of revered classics. Jim was born in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his family as a child, though he remained fiercely proud of his heritage. His
“He climbed on limited, often home-made gear, and saw potential protection in wooden off-cuts, bits of scrap metal, and other assorted junk.”
MAGE: Jim Newlands collection
wife Jill, fondly chuckling at his memorial service, remembered that he once said, “the best thing to come out of England was the road to Scotland.” He spent much of his young adulthood at Mt Arapiles and in remote southern Tassie, and was devoted to his outdoor adventures. He climbed on limited, often home-made gear, and saw potential protection in wooden off-cuts, bits of scrap metal, and other assorted junk. He is probably best known in the climbing community for his first ascents of routes at Mt Arapiles. Along with first ascents of the Bard (12) in 1965 and Orestes (now free at 24) in 1966, Jim was the first to climb the overhangs direct on D Minor (14). In 1966, with Mike Stone, he also established a variation of the North East corner route on the Bechervaise Plateau Face of Federation Peak, Tasmania. Jim remained proud of these achievements, but more so of the relationships he formed while pursuing them. On one occasion Jim recounted to me an attempt at the first ascent of a route on Tiger Wall (the name of which escaped him at the time). Having drawn the short straw with his climbing partners for the lead, he headed up an unlikely looking line with just a rope tied round his waist. Several metres above his last piece he broke the golden rule of climbing prior to modern gear – “the leader never falls” – and plummeted sickeningly onto his waist loop. He recalled that all three of them beat a hasty retreat to the campground to nurse their wounds with port, and though the fall put both him and his belayer out of action for several weeks, he was still laughing fondly at the memory. Jim never did remember the name of the
route or say if they eventually managed to tick it; he didn’t seem to regard those as the central questions. Besides climbing, Jim was a man of many and varied interests. In particular, he relished his career as a high school science teacher. It combined two of his great passions; investigating the natural world, and encouraging and engaging with youth. Jim loved talking to young people and always had time for a chat. At MUMC reunions, while many ex-members largely socialised within their own generation, Jim could usually be found regaling current members with anecdotes about the ‘60s and asking about recent activities and trips. He remained inquisitive throughout his life, developing strong interests in botany, horticulture and, more obscurely, battlement structures and fortifications, for which he made pilgrimages overseas to visit ruins and forts. Those unaware of Jim’s climbing history might be more familiar with him through his recent work raising the native pine seedlings to revegetate the Pines campground. Jim had expressed his desire that all the climbers who visited Arapiles should enjoy it as much as he had and he was happy to fill his entire small yard in Vermont with growing seedlings to replant it. This action is characteristic of my experience of Jim’s approach to life and all he was involved in: if he saw something that needed doing he would do it. While people still quiver their way across the Bard traverse, given his love of plants and the environment it would be difficult to imagine a more suitable legacy for Jim than the new pines; one of Arapiles’ pioneers ensuring the past is still with us.