Yes, I'm still down here in Tasmania, yet with one major difference:
Winter is Coming!
|Snow on Ben Lomond, taken from Ingvar's house.|
|The unfortunate side-effects of enduring a Tasmanian|
Yet still I persevere. Dedicated? Determined? Ambitious? Audacious? More likely just: stubborn to the point of stupidity.
Seriously though, it's pretty fucking miserable to be living in a van at this time of year, and the climbing conditions are varying rapidly from utterly terrible, to amazingly spectacular (almost as quickly as the weather is turning).
However, every professional climbing bum(bly) needs a vacation (from their vacation), hence a brief trip back to the Mainland to tackle:
|A very rough topo of where the route Air Malta (25) goes up the |
South Wall of Bungonia Gorge.
- As soon as they are established.
- Immediately after they've had a "clean" by extremely motivated locals.
- After (or during) an influx of ascents by other climbers.
In short... The key to a great weekend at Bungonia (for the average "out-of-towner") is -essentially- to have other climbers do all the hard work for you. Hooray for egoism!
|"Whyyyyyyy???" - Cursing the Weather Gods|
as they ruin yet another day of climbing at
Instead, the day was filled with climbing whatever single-pitch routes were dry-ish. Psyche was now low (*I* pretty much spent the day complaining about how it always rains in Bungonia) as we jumped on Pitch 1 of Jealous Mistress (P1 was gr23, the whole climb is gr28), which turned out to be somewhat dirty, in desperate need of a rebolt, and featuring a bit friable rock (due to lack of traffic), yet generally good (slightly bold) climbing... up to the point where the crucial hanger protecting the exciting traverse left had fallen off. After a few exhilarating swinging falls, we stripped the route and bailed.
Next was Pitch 1 of Dark Side of the Loon (P1 is gr25), a climb that I'd heard good things about, but started with badly bolted, dirty, chossy crap for a few metres... before revealing itself to be an amazingly improbable roof-traverse and powerful steep headwall on great rock, which almost made me forget about how utterly hideous the first 7m of the climb was. ALMOST.
|Neil Monteith approaching the crux of Pitch 1 (23) of Air Malta.|
Most of the multipitches on the South Wall of Bungonia Gorge begin like this.
|Spot the climbers! Duncan Hunter and partner beginning up the rarely|
repeated: Masters of the Universe (26) on the North Wall.
Pitch 2 (gr21) consisted of some more slabbing, culminating in a section of steep (and somewhat friable) headwall to the anchors, which we both managed to climb clean. Pitch 3 (60m gr22) had a bouldery start off the belay, leading to a loooooong section of enjoyable sub-20 slabbing, and a rather committing downclimb-traverse finale which would've been exciting for Neil with the amount of rope in the system, and was equally exciting for me on 2nd as I unclipped the last draw and eyed off the prospective swinging-fall onto the belay. Again, not a mind-blowing pitch, but with enjoyable enough climbing, which could possibly be improved (in Neil and My shared opinions) by adding an interim belay to mitigate rope-drag, and the finale fall-factor).
|Alex Ling negotiating the tricky final|
traverse on Pitch 3.
|Looking up the end of Pitch 3 (22), with Neil on|
belay, and the stunning Pitch 4 waiting above.
The reality, though, is that all the pitches TO Pitch 4 (25m 25) and after it, are essentially access pitches for this one mega-classic pitch. That's not to say that there was anything unenjoyable, bad or offensive in the 5-pitches on either side of Pitch 4, but rather that the climbing on P4 is so ludicrously spectacular that it devalues the other pitches by contrast alone.
And it was all mine!
|Looking down at Neil and the Ling Brothers from the belay at the end of |
Pitch 4 (25) - An absolute classic!
|One of our pursuers (of the flying Ling Brothers), making the final moves of|
|Neil on the rather Malevolent Pitch 5 (23), mere moments|
away from being spanked black and blue.
The final pitch to glory was an enjoyable Verdon-esque grey slab complete with sloping-pockets, sharp runnels, and high quality rock with two hard sections at gr22, and a great deal of easier climbing. In all reality, it was one of the better "exit pitches" I've climbed in Bungonia Gorge, and was an enjoyable way to conclude the day.
Topping out at about 2pm, we ended up accomplishing the entire journey car-to-car in about 6 hours.
Unfortunately, at this point, we encountered a group of imbeciles doing exactly the sort of ignorant, destructive bullshit that reminds me why it is that I have so little faith in humanity. After arriving at the lookout immediately before the carpark, we observed a large group of individuals of all ages (including children younger than 10, and at least one older gentleman in his 50s) laughing uproariously as an esky-sized block of limestone was lifted by 2 members of the group, and thrown over the guardrail, to fall more than 250m into the gorge below, raining destruction on everything in its path.
Now, I'm the first to admit that trundling (especially with good reason) can be a great deal of fun, but directly below the lookout is the inescapable slot-canyon section of the Red Track, which -a quick glance at the Registry at the Park Office later that day revealed- was host to dozens of individuals scheduled to pass through during the course of the day.
Neil got a clear view of what they were doing and confronted them immediately, only to be mocked, lied to, and dismissed by the perpetrators. It was one thing for the individuals who specifically dropped the rock to behave like dicks to us, but to see the women, and the old man, looking at the two of us with scorn for our interloping spoke volumes about the sort of characters that -in reality- define most of the Human Race. Rome is the mob, and the mob is dumb.
We made an effort to track down a ranger and point them in the direction of these individuals, but -inevitably- despite being a long weekend there was no one in residence. Typical.
With a rare (for us) early finish, we packed up our gear and made the long journey back to Sydney. In usual fashion the trip went quite quickly, as Neil and I took to arguing/discussing/debating controversial Big Issues with our usual unrestrained fervor. It's as if I never left!
During my flight back to Tassie, literally the next day, I encountered by old friend Ingvar Lidman at Sydney Airport, who was sharing the flight down to the Launceston, having spent almost half a year in Western Australia (and a full 30-days living in a cave in the Stirling Ranges, establishing numerous new routes, and of particular note a 3-pitch Mixed 28 called "Route 666".
It was good to have the old Tassie Team back together again.
Agony and Ecstasy
Inbetween seiging away at Obsidian Obsession and No Space in Time at Bare Rock, I teamed up with Garry Phillips for a bit of variety out at Freycinet. We had some mixed successes tackling the beautiful red granite walls of the Star Factory, and I finally got the chance to experience two of the routes I've been wanting to get on for a long time: Simply the Best (28) and Augmentium (Trad 29). Unsurprisingly, neither route failed to live up to its towering reputation, and were a symphony of rock ecstasy, and both felt eminently achievable with a bit of effort.
|Augmentium (29) in all its glory. If you |
aren't inspired by this, it's time to take
up Dressage for a hobby.
|Tasmanian Kevin Jin, belayed by Garry|
Phillips on Turbo Hammer (25).
|If you've ever seen Ingvar climb... it|
should come as no surprise that he
can, in fact, walk on water.
|Yeah... I don't think we'll be driving out anytime soon.|
I'd spied an unclimbed line on a broad, blank section of the right-hand side of Bare Rock, and spent almost 2 weeks (in total) piecing together a fully-bolted 8-pitch line (totaling about 185m), which took in much of the best rock to be found in Fingal. The climb is called Agony and Ecstasy in 8 Parts, due to the number of pitches, the varied nature of the climbing (which will make some pitches agony, and others ecstasy to repeat ascensionists), and in keeping with the ongoing rock/metal theme of most of the routes on Bare Rock. The song in question that I've taken the name from is linked below:
|Gerry Narkowicz on the belay below Pitch 2 (24), about to blast up it on one|
of his Send Attempts (and giving us the Mullet Salute as well). I
flashed both pitches as a giant 50m pitch moments later...
I'd like to point out that Gerry Narkowicz bolted Pitch 2 (and it was always going to be his pitch on the route), but had -to this point- been unable to send it... He said I could "have it", provided that I could flash it as a giant 50m pitch belayed from the ground. I don't think he really expected me to do it... unfortunately for him, I managed to do exactly that. Thanks Captain Mullet!
|Captain Mullet seconding Pitch 3 (22) clean on the big|
Send Push up the climb.
Next up is the "The Tenuous Traverse Pitch" (45m 23), which is hard right off the belay, and tackles an awesome traverse line of bulletproof orange rock, whereby your feet are smearing on polished nothingness on the lip of an undercut roof, and you're pressed up against another square-cut roof above you, underclinging a tips seam and traversing desperately hard left. At the highest point of the traverse, you turn through the largest section of the roof (which, despite looking nails, is actually only about grade 22) and end up on a beautiful tiger-striped grade 18 slab, which you boldly climb for 20m (its rather runout) to the belay.
|Gerry seconding Pitch 4 (23), having just turned the roof, and heading up|
the glorious grade 18 slab. Surely that slab is a work of art, no?
At this point, things get hard(ish). Pitch 5 (15m 26 - "The Outrageous Roof Pitch") turns The Great Roof of Bare Rock (visible in the photo of Gerry flipping the Bird above) on the left hand side, and features powerful, funky slapping on slippery polished slopers through ridiculous steepness. The only way to make these frictionless holds work for you, is to get funky with your feet (and heels), and throw yourself at it fully. The bizarre roof-traversing culminates in a sting-in-the-tail deadpoint across the void, with some intense bicycling through the air to gain a stemming stance, with easier moves left to the anchor. This was the pitch that had me really nervous before the Send, as it's pretty much my worst style of climbing (though I still enjoy it). Fortunately, I managed to fire-it-off 3rd lead attempt (I'd had 2 laps on Top Rope Solo previously), with Gerry belaying and cheering my on. As you can imagine, I was rather psyched!
|It's almost like a postcard: "Greetings from Bare Rock!" Perhaps I should be selling this picture to |
tourism Tasmania. (Me on Pitch 5 (26), with Ingvar Lidman on belay, on a repeat for the camera).
|The cruxy deadpoint lunge across space at the end of|
the pitch. Aaaaand...
|BICYCLE TO GLORY!!! (and a stemming stance).|
Pitch 7 (15m 24 - "The Technical Stemming Pitch") makes a few moves left to join Enchanted to a Stone (45m 24) just in time for it's main crux, which is an impressively overhanging series of stepped roofs that are negotiated with a sequence of extreme complex stemming. The pitch ends with an excitingly dynamic set of moves out right to gain an arete feature, before a juggy finale guides the way to the anchors.
When I first attempted this pitch, Enchanted to a Stone was unrepeated despite a number of very strong climbers having a crack at it. Though originally graded 24, some attempted repeats had proposed anywhere from 26 to 28! My first attempt at it was utterly shutdown at the main crux moves (right at the end of the pitch) and for an hour I tried every extreme stemming stance that I could to negotiate the last hurdle guarding the Send of Agony and Ecstasy in 8 Parts. Finally, with some encouragement from Ingvar, I managed to come up with a repeatable sequence, and Sent the pitch packing on my 2nd shot. I also used the experience of solving the final crux on Enchanted to a Stone to do the first clean repeat of that entire route as well, which I felt really is grade 24 for the true redpoint (though the style, and initial Onsight confusion will baffle almost everyone).
|Entering the final crux of Pitch 7 (24), with a Michael Bay-style Lens|
Flair to add to the dramatic feel of the moment.
And with that, it was done. My truly major contribution to Bare Rock, my first Long-ish multipitch climb featuring some of the best pitches of climbing I've ever established, was a fully-fledged route: Agony and Ecstasy in 8 Parts (180m 26 - 16, 24, 22, 23, 26, 25, 24, 14) - 3 Stars!
A big thanks to Gerry Narkowicz, Ingvar Lidman, Daniel Hazel and Jason McCarthy for helping me realise this vision and get it done!
I've made a short video showing some of the exciting climbing on the upper pitches. This video was made after the First Ascent, and is -to be honest- a bit half-arsed in the camera positioning (hence you will see the Orange Helmet I attach my fixed camera to for much of it). Regardless, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it inspires you to get on this masterpiece of Rock Poetry (If I DO say so myself!).
The Music is (predictably) the 1st movement of "Achilles: Agony and Ecstasy in 8 Parts" by Manowar.
Rock Climbing First Ascent - Agony and Ecstasy in 8 Parts (8-Pitch 26), Bare Rock, Tasmania from P T on Vimeo.
Real Agony and True Ecstasy
Well, I suppose that it can't all be great anecdotes and victory celebrations, so I'll conclude today with a real slice of Agony, and a Truly soaring piece of Ecstasy that I've experienced down here during my continuing sojourn...
|Federation Peak in all its glory!|
Photo Source: Dave Noble ( www.david-noble.net )
This trip, however, I decided that I'd at least do the bushwalking approach to the summit before snow made the trek impossible, so that I could see if it's as hard as I've heard, and learn the path for a prospective climbing trip in the future. As I was living with Ingvar at the time, he was psyched to hike Federation Peak again (he did the entire return trip in one 23 hour push when I was living with him last year!), and so it was that the two of us set off for a few days of "pleasant hiking in the Tasmanian Wilderness", beginning our journey in at 0500hrs on Wednesday 25th May.
|My legs 3 hours into the journey on the first day. It only got worse from here.|
|Post-Federation Peak Equipment drying in the... wait for it...|
Bare Rock Shipping Container! (Surprised?)
I don't deal with failure well, and I am -though I'm not proud to admit it- the sort of person who does tend to push on to the summit beyond any margin of safety due to an unhealthy dose of summit fever, and I sure as hell didn't turn around easily (or without a great deal of anguish and regret), but the facts were this: I had almost 19kms of hostile terrain to negotiate back to our car, and almost every step for those 19kms was exactly the sort of complex high-stepping movement that would aggravate my injury -which by this point, was so severe that I was no longer able to bite back shouts of pain whenever I "tweaked it".
What followed was 24hrs of agony, as I limped, crawled, whimpered, shouted, and dragged myself back through the wall-of-tree log obstacles, the knee-deep bogs, the rocky slopes and the icy creeks. I'd brought almost no painkillers or anti-inflammatories, so what I had were used sparingly for the most difficult sections. Ingvar was more than kind enough to carry both our packs on the most complex parts (fortunately mine only weighed about 10kgs, and his was about 6kgs) and was infinitely patient with my slow, tortured progress.
We bivvied in the rain at about 2200hrs on the first night, having taken almost 5 hours to descend Moss Ridge back to the main creek section. Due to my injury I did a half-arsed job of setting up my tarp, and ended up spending the night saturated after it collapsed in the storm, and I was too tired to be bothered re-establishing it.
I'm proud to admit that I still managed to keep up a reasonable pace (only slowing down on the worst of the log-obstacles), though it was absolute agony the whole way. Consequently, we made it back to the car at about 1700hrs on Thursday, and promptly drove to a Bar for a good pub feed (mmm... Beer Battered Barramundi!) and some Coopers Stout to ease the sorrows. I was in serious pain, I knew that the injury wasn't something that would go away quickly, I couldn't high-step and had almost no motor-control over my left-leg below the knee, and I was quite fearful that it might be the end to any ambitious climbing goals in the near future.
|The 1st Crux on No Space in Time (25m Mixed 28) in the gear-protected|
I took almost a week off climbing, but used the opportunity to eat extremely sparingly (just what I needed to offset any energy expenditure) to lose what little weight I could afford to shed, and train like a madman (mostly on my hangboard), focusing in particular on the sort of strengths necessary for sticking the final crux (which had been spitting me off on almost all of my attempts to this point). Eventually, feeling up to some walking, I hiked to the top of Bare Rock, rapped in and had a session on Top Rope Solo, avoiding the knee-tweaking steep crack start (for the most part) and instead spending almost the entire day doing the moves of the final crux again, and again, and again. At this point in time it was heartbreaking to see how far I'd fallen from any possibility of sending the route, and I was feeling dejected and devastated when Ingvar talked me into heading back up to The Boneyard the following day, right on sundown (in the 1 hour per day where conditions are perfect), and giving No Space in Time a couple of red-point shots.
|Another perspective on the initial crack section, with Jason on belay.|
I've always said that all of my major climbing injuries have had silver linings to them: when I broke my heel I learned the value of footwork (as I continued climbing one-footed, and every foot placement had to be perffect to make the moves possible), the ruptured pulleys in my fingers meant I had to learn how to climb open-handed (because I couldn't crimp), the torn hamstring led to greater flexibility and a ludicrous high-step capacity (as working on flexibility was a large part of the recovery)... And despite it not being immediately apparent here, I think that the knee injury had a silver lining as well: it forced me to actually have rest days, and allowed me to perform targeted training on the moves that were holding me back from the tick.
And besides, the whole story makes a good anecdote, right? (Although my knee is feeling rather sorry for itself at the moment <sad face> ).
Until next time, friends, be safe and enjoy your gainful employment and respectable prospects for the future (you know, like having money, a house, family, cars, food, electricity, four intact limbs, non-septic jam scars, etc).
|Busting a gut in the initial steep crack section.|
|The 2nd crux: a weird right-heel rock-over through steepness.|
|The 3rd (and final!) crux: a complex sequence of thin holds and micro-footers.|
|The technical (but comparatively easy) opening moves to the grade 23 final section.|