There are numerous major "Sport Climbing" destinations in Australia which offer as great a volume and variety of convenient quality clip-ups as the Blueys, but the large number of consumer-friendly large-scale well-equipped multipitch climbs is the one thing that makes this place truly special, even on a world scale.
So, what do you do when you're a Blueys climber suffering a crisis of purpose and motivation? You go and tackle some big adventurous routes in the Blueys.
Red Edge (180m 6-Pitch Mixed 25)
|Photo by: Simon Carter |
( http://www.onsight.com.au/product/red-edge/ )
Known in climbing circles primarily due to a classic Simon Carter photo of Mike Law performing the terrifyingly exposed crux moves of the climb (shown to the left), Neil Monteith had some hilarious unfinished business with the route that had hung over his head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles for the last 2 years.
|Photo also by: Simon Carter (and |
pinched from Neil's Facebook Page).
On the 28th August we made our way out to Perry's Lookdown, where friends of ours -Jason McCarthy and Adam Pecan- had kindly left 180m of rope in situ (they were climbing the nearby route "The Regular Route" that day) making the abseil to the base of the climb a cinch. By 10am we were below the start of the route, and ready to rock.
|Neil on the easier upper section of Pitch 1 (23),|
with all of his obligatory whimpering behind him.
|Neil's photo of me on the easy (but|
incredibly run-out) arete of Pitch 2 (25).
|Jason McCarthy's photo of Neil |
getting creative to place some pro on
Pitch 3 (23). Taken from the P4 belay
on The Regular Route.
|Looking down Pitch 3 as I meander my way up it. Brilliant!|
|Sticking the crux moves of the 24M1|
version of "The Money Pitch"...
For some reason I'm going feet
first to the arete?
The first carrot bolt was stupidly high, with no additional pro, and 6m of utter cheese to negotiate to get to it. Fortunately, the climbing was much easier than I expected, and with the bolt clipped I found myself staring stupidly at a truly unfathomable crux. With some technical trickery I managed to clip another bolt further left, and despite the route description to "stay right of the first bolt for a few moves" -which seemed completely illogical at the time- I tried to climb the route direct up a series of invisible holds. I managed to stick a few moves and was probably one foot movement away from onsighting the crux using a grade 1-million sequence, but eventually fell off. Like the 2nd Pitch, this pitch is also written up with an "aid variant" at 24M1, whereby you pull on the 2nd bolt to reach the 3rd, and free from there. After falling off -and having no bloody idea where the actual "line" of this pitch went-, I decided to try and Onsight the 24M1 variant.
|Neil hanging on the bolt on the aid move of the 24M1 variant|
to Pitch 4. "How the hell does this go free?"
|Neil about to commit to the -frankly-|
nutty crux of the climb.
Neil followed me using more or less the same 24M1 version, and with the same total bewilderment at the around-the-world nature of the truly free version of this pitch. Both equally adrenalised and psyched for more, Monty started up the final "hard" Pitch of the route: Pitch 5 (35m 24).
This too was a stellar pitch of sustained climbing in a true endurance vein (and featuring a long-ish power-endurance crux). Hard moves off the belay to gain the arete, then you're thrust into the thick of the action with powerful moves up a series of holds that are never as good as you want them to be. The rock is both physically and aesthetically gorgeous, but with the mini-epic of carrot-bolts and spaced gear, this pitch proved to be too much for the intrepid Rabid Hamster, with the metaphorical wheels falling off about halfway up, and some entertaining aid-climbing shenanigans ensuing.
|Neil enters the power-endurance crux of Pitch|
The last "Megaclassic" Pitch (P6 - 20m gr10) was -unfortunately- mine, and was a pretty standard Blueys "exit pitch", consisting of vertical gardening, loose rock, dirt, a few vaguely climbing related moves, and the odd bit of mandatory pro. We topped out and were back at the car approximately 6.5hours after we left, where Adam and Jason had kindly pulled up the 150m of fixed ropes and neatly coiled them for us. What great chaps!
From here it was to the pub to recount the days events and stop war stories of sketchy multipitches, told with the aid of a thousand-yard stare across a schooner of stout.
So, what of the route itself? Pitches 3, 4 and 5 were Classic. Pitch 1 and 2 were Average, and Pitch 6 was terrible. The rock was a mixed bag, but mostly was quite good, and the positions were undeniably inspiring. The good bits of climbing were particularly good, and especially if you're open to aiding -literally- 2 moves, then it's not even particularly cruxy. The runouts, carrots, and sparse gear make this a fairly serious undertaking. Not exactly "dangerous", but certainly not a route I'd recommend to anyone who didn't have a good, bold trad head and keenness for "adventurous climbing". As a Blueys adventure route, I'd give this 3 stars (with the above caveat), and I do recommend it to anyone who isn't put off by its "old-school" adventurous nature.
The Regular Route (7-Pitch 220m Sport 25/26)
|Jason on belay and Adam on Second on |
Pitch 5 of The Regular Route (24).
Inspired by this, Neil and I made plans to tackle the route in its entirety the following weekend (4th September, 2016). Clearly the route had left a good impression on Jason and Adam, as Jason had -unbeknownst to us- teamed up with his partner Jenna to reclimb it the very same day, and Adam had arranged to reclimb it with his missus -Carolyn- the following day. Clearly it must be good, right?
This time it was our turn to fix the ropes, so I lugged 180m of static ropes to the cliff edge, and rapped in -having to negotiate 2 knots in the process-. For future climbers of The Regular Route, here's an interesting little factoid that might make the abseil in a lot easier: you only need 130m of rope to reach the big ledge (with a bit to spare), and with a single doubled 70m dynamic you can abseil again from there to the base of the route.
|Neil, just above the crux of Pitch 1 (23). Note the aretes of|
Red Edge at the far left of the picture.
Next up was -what would turn out to be- the crux of the entire route. A 40m pitch that was originally graded 24, it has all the hallmarks of a Cosmic County-esque classic in the vein of Toyland Direct, Aesthetic Images or Building a Better Mousetrap. Beautiful rippled orange rock, very slightly overhanging, relentlessly thin... I was psyched!
|Neil seconding Pitch 2 (25/26), on the last of the hard moves.|
Note the chalk braille below him, and Jason and Jenna on belay.
With Monty feeling utterly smashed after seconding the previous pitch, and me having had a chance to rest while belaying him on it, we switched leads and I started up Pitch 3, a 25m pitch also graded gr24. Considering what the previous "24" pitch had consisted of, I was a bit apprehensive, and sure enough I was soon feeling clobbered with another hefty sandbag. Jason had warned me the week before that there was a move on this pitch that didn't even seem possible, and it would turn out that he was right.
|Jason and Adam on Pitch 3 (25) the previous|
week. You can see Jason here attempting to
"Red Herring" direct version of the Pitch.
As you might imagine, I was pissed off to fail, and I ended up using the bolt to pull past the move and climb the arete directly. The remainder of the pitch was easier, but continually interesting arete climbing, but with literally all of the bolts in completely and utterly the wrong places (on the left side of the arete when you're climbing the right side, and needlessly runout when you end up in the centre of the face). None of us managed to actually get this pitch clean, with Jenna committing to the same face-sequence as I did, only to -also- back-off when she saw the ground-fall potential.
| Neil climbing the corner-crack, the traverse|
line is just above him.
"Thank god, we've found an easy pitch!"
So, 3 pitches down, and 2 of them had been grossly sandbagged and had spanked us seven ways 'til Sunday.... Things were looking great!
Fortunately for us, with 4 pitches still remaining, this was the turning point. Pitch 4 was originally graded 23, but felt more like 21, as it climbed a sharp but enjoyable corner-crack (with ample stemming opportunities), before traversing boldly across the face on a radical line of jugs to gain the arete. Though the pitch was a bit wet, and the rock on the traverse a bit grainy (probably the worst rock on the climb), this was a stellar pitch, and ridiculously soft at gr23. All of us floated up it easily.
|Neil, about to commit to the crux of Pitch 5 (24). Exposure|
|Neil's photo of Adam just above the roof-turn|
of Pitch 6 (22) the previous week.
Now that we were on a roll, confidence was high, and the psyche was back! Neil threw himself a Pitch 6 (23) with gusto, and was surprised to find that this pitch was also pretty soft at the grade (and also featured at least 2 bolts in completely the wrong places). Stepping out over the sucking void, he climbed the right side of a slabby arete to a stance below a square-cut roof. Steeling himself, Monty launched himself through the roof-cum-arete, and blasted up the juggy headwall above to the belay. Though the rock was not as great as some of the previous pitches, the climbing is generally enjoyable, and the position (and moves) are the very definition of funky. I followed Neil up it with glee, and Jason and Jenna soon pursued us cleanly.
|Jenna contemplates the crux of Pitch 5 (24), and Jason|
shows off for the camera.
We topped out, pulled up our 180m of fixed ropes, and were soon joined by Jason and Jenna, returning to the cars a mere 7 hours after we set off. Buggered? Hell yes, but what a bloody great day!
|Neil finishes the grey slab at the top of Pitch 7 (23) while|
Jason pursues him from Pitch 6 (22).
Talking to Lee Cossey about this route after we finished it, I shared my opinion of the routes quality, as well as my recommendations about the grades and the bolting. He was extremely receptive and psyched to hear that we rated the climb so highly. He also advised that he will head out within the next few weeks and fix up the bolts (in particular: adding a bolt to the crazy sideways runout on P2; Moving the bolt from the arete to the face on P3 and possibly relocating some of the bolts to the "correct side" of the arete on this pitch; and moving several of the bolts on P6 to reduce the epic rope drag). This might even be done by now, and if it is, then I have absolutely no qualms about advocating this as the quintessential Blueys hard-ish Sport Multi. If you can hack the grade, you need to get on it. The word "classic" was created to describe this route.
I was due to head down to the Grampians with Ben Jenga for a week of crushing on beautiful quartzite sandstone, but before I left I had some unfinished business.
For a few weeks I'd been playing on an old Mike Law route Big Red (60m 27) out at Corroborree Walls, Mount Victoria in my spare time. With a view to leading it eventually, I put in one day of Top Rope Soloing on it each week during the time that I was back, mostly just wanting to have something a bit obscure (and given 4-stars in the recent edition of the Blue Mountains Climbing Guidebook) to try and rebuild the psyche after my recent depression.
|The line of Big Red (60m 27).|
Despite appearances, it's not
actually as close to the corner
as this photo might suggest.
After 4 days of Top Rope Soloing I had it pretty dialed, and on 7th September 2016 I decided to drag my old man out to belay me on a lead shot of it.
|One of Simon's photos of me on Big Red, on the|
final moves of the 2nd crux (24/25) punchy
My first shot went quite well, but I missed a pocket that I was pouncing for at the 2nd crux (the 24/25 pocketed section) and -due to my habit of skipping clips- resulted in a rather massive whip (and the inevitable efforts of gravity to pull my substantially lighter Old Man through the first quickdraw).
After a quick rest, I went up again, and over an epic 40min I managed to top out the climb clean, scoring a rare repeat of this route, and a much-needed win before my trip to the Grampians.
With respect to the route itself... In my not-so-humble opinion, it's definitely not a 4-star climb, and in reality is probably more of a 2-star affair. It's still enjoyable in an adventurous kind of way, but the numerous blatant chips and the very mixed quality of the rock robs it from ever being a true classic.
|"Ugh..." Our beautiful campsite at Buandik.|
Nevertheless, we push on. Abandoning any hope of climbing on Taipan or Eureka Wall, we've stuck to the caves and a few of our number have managed to crush.
Good weather or bad weather, nothing is going to stop us enjoying a climbing trip to The Gramps...
"Wait... What..? Ah dammit!"