|Abbey Road gets a lot more dirtbag! |
Matt Springall, Lloyd Wishart, Pommy (Front), Jenga (Back), and me. Photo by: Julian Hurrell
|Jenga crushes Eye of the Tiger (29) at Muline.|
Photo by: Julian Hurrell
|Me: about to get spat off Desert Rose (27)... again.|
Photo by: Julian Hurrell
All things considered, the fact that we managed to climb every day of the trip, coupled with the lunacy brought about by our shared suffering (misery loves company!) made it a fun venture, so it was worth the time (and money) to get there.
After returning home, it was time to knuckle down in my search for a job. I updated my resume, bookmarked a few careers sites, shaved off my dirtbag beard (!!!), bought a business shirt, pants and a tie, and starting submitting applications. But like all things in this world, finding a job takes time, so in the interim I set about trying to send my existing bolted route on the superb Sublime Point East Face... and add a few more Projects next to it.
|Will Monks on Subliminal P2 (65m 23).|
Photo by: Neil Monteith
Knowing that it would be hard to find belayers for the route I bolted a year ago (which I estimated at 40m 26/27), I investigated another adjacent line which appeared to be somewhat easier, and might make for good "belayer bait" while I went after my harder line. About a month later, I would end up also bolting the last "independent" line on the face, leaving me with 3 tough-ish projects in an adventurous environment to get through.
|The original routes on the East Face:|
BLUE: Subliminal (90m 3-pitch 23)***
PURPLE: Subliminated (80m 2-pitch 24)**
RED: Castaway (90m 4-pitch 21)*
GREEN: Unconscious Corner (4-pitch 20)
At any rate, after warming up at home, the Golden Oldie and I headed out to Sublime Point East right as the sun departed the wall for the day (about midday) and rapped the 80m to the semi-hanging (but surprisingly cosy) belay at the very bottom of the wall, scarcely a foot above the void. This belay is shared by all 3 of my new routes, and also one of the original multipitches on the face: Castaway (4-pitch 21). Jumping straight in the deep end, I had 2 shots at the Project and fell off about 2/3rds of the way up the first (40m) pitch, both times on the same sequence. Starting to doubt that I'd be able to send this "easier" line, I was trying to work out how I'd lure another belayer out there even as I set off for one last lap of the day.
The pitch climbs about 12m of 21/22 thin face, then heads into a radical 6m leftwards traverse on super-funky (and very improbable) natural pockets and crimps. From here you launch up a powerful V3 boulder-problem with some seriously tricky footwork. Cruising through this, you enter the red-point crux of the route: a power-endurance test as the wall steepens, and the holds become extremely slippery and slopey. The overall theme of this climb is "resistance test", and previously I'd failed the test on this section both times. Surprisingly, on my 3rd shot of the day, I stuck the sequence (in part because I didn't stop to clip any of the bolts through this section), with only a single hard move remaining between success and failure.
|My Old Man abseiling in to the|
Castaway belay stance.
|Carlos, mid-way through the super-rad traverse crux, on |
what would ultimately be his Send lap.
1 down, 2 to go...
|A photo of the mind-blowing traverse.|
Yes, I'm pretty psyched about it... Can you tell?
|Carlos about to enter the final "snakebite" crux,|
and seconds away from Sending the route!
By this time I'd gotten adept at rigging the East Face with numerous fixed ropes to facilitate ease-of-access (according to Neil Monteith: I'd turned his adventurous climbing environment into Consumer-equipped Multipitch Cragging), so the trek from car to belay could now be achieved in about 15min. Again we rap in, do a bit of a warmup, and I'm off up the new route. This line shares the 12m face-climbing start with Sabbatical, but breaks off after the easy start and heads almost directly up the wall. It kicks off the independent section with a bang, serving you a V4 shallow, slopey, pocketed boulder problem (including some 1-pad monos to keep it interesting) to a good hold. Originally I thought that this would be the crux, but apparently training at the ShredShed really DOES have benefits, as I'd managed to totally dial this sequence during my 2 previous days of Top Rope-Soloing the route before Ro's arrival.
|Looking at the Sublime Point East main face.|
This beautiful slice of rock hosts my 3 new routes.
2 down, 1 to go...
|The line of Sojourn (40m 26/27), a year ago |
(when I bolted it).
|Top Left: Jumaaring out from the belay of The Face Race (35m 24)|
Top Right: About to abseil in to the Sublime Point East Face.
Bottom Left: Rapping the East Face.
Bottom Right: On the Send Lap of Swansong (30m 25).
And so it was that the last of the independent lines on the Sublime Point East Face was done and dusted, with: Swansong (30m 25), marking the impending end to my 2 year odyssey as a climbing bum(bly), and the end of this journey on the East Face. Sabbatical (65m 26) -> Sojourn (40m 26+) -> Swansong (30m 25).
Embracing a Bitter Sea
As I hinted at above, by this point in time I was coming extremely close to acquiring a new job (being in the final round of interviews for 2 different roles, and having just had very successful behavioural interviews, I was only awaiting the official date of my execution), so I had really come to feel that the clock was ticking. I used my remaining time to push myself a bit with some classic Blueys hard-ish Sporty Sport climbing, and was rewarded with a few sends that I'm proud of (particularly because they didn't entirely suit me stylistically), foremost of which was finally getting around to ticking Superweak (20m 26) at Diamond Falls.
And then, the (ultimately) inevitable happened: I got a job! Somewhat surprisingly, it was back with Telstra. This wasn't a bad thing, as I'd had a good journey during my (almost) 10 years with Telstra, and I was more than happy to go back to work for them. My commencement date was in 2 weeks time, which meant that now I really WAS on the clock... what to achieve in my remaining 2 weeks?
|Looking at the line of Alive in a|
Bitter Sea (from the belay at the
top of Echo Crack). It climbs the
vague blunt arete in the center-
right of the photo.
|Warwick Baird on the first ascent of Alive|
in a Bitter Sea (4-pitch 25 R/X)
|Halfway along my fixed-rope traverse to|
gain the belay above Pitch 3 (on top of the
teetering blocks a few meters further right).
Deciding to commit my remaining freedom to trying to repeat this route, the first challenge is getting to the top of it, which involves climbing over a fence near the Echo Point lower viewing platform (and scaring the shit out of the tourists, all of whom inevitably assume that you're off to commit suicide) and a short scramble down through a forested section to arrive at the belay at the top of Echo Crack. From here you do an exciting 10m grade 15 traverse across the top of the Echo crack corner (with a spectacular 200m of exposure), past a few gear placements, some original bash-in carrots, and a few newer bolts to arrive at the belay at the top of Pitch 3 of Alive in a Bitter Sea (pitch 4 being the traverse back to the mainland). I wasn't willing to lead-solo across this traverse (its rather intimidating on first inspection), and recruited Rene for belay duties. I fixed a rope across the traverse line for the duration of my time on the route (and probably went back and forth at least 10 times across it before I took it down), and set up 80m of fixed ropes down the route.
|"We're gonna die!!!" Neil Monteith and I on the belay below P1.|
|Running it out above "average" gear on |
P1 (24 R/X). Good thing I like stemming!
|Yes, this flake actually moves... And yes|
I'm relying on a big wire placed behind
it to stop a rather large fall. The next move
is a heel-hook rockover to gain the bolt.
|The physical crux of P1: a gr24 arete-|
sequence. Pure Arete-y awesomeness...
Thankfully, it's bolt protected.
|Neil on the final (crux) moves of P1. |
|Traversing off the belay in the lower section of Pitch 2 (25 R).|
Check out the wheelie bin in the bottom-right of the photo!
|The shoulder-buster move... well above|
the gear, this move is gripping!
|Coiling-up for the crux dyno! "It's now or never!"|
Dan Honeyman and Paul Thomson go Head to Head on the Crux Dyno!
(with a vastly different approach to the sequence)
|Dan Honeyman takes the Lefthand Sequence.|
Photo by: Simon Carter (a scan of the photo
from the 2007 edition of Blue Mountains
|Paul Thomson takes the Direct Sequence.|
|One of the upper-cruxes. The move to|
gain the pocket I have with my left
hand is rather gnarly.
|Running it out above a #2 cam, through|
the final (gr23) crux. This runout
continues for another 5 more meters!
|Jason (our Cameraman) poses for|
a selfie with a buggered (but
victorious) climbing Obscurist.
On the belay below P3.
Change can be intimidating.
With all this in mind, it seemed strangely ironic (perhaps even predestined, though I don't believe in fate), that my beloved Delica's automatic gearbox EXPLODED into a cataclysm of shrapnel like a Claymore mine during the course of the very day I ticked Alive in a Bitter Sea, leaving me without the home I'd lived in for much of my sabbatical. Coincidence?
Anyway, since Alive in a Bitter Sea is rarely climbed, here's my gear list for any prospective repeat ascensionists (spoiler alert!):
Initial Belay = 2 x Carrots.
P1 (25m 24 R/X) - Bolt, Bolt, Medium Wires + #0.5 Cam, #1 + #2 Cam, #0.5 Cam, Medium Wire, Bolt. Belay = Piton + Carrot + #4 Cam.
P2 (40m 25 R) - #4 Cam, #3/#4 Cam, #3 Cam, Bolt, Bolt, #1 Cam, #4/#5 Cam, Bolt, #2 Cam (Consider a 2nd #2 cam here), #0.4 Cam. Belay = 3 x Carrots.
P3 (15m 23 R) - Bolt, #0.3/#0.4 Cam, Bolt, #0.50, #0.50, other optional gear possible: #0.75 - #3. Belay = 3 x Carrots.
P4 (10m 15) - #1 Cam, Bolt, Bolt, Bolt, #0.75 Cam. Belay = 3 x Carrots + 1 Fixed Hanger.
By this point in time I had just a single week of freedom left, and so it was that I committed wholeheartedly to accomplish as much as I could during this final week, in a full-contact onslaught of blitzkrieg proportions...
But that's a story for another day.
|A victory cheer after Sending Big Red (60m 27) (see previous blog update).|
Photo by: Simon Carter.