Guilty about the amount of time I've spent putting up new bolted routes and climbing sporty sport, at the expense of my favourite disciplines: Trad, Multipitch and general Obscurity.
|Neil Monteith's photo of me working my|
Wonga Pigeon Project. The hard part is
where all the chalk is on the arete.
And thus, having mostly mended from my injuries, and being well into the process of growing some muscles (again), I arbitrarily decided to dedicate the next month (or so) to repeating some of the hard-ish Trad testpieces of the Blue Mountains that have somehow managed to escape me over the last 8 years.
The thing is, so many of these classic Trad routes -especially the somewhat harder ones- get talked about by all of us Blueys trad climbers all the time. We make bold statements like "Hell yeah, I'm up for that! Let's do it mate! Let's sort a date to lock it in!", and then we just never get around to climbing them. I'm certainly not excusing myself, I'm as bad (or possibly worse, since I have no life outside of work and climbing, and thereby have more time to get his stuff done). Lately, I've grown sick of waiting for all of these stars to align (read: trying to get other psyched climbers to fully commit), I've become tired of the procrastinating and speculating from others. One way or another I was going to get these routes done, and if I couldn't sort out steadfast climbing partners, I would call in my trusty belayer-on-call: my dad!
Grasshopper (70m 2-Pitch Trad 25)
|Simon Carter's photo of Mike Law on |
Grasshopper (70m 25), taken from his
Blue Mountains Climbing - 2015 Ed.
I knew the route well, not only from frothing gallons over the photos of it (Simon was kind enough to send me some high resolution versions of his photos for me to obsess over quite a few years ago), but from having looked across at it for literally hours while developing 2 new bolted routes on the blank face to the right (Cicada and Cricket) a bit over 4 years ago. It had escaped my efforts because of its reputation: the crux is often quite wet, it looks hard, and because a good friend of mine had had a bad fall at the crux a few years ago, in which he ripped gear, injured himself and bailed. Needless to say, I was rather intimidated, and so had joined the ranks of the procrastinators: "Hell yeah, I'll have a crack at that... one day... maybe..."
|Thom Samuels flashes Grasshopper back |
in 2012 (photo: Ben Jenga).
A quick aside here, if I may:
To be honest, I really struggled with whether or not to try for a true ground-up attempt at the crux pitch. Normally, ground-up is my strongly-held belief when it comes to trad, and I agonised about what to do before heading out there for the inspection. My rationalisation for the top-down inspection was based on knowing that the crack is often wet and vegetated at the crux, being concerned about the fiddly, specific and spaced gear, and apprehensive that if -like my friend- I had a mini epic getting up it (or took a bad fall), I might be demotivated and -also like my friend- never get around to coming back for the tick. At any rate, now that I've confessed to my inferior style of ascent, permit me to continue my story.
|Looking down the line of|
Grasshopper from just below the top.
|Would you trust this belayer? Actually,|
I'm not even climbing yet and already
he's showing more attention than any
climber at Villawood ever did.
From the base of the route there's a short, poxy gr15 dirty, shallow corner to a cosy ledge and the start of the crack proper. With my Old Man properly installed and comfortable there, I racked up and set off...
|Looking down the lower (gr21ish) |
section of Grasshopper.
3m off the stance is the gear that protects the crux. The gear is only "okay" (being in polished, rounded, somewhat wet and muddy rock), but I plugged in numerous pieces and equalised them together in the belief that "something would hold" and reversed back to stance. In hindsight, looking at Simon's photos of Mike on the crux, I realise that he must've dug out even more vegetation than I did, as it looks like he got different gear in the seam-crack at this section, which may have been superior to what I was using. At any rate, my harness was now super-light: I only had a total of 5 Wires and 1 cam to protect the entire top 22m of the climb, which contains all the hardest climbing.
|The start of the crux. Soooo awkward.|
|A view of the crux section.|
Wacking in a bomber wire, the following moves are super-sustained gr22 slightly steep face climbing, with only a few (read: 3) worthwhile wires in 10m of climbing. The moves are classic Blueys thinness -featuring beautiful rock in a classic position-, but -best of all- you're doing it well above stonker gear, following the hairline seam to the anchors like some sort of yellow-brick road to the Emerald City. Absolutely beautiful.
5m from the top you reach a stance where you can chill (and get your dad take photos), wack in another wire, and commit to the upper crux: a gr23ish boulder-problem with a small wire at your feet protecting the move. It's not too hard, but its the sort of move you really have to "want", as it culminates in a very snatchy pounce from an awkward body position. Hesitating again as I eyed off the victory hold, I coiled, pounced, and it was done!
|Chilling on the jugs before the upper|
Looking at the clock it was only 11am, so I lowered off and stripped my gear (which is quite easy to do when you have an 80m rope), shared a victory sandwich with my dad (huzzah!) and decided to try and tackle another trad testpiece (and old nemesis of mine) in the arvo. We blasted back up the short-but-intense Pierces Pass Walking track, and were on the road again by midday.
|Victory Sandwich (or Salad, according|
to this photo)!
Get on it!
Bad Moon Rising (35m Trad 23)
Okay, so maybe it was a bit ambitious, but I was riding on a high from the Grasshopper send, so I gunned it back to Mount Victoria, out to Zig-Zag crag, past the malevolent (and frankly, downright evil) Transcendental Meditation (35m Trad 22) (while, quite deliberately not looking at it for fear of breaking into apoplexy), and all the way to Bad Moon Rising, an intimidating steep crack with a very hard crux.
|A photo of me attempting Bad Moon Rising back in January 2014.|
It's an intriguing-looking climb, with the hideously disgusting shale-choss start (that makes Dogface look good) soon forgotten about when you cross the threshold into the initial pleasant stemming corner. The corner steepens and gets progressively harder, before launching into a fully-fledged tips-undercling traverse beneath a large roof, culminating in extremely bouldery moves to gain a hold past the lip, turn-the-roof, and get established on the headwall above. It's a particularly outrageous crux, as the end of the roof forms an arete with the opposing walls, producing one of the most exposed positions you can find in climbing.
|Giles Bradbury on Bad Moon Rising (35m 23), placing the|
crux gear mid-crux, the same way that I do it.
But that was years ago... I'm stronger and bolder and -frankly- far more awesome than I was back then... This route should be easy now!
|The sweet stemming corner at the start. |
Photo from back in 2014.
|Whipping off Bad Moon Rising... An|
exciting fall as you swing around the
arete (followed by much cursing!).
Pulling back up, I did some more gardening (unearthing a crucial undercling that still had chalk on it!), and then proceeded to bumble around the crux sequence for another 30min or so. I could do the moves, but not at anything near 23 (try 25++), and I was trying to find a way of climbing it at roughly the grade of the route. In the end, I settled for a sequence which I would regard as solid gr24, but was doable -albeit committing- and was going to be the way I tackled the route on the Send.
|Mmmm... vegetated... "Damn horticulture |
crap... some Global Warming will take care
of you!" Photo from 2014.
|Looking from the corner out towards the|
crux (after all my gardening efforts).
The tick in the roof marks the hidden
|Sending Bad Moon Rising!|
I can see why this was once a hardman testpiece, and I can see why it's out of fashion. If it got more laps to keep the roof clean of shrubbery (and maybe a bolt belay to start, since there isn't really any gear of note for the first few meters), I don't see anything to prevent it becoming a classic on every crack-climbers ticklist once again. Sure, it's super-cruxy, but the crux is gnarly, acrobatic, strenuous and ridiculous for a trad route Most importantly: it's immeasurably memorable. I'd definitely recommend the route as a "lower-tier classic" even with the rubbish start. What do you guys think, would a bolt belay below the route be acceptable?
So, two rad trad crack testpieces done and dusted... Why not try one more and go for the hat-trick?
Supercrack (70m 3-pitch Trad 24)
|The original Rock edition with Lucas Trihey|
|"It's up there!", Steve points to |
Supercrack P3 (20m 24) in the
background, with P2 (20m 17) to his
My friend North-Face Steve (Tangent: apparently his real name is Steve Winnacott... I once had an embarrassing experience when I was to meet up with a "Steve Winnacott" in Biship, California, and didn't actually know who "Steve Winnacott" was -as I've always known him as "North-Face Steve" (can you guess which company he works for?)) has been working hard to free a rad trad project of his, but was being stymied by some strenuous hard-trad pitches. He confided that he was looking for some burly crack training, and it just so happened that I had the perfect candidate for him...
|Steve Old Skools his way up P2 (20m 17).|
Consumer Advice: Bring some BIG cams.
At any rate, eventually we found our way to the start of the route. Pitch 1 (25m 12) is just a dirty grey grade-nothing slab which can -literally- be walked around, which we promptly did. Now on the tier above, we could see that Pitch 2 (20m 17) looked pretty good, but -surprisingly- it could also could be scrambled around, bringing you all the way up to the money pitch. We resolved to tackle Pitch 2 as a warmup because -as opposed to P1- it actually looked funky and consisted of real climbing. We did, however, scramble up to the belay below P3 to deposit our gear before skittering back down to begin the climbing.
Steve was up, and as it turns out P2 is pretty gnarly for a 17. An easy trench leads to some wide stemming with tricky pro (unless you remember to bring a #5, which we'd managed to leave in our packs, now on the belay above us). Committing to the moves above some rather dubious gear, he discovered that the climbing isn't as hard as it looks, but is -in fact- super old school, as the steep bridging becomes chimneying, accompanied by a spot of ye olde Body Squeeze. He polished it off, feeling much warmer now, and got his first real look at "Australia's answer to Separate Reality", where I soon joined him (yes, I climbed P2 this time, I didn't just walk around it again).
|Standing on some tic-tac footers through the roof.|
|Double-Fist Jams to glory!!!|
|Me turning the lip... and fucking stoked!|
|Steve splitting his groin to achieve the bridge on his flash.|
|Steve on his way to flashing Supercrack.|
|Steve's victory roar: "roar!"|
|Steve's tape job. Notice how un-mangled his hands are?|
Now, regular readers will know my stance against taping for cracks, but in this case I'd made a tiny exception to the rule: I'd used (literally) a single layer of tape (so < 1mm of extra thickness) to my hands, knowing that this sort of sharp rock and this type of climbing would shred my hands if they were totally unprotected, and possibly prevent any chance at a redpoint burn if I blew the onsight. Furthermore, because this sort of crack is one that is definitely easier with a few layers of tape (or hand jammies), I didn't feel like I could consider the challenge of the crack "complete" if I applied any real volume of tape. While this "almost no" tape mentality was okay for the Onsight lap, and I came down with only a few scratches after the tick, the second lap was a total hand shredder, and every jam was torturous as more and more layers of skin were devoured by the rock. As the gear was already in-situ and I'd already ticked the route, I went for the "speed repeat", and hammed it up a bit more with some crack-campusing and unnecessary cut-looses (how often do you get to do that while double-jammed in a roof crack?), but suffered for it as -after downclimbing the route and removing the gear-, I returned to the ground with shredded meat masquerading as hands, for which my planned career as a hand model was forever over. Even at work now, I regularly get comments by colleagues about my beaten up and bloody hands. But regardless, I am satisfied that I tackled the crack (size) as the it was presented, with nothing to make it easier by amending handsize (even if only co-incidentally).
|Notice how mangled my untaped|
hands are... 5 days after the
"Sure mate, I'll do it. Let's lock in a date to make it happen", right? Hopefully not. I think we're both pretty psyched to get it done!
And in other news, Steve is back on his mega Wolgan project next weekend, so with any luck he'll have some positive news about crushing the crux pitches on that, aided by his newfound muscles from climbing Supercrack.
So, my review of the climb itself:
|Me on the Send of Supercrack, climbing into the sunset...|
I also had the chance to spend yet another day sieging away at my Wonga Pigeon Project (<sighs>). With any luck I'll have some other RadVentures to share in the next few weeks. I've definitely got plans in that vein.
For now though, be safe.