Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blog has been moved

I have moved my blog over to wordpress. use the address below below to check out all the latest news and posts. thanks


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"But theres no river in ross?!"

So I’ve been having a few health woes lately. For everyone who hasn’t heard, I’ve contracted Ross River Virus. Eeeek! This is a mosquito borne virus that’s not contagious now I have it, so don’t worry! The symptoms are very flu-like some days, while also getting tired much easier than usual. The worst of it however is the achy sore joints. All through my hand the joints ache doing menial tasks. I can barely use a knife and fork on anything tough! My legs feel it too. My knees and ankles are feeling quite stiff, like after a massive run. So how long should this last? The doctor said 2-4 weeks but I’ve heard from a few people up to a couple of months isn’t too uncommon.

So now I get to deal with the fact I cant climb, run or do much of anything active. Its such a frustrating thing for someone usually so active. But with the frustration injuries and illnesses bring, there’s also opportunities. Its all too easy to get your self into negative thought patterns. Lord knows I haven’t been the happiest little camper lately. But with the realisation of now being the time to work on mental aspects of myself, comes a great freedom. Now I have to stop and take stock of where my head is at, with out the ability to go and hide behind physical activity. It’s allowing me to focus on concepts and breathing exercises I learnt last time I was out with injury.

I’m very lucky that there’s heaps of work available to me in the next few weeks that’s not physical. So next week I’m jumping in my van and doing a solo road trip from Melbourne, through the ACT up to Sydney on a two and a half week(may get extended) trip working the whole way. I’m doing safety inspections so it wont be too demanding on my body.. There’s just a lot of drive-time by myself so hopefully I can find some interesting hitch-hiker or back-packer to share the journey with.

Also in news to hand I just enrolled yesterday at Drysdale(TAFE) to do my Multi-Pitch Guide qualification. With new leadership in the ranks it will be good to finish this off without all the previous hassles the TCIA have thrown at me.

So unfortunately I’m not going to be doing anything too grand and amazing in my climbing anytime soon. But I’m keeping my mind open to a few concepts and ideas that have been developing lately. So ill keep writing and posting here to keep myself sane and to get some words out there for all to ponder.

Take care friends and climb on!!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Serpentine Saga

After finally nailing my project on the east coast I felt as strong as ever. Having the Alaska trip fall through meant that I was super psyched and had some time up my sleeves for a quick mission to the Grampians. Every climber that’s been to the Grampians or Arapiles has heard of the mighty Taipan Wall. The first thing you learn about Taipan is that there’s an amazing turret rising up the middle with the route Serpentine blasting up the centre.

When I first started rock-climbing I heard all about this route. As a beginner it was the ultimate, the stuff dreams are made of. As soon as I laid eyes on the route I knew I would climb it one day. Four years went past, climbing all over the world in all different styles. Never did I ever feel strong enough to give the route a serious attempt till the start of the year. This was one dream I had to try! So I packed my bags for a two week trip and was soon sitting on the plane next to Grug. Psyche levels were at an all-time high!!

Danny picked us up from the airport and we were soon west-bound on the train. Before long we were driving past the amazing orange walls of the Hollow Mountain amphitheatre. I made my way to Stapylton campground to see who was keen to hit up the amazing rock on Taipan, Niels was. Having met Niels in Tasmania a few months prior, this was the perfect chance to climb with him. He had sent the route days before so had all the beta.

Next day saw me on the route. Feeling good on most of the moves I knew I had to get fitter for the sustained climbing up the headwall. Both of the two crux’s felt doable. Doing them from the start was a harder story. I spent a few days working sequences and learning some subtleties, all the while getting fitter. After the first week I was feeling good, a couple of close shots made it feel in the bag. Then my brain kicked.

“You’ve got to be able to take it or leave it, then you take it.”
- Danny

I started putting pressure on myself and over thinking things. I wanted this route so bad that I couldn’t relax and enjoy the experience. Too focused on the end goal I started psyching myself out and seeing all the reasons I could fail, not the other way around. Every time I pulled on I was either over-gripping, or not relaxing enough to let the climbing flow. This desire led to ultimately failing and not doing the route. My last shot, in freezing winds and drizzle I fell four moves from the top. Another hand move and I would have made the final hand jam rest.

Desire is a funny thing. Without it, it can be hard to get out of bed. Too much however will ultimately lead to failure or worse. This trip taught me a lot about the emotion and how to deal with it in my own mind. I have a lot of burning desire in my heart. When this expresses itself in the right way it has led me to do beautiful great things that will always last in my memory. When it turns ugly however, and becomes desire for the wrong reasons I’ve failed. that’s happened to me a few times. It happened at Mt Buffalo and I bailed. On Mt Cook I turned around on a solo attempt. In all these experiences there was one key theme. The climbing became something I was doing for other people. With impure motives my desire took control and led me to failure. Wanting to be that guy who does the hardest shit I wasn’t prepared to fail, I couldn’t take it or leave it, and that always means leaving it.

We live in a society that tells you not to try. You live in your nice house in the suburbs that you're entitled to. Your white picket fence keeps you safely inside your comfort zone, where no-one can come in and tell you what you should be doing. You think this is happiness. Fuck that. When Jessica Watson made it known she was going to sail around the world solo, people told her not to. Words like danger, death and risk were tossed about in the media by people who have no idea about any of these things. They all made the same assumption, that a placid, long life within the picketed comfort zone is better. How is that better? Living a long robotic life, adding little to this world, always scared to know yourself or letting your dreams surface and see the light of day. Your life, your choice.

“Disobey. Defy. Take your own time. Fly.” - Anne Clark

The acceptance that failure is an option that’s not a bad outcome is central to the idea of the spiritual and emotional growth that all adventurers are seeking. My greatest moments, the times when I was king of this life, were when I could honestly succeed or fail. Knowing all the while that I was growing throughout the journey and that the contrived destination didn’t matter. That the end point would be the saddest part of the experience as I came to realise that the journey was over.

On serpentine I was so focused on the end result. Wanting to be that cool guy who’s sent the route and that somehow makes me cool. Hindsight is a beautiful yet brutal thing. I was that wanker climbing on Taipan for everyone else. Feeling the need to prove myself to people that already accepted me for being me. Writing this in hindsight is painful. If only I could have listened to my reason and seen that I should have learnt these lessons long ago. I guess it just proves the idea of life as a classroom. But I don’t ever want to graduate, this shit is WAY too much fun.

So for now I’m going to work my bum off and focus my energies on the things that are important to me. There’s a few plans on the cards, but they wont be laid on the table just yet. More thought needs to go into them.

A massive thanks to both Niels and Josh, for reminding me what’s important.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Animal Instincts Direct

“Trust the instinct to the end, though u can render no reason” - Raph Waldo Emerson

Although briefly mentioned, I feel the experience of climbing this route definitely justifies a write up of its own.

The Route:
Where to begin, the guide says this about the climb;

Animal Instincts Direct, 15m
One of the best and hardest trad routes around. When the original route traverses right, head direct up the flaring cracks above.

Located on Tasmanias east coast, AI climbs a flaring seam on a buttress next to the famous White-water Wall. The route starts up the wall with some easy lay backing for 4m or so. This climbing in itself is typical of the perfect granite flakes abundant in the area. From a horizontal break and hand crack lead upwards, slowly flaring itself out so jamming out of the question. From there the fun begins. Long, powerful moves lead to the base of the seam. A gnarly elevator door move on terrible feet lead to the crux move of getting established in the seam. From here its technical lay backing up the head wall. Just when you think its in the bag however, tiny slopy crimps lead to a two finger gaston. From here, pounce to the top and roll over with relief.

The History:

Vague memories are had by Simon Parsons of climbing the variant back in the day. This climbs to the base of the seam before fleeing right via an undercling. Climbed by Sam Edwards in the 90’s, this is a stout climb in itself. The direct was looked at some years later by Kim Robinson and Al Williams to no avail. In 2007, while sniffing about climbing any unclimbed lines left on the coast, Garry Phillips and myself noticed this obvious direct and started trying it. We rapped down and quickly realised how small the gear was in the seam. Then we tried the moves. It took a full days effort just to start unlocking the sequence to make this line feel possible. Then we thought about how to arrange the protection.

My Story:
From the start we realised this was a hard route. We thought placing the gear on lead next to impossible. Blind placements off lay backs into flaring granite seams, sounds fun. On the second day of effort Garry put the gear in on abseil and lead the route second redpoint attempt. Falling on the gear was a scary experience. An amazing effort by Garry meant the route had been climbed. Unfortunately I was unable to get the lead in as well. Over the next few seasons I tried the line on and off. Wanting to lead the route myself. It wasn’t until I saw some of the recent climbing movies, with the likes of Matt Segal and Dave McLeod, placing gear on lead on hard hard climbs that an idea was planted in my mind. Cowboy up and place the gear on lead.

"Each goal achieved is equally a dream destroyed." The price of a dream's destruction is worth it if the climber rises to fulfill that dream rather than dragging it within easy reach using the excessive force of technology. Our dreams are not infinite. How many will you have in a lifetime, and what replaces them once they have been realized or destroyed?
-Mark twight (quoting Reinhold Messner)

I laid awake at nights, thinking of this route, wondering if I could do it placing the gear on lead. How many lines like this are there in the world? I knew for myself I had to rise to the challenge of leading the route in the best style I could, or I wouldn’t be happy with myself, the only person I climb for. So I started putting in some serious effort. Trying the climb with gusto, working out what stances I could place the gear from. Everything would need to be perfect for an ascent. The cams had to face the right way, lobes need to sit on specific crystals. I learnt how the placement should feel to be good as I didn’t have the luxury of looking in the cracks. The crux piece was a 000 c3 camalot. The smallest cam Black Diamond make, ‘Not for free-climbing’ apparently. After this an average 0 c3, backed up by a good #2 RP protected the headwall above. After much trying I knew I could do the route on pre-placed gear, but kept working to get it done in better style.

The Easter long weekend was approaching, I heard a few of the uni-climbing club people were heading up, perfect. I drove up by myself on the Thursday morning and walked straight to the wall. After putting the top-rope on again, I refreshed everything in my head a few more times. With such a hard, technical crux there were a lot of subtleties to remember. I pulled the rope and racked up the six pieces I would need as Lachy put me on belay.

I started up, nervous about what loomed above. I committed to the first hard moves. Placing the first micro-cam I clipped it. I started the elevator door moves. I saw the cam wasn’t in properly, and wouldn’t hold a fly. Reversing the moves I desperately fiddled with the piece till it was in where it needed to be and promptly fell off. Annoyed with myself I abseiled in and cleaned the gear out and rested for another shot. This time the cam went in first shot. I surprised myself, climbing through the crux into the headwall. I placed the next small cam off the insecure stance. Pulling up rope to clip, my foot popped. Launching into the air I barely registered what was happening. Pulling up on the first micro-cam it sank in what had happened. If that piece had of pulled I would have been on the ground from 10m, thanks for a good catch Lachy!

Deciding I’d had enough that day I retired to rest, hoping that the showers forecast for the next day didn’t eventuate. It was Good Friday, morning dawned crisp and cloudy, perfect conditions. A quick top--rope of the route to warm up and once more I was staring up the intimidating wall. With Zach putting me on belay I stepped off. Not feeling fresh and fighting fit, I had to try.

Long move, place cam, clip rope, elevator doors, keep tension, bad feet, lay back, next piece, calm breathing, keep calm, move precisely, slopy crimps, poor gaston, top-out.

I belly flopped onto the top of the wall and a wave of relief, nausea and pride hit me. Making me want to shout, scream and cry all at the same time. Not only was this the hardest piece of climbing I had done, I had pushed myself to the edge and adhered to what I hold sacred. The feeling of fulfilling a dream, and meeting that dreams expectations were truly amazing

Its too easy for us to settle for second best. This fucked up western culture we live in seems to actually encourage it. I challenge you, don’t cheapen the experience for settling. I know its hard, I know I’ll be struggling with it along with you. This isn’t a piece written to say how cool I am, its an experience I want to share to inspire YOU to go out, dream big, hold fast to the dream, go through hell and back and come out with a big, shit-eating grin on your face. That’s living…

Friday, April 2, 2010

News to hand...

so the alaska trip may be off. last weekend my mate Owen shattered his ankle and will be laid up for 6 weeks. bugger. i am currently looking for partners to climb with over there, so if you know anyone put me in touch! if i cant find people to climb with ill have to lose the ticket and think up a different trip. theres a few options so see what happens. get well soon owen!!

something good happened today too, i climbed my first 28(5.13-) marking the hardest piece of climbing, both physically and mentally. the routes called Animal Insticts, found near White Water Wall in Freycinet. its 18m high and is a powerfully technical masterpiece. after an easy start reachy, powerful side pulls and gastons without any good feet bring you to a strenuous layback finish. the easy bit is well protected, however as soon as the climbing gets hard, so does the gear!! a fiddly 000 c3 protects the crux, i took a few whippers onto this one!! above this is another blind 0 c3 and a #2 rp, again hard to place. somehow this morning i managed to redpoint it, placing gear on lead. almost falling off every move, the relief of topping out was nearly overwhelming!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Little Lion-Man Project

"Weep for yourself my man,
you'll never be what is in your heart.
weep little lion man,
you're not as brave as you were at the start."

Blood oozes from my hand as a catch a glimpse of the offending rock whirring downwards, inches from my lead line. Somehow I maintain contact with the rock. Looking down some 30 metres to the weak belay below, I look at the pathetic pieces sticking out of the cliff that nearly had to try and halt a fall. An inverted knife blade and a pecker off the belay. A good cam, good in the sense that all four lobes had contact with the wet rock. A ledge with a good piece in the back of it. A few body lengths above that is a number two RP, straining with the effort of just holding the quick draw. Still higher there’s me, fighting with the most primal instinct to stay on the overhanging wall.

Success in October on the East Face of Mt Anne had given me the confidence to try another route, this time with free-climbing in mind. The route, “This Boys in Love” was an aid route that didn’t quite take the tallest part of the cliff. With the weather somewhat warmer, and free-climbing possible, I intended to blast a new route straight up the guts. Ground-up, on-sight and solo.

The familiar walk was now much easier without the burden of frozen talus hopping. Making my way down the approach gully I felt more confident than the last time I had come by this way. Hesitantly I pulled the rope from the abseil and gingerly traversed the wet approach to the base.

With my large pack I soloed the first roped pitch of the Original Route and set up a belay. The next pitch headed of to the left. Slowly I traversed across to set up at the base of the line. On face holds, I set up off, trying to find something to protect the belay. Arriving at a stance I checked out the possiblities. My best bet ended up being my smallest knife-blade. I committed to some tricky moves into a corner system. A thin seam offered up a good pecker. Bomber for aid, but a whippers another story. My nut-tool scratched the flaring pods clean enough to be of use. I balance up, finally getting two mediocre C3’s. With a quick sigh I pull into some hard moves. The tips crack above me fused and I was stuck trying to find a solution. Out left on the arete I spot a large flat jug. Pouncing for it I snagged it, hung on and mantled onto it.

Some easy ground teased me up past a possible belay into an overhanging corner. Above it I could make out the shape of a large ledge above. I could see a rock scar and climbed up into it, figuring it would have solid rock. Wrong! With heaps of rubble about, I was treading on eggshells. With my hand on a flat ledge and my feet apart bridging, I looked up and froze. The rock above my left hand was rolling towards me. Know what was coming I let out a scream, somehow managing to stay on. I fought to reach up and place a cam to rest on. Once in my aiders, with a bloodied hand I plugged and chugged upwards to the belay.

With a short, easy looking corner between and the ledge I rushed to pull up. Nudging the side of the corner I realise the whole side is one big, rocking loose flake. Threatening to crush me, and my helmet less head after forgetting my stack-hat.

Once safely on the ledge I faced the tough call to bail. Without a helmet, my confidence wasn’t soaring, why didnt i remember that one piece of kit. So trying not to get blood on the rope I rapped of on my single 60m rope. I rapped of some tat slung on good horns. Yeah yeah, I know, leaving tat behind is bad juju, but apparently maybe there’s a dedicated, tat-cutting abseiler kicking about the state at the moment.

But I digress….

Now standing at the bottom of the face, not wanting to climb the cliff, I was equally dubious of the 50m steep wet bank I now had to climb. Committing to bushes a didn’t trust, I made my way up, then made the mistake of looking down. Nearly slipping once I finally topped out onto flatter ground, and safety.

With my tail tucked I ran away home, a scared little boy…

I think this was one of the most impacting mis-adventures ive had in a long time. It messed with my head for the rest of the year. Being so close to having a serious accident in the middle of no-where hit home how easy it is to die on your own out there. Lately ive been immensely enjoying the beauty of partnership on the rock. Im not saying Im never gonna go out solo again, but I think a break from all that mental stress will be for the best.

I have nicknamed that line the “Little Lion Man Project”. I’ll definitely be back, this time 'with a little help from my friends…'.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Awake my Soul

The weather forecast across the state was a pretty grim prospect. Deciding to stay locally and climb out of Hobart for the weekend gave Garry and myself the chance to head down to Mt Brown with the drills to finish bolting a route he had already started equipping. So Sunday morning saw us heading out once again down the familiar path out the sea-cliffs of Mt Brown. A heavy pack full of everything we needed got the heart rate up in a hurry.

Soon we were rapping down the top pitch, with the bolts drilled we just had to head lower. A bit of a traverse gave me a few hairy moments before I got above the line. It looked amazing. Hard, slopey, bouldery moves would be the go! Psyched out of our mind I kept on looking down further, hoping to link the route to the base of the Paradiso. I eventually made my way out to where the easiest path across would be. It will be hard!!! Not really keen to have a grade 28 project out here we decided to just do the top pitches. With a million striking lines left to do in Tassie, I didn’t want to try and forge a line for the sake of it.

Working like a well oiled machine we equipped the rest of the route quickly. Garry went up drilling the holes for the bolts, then I came up behind, gluing the U-bolts in as I went. Having arranged dinner with my parents we called it a day early and headed home. Happy to have another climb ready and waiting for us.

The next week saw me dreaming constantly of that first pitch, and how it would climb. I climbed my heart out at the local crags trying to get fit and strong. Managing to feel both it was great to climb my hardest route in quite a while, the last route I had to climb at Frruehof. We made plans to head down on Sunday, I couldn’t wait. Our friend Alex decided he’d be keen to come check it out, and take some photos for us.

Sunday rolled around and we were soon sucking down espresso’s in the kitchen of Fitzroy. Pumped up on caffeine and soon talking shit, we raced down the peninsula. The weather wasn’t amazing and there was a 5m swell forecast, but we were going anyway. Pulling up at the car park was impressive, we’d never seen a swell that big! With waves crashing all over the ledge of the Paradiso, the only climbing option were the bigger routes. Watching sprays kick up to 50m of the point, we rapped in.

As soon as we were on the wall it was on. Grinning like chesire cats, we climbed the top pitch as a warm up. Alex telling us that were mad as he swung around on a 10mm cord 100m above the booming see. Rapping down further to the first pitch things got even more exposed and out there. Perched on a block 40m off the sea, staring up a hard exposed pitch, both just wanted to climb!

Garry went first. With a few rests he figured out the sequence for the bouldery start and lowered back down to the belay. After five minutes he pulled on and crushed it. Wanting to lead it myself I lowered him back down to the belay and pulled on to check it out. Again after a quick sort out of the moves I was stepping of the belay on a redpoint attempt. Crushing the opening boulder, I would just have to fight the pump. I pulled into the rest, only just! Looking up at the next 15m of climbing was amazing. A rising traverse past a flake led up and up to the belay. I was so stoked to climb it second shot. We jugged out happy little campers!

An awesome route in an amazing position. A great introduction to the style of rap-in climb out sea-cliffs that will put Mt Brown on the map.

Route Desription:

**Awake My Soul, 25, 60m

Head out as if going to the paradiso, but instead of dropping down to the Paradiso continue for 10 mins more up along the top of the cliff. A faint track marks the way. Bolts are located on slabs facing Cape Raoul(cairned). Just as the cliff reaches the highest point. All belays fully bolted.

One 60m rope is enough to rap both pitches. Ample bolts provide an easy escape if need be.

Route Description:
1) 30m, 25. Tricky sequence off the belay leads up the face on slopy holds(crux). After no-hands rest head R and up to DBB (fully bolted).
2)30m, 19. Bolts lead up the face till the crack accepts gear. Continue to top.

14 quick draws (a couple should be alpine draws)
Singles of .5, .75, 1 camalot
Doubles of 2 & 3 camalot

FA: Garry Phillips & Simon Young with thanks to Alex Lewis (15/11/2009)