Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Superstylin' (NZ 4+, WI3)

heres a couple more video's for your viewing pleasure! both were taken on the West Peak of Haast during the first ascent of Superstylin' (NZ 4+, WI3). you can see the horrendous conditions we were climbing in! remember, we could only take these videos in the lull's of spindrift and snow!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spindrift and Storms

we left hobart at 6 in the morning. by a stroke of luck we were able to smile sweetly and not pay a cent for excess baggage. we had 78kg between us so it could have got expensive! we arrived in christchurch at 3 that arvo. we shot stright down the road to pick up the hire car and we were off! we randomly met another aussie climber at the airport and ended up sitting next to him on the plane. lifes funny like that! we were soon sucking back a cold Speights in wanaka with old mate Johnny Davison. hes just moved into a trailer for the summer so we pulled up a patch of grass and rested our weary little heads. the next day saw us getting supplies. we filled up a shopping trolley pretty quick, we were on a mission! after we bought to final odd's and sod's we sat down for a coffee before the drive.

the drive around to fox glacier is a beautiful one. the roads are quite windy so the rally driver in me came to the fore, more to keep myself entertained than anything! we arrived late and checked into the NZ Alpine Club hut in the village. with a final gear sort i dozed off into the fitful sleep of someone with big things on his mind. when we got up there were plumes on Mt Tasman, not a good sign. high winds cause the plumes and helicopters dont like wind! regardless we went up to the heliservices counter to see what they could do. we would have to wait! while we were sipping a hot latte we met a couple, Tess and Martin, who were also flying into pioneer hut. sweet, we could share the chopper and save some $$$, something none of us has!! by 9 o'clock to rotors were humming and we lifted off. the feeling of floating will always astound me. the transition from sunny sea level to the alpine world is always a bit off a rude shock! the body can notice the sudden jump to 2500m!

so we made it into pioneer hut. its a NZAC hut thats at the head of the Fox Glacier. from here theres heaps of good climbing as well as ski-touring. there was a guided party in the hut but there was heaps of space. our bags hadn't even hit the floor by the time Garry and i roped uop and were headed across the glacier. it felt so good to be back. we walked around to the cirque made up by Alack, Mt Douglas and Mt Haidinger. it was wierd looking up at the south face of douglas, the scene of so much personal anguish. we looked up at Alack and saw there was ice in the lower gullies. the ice was great, a steep step led into some perfect 65degree neve. the climbing was great but the ice-screws were worthless, definately a no-fall zone! 6 pitches fell and we found ourselves saddling the summit ridge, traversing so as to drop down the north gully. once we were off the south face it was a different world, going from the freezer to the oven. we wandered back to the hut. a classic route under the belt and an excellent warmup!

the weather pattern was just frustrating. we wouldnt have 24 hours of solid weather, it kept swapping and changing. after a few failed attempts to cross the glacier, due to rain etc, we were standing below the Marcel glacier looking at the West Peak of Mt Haast. a southerly flow had set in and frozen a crust on the snowpack. i set led up the access slope but everything started whoompfing, that is making buig sounds as i watched cracks grow all over the slope. i was in a bad place, 50m out and not wanting to down climb a slope that felt like it could go any second. i searched the rock above me and 15 minutes later had an anchor rigged to get off. we made our way into the sun, gutted we could get up. i was a bit shaken up. Garry suggested we try going up the guts, weaking our way through some bad-arse crevasses. we wound our way up and through and finally made it to the base of ou route, a possible new ice-line. as we looked up it we could see it was classic. Garry set off up the first pitch, a steep WI3 pitch with a funky step left to exit. we commented how the ice was as good as any canadian ice. we looked up at what we thought looked like a mini Polar Circus. by the time we were on pitch 2 the weather had set in. we were in a white out and it was starting to snow. soon spindrift was funneling down on top of us, pinning you in place for minutes on end. there wasn't even a discussion of heading down. we were soon standing under the final 6m step to the top. frozen and covered in rime ice i set off to dispatch the route! when garry got to the belay we rigged the v-thread straight away and got the hell out of there, a storm is no time for sniffing the daisies! with goggles and belay jackets on we staggerd back down the way we came. on the glacier it proved quite difficult. you could only see the snow about a metre in front of you and our tracks had been covered. after a few wrong turns and false GPS readings we were on our way back. a hot drink was a welcome reward for climbing an awesome route in horrendous conditions!

the forecast for the next day was the same, fine in the morning then a NW front coming through. with little time we decided to go for another short route, this time on Mallory. the route we would try was Home-Owners. everyone thats been to Pioneer hut has looked out at these routes, it was cool to go and try one! we set off under a starry sky and arrived at the base just as dawn was breaking. with a blue-bird sky i set up the first. the ice felt easy, i was back in the ice-climbing groove. after the steep section it angled back and we simul-climbed the 50 degree slope. Garry led out up a small step and around the snow-arete to put us on the final slopes to the summit. after a few more steep sections i found myself staring up the mixed exit gully onto the ridge line. with my last screw rattling around 10m below i cast off. the rock looked loose so i was treading lightly, thinking feathery thoughts. i wiggled in a wire, thank god! i streched the rope and just made it to a nice horn to belay off. Garry was soon up and balancing up the final ridgeline. we were battling the clock, with big clouds rising in the west we only had so much time. the plan was to rap off the back and walk back around. by the time we were on the glacier we in a full white-out. neither of us had been this side so we were navigating by the map and compass. we eventually found the pass and made it back to the right glacier. we knew there were som big ice-cliffs nearby so we tip-toed along trying to spot them. a way down presented itself and we ptiched down it, happy to be on the flat. it was snowing now as we followed the bearing back to the hut. the sun poked its head out just as we were slogging up the final slope to the hut. again a hot Raro was a welcome treat!

the next few days in the hut were pretty un-eventful. there were some small good weather patchs, but not long enough for another route. another big front was on our way so we decided to bail out of the hut with the others, its great to share costs! back at sunny sea-level it was great to put shorts on and feel warm again! we drove back around to wanaka and had some curry and beer. again we pulled up a patch of grass outside Johnny's trailer and stared up at the starry night sky in the warm air. life aint too bad...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ozy Direct

Ozy Direct! Its about time I pulled my finger out and wrote that Trip Report I promised! Ive been a little busy recently, did 55 hours work this week! Im back doing some more height saftey sort of work and also doing some work at the local climbing gym(sold my soul). But its all good! one month till NZ so I need some cash, desperately!!

Anyways… so we’d done Holden Caulfield, we were stoked! The campsite up the hill is closed in winter so we made our way back down to Bright. This is the biggest town nearby, still small tho. We booked into a motel room, just like the movies. It was fairly cheap between us and it had luxuries like ensuite and kettle! We were a little tired and decided a few days off before we tried Ozy would be good. we spent a few days gorging on junk food, slacklining and just chillin and killin. We dried out all our gear and got the rack together for Ozy. Light is right and we cut back on everything, we wouldn’t even take a pack on the route! We would stuff our pockets with glucosey type stuff and take water on our harness. The weather forecast was good so all I took as a waterproof was a thin nylon jacket. If worst go to worst we could bail and walk out. The rack was packed, we had a big pasta meal and got a good nights sleep.

Ozymandias is classic. It follows an amazing corner system up the North Wall. It goes at A2 all up or 28 free, we would be aiding. When its freezing cold and half the holds are wet, free climbing gets hard! Its mainly thin aiding in the corner and uses mostly small cams/wires and cam hooks! Cam hooks are the shizzle! We left the car just as the sun was rising and walked to the Defender abseil station. We now knew exactly where we were going so it made life easier! By the time we got to the bottom of Ozy it was 8.20am, later then we had hoped but what can you do, we got on with it! I was going to lead all the pitches and Jed would clean, this would be much quicker. I started up the first pitch, I was wired on coffee and sugar so I was flying! We would be short fixing the whole route. This means when I got to the first belay I pulled up all the slack and fix it off so Jed can start jugging. I then put myself on belay with a gri-gri (unmodified) and coontinued climbing while Jed cleanded the pitch. This allowed me to have climbed 5-10 meters before I was put on belay. This continuous climbing was great but tiring! I arrived at Big Grassy at about 11.30. I really wanted to be there by midday so was stoked! I took a small break for some food and a drink! All was going well!

When Jed arrived at the ledge we swapped gear and I was off! I had climbed the next few pitches when we did Holden Caulfield so they fell swiftly. Before long I was dangling out the roof. I looked up at a fixed wire and something wasn’t right. I reached up, touched it and it fell out. Going the distance to the ground. So much for trusting fixed gear! I plugged a cam and was now looking at another fixed wire. I gave it a tug and it seemed fine! I jumped on to it and 3 seconds later I dropped two inches. My heart was in my mouth! I looked up at the small wire and nearly died. To this day I still don’t know why I wasn’t falling! The wire was just cammed over an edge. By this stage I had led just over 100m of aid-climbing, almost without break. I was shagged, proper rooted! I sucked it up and kept plugging and chugging up to the belay. I was now at the Gledhill bivy, where we slept a few days before. I took a quick break and set off. Jed got to the belay just as I needed him to tag me up the big gear. This pitch was fisty-cuffs with a tight corner with gear up the back! I was starting to get over thrutching and all the awkwardness. I looked around, smelt the roses for a minute then kept grinding it down. The next pitch was a little easier, I managed to have almost the whole pitch led by the time Jed had me on belay. we were so close now so I shifted up a gear. The last bit of the pitch had a mantle followed by some easy free climbing to the belay.

The mantle was fine but the rest was wet and scary. I only had bushwalking boots on, not easy! I slimed my way up some loose blobs of dirt, one move before the belay everything was slipping, I was almost off! My left hand clutched grass, my feet flailed, I got up and inch and slid down two. My right hand through for the jug, damn sloper! I cried out, I was going to take the ride! I threw my right a little further and to my surpise I found and edge! I turned it to dust and stood up. When I clipped in I almost threw up, that was close! It was almost dark so I set out up the final chimney/corner. It got dark halfway up the pitch. I almost missed the carrots in the dark! Before long I had tied to rope off on the handrail. I collapsed behind a boulder out of the wind. I was getting cold, dessed lightly for continuous climbing. Jed got to the top and I met him with a grin. We had done it! I check the watch and it was 6.45pm, we had climbed it in 10 hours 25 minutes. I was the happiest man alive! We got in the car and cranked the heater. I turned up the volume on the CD player, MGMT played out and we sank into that happy place when you’ve pushed it and come out on top!

We drove back down to the motel and even made it in time for a counter meal! We sank into a deep sleep before havign to wake and make the drive back to melbourne. We caught the ferry after meeting a few friends. We had plans to go the bar on the ferry for a few drinks but before we knew it we were sleeping in our cabin. We had been living the dream for 10 days, now I just needed to dream…

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mt Buffalo - Holden Caulfield

What a trip! The weather gods smiled and we had some awesome blue bird days! We went to buffalo with the intentions of doing two routes, and two routes only. First up was a route called Holden Caulfield. HC weaves its way up the north wall, passing through the classic Ozymandias. Its not so well travelled and gets a grade of A3+ and is a bout 270m long. Jed hadnt done much aiding or wall-climbing so doing that over a few days would be the perfect experience for him to learn how the clusterf&$k of big-walling works! With a frew thin nailing pitches I was pumped to get some scary climbing in!
We caught the ferry over on Saturday night. Thanks to knowing someone in the know we got upgradedd to a cabin. Being able to sleep in a bed was priceless! Seeing as though we were travelling from Tassie it was only a matter of time before we saw people we knew! Being from Hobart’s crazy like that! It was a smooth trip and by 7 the next morning we were driving up the Hume Freeway. We didn’t know exactly where we were going but we figured there’d be some signs somewhere. After all we knew the general region in Vic we had to head to, how hard could it be! Luckily for us everything worked out sweet! When we rocked up tho it was belting down rain! We went for a look at what we were in for but couldn’t see much!
We retreated back to the caravan park to organise gear and get everything ready! we slept in the tent that night, it was miserable in the pouring rain! We woke to more of the same in the morning, so decided to delay the ascent by a day. We had a few weather days up our sleeves to play with! We went for a bit of a drive a finalised everything for the route! A big pasta meal saw us ready for the task at hand!
We woke up early and after a quick porridge breakfasst we were off up the hill to go climb some rocks! Finding the abseil anchors was nothing short of epic! The first one was almost completely covered in snow, a small piece of tat sticking out of the snow betrayed their position. The next 50m rap was covered in thin ice. The next anchors were covered in ice and were so hard to see, we lost ages looking for them! The rest of the descent went smoothly, as smooth as rapping through scrub with a haulbag and portaledge can be!
By the time we were at the base it was muchlater than anticipated. We set up regardless but by the time it was dark we were still a pitch from Big Grassy, the comfy ledge halfway. After a brief team huddle we decided to ust spend an extra night on the wall, after all how often do you sleep on a cliff, lets milk this puppy! It sucked for us that the belay we were at wasn’t set up for bivvying, it was some manky carrots and a shitty shit rivet (small bolt). We managed a few hours sleep and Jed led of in the morning, heading for big grassy! He had a bit of a time battling in trench warfare up a wide crack to the belay. He had done well! We fixed a pitch above Big Grassy and set up for the night. We slept in the portaledge because its way more comfy but for all our cooking etc we ust sat on the natural ledge. Life was pretty good, cold but! Being winter it got dark at around 6. We didn’t really climb into the night because we were just there to take it easy! It meant we were usually in bed by 8.30, which was fantastic!
The next day saw us jugging and hauling the pitch we had fixed. Jed led off up the corner and had to do a crazy pendulem at the top to transfer over to the HC belay. Above us loomed the roof, a 5m roof filled with manky crappy fixed gear! The climbing was hard straight off the belay. It was up thin seams with super-thin pitons (beaks) and some copperheads. Some of the fixed heads were bogus! I could lift them out with my fingers! I was a bit frazzled before I even got to the roof! I committed out the roof and don’t know why the rusty old pins didn’t snap! Talk about exposure! It was rad dangling with 200m of air below your bum! Jed had a hard time cleaning the pitch. With a lot of struggling and ursing he was soon at the belay. He took the rack and led up to the Gledhill Bivy, a nice sheltered belay under a big roof. We set up the protaledge and settled in for cups of tea and dinner.
On our last day we had a measly breakfast of a small rice pudding and some starburst. It was tasting but I was left hungry! A couple of exposed but interesting rivet ladders led us to the belay just below the summit. I set off up an easy chimney to get to the last 15m but having a big wall rack onme meant I got stuck and had to come down! I shed the excess weight and squirmed my way up. A fought and battled with the offwidth final pitch and before long we were both on top! It was awesome! Due to our slow pace and copius sleep we weren’t even too tired!
We packed up the crap and headed down the hill. We went to the small town of Bright, the biggest in the area. We went to get a place a the backpackers but they were hopeless so we found a motel room that was just as cheap and settled in! once all the gear was dry and sorted we started getting ready for the main event, blasting Ozymandias Direct in a day!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rainy Days

Tasmania in winter can be a miserable time. Today was meant to bring in some cash for the next trip but the rain had other things to say! having just got back from the US im broke, up to my eyeballs in debt and still waiting for the weather to improve so i can paint a roof and get rich! so the logical thing to do is head to Mt Buffalo next week for some winter walls! I've dreamed for a while of climbing on the North Wall, particularly the classic Ozymandias (270m, 28 Free, or A2). i had thought of doing a solo trip this winter but when i suggested it to my mate Jed, he was eager beaver! so we're off next week for a whirlwind 11 day trip, fingers crossed it doesnt rain (too much anyways!)

being back living with the parents has its ups and downs. i told them i was heading away, "what! i didnt think you had any money!". well i dont have heaps but a few weeks of work has given me enough. having a maxed out doesn't ever have many advantages. unfortunately for me its hard to earn heaps of money in winter here. usually im on a roof and the rain and mist usually has other ideas. so considering winter climbing is what drives me i thought what better thing to do in winter than go climb! like DMM say, "climb now, work later".

so the rough plan (plans always change!) is to drive up to the ferry next weekend, hopefully we'll be at buffalo on the sunday. from there we have 7 climbing days. im hoping this is enough for two routes but thats best case! first up is Ozy, im still thinking about trying it in a single push. not having to haul and short-fixing could save so much time! climbing in the cold and dark would be awesome! im thinking Holden Caulfield (A3) looks pretty cool, a bit harder and takes some exposed terrain. it would be good to do that over two nights, having a night in the portaledge. ive never used the ledge in the cold/wet so it would be good experience!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Aid Climbing Ratings

Just thought id chuck a quick guide to aid climbing grades for all those who haven't realised how cool aid climbing really is!!

A0: Also known as "french-free", using gear to make progress, but generally no aiders required. Examples: Half Dome regular route, sections of the Nose route on El Cap, the first two pitches of the West Face (either a quick 5.10, A0 with three points of aid, or tricky 5.11 c).

A1: Easy aid: placements straightforward and solid. No risk of any piece pulling out. Aiders generally required. Fast and simple for C1, the hammerless corresponding grade, but not necessarily fast and simple for nailing pitches. Examples: (clean) the non-5.12 version of the Salathe headwall, Prodigal Son on Angel's Landing and Touchstone Wall in Zion.

A2: Moderate aid: placements generally solid but possible awkward and strenuous to place. Maybe a tenuous placement or two above good pro with no fall-danger. Examples: the Right side of El Cap Tower (nailing), Moonlight Buttress and Space Shot in Zion (clean).

A2+: Like A2, but possibly several tenuous placements above good pro. 20 to 30 foot fall potential but with little danger of hitting anything. Route finding abilities may be required. Examples: the new wave grades of Mescalito and the Shield on El Cap, the Kor route on the Titan in the Fisher Towers area.

A3: Hard aid: testing methods required. Involves many tenuous placements in a row. Generally solid placements (which could hold a fall) found within a pitch. Long fall potential up to 50 feet (6-8 placements ripping), but generally safe from serious danger. Usually several hours required to complete a pitch, due to complexity of placements. Examples: The Pacific Ocean Wall lower crux pitches (30 feet between original bolts on manky fixed copperheads), Standing Rock in the desert (the crux being a traverse on the first pitch with very marginal gear with 30 foot swing potential into a corner).

A3+:Like A3, but with dangerous fall potential. Tenuous placements (like a marginal tied-off pin or a hook an a fractured edge) after long stretches of body-weight pieces (here body-weight placements are considered for all practical purposes any piece of gear not solid enough to hold a fall). Potential to get hurt if good judgement is not exercised. Time required generally exceeds 3 hours for experienced aid climbers. Example: Pitch 3 of "Days of No Future" on Angel's Landing in Zion, the crux being 50 feet of birdbeaks and tied-off blades in soft sandstone followed by a blind, marginal Friend placement in loose rock which was hard to test properly, all this above a ledge.

A4: Serious aid: lots of danger. 60 to 100 foot fall potentials common, with uncertain landings far below. Examples: pitches on the Kaliyuga on Half Dome and the Radiator on Abraham in Zion.

A4+: More serious than A4. these leads generally take many hours to complete and require the climber to endure long periods of uncertainty and fear, often requiring a ballet-like efficiency of movement in order not to upset the tenuous integrity of marginal placements. Examples: the "Welcome to Wyoming" pitch (formerly the"Psycho Killer" pitch) on the Wyoming Sheep Ranch on El Cap, requiring 50 feet of climbing through a loose, broken, and rotten Diorite roof with very marginal, scary placements like stoppers wedged in between two loose, shifting, rope-slicing slivers of rock, all this over a big jagged loose ledge which would surely break and maim bones. The pitch is then followed by 100 feet of hooking interspersed with a few rivets to the belay.

A5: Extreme aid. Nothing really trustworthy of catching a fall for the entire pitch. Rating should be reserved only for pitches with no bolts or rivets (holes) for the entire pitch. Examples: pitches on the Jolly Roger and the Wyoming Sheep Ranch on El Cap, Jim Beyer routes in Arches National Park and the Fisher Towers.

A6: (Theoretical grade) A5 climbing with marginal belays which will not hold a fall.


Thanks to Tom Evans, people all around the globe can check out daily updates as to whats going on a El Cap. The following are the daily reports he wrote, an outsiders perspective on me climbing Mescalito (26 Pitches, 5.7 C3+).

A solo Aussie, Simon, is rumored to be starting out tomorrow on this classic, long and physically demanding route. Good luck!

Lower down yet, I did see young Simon who is going it alone. He was on the third when I spotted him. Ollie and Chris are starting tomorrow and will most likely pass him the day after.

Ollie and Chris passed the solo and are around pitch 8 by now. They seem to be having a good time.
Lower down yet: The solo, Simon, did the Seagull pitch this morning and was starting up the next section as I left. He seems confident.

The Aussie solo, Simon is moving up the right leaning corner to the start of the Molar with steady climbing. He is busy all day and is not one to take a rest on the portaledge between pitches.

Lower down the solo, Simon, did the pitch to the Molar traverse and was leading toward the pendulum when I left this afternoon. Man that guy hauls the bags really fast!

Ollie and Chris did the
Bismarck this afternoon after lounging on that great ledge for the morning. It was pretty dark shooting them in the deep shade but it looked like they make the off width section without incident.

Lower down Simon was racking up the pitches and was heading within two pitches of the Bismarck when I left… mmmm … it would be cool if he managed to catch up to Ollie and Chris!

Ollie and Chris were seen this morning hauling to the top of the
Bismarck and heading out on a couple of pitches above that landmark. The lads are going well.

But! As suggested, the Aussie solo, Simon, did in fact catch the lads at the Bismarck late yesterday after sending 5 pitches that day!! He was seen lounging on the deck for the rest of the day. Nice work Son!!

I saw Ollie and Chris doing the last pitch around
3:30 pm when I left. Nice job lads!

Lower down I saw Simon clean and haul the Bismarck pitch this morning and climb a couple above later in the day… maybe off tomorrow?

Simon was seen hauling to the sloping ledge three pitches from the top when I left. He could get off tonight if he wanted to. We will see what happens.

Simon topped out around
noon on this long and strenuous route. Way to go lad!!

Ill put my own trip report up soon! it was great to get some repsect from someone who has seen it all. the best, the worst, those who talk and those who do. if your ever in yosemite make it high priority to take some cobras down to the bridge for a chin-wag!

Yosemite Valley

I recently retuned from a three and a half month trip to Canada and the US. One of the highlights was spending two months of that time in the fabled Yosemite valley. During my time in the valley I focused on the walls. Tassy has enough quality short routes that compare to the shorter free climbs! First up was a solo of the classic West Face route on Leaning Tower. Though rated C2, this is a very easy aid climb. For non-climbers, aid climbing is the process of climbing a crack by putting a piece of metal that fits the crack, and then attaching slings to the piece to stand in. then repeating the process. Aid climbing becomes hard when you have to trust many placements that might not hold your weight. This was an overnight affair with a comfy night spent at the spacious Awahnee Ledge. If only every bivy was so good! Upon reaching the top of the 11pitch route then sun was fading quickly. Knowing the descent was going to be epic, I opted to bivy once more on slim rations. Ill never forget topping out over the tower top that morning. I staggered over the rim to see El Capitan in all its glory lit up by the morning sun, no photo will ever do that wall justice! I started down. The descent involved abseiling/scrambling down this horrible loose gully, with a 45kg haul bag(pig). It was the workout from hell. One abseil involved going over a boulder, then free-hanging in space for 10m before touching down again. Unfortunately I followed Supertopo’s advice and had the pig on my back. I was upside-down for those 10m!!

I thumbed a lift back to Camp 4. Not always and easy task when your unwashed for three days! Lucky some ‘tourons’ gave me a sympathy vote! I returned triumphant to an empty camp! Soon the boys returned and before I knew it Tony had convinced me to come do the Direct on Lost Arrow Spire in a few days. This is an amazing feature, visible from anywhere in the eastern end of the valley. It was 1500 feet long and rated 5.8 C2+. The approach was killer!! We managed it in one trip, the effort nearly killed us but we were eager beaver! We started up and from the word go we were cruising. The first day was trench warfare in a loose 5.10 offwidth, one of my hardest leads… ever! Once that was dispensed we cruised to the spacious First Error Ledge. We had time so we fixed the next few pitches. This saw me take my first proper aid fall! I had to do this crazy mantle onto a slopey gravely ledge, it took me a few goes! All the while we got to watch one of the biggest waterfalls in north America a few hundred meters away. I got lost myself gazing in those falls so often, that’s what gri-gri’s are for! We had planned 3 days but late on the second day we were close so we decided to punch for the summit. We made it easily. We took the abseil route down, no-one had set up the tyrolean yet! Back down on the ground I was toasted. Time for a few days off!

After a few days Garry and I set of to climb the Prow on Washington Column. We walked up one evening and the next morning saw us on the route. All day I watched grey clouds growing behind Half Dome. Garry had just done a great job leading pitch 5 but unfortunately a blown fixed head stopped us dead. It started to rain lightly and without any rain-gear I wasn’t keen to hang around! On our way down we passed a soloist, Chris. He was bailing too. We waited for him to get down and took his ropes so he didn’t have to do two trips with the gear. He returned the favor by driving us back to camp. The next few days were a bit miserable. I was psyched. It was time to step up and climb the captain.

I chose the classic, Zodiac as my first El Cap route. I would be doing it solo. After a few days packing Jake gave me a hand carrying all the junk required up to the base. I fixed a few pitches that evening then blasted the next day. On day 2 on the wall I had caught up to another soloist, Aaron. He was a top bloke and good fun to have around! I took a rest day so that he could continue and put some distance between us. So I sat back in the portaledge and chilled. This was almost the crux though! Being able to retreat easily made it a real mental battle. The allure of the mountain bar room, only a few hours below was hard to ignore. But luckily for me I had a special haulbag, not like any other. My pig is a one-way pig. The good folks at metolius installed a gravitron deflector that only allows it to travel up! So retreat was out of the question! I had watched both a Korean party and my mate Aaron hammer through the crux pitch on the Grey Circle. I was a bit nervous, with good cause. Hammering placements destroys the rock, making ugly ‘pin-scars’. On most routes its my personal goal not to hammer unless absolutely necessary. I hand-placed four peckers in a row to pass the hard section. I then had to do a crazy mantle move to get the next good piece, nice and spicy! I continued up, flailing my way past the Nipple to get into my comfy ledge. A few more days saw me close to the top. I had ended up passing Aaron. He had heaps more stuff then I did so my hauling went way quicker. I topped out in the arvo and was soon heading down the East Ledges descent. This is two hours of pain and suffering, made worse by soloing. Having to carry all that gear and a portaledge almost killed me. Never have I been so close to just giving up and dumping the thousands of dollars of gear. Somehow I made it back in time for the last shuttle bus. While I was climbing the others had moved camp, so I had to then lug my stuff around a bit longer till I found them. I was stoked!

Before I had even recoverd properly from Zodiac I was packing for Freerider (35 pitches grade 27). With food for six days packed we headed up, jake with the goal of freeclimbing and me in support, just sniffing the roses. Hot weather on the valley floor led to some quasi-alpine starts to climb the slabby pitches without the hinderance of the sun. All went to plan for the first few days, with all pitches going free. After reaching the alcove late one night an easy day was in order. Taking it easy that day jake climbed the monster offwidth (40 meters of size 6 camolot goodness, which took 2 hours to climb) and fixed a few pitches above. The alcove provided a much welcomed respite from the baking sun. The next day, day 3 on the wall led to disaster...

The Huber boulder pitch, the technical crux of the route. It features small holds and smaller feet with a sideways dyno to a jug. After a few tries jake was looking strong. try number three, desperate gaston, get those feet up, jugs... sooo.... close... double dyno!!! jake launched, all points off, i watched, stoked!! He had the jug!! but whys he falling now?? And whats that in his hands!?!?! As we watch the victory jug fly off into the abyss the rope comes tight. Thirty seconds pass before i ask if jakes ok. We both just stare, dumbfounded by what just happened. Jake tried to work out a new sequence without using the now-missing jug but to no avail. Freerider is forever changed. We continued up to the block and set up our bivy. Later that arvo we rapped back down to try the pitch on top-rope but with skin failing jake had to leave it till next time. He also tried the other variation, the teflon pitch which was done by todd skinner. Jake did all the moves but was tuckered from the previous days intense events.

the next few days saw us continuing to the top. jake tried to free as much as possible but the dissapointment of not doing the boulder combined with being baked in the sun led to just getting up the route!! after a night at the scenic long ledge, positioned above the salathe headwall we topped out, jake already making plans to return.

What happened next was almost the end of me…

Well my time in Yosemite anyway! A storm had rolled in across the Sierra’s and we were copping some rain and general miserableness from it. It continued for days, making the valley seem so small! With so many tourons around we were going crazy! I was hit by two big bills by the bank and I was broke, my trip was done. Lisa, a friend from home, showed up for a quick visit to the valley. We managed to dodge rain-drops and run up the classic Royal Arches (5.7ish). I had changed my ticket already to head home a few days early, but something inside of me didn’t want to go. I decided to borrow some cash off Lisa to realize a dream, a solo of Mescalito. This is a sustained aid route up the proudest wall on El Cap. Even writing these words, listening to U2 my emotions stir. I set off on a 10 day adventure. Every climber has seen El Capitan and every climber dreams... i had faced my dream and lived it, learning more in 10 days than I have in 22 years.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Hi there! thanks for stopping by to read my blog. the aim i have in writing this is to inspire through example. i have just started my own personal journey to achieve what i know i can. the title of my blog may seem a little wanky but i chose it for two reasons. first i feel like this is what i was born to do. second i despite having climbed for some 4 years i really feel that im just discovering what it is i really desire, to be in the mountains testing myself.

i have decided what i want to do with this stage of my being. i want to train hard to become an alpinist. i feel there is so much i can achieve if i put my mind to it. peaks in alaska, new routes in the Himalaya, Patagonia. all these things cry out to me with a voice that cant be silenced. so here i am. last night i started training again. with two weeks off since i got back from yosemite im psyched. i feel weak but then thats the point of training! i have two and a half months till the next trip, New Zealand. time enough.