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.