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)

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Boys in Love

Here is the trip report of a new route I climbed a wee while ago, but have only just got around to writing it up! Enjoy…

So I’d had a fun time in the last few weeks away on my trip. Learning how to ski and hanging out with my parents was all good fun but I still had the burning desire to head out into the wilderness and suffer. Earlier I the year my good friend Garry and I had climbed a new route up the intimidating east face of Mt Anne in Tassie south-west. We had both commented how it would be amazing to come back and solo a new route up the face.

The forecast for the weekend was good so I readied the battle gear midweek and left after work on the Friday night. Arriving at the trailhead well after dark I set off for the 2 hour slog up to the hut. Recent rain meant the first 200m soaked my pants, lucky I had my synthetic bag. With the tunes cranking I trudged ever upwards with a pack full of rope and climbing gear. I had gone pretty slim with food and fuel, leaving little breathing room if something went wrong. I arrived at the hut shortly before midnight and flaked the rope to make a sleeping mat.

Shortly after falling asleep a strange scratching sound woke me. It must be the resident hut mouse. I tried to scare him and he finally settled down. That is until I heard him a foot from my head.

‘don’t you dare!’, I thought to myself.

Next thing I know he’s jumped into the small opening in my bag and going for my face!! After a quick struggle he jumps back out and hightails it to his hole in the corner. I think we were both shaken! Luckily he didn’t bother me further and I was soon catching Z’s till my alarm sounded at dawn.

I struggled to stomach some porridge and tea before setting off to make my way across the plateau. The track was covered in ice. With every footstep I climbed, the self doubt grew stronger. The talus(scree) was covered in snow and made going slow and treacherous. It would be too easy to break a leg out here on my own. Everything I saw through the eyes of a coward. Everything was an excuse to go back to safety. Lack of food, the cold, how dangerous this all was. But somehow I kept that little voice quiet and battled on.

Halfway across to the wall I broke the ice of a lake to drink, having run out of water. I filled the bottles here, unsure as to where I’d find water next. Soon I came to the descent gully to the foot of the face. I barely recognised it from summer, being filled deep with snow. Not having crampons or an axe I gingerly made my down. With only 10 metres left till the 30m abseil I slipped. I had enough time to think, ‘this is it, im gone.’. sliding down only a few metres to go, my leg caught in a bergshrund and stopped me going the distance. I sat in the snow for 10 minutes to compose myself before abseiling down, pulling my ropes, and committing to the looming face above.

I stopped to brew up and guzzled as much food and water as I could spare. I knew the hard time I had ahead of me! The hardest part was deciding on which line to take. With only one route on the face a had a lot to choose from! I spied an obvious corner system and set off toward that. The first fifty metres were short steps of vertical rock, all capped with wet slippery mantels to gain the next crack. I finally made the base of the corner to learn it was fused for the first 5 metres or so. An awesome free route, but not so good for solo-aiding! I traversed left to the base of a thin seam that appeared to crack to a crack up high. I only had one 60m rope, so that meant jugging and cleaning every pitch with my rucksack on my back.

With the belay organised I started up the next pitch. Hooking for a few moves off the belay I tentatively climbed higher on some good peckers. Finally I made it too the wider crack and some good gear. I say wider crack, but it never grew above half camalot size. 40m out from the belay I was back on dodgy A2 gear without a whole lot left on the rack. A small roof blocked my view of where the crack went and the gear was running out. Starting to get pretty scared that id be left out hanging in the middle of no-mans land without retreat options, I had no other choice but to keep climbing and hope for the best. Luckily as I hooked over the roof, a thin crack led me upwards. Finally arriving to a detached column I slung the top of it to clean the pitch.

After jugging back up to the pillar I faced a rather big problem. All around the pillar was fused, not allowing any gear to make an upwards pull anchor to belay myself with. I felt fairly confident that the number 4 behind the pillar would push the pillar off the cliff if I fell. After 15 minutes of trying to get anything from upside-down hooks to peckers an idea came. I slung the rope around the middle of the pillar so it cinched down tight. The whole column would be my belay. I prayed I wouldn’t detach it completely. Straight off the belay I had to made awkward moves of average pecker after pecker. Soon I was looking down past a rattly cam into the deep abyss of the face. I came to a ledge that felt wet and slippery. Another adrenaline fuelled mantel saw me standing precariously on grass and dirt. I reached high and plugged in a good piece. Relief washed over me. I was some plugging and chugging my way up the final A1 cracks to the summit of the first wall. I found a good belay to clean the final 40m pitch and faced a tough decision.

The true summit lay beyond a labyrinth of ledges and steps. Time consuming ground when your on your own. I sat down to take stock. I had enough food to see me through the day, but no more. And my fuel would run out at breakfast. Feeling my sleeping bag, it was still soaked from sleeping in it with wet clothes the previous night. All these factors made it an easy decision to traverse off and make tracks home. Slogging my way up the steep snow back to the tracking was back breaking work. After gaining the flat track I was able to move fast, glad to be back in the horizontal. It grew dark as I was reaching the hut. Realising I wasn’t too far from the trailhead I continued. Arriving at the car, beaten, tired, but with the biggest shit-eating grin of my life. With a new 140m aid route completed I was one happy camper. I finally made it home 18 hours after waking that morning in the hut and collapsed into bed, my mind full of thoughts of the conquered dream.

"This Boys in Love, 140m, 16 A3"

1. 50m, 14 A1. Up steep broken ground heading towards the base of the large Left facing corner on the left of the face. At base of corner head left 5m to belay beneath thin crack in middle of face.
2. 50m, A2+. Hook up off the ledge to gain the thin crack. Much small gear leads you up and up before belaying on top of large detached pillar.
3. 40m, A3. Spicy peckers off the belay lead to mantel into base of A1 crack to the summit. belay up and right in obvious crack.

FA Simon Young(solo) 3/10/2009

From here traverse off left along back to main walking track, hairy in places! is possible to continue rambling up to the top buttress, time, cold and lack of bivy gear led me out back to civilisation.

Suggested Rack:
doubles of cams from teeny micros to #2 camalot
singles #3 & #4
double set of wires
all sizes hooks(cam hooks useful)
selection of pins, mostly blades/peckers
testicles, preferably large(had none on FA, but would have been useful)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hatun Machay

the weather everywhere was crap. everyone seemed to be gravitating back towards Huaraz, out of the hills. we had heard whispers from friends about an amazing sport-climbing area called Hatun Machay. apparently Peru´s premier rock-climbing area. we went to investigate at the local office that organises transport to and from the refuge that serves the area. we were amazed at how easy everything was, with a bus leaving every day.

we packed all our gear ready for a few days in the sun. it would be nice to clip bolts and relax! we made our way down to the office and at 8am the bus left for the 1.5 hour drive. the bus had many people from all nationalities. everyone was in good spirits and ready for some laughs.

we arrived at the Refugio and were greeted by views of the amazing rock formations that make up Hatun Machay. there are currently about 120 routes established, but the potential is endless. with 10 lives you wouldnt get halfway through it. we eagerly walked the 15 minutes to the crag and set about climbing as many classics as we could! out of shape from the mountains it was a struggle but we managed to climb routes up to 6c+(23). we climbed in the warm sun all day before making our way up to the hut for some dinner.

the hut is recently built and a great theing to have. for only 20 soles per night you´re provided with a kitchen, utensils and a comfy bed! we sunk some of the beers we had brought, and settled into laughing in front of the fire. there were some great people up there, i only wish my spanish was better!

in the morning we were woken by the many cute dogs roaming around. after a hearty breakfast we made our way once more down to the crag! towards lunchtime we were joined by our friends, the pro skiers. these three girls(and guy) were here carrying skies up the big hills to ski down. all this to raise money for a local charity. it was pretty impressive what they had been up to! maybe when im in europe i can get a free lesson!! the rest of the day was spent laughing, climbing and having a ball! Rob and i decided to head back to Huaraz with the skiers to enjoy some amazing local food cooked by Zarela.

i was sad to leave such an amazing area. i looked at changing my ticket to stay and head back to Hatun Machay. theres a drill and bolts available for putting up new routes and i was keen as mustard! unfortunatly though, it would cost more money than i could justify. maybe next year!

if your in Peru or even south america i'd recommend a visit to Hatun Machay. Andres, the owner, has done a fantastic job of creating a climbers paradise. give it a few years and it will become a global destination! get in quick! you can check out all the information at!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dreaming Big...

the suggestion of Taulliraju had gotten both Rob and I excited. this would be what we were after, a long, hard and sustained outing that would push us to the limit both mentally and physically. we were thinking of trying the Italian Butress(VI, WI6, M6) but had also heard rumors that the un-climbed direct might be in condition. the plan was to take food and supplies in, and have a sniff about to see what was in.

after stocking up on coffee, food and plenty of snacks we made our way once more to the trailhead of the Santa Cruz valley. this time however we were early enough to do the approach in a day. our young arriero was very helpful and by late afternoon we were pitching basecamp and staring up at the imposing south-west face of Taulliraju. i was awestruck, it was the most beautiful thing i had ever seen in the flesh. we picked up our small binoculars and starting trying to see what was happening up on the face. a passing trekker lent us his much better pair and we could get right up close, and soon see how things looked.

the direct looked good. at least through the binoculars! if what looked like ice didnt prove to be the infamous powder on rock the Andes often serves up, there would only be a short rock section to join the two ice smears. being fit, acclimatised and psyched out of our heads, we would go try and get the first ascent of this incredible line. we would never forgive ourselves if we didnt at least try!

after a rest day prepaing food and a meagre rack we settled into to reading books before heading up to bivy on the glacier the next day. at 5am however disaster struck. the pitter-patter of rain drops slowly started increasing on my tent, and soon it was pouring steadily. poking my head out of the entrance it looked grim. barely able to se the moraine, this weather wasn´t just a passing shower. all day it poured down rain while up high it snowed. through the day we passed time reading in our tents getting more and more frustrated. we just wanted to go have an adventure, failure or success, it didnt matter as long as we could push the boat out and see what happened.

i finished my book shortly before Rob finished his. we swapped and kept this up till dinner time. hopefully this would clear during the night and we could depart a day late. all through the night it kept up and we woke to the same routine. more tea and reading passed the day. the weather showed no sign of improving and we were running out of time. with a plane to catch we made the decision to bail. up high would have too much snow and need to settle for a day or so and we just didnt have the time. an Arriero passed us with un-burdened donkeys and we soon arranged to be out that day.

all afternoon we walked and walked till we were out. tired at the end we were both disappointed we didnt even make it passed basecamp. when the locals continously tried to rip us off it was the last straw. nearly exploding with rage we caught a taxi and got out of there. soon we were back at Zarela's having showers and going out for beers to drown our sorrows. oh well, maybe next year. id much rather dream big and fail than never experience the restless nights before you push it to the limit, and discover what your truly capable of!

Up & Down & Back Again

so Rob was feeling pretty average the whole way out of the Ischinca valley. unable to keep food down he was soon gripped by fever on the taxi ride home. after 24 hours back in Huaraz he was feeling much better. a course of antibiotics had done him well. feeling well enough to consider eating some food we went to a local restaurant with a good reccomendation. we tucked away a hearty meal felt fat and contented. it was here we met Nate and Marcus, two americans that had been about for a while. Marcus was heading home the next day and Nate had 48 hours until his Dad and a mate were showing up in Huaraz. he put the question forward;

'Are you interested in heading up to climb Churup?'

Churup is a close by mountain that features some more technical climbing at a lower altitude. i was a biut hesitant at first, i didnt want to leave Rob on his own so i said i'd think about it. the next day Nate was still keen as mustard, and Rob wanted a little bit more time to start feeling better. it was on! i quickly packed up what we´d need and we were soon waiting out the front of the hostel for our taxi. a short drive later we were at the trailhead. we started walking, the track being familiar as we had hiked it for acclimatisation. this time, however, the packs were much heavier! we were both feeling fit and moved fast up to the first lake. getting many strange looks for all the other tourists. by now im used to that, 'you must be crazy' expression people have written all over their faces upon seeing big packs!

a few hours after starting we found our campsite. a beautifully secluded beach next to an amazing lake. above us loomed the mountain in all its glory, flanked by seracs and glaciers. we settled in to resting, hydrating and getting ready for a midnight start. we had to be down in town by about 1830 the next day, the taxi would be waiting for us at 1700 at the base of the trail. we would have to work hard and move fast!

the alarms rung and we snapped into gear, getting tea and breakfast on. like a well oiled machine we were soon heading out across the scree(talus) on route to the glacier. we steadily made our way onwards and upwards in the dark. feeling our way up the glacier. soon we arrived at the base of the route and we put the rope on for the first time. a steep traverse led us to the base of the rockband that provided the meat of the hard climbing. Nate took the first pitch. some amazing mixed climbing, without much gear for saftey saw us 70m higher. the climbing was easy enough to savour, and not worry about having to change undies later on!

Nate passed me the rack of gear and i made my way up and left, finding the traverse line that led to easier ground. some enthralling climbing led me out and out. with much hooking and torquing of my tools i was soon back onto snow. that had been some of the best mixed climbing i had done. Nate swung through the belay and led through a final band of rock and onto the headwall snowslopes above. we were moving fast and climbing well together, everything going well! the sun met us during the second pitch of snow. we continued to pitch it up the 65-70 degree neve and soon Nate cried down that he could see the summit ridge. i could scarcely believe him, it felt like we had much longer to go! he was right though, and soon we were taking in the panoramic views of the entire mountain range. a break for some water and food that i had neglected to eat on the route was warmly welcomed.

we made our way down the ridgeline to the first of the abseils. these were all fixed down a buttress of terrible rock. each abseil saw small rocks whizzing by us, threating to hit us, or worse, cut the rope. we kept at it and made it safe and sound back down to the glacier. here we packed the rope away and started down to our camp. we were soon down. its amazing how an approach seems so much longer in the dark! we checked the clock at camp, we had made it in 12 hours round trip! with plenty of time to spare we packed up and made our way down the hill.

arriving back at the trailhead much earlier than expected we were glad to find a waiting collectivo. we made our way down and cancelled the arranged taxi. i made my way to Cafe Andino´s for a beer and some food to celebrate. all the guys were there already so it was great! Rob was feeling better so we started thinking what was next.

with out too many ideas Nate piped in a great suggestion, why not try the fearsome Taulliraju. we were sold instantly. No one had tried this amzing mountain yet this season. it stands proud at the head of the Santa Cruz valley. Giving the impression of an impregnable castle, where all the bad guys live in the clouds. we were keen to go face those bad guys head on....

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Ischinca Valley

After a few days of chowing down on some of Huaraz's finest food (mostly at cafe andino´s), we were about ready to go back into the thick of it and try the only other real goal we had for peru. this would involve walking up the Ischinca valley to climb the classic West Facce of Tocllaraju. this is a well know route that involves mostly 55-60 degree ice with a steeper pitch to exit onto the summit ridge.

there was a local transport strike on by all the collectivo drivers that meant we had to get up early to get a cab to the strart of the trail. we had rand ahead and arranged some donkeys. they were waiting on arrival and we were soon underway. the walk up the valley was beautiful. many rock towers rose either side, making me wish i had more time to go rock-climbing! three hours later we arrived at basecamp and settled in next to some brits we met in at Alpamayo, Lester and Ben.

we had an afternoon to kill which was spent packing to move to the high camp the next day. near the camp theres also a fun little sport route. some other guys had a top-rope on it so i went over and had a play. unfortunately i only had my trainers on, but it was fun none the less!

we woke the next day and made the final preperations to head up and climb our route. the weather didnt look too amazing but we left camp anyway. 45 minutes up the track it started snowing pretty heavily so Rob and I huddled under a big boulder and weighed up our options. it started to clear and we decided to just carry some of the gear up the hill to high-camp, then sleep in base camp before heading up the next day. this wuoold hopefully allow the weather to clear a bit, and allow the fresh snow to settle out a bit.

the next day saw us slogging back up the same hill. luckily half our gear was already up there so the walk was much easier! we found a great little sheltered spot at about 5150m. a lot of people camp a little bit higher, but that sites in the open. we set the alarms for midnight and settled in to try and get some sleep. in the late afternoon we had a visitor.

a couple of alaskans had decided to try the normal route in a single push from base-camp. they had, however left at 8am that day. not exactly an alpine start. we had been watching their slow progress from our camp before we noticed there was only one person on the ridge now. soon after Torsten joined us for some tea. his friend, Andrew, had decided to keep going! Torsten soon made his way down, telling us to keep an eye on Andy. as darkness fell he was still going up!

a restless night for both of us saw us soon rolling out of our warm sleeping bags and getting ready for the route. we left camp at 1am and were soon slogging up the glacier towards our goal. there was a nice path up most of the way from people who had climbed the normal ridgeline. we broke off the path to get to our route and were instantly plugging steps in soft snow. soon we arrived at the base of the face and were confronted with a monster bergschrund. we found a way through, involving some overhanging ice for a few metres and were on the face proper now.

i led off up the 60 degree nevé, finding perfect conditions. we led in blocks of three pitches, so as t stay warmer not belaying for two pitches at a time. after five or so pitches were arrived at the first obstacle, some dorment seracs. we skirted to the right a touch and blasted onwards and upwards. daylight had crept up on us now and the warmth was a welcome feeling. the lower face had been freezing! soon we punched onto the lower angled ridge that led to the summit. here the snow was deep and at 6000m it was really hard work. stopping for breath every 10 steps or so we were soon standing on top. unfortunately clouds blocked most of our views. it was snowing lightly so we started making our way down. a few abseils and some downclimbing saw us trudging back across the glacier to our camp.

we ate the remainder of the food and packed our stuff and made our way down. my knees felling the full impact of a heaving load! soon however we were down, frying up eggs bought from the local canteen. we were keen to have a go at the nearby Ranrapalca, but a rest day was in order first! the weather the next day wasnt really too amazing. we decided to see what it was like the day after and make decision to stay or go then. this peak wasnt particularly inspiring so we both wouldnt mind leaving without its summit.

the next morning saw Rob bringing his breakfast back up and feeling crap, with some sort of stomach bug. that settled the deal, we arranged some donkeys and made our way down. at the bottom we caught a taxi with two other Spaniards. on the drive down Rob was cold with fever, shivering while we were toasty in the backseat. at the hostel they were full, but Zarela found us a couple of beds. Rob went straight to bed to rest. he couldnt eat, so i went out and made up for it. smashing the menu at cafe andinos i was soon full and content.

with rob sick there wasnt heaps i could do so i just set about trying to get my belt on the usual notch after having taken it in a bit! there could be plenty of worse places and things to do than hang out and eat...

Monday, July 20, 2009


it took only a few days to start feeling a bit better and get ready for our first proper mission. we were heading up the Santa Cruz valley to try and stand on top of Nevada Alpamayo (5940m). alpamayo is one the most famous peaks due to its beauty so we wanted to do this one first. we had both dreamed of this one for a while!

an early start saw us riding in a taxi with all our gear to the collectivo depot. colletivo´s are communal taxis, that pickup and drop people off all along the way. its quite a good, cheap if somewhat hairy way to travel. a few hours of bumpy, cramped driving later we were at the trailhead of the valley. here we organised a donkey driver and two donkeys(nando and jorje). we had heaps of kit to bring to base camp and for only $20 a day its a good way to avoid the back-breaking loads! you only get one set of knees!

the valley was a beautiful one, full of fellow trekkers and climbers. there were, of course, the usual serious, professional german hikers. for them its not about laughing and joking, its a very serious matter. 3 hours after starting we made our way into Llama corral, a grassy clearing where we would camp for the night and rest the donkeys. we pitched our tent and got busy relaxing. there we some local dogs about which were the cutest things ever, it was hard not to let them into the tent!!

at the reasonable time of 8am we broke camp and started walking again. the valley was now nice and flat so the going was nice and easy! we came to the end of the valley quite quickly and started making our way up the hill to where alpamayo basecamp is located. loads of switchbacks made the going fairly straight forward, however we were starting to notice some altitude. we rocked up into basecamp shortly after lunch and got busy organising ourselves.

we were able to talk to some current inhabitants about the routes condition and soon learned that the french direct was the route that everyone was doing. with lots of gear left in place on the route, we would gun for this line. (along with everyone else!) Jono, the californian dude, had changed his ticket to join us before heading back home to work. he was on a tight schedule, so that meant we were too! we packed the bare essentials for high camp and settled into bed for the night.

a dawn start saw us climbing the moraine slopes, past the moraine camp and on to the glacier. we had 1200m height to gain so our work was cut out for us! the glacier was pretty chilled out, except for one massive crevasse we had to step over, staring down into the gloomy darkness as we did so. 6 hours after leaving basecamp we were at the col camp, where we would climb from. at 5500m it was the highest id ever been. soon i started feeling lousy, with headaches and nausea. a concoction of drugs and rest saw me feeling slightly better. we set the alarms for midnight and tried to get some sleep.

everyone else decided to get an early start too, so we ended up being the last group to the base of the route. a bit disapointed we waited in the bergschrund for our turn to climb. the group above us were moving quite slow, and there wasnt a good chance to pass them so we just had to wait! leading in blocks of three pitches each we soon had some daylight to climb by. the route topped out right on the summit for some spectacular views! we had some food and realaxed in some sun before making the 8 abseils to get back down off the route.

once back at col camp jono had to pack his stuff and make his way down the hill so he wouldnt miss his flight. rob and i just relaxed. i still didnt feel great so had a hard time eating anything. after a sleepless night we decided to make our way down. i was struggling to recover. my body being completely depleted of energy, i had nothing left to give! its the most tired ive ever been, altitude makes big-wall soloing look easy...

getting down the galcier was super-fast as its all downhill! we stumbled into basecamp and just sprawled ourselves over the soft grass. we got one of the locals to fry us up some chips and eggs for a few bucks and started feeling heaps better. we arranged some donkeys for the trip out the next day. we had already arranged a driver to meet us, but we got a new one so we didnt have to wait an extra day!

a 7am start saw us making our way down the valley. with light packs, we again moved fast down the never ending valley. soon however we were done. we payed the donkey driver his deniro and got a collectivo down the hill. with another car infront of us, both drivers were racing down the windy roads. i felt like i should be james bond, hanging out the window with a gun shooting at the car ahead!! the first collectivo we caught broke down, luckily another one came along soon after and we we soon showering in huaraz and making our way towards some food.

at the trusty cafe andino, we went nuts and pigged out on all the food we could eat! i had lost some weight, which i desperately needed to try and put back on! so for a few days thats my main focus, eating carbs, proteins and fatty foods ready for our next mission tommorow. we´re heading into the ishinca valley for a short, 4 day mission to climb the classic west face of toccalarju.

now for some more burritos....

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Acclimitisation blues...

after a few days in huaraz, getting used to the thinner air it was time to go higher. we set of for a day walk up to laguna churup, a beautiful lake at 4450m. this would be a good chance to let our bodies acclimatise. we caught the taxi up and were soon walking. taking it nice and slow, it was still an effort not to lose my breath! an hour and a hlaf later we we casually munching on some food by the lake. i felt pretty good. we had enought time to stay up there for a few hours before making our way back down to the taxi.

once back in huaraz i started feeling a little seedy, but thought it would just pass. we went to the famous cafe andino for some food and tea before making our way to the markets. by now i was feeling much worse, with nausea and headaches. we picked an entrance to the markets and went in. we had gone into the meat section. with dead chickens and ox tongues inches from my face i had to get out of here. i found a fast way out and struggled to catch my breath. fighting a wave of nausea i thought i was winning the fight. until the enemy sent another wave that saw me heaving up the tasty sandwich from cafe andinos into a nearby drain. feeling better for the release i made my way home to the hostel where i lay down and tried to rest. i drugged myself up and started feeling sorry for myself. soon i was leaking out both end in an effort to empty my bowels completely. i think the altitude, combined with an upset tummy led to these miserable 24 hours.

after a sleepless night i was feeling slightly better in the morning. we had originally planned to head up the jacca valley to climb vallunaraju, an easy peak with a summit height of 5680. i felt well enough to come up to the refugio, and would see how i felt from there. we had recently met an american called jono, who had decided to come with us. so we piled into a taxi which proceded to drive to the doorstep of basecamp. they really know how to do it in peru! after a diaster with the pasta we were soon settling into bed. i wasnt feeling particularly good so i popped some pills and tried to get some sleep. during the night i felt awful. i was struggling for breath, feeling like someone was sitting on my chest. my head pounded and my heart raced. we had set the alarm for 3am, and when that went off i checked my pulse. it was 120bpm. with such a sore head and a high pulse i decied i just needed another day to rest. the others set off and i was sorely disappointed to no be going with them.

going back to bed i slept for quite some time. after some time i started feeling better, helped along by some altitude drugs. at around midday i went for a walk up to glacial lake above the hut, it was quite spectacular! after milling around for a while, and throwing some stones i made my way back down for some tea. after a litre of cocoa leaf tea i was feeling much better. i had made the right decision to hang back for the day. Rob and Jono came back just after 1pm, they had made good time to the summit and back. a couple from moab had sandbagged us into thinking the route would talk heaps longer, so the taxi wouldn´t show up until 4! as far as places to lounge around go, we weren´t doing too badly! the taxi showed up a touch early and we piled in and made our way back down to the hostel. soon we´re going to be heading out to grab some big burritos before having a pleasant rest day tommorow.

then hopefully we ´ll be heading up the santa cruz valley to try and have a shot at climbing the famous alpamayo! see how we go!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Simon vs. HAFE

so i made it to peru! im sitting in downtown huaraz today after arriving yesterday via bus from lima. with the moutnains of the Cordillera Blanca mountains looming above us, it is a spectacualr location. the town is at 3100m so the effects of altitude have presented themselves. with a mild headache this morning i know i am acclimatising. unfortunately i have been struck down with a bout of HAFE, ie. High Altitude Flatulence Edema. while u wont find this condition in any of the medical textbooks, who are u gonna beleive? some nandy-pandy desk jockey or me, in the thick of it, with my finger on the pulse. the symptoms of HAFE arent too hard to imagine, severe flatulence. i pity poor Rob. often the hardest hit person is the partner of the victim. such a nice guy, its a shame that his soul will be forever scarred by the experience of sharing close quarters with the unfortunate HAFE victim. let me explain how HAFE forms.

in the rareified atmospheres of altitude there is less oxygen available for the lungs to consume. due to this the body needs to suck more air to get the required fuel for the body. for most people this just results in High-Altitude Lassitude, which dissapears quickly. for some unlucky souls however, they are unable to expel the same level as they inhale orally. this leads to a build-up of air that must escape somehow. this results in the air heading south and out the other end, so to speak.

thankfully this condition is not terminal, and rarely fatal. often the worst damge is on the surounding environment, with high cases of ´Burning Nostrils´occuring. usually HAFE passes once acclimatised, taking roughly 153 hours to pass. so the good news is this wont plague me forever, although the memories will torment Rob for the term of his natural life.

so no need to worry, i am coping with ths unexpected hurdle as best i can. for now its off to buy supplies and get ready for our first few missions. some peaks easy enough for us to get high without much trouble. afterall, getting high is what climbings all about.

so adios for now amigo´s!!

(NOTE: there is absolutely no truth to this post, apart from the fact my bowels are having a fun time with the local cuisine...)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mt Cook Solo

So I sit in Wanaka, snowfalkes gently falling to the ground. Over the last few days I've managed to get a whole heap of procrastination done. But here is the report of the failed mission to solo mt Cook.

After walking out of the Hooker with Jez we drove back to Christchurch. A few days of catching up with the outside world was a good thing! The weather forecast was still holding strong so I would have to go back in! Thats the best thing about mountaineering, you don't get to choose the time of engagement, you have to be ready to go when the weather and conditions are right. I had both. So I packed my things and waved good-bye. I was a little sad to leave Lyttleton, its a beautiful spot. I had to start preparing mentally for this next mission, to try and solo White Dreams (NZ 5) on the south face of Mt Cook. With a few big wall solo missions done, I'm real keen to transfer those skills and mental aspects to the big mountains.

So I arrived to an empty Unwin Hut, no surprises there. I had enough time to pack the few things I would be taking. Going light would be the key to success and everything got pared down to the essentials. Unfortunately this meant the sleeping bag stayed out. With blankets in the huts I would just have to rely on the extra fuel I would pack to stay warm. If anyone tells you they have a good nights sleep on the eve of a big route, they are insane or lying. The alarm went off and I sprang into action. Getting ready in record time. The walk-in had previously taken us 8 hours to Gardiner Hut each time, so I left the trail-head just as dawn was breaking. Having walked the track multiple times recently I cranked the iPod up with some classic Punk-Rock and set about getting up the valley.

With a light pack I felt fit and was moving fast. The competitive streak in me wanted to see how fast I could do the walk. Knowing the track well meant there were no wrong turns or back-tracking. Soon I was at the worst bit, the bloody moraine wall. I slid my way down and was soon munching some snacks at the lunch boulder on the glacier. I made my way onto the white ice crunching my way speedily up the glacier. The scariest bit was when I finally got to the crevasses. I took a deep breath and starting following our previously laid tracks. Things had opened up slightly since the last visit so there were a few interesting moments. Before too long I was resting in the bergschrund beneath the Water-Fall route onto Pudding Rock. Each time I had climbed this route, it was progressively easier. This time proved no trouble at all, it felt awesome moving with a pack on vaguely steep ground without a rope. A sense of mastery is something I yearn to feel in my climbing, and this moderate ground gave me that. The ice-fall in the bowl above the gully had dropped a few pieces of ice which I skirted and punched up to the ridge-line above.

I happily fell into the bench seats at Gardiner Hut and checked my watch, 5 hours flat. I was stoked, but the flip side being I now had time to kill! I picked up one the the hut books and settled in with a liter of hot cordial. The hut radio burst into life as DoC made the sched. The weather had changed for the worst, the next day would bring gale force winds about the tops so I decided on a hut day. It proved the right choice as the next day brought snow and winds. I managed to get through all 545 pages of the novel, feeling somewhat let down by the reviews. When darkness fell I settled into my blankets for another nights sleep.

The alarm woke me at 3am and I struggled up to get the brew on. I swear I could hear cries of pain in the background. Once packed I made my way across to the slopes that lead up to the base of the route. The moon had made its way east so a dark clear night waited outside. Needing to gain some 1800m I was in for a big day. But as I climbed higher I grew more and more concerned. I was on the lee slope to the wind and plenty of fresh snow had been deposited, having not bonded well to the underlying layer. Sometimes I was slipping, other times up to my knees. I said out loud to no one in particular, 'what am I doing here?!'. On a fifty-five degree slope I decided that being out at 4am, on the side of Mt Cook by myself in the midst of avalanche prone slopes in the middle of winter wasn't really all it was cracked up to be so I pulled the pin.

Gingerly I made my way back down the 300m height I had gained. With visions of being swept to the glacier below coursing through my mind I was taking all the time in the world. Before to long I was back at the hut, questioning whether I had made the right decision. A recent conversation I had with my good friend Johnny came to mind. In regards to the recent tragedy that claimed the lives of Micah Dash, Johnny Copp and Wade Johnston in China. Johnny had told me,

'If u could ask those guys now I'm sure they'd say its not worth dying for, not worth trading all those years of potential for this new route.'

This settled my mind somewhat as I made my way across the glacier to the true right side. Not being sure of whether I would get through or not provided me that feeling of unknown that mountaineers crave. With a few wrong turns and the odd jump over some deep, dark gaps I was soon flying down towards warmth, safety and a hot meat-pie. I was sorely disappointed that I was making my way back, this spurned me into trying to go as fast as I could back to the car. Four hours after I left the hut I was popping the boot and donning fresh clobber. The meat-pie didn't let me down and soon I was making my way to Wanaka.

With 4-5 days left till I head off to Peru the weather forecast is pretty average. At least it will give me the chance to relax and psyche back up to climb hard in Peru. A few week in front of a fire will give me all the guilt I need to put it out there and suffer on some of South America's finest.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Avalanches don't kill people. People kill people...

So there I was, harmlessly chewing the fat with the Jone's. Discussing how all the kiddy snowflakes today are faceting these days, the youth of today hey! they have no idea what it was like in the good ol' days, floating 15 miles with the other snow, just to become a cloud! We switched on the wireless and were surprised to hear a South-East wind was coming. I said my good-byes and soon I was airborne with the rest of the crowd. Jeez I hate the rat race. Everybody in the same wind, all hustle and bustle to get a good seat on the snow pack. How nobody wants the responsibility of being on the bottom. Today was no exception! I must have drowned an elderly person in my last life as a river, because I ended up on the bottom. Now lets clear something up, I think myself a friendly snowflake, I like to think I can get along with most others, but don't get me started on hoar frost. Those guys are really bringing the neighborhood down. They just show up on our snow pack, making no effort to fit in and bond with the rest of us. I wish they'd just go home sometimes!

So needless to say it was up to me to make peace and bond with the hoar-frost community. But try as I might we just couldn't see eye to eye and bring the two communities together. So not only was I in a new neck of the woods, I think they called it 'Lee-slope' or something, I was also in charge of bringing to cultures together.

Maybe I should have listened to mum and dad, but nooo, I had to do it my way, leave the cloud, see the world I said, check out life as glacier someday. So with a rain coming from my mothers eyes I gracefully slipped out of the could and started my descent. One piece of wisdom my Dad had passed on before I left, was 'watch out for them humans!'. Bringing me to my current conundrum!

So a day of trying to make peace with the hoar layer had gotten no-where, things in the snow pack were as unstable as ever. Then things got worse. Reports started coming in about helicopters in the area, and even baby snowflakes know what they bring, humans! Let me tell u a minute why humans are bad. First of all they rock up, thinking they own the place. Walking everywhere with those ghastly spiky things, stabbing any and everything in their path. Sometimes the bring dynamite too, blowing slopes apart. Not happy till whole communities are sliding to the valley floor. Worst is when they put you in their 'pots' over the flame. I can still hear the screams of friends at night, as they were slowly broken down, melting away. Then the poor bastards were boiled and ingested. I wont describe the horrors that happen during ingestion, that leave strong snow-flakes as yellow stains, shells of a former life. We tell children, 'the Brew' will get u if u don't eat your vegetables. It sure makes them listen!

So when news got through the snow pack that they were coming this way, everyone was beside themselves. 'what should we do?', 'where shall we go?' were questions on everyones mind. When they started heading our way things started to get desperate. With huge clumsy, spiky boots they plodded our way, I had to do something. Trying to think quickly, and getting no support from the hoar community, I had to make the tough decision. 'Ok guys', I yelled 'we have to slide'. I took the leap of faith and soon the rest were following me. Trying to convince the base layers to come was useless. We slid smoothly and efficiently out of the path of the humans. As we were sliding I heard the faintest sound of the humans grow more distant as we gathered momentum.

“Bloody slab-avalanches...”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Different World

The gods must be crazy. Well ok not the gods but me! So Garry and i had walked out after three days of sitting on our arse. We saw that the weather forecast looked pretty average and the snow would need some time to settle so we decided to head up to Christchurch to catch up with some friends. So i gave Freya and Jez (pronounced jizz in kiwi), some friends of ours from Tassie, a ring and arranged a place to stay! We made the drive up without incident and were soon sipping tea in scenic Lyttleton. Garry changed his flight to go home a few days early and soon i was on my own, wondering what next. I checked the weather forecast and it had changed! The massive big high that looked like it would miss NZ would park its bum right over the southern alps. It was time to plan a mission!! Having just moved here, Jez didn’t have too many commitments so we eagerly planned a mission, not sure where but somewhere! We tossed up a fly-in option but due to a lack of funds we settled on a walk-in. Soon we had settled on going back up the Hooker Valley to once again try and climb some of the ice up there. We started saddling up for the trip, packing gear, photocopying topos and fighting that nervousness that slowly seeps in.

The alarm went off early. Damn alpine starts. It was 430am on a Friday and we had to drive down to Mt Cook Village then get the walk-in underway. It was going to be a big day! With a breakfast stop at lake Tekapo(hours old pies) we were soon looking at the mighty Mt Cook welcoming the sunrise to this glorious day. With Jez’s gear still in a shipping container somewhere in the Tasman sea, we would have to borrow some gear from Alpine Guides. They hooked us up with all the good stuff and we were soon trudging our way up the valley. I slimmed the pack down to the bare essentials and felt much fitter for having already walked in before. Knowing the track made all the difference, except for the one wrong turn I made that cost us 45 mins. Soon we were on the white-ice of the glacier in perfect weather, surrounded by the multitude of snow-capped peaks. Our recent tracks were still visible in the snow, so that made navigation a lot easier! I knew how to get up onto Pudding Rock, where our hut for the night was located. The daylight gave way to a starry night as we made the final 400m to the hut. We had moved fast and made the journey in 8 hours.

With many hot drinks and an epic portion of porridge we were soon making our way further up the glacier, destination Empress Hut. We whipped out our snow-shoes and made good progress, floating on top of the soft snow. We had slept in that morning, with the only rush being getting out from underneath the ice-cliffs on La Perouse. An epic slog up the final slope saw us making our way to the hut, collapsing with joy into the bench-seats warm embrace. The stove roared as we smashed hot drinks like they were going out of fashion! The plan for the next day was the Dingle-Button Couloir. This is an easier classic on Mt Hicks following a gully of ice with the odd steepish step. Something that’s not too big or hard for our first mountain route together.

The alarm beeped its un-welcome noises. However we set that alarm for a reason and we were soon up and getting the drinking water melted and gearing up for the oncoming fun. On time we left the hut and started marching across the glacier, trying to hold down the recently ingested porridge. The Bergshrund at the base of the route had gotten worse, and would require my best grovelling efforts in the loose slop. We had decided that I would lead all the pitches, for speed. Pitch after pitch of ice feel as we steadily made our way up. The odd steep step of ice provided some fun technical climbing that was never too hard and always in control. The last pitch of the couloir had too different options, I chose to go have a look at the harder one. Some stout climbing (M5+) led me to the final belay. Here we decided to turn around and go down. I was a bit upset about not going to the summit, but Jez was keen on going down, and it takes two to tango. Finding good patches of ice everywhere, good v-threads were abundant and we quickly made the 10 raps without much fuss. The walk back to the hut was satisfying. We made it back with daylight to spare and sipped tea in the final light of day.

The forecast for the next few days was amazing so we decided to have a cruisy day next. At lunchtime we made our way over to the summit of Sturdee, a small bump on a ridgeline. This bump however offered some amazing views! Descending via Harper Saddle offered a good chance for us to check out the access to the routes on the north face and also the decent from the summit.

Next on the hit-list was the Hicks-Dampier Couloir. This is a good way to make your way to the top of Mt Dampier, NZ’s third highest peak. We had to leave the hut early to slog up the glacier some more to get to the base. Navigating some massive crevasses by torchlight had its interesting moments but we were soon looking at another huge shrund guarding our route. There was a way over though, a precarious bridge that might collapse. I gingerly stepped onto it and commited to it. It held my weight!! With breath held, I made my way across to the other side and started grovelling up onto the snow slope. I put in a belay and bought and equally scared Jez across and onto the route. Some steep varied climbing led us up and up. The ice was squeaky neve, firm snow good for climbing but protection was non-existent! Never the less, we were soon simul-climbing up to the ridgeline. The ridge proved tricky, hard- ice and wind made for some slow going. Jez felt pretty tried, after not haveing done much like this in a while so i was hesitant to commit to the summit and again we turned around a few hundred metres short. The descent proved much harder, without so much ice about, abseil anchors proved to be problematic. Darkness fell as we were making the last abseil over the epically huge schund. Jez had to abseil into it and then climb out the other side. Freezing on belay, and getting frustrated it was taking so long, I just longed for the hut. My feet soon touched down on the glacier. Sweet, we’ll soon be in the hut. Or so I thought....

Jez went to pull the ropes and they started coming smoothly. We reached the know joing the two ropes and suddenly it stopped. He tugged and tugged abut they weren’t coming free. So i jumped on the end too and we tried pulling from every direction, unable to dislodge my brand new rope. With the gaping schrund above us and a steep blank wall above that there was no way i could climb back up to the anchor safely. And prussicking wasn’t worth it, if it did fail I’d never climb again, probably never do much of anything again. So we decided to try and use brute strength. 45 minutes later we had a 5:1 haul system onto it. But even with that as tight as we could get it, it still wouldn’t come. With the hour growing late we decided on the hard decision, cut what I could from it. With a loud scream i cut the rope, surprisingly easily. We picked up our tracks and made our way back to the hut.

Dissapointed we packed things up ready for the walk-out. We decided to go the true right of the glacier and made awesome time down onto the glacier. After a well earned pizza and beer we soon collapsed into bed back in Christchurch after an epic day! I couldn’t shake the feeling though that id soon be back in that valley. The conditions are amazing, and don’t come like this very often! So time to make the most of it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Return to the Hooker

well im heading back up there, the hooker valley i mean. ive people say part of a successful alpine career is a bad memory. luckily for me the pain of walking has subsided and im super-psyched to get on with it!! the distance cant be as far as i remember. it wont be as cold as i remember either!! i sit hoping that by saying this over and over it'll come true!!

well time to have at it!

"All men dream: but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I [do]. "- T E Lawrence

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Storms and Tea-Cup's

so now that ive got my blog up to date with all the adventures ive been having at the start of the year i can finally get done to what im doing right now!! currently im sitting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

after a fantastic weekend of partying, and saying fond farewells to all my friends i was at the airport. as always i was arguing my case with the check-in chick. virgin have cracked down on excess baggage so my 55kg saw me forking out for the privelige. luckily i had met a friend of a friend, Liz, so i had a place to stay in Sydney overnight. i was in the heart of struggletown tho making my way from the train to her apartment with my body-weight of gear! i was soon involved in the goon frenzy going on and a good night ensued!! i woke early with a sore head and bleary eyes and made my way back to the airport to get on with the next leg. fog in sydney led to my flight being delayed. this meant i would miss my next flight, costing me dearly! by the time i rocked up in Auckland there were no more flights to Christchurch so i pulled out my sleeping bag and settled into the international terminal for the night. a cheap Air New Zealand flight later and was standing at the counter for Jucy car rentals, signing my life away. i had some time to kill before i picked Garry up from the airport so i made my way into town, to sift and peruse the fine wares on offer.
Garry was also delayed a bit, but we were soon on our way down to wanaka. i had some things to pick up from a shop there and we had to stock up for a mission. we checked the forecast, our best bet was heading up the hooker valley to Empress Hut. here we might steal a chance at climbing the might south face of Mt Hicks. the weather looked like it would be grim but we had to try! we stocked up on everything we thought we'd need and made our way to Mt Cook village to launch our assault from there.

the walk up the hooker is a grim and gruelling prospect. going from the plains in the village to 2500m. we set off just before dawn and were making good time. watching the transformation of vegetation and scenery was amazing. we even had some wild tahir(?) run past us. getting down onto the glacier from the moraine wall proved to be 'fun' little escapade. we soon had snow crunching under-foot as we made our way up, always up. the hardest section is getting past a big hill called pudding rock. in a good year u can walk straight past it but we had a bit more exciting time. theres a couloir on the right that i led up. it was steep sloppy uncosolidated snow, quite hairy! i even had to pull up off a snow stake to get past a steep bulge!!

once on pudding rock we collapsed into Gardiner Hut. we decided that this small hut would be home for the night. we were pretty tried from the previous 8 hour slog and didnt feel like navigating the next bit in the dark. dawn broke and we were soon up and at it slogging our way the glacier, navigating crevasses to get through to Empress Hut. we made it by late morning and slumped ready for a cup of tea! with some good weather still about we went for a wander over to the base of Mt Hicks and climbed the first rope-length of ice on the Dingle Button couloir. it was getting late so we rapped off and made our way back to the hut.
during the night the foul weather set in. the following 3 days were a blur of reading, tea, stretching and sleep. anything to shake the boredom of being stuck in a small hut while the wind howled! with so much snow being dumped it looked like we would not be able to safely climb, due to avalanche danger, even when it was clear. with this in mind, and the forecast looking even more grim for the following week we decided to get out when we could.
the snow was so deep when we left, snow-shoes proving invaluable! it was crazy to see how much was dropping off all the slopes around us. the whole valley would rumble from time to time, white out conditions preventing us from know where it was coming from. after nearly falling in a few crevasses the clouds lifted enough for us to make our way ot Gardiner Hut. we stopped for a brew and pondered our next move. we decided the safeest option was to try and locate abseil anchors over Pudding Rock. however these would be covered in snow and ice!
we found the first cable alright. i abseiled lower to try and find the next set of anchors. after 45 mins of frustrating chopping i finally found another anchor. Garry joined me and i set off to find the next one. 30 mins later i couldnt find the next one so i had Garry fix our 70m rope so i could go to the end to keep searching. luckily i soon found something, some steel cable buried at both ends. i wrapped a prussic around it, that would do. a 40m free hanging abseil saw us touch down onto the glacier. the snow here was so deep we were soon wading, up to our thighs thru the wet slop. we now only had about 1 hour of daylight so we hurried down the glacier.
we continued on once darkness fell, navigation was fairly stright-forward. it did however get increasingly difficult as we went lower down the glacier, where its more chopped up. we had to find the right bit of the moraine wall to scramble up and exit onto the track, but in the dark this proved a pretty grim prospect. equally grim was the other option we settled on, and open bivy. after trying to make the rocks around me as flat as possible i crawled into my light-weight bag (only rated to 0 Degrees) and shivered the night away. i managed about 45 mins of crappy sleep.
the sun in the morning was a welcome sight and i soon warmed up as we trudged up the moraine to get on the track. my feet were soaked, cold and starting to rub but i grit my teeth and pressed on. theres no other option! just after lunchtime we collapsed back at the car, barely able to hold myself up! a well deserved meat-pie at the hermitage saw me feeling mych better!! we checked in with the Department of Conservation (DoC) to let them know we were safe and then decided to bail to christchurch. the weather forecast looking shit for the rest of the week.

so last night we stayed with Freya and Jeremy (jez) from tas which is great! really good to hear about their trip to India. Garry heads home on wedsnesday so im not exactly sure what to do for the next three weeks, but im sure ill find something to climb with someone!!!

rock on!!!

Buffalo once more

so i had some classic free-climbs ticked out at the wimmera, so what better to do now than climb some classic aid routes at buffalo? i had all my big wall shite in the van when i came over so once we finished work i just hopped in the car and started driving, buffalo-bound. i had the worst timing ever, the rest of melbourne were also on the hume highway this friday evening. bloody long weekends...

i dossed in the back of my van on the side of the road down near bright. the morning light came as i set off to finalise the supplies for this next adventure. with most shops being closed i was glad to find some open for the masses, allowing me to stock up on fuel and big-wall goodies! soon i was heading up the hill to check things out and get ready for the assault. having previously climbed Holden Caulfield and Ozy i thought id be a bit of a hero and try Clouded Queen in its entireity. the topo and route description in the guidebook is pretty poor but i figured id work it out on the wall.

i fixed a rope on the first abseil down Defender of the Faith then made my way down. id forgotton how much of a pain in the arse haulbags are on ur own! after much cursing, spluttering and general rage i was soon setting up the belay at the base of the route. i only had a few pitches to climb on the first day so i was in no hurry. however dark clouds were brewing. just as the clanking of my portaledge going together was finished, the heavens opened. i scurried under my fly and got out the most essential big-wall solo item, my iPod. watching lightning flash through the portaledge fly was something i wont soon forget!

the next day broke to blue skies once more. i set off what i thought was the right route, following some fixed gear out the roof. i hauled/ cleaned the pitch and started up the next ropelength. something didnt quite feel right. there were bolts on the pitch and it didnt quite match the vague description i had scribbled in my pocket. i thought 'oh well, im still going up' and continued up the line. by the end of the pitch i knew i was off route. i was now moving on the arete left of Ozy when i should have been out on the face. i now had a big choice, bail into Ozy or sack-up and head back into Clouded Queen.

i tucked tail and ran. mentally i wasnt prepared for what soloing a hard aid route would require so i decided to just take a few days off and just float up Ozy Direct. getting into the corner below the Ozy roof proved fun however. unable to pendulem across i had to tape my nut tool to the end of the pole for the portaledge fly, attach some rope to it and hook a bolt to pull my self over! once established in the corner i was off, the A1 crack feeling so easy compared to the copper-heads i'd just been pulling off!!! i punched throught the roof and was soon up at the gledhill bivy, what better place to chill out!! again the iPod came out as i watched the gliders arc and soar across the darkening skyline, life wasn't too bad. all the stress i had about climbing hard had been washed away and i could now relax and enjoy the moment.

i silenced the alarm and rolled over, with only a few pitches to climb i wanted to lie in! eventually i dragged myself out of bed and set off. i decided to finish out Holden Caulfield. theres less fisty-cuffs in wide cracks and you get some cool exposure. everything was going fine, i was on the rivet on the pitch, these crazy blobs with wire coming off them. i was up at the point where Steve is pictured on the cover off the guide, standing on the wire he has clipped, when things got grim.


oh shit i thought as i dropped a centimetre, looking down the rock had blown out half the placement. by the grace of god i was still hanging in there. i frantically fumbled on the rack for a hook so i could get on a good edge on the face, then 'Ping' i plummetted. because it was 'easy i had lots of slack out. i remember thinking 'ok the rope should take up about now', as it did i slowed a little. then 'snap' i broke the rivet and fell another few metres. i finally arrested about 8 metres below where i started the plummet. i bit shaken i jugged back up. not sure what to do next i thought i had better try and hook past that section. a few dicey moves later saw me at the next rivets. the pitch is now harder but in my opinion more classic!! it never needed so many rivets in the FA.

i topped out just after lunch and made my way down the hill. all the caravan parks were chockers so no-one would let me shower, so i set off for melbourne! at elwood beach i braved the frigid waters for a bath. soon i was sitting on the ferry back home. it was only a few months till i was to set off for NZ and Peru so i had heaps to keep me out of trouble at home. i reflected on what had just happened.

i had wanted to be the hero, soloing a hard route but mentally i wasnt up to it and i got smacked. it was a good lesson in learning to listen to myself. to hear whats actually going on upstairs, not just what i wish was happening...