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...