Thursday, April 29, 2010
Animal Instincts Direct
“Trust the instinct to the end, though u can render no reason” - Raph Waldo Emerson
Although briefly mentioned, I feel the experience of climbing this route definitely justifies a write up of its own.
Where to begin, the guide says this about the climb;
Animal Instincts Direct, 15m
One of the best and hardest trad routes around. When the original route traverses right, head direct up the flaring cracks above.
Located on Tasmanias east coast, AI climbs a flaring seam on a buttress next to the famous White-water Wall. The route starts up the wall with some easy lay backing for 4m or so. This climbing in itself is typical of the perfect granite flakes abundant in the area. From a horizontal break and hand crack lead upwards, slowly flaring itself out so jamming out of the question. From there the fun begins. Long, powerful moves lead to the base of the seam. A gnarly elevator door move on terrible feet lead to the crux move of getting established in the seam. From here its technical lay backing up the head wall. Just when you think its in the bag however, tiny slopy crimps lead to a two finger gaston. From here, pounce to the top and roll over with relief.
Vague memories are had by Simon Parsons of climbing the variant back in the day. This climbs to the base of the seam before fleeing right via an undercling. Climbed by Sam Edwards in the 90’s, this is a stout climb in itself. The direct was looked at some years later by Kim Robinson and Al Williams to no avail. In 2007, while sniffing about climbing any unclimbed lines left on the coast, Garry Phillips and myself noticed this obvious direct and started trying it. We rapped down and quickly realised how small the gear was in the seam. Then we tried the moves. It took a full days effort just to start unlocking the sequence to make this line feel possible. Then we thought about how to arrange the protection.
From the start we realised this was a hard route. We thought placing the gear on lead next to impossible. Blind placements off lay backs into flaring granite seams, sounds fun. On the second day of effort Garry put the gear in on abseil and lead the route second redpoint attempt. Falling on the gear was a scary experience. An amazing effort by Garry meant the route had been climbed. Unfortunately I was unable to get the lead in as well. Over the next few seasons I tried the line on and off. Wanting to lead the route myself. It wasn’t until I saw some of the recent climbing movies, with the likes of Matt Segal and Dave McLeod, placing gear on lead on hard hard climbs that an idea was planted in my mind. Cowboy up and place the gear on lead.
"Each goal achieved is equally a dream destroyed." The price of a dream's destruction is worth it if the climber rises to fulfill that dream rather than dragging it within easy reach using the excessive force of technology. Our dreams are not infinite. How many will you have in a lifetime, and what replaces them once they have been realized or destroyed?
-Mark twight (quoting Reinhold Messner)
I laid awake at nights, thinking of this route, wondering if I could do it placing the gear on lead. How many lines like this are there in the world? I knew for myself I had to rise to the challenge of leading the route in the best style I could, or I wouldn’t be happy with myself, the only person I climb for. So I started putting in some serious effort. Trying the climb with gusto, working out what stances I could place the gear from. Everything would need to be perfect for an ascent. The cams had to face the right way, lobes need to sit on specific crystals. I learnt how the placement should feel to be good as I didn’t have the luxury of looking in the cracks. The crux piece was a 000 c3 camalot. The smallest cam Black Diamond make, ‘Not for free-climbing’ apparently. After this an average 0 c3, backed up by a good #2 RP protected the headwall above. After much trying I knew I could do the route on pre-placed gear, but kept working to get it done in better style.
The Easter long weekend was approaching, I heard a few of the uni-climbing club people were heading up, perfect. I drove up by myself on the Thursday morning and walked straight to the wall. After putting the top-rope on again, I refreshed everything in my head a few more times. With such a hard, technical crux there were a lot of subtleties to remember. I pulled the rope and racked up the six pieces I would need as Lachy put me on belay.
I started up, nervous about what loomed above. I committed to the first hard moves. Placing the first micro-cam I clipped it. I started the elevator door moves. I saw the cam wasn’t in properly, and wouldn’t hold a fly. Reversing the moves I desperately fiddled with the piece till it was in where it needed to be and promptly fell off. Annoyed with myself I abseiled in and cleaned the gear out and rested for another shot. This time the cam went in first shot. I surprised myself, climbing through the crux into the headwall. I placed the next small cam off the insecure stance. Pulling up rope to clip, my foot popped. Launching into the air I barely registered what was happening. Pulling up on the first micro-cam it sank in what had happened. If that piece had of pulled I would have been on the ground from 10m, thanks for a good catch Lachy!
Deciding I’d had enough that day I retired to rest, hoping that the showers forecast for the next day didn’t eventuate. It was Good Friday, morning dawned crisp and cloudy, perfect conditions. A quick top--rope of the route to warm up and once more I was staring up the intimidating wall. With Zach putting me on belay I stepped off. Not feeling fresh and fighting fit, I had to try.
Long move, place cam, clip rope, elevator doors, keep tension, bad feet, lay back, next piece, calm breathing, keep calm, move precisely, slopy crimps, poor gaston, top-out.
I belly flopped onto the top of the wall and a wave of relief, nausea and pride hit me. Making me want to shout, scream and cry all at the same time. Not only was this the hardest piece of climbing I had done, I had pushed myself to the edge and adhered to what I hold sacred. The feeling of fulfilling a dream, and meeting that dreams expectations were truly amazing
Its too easy for us to settle for second best. This fucked up western culture we live in seems to actually encourage it. I challenge you, don’t cheapen the experience for settling. I know its hard, I know I’ll be struggling with it along with you. This isn’t a piece written to say how cool I am, its an experience I want to share to inspire YOU to go out, dream big, hold fast to the dream, go through hell and back and come out with a big, shit-eating grin on your face. That’s living…