At a later stage Owen will possibly serenade us with a spellbinding narrative of his multi-week return to sunny Vic from the hostile environs further south, however, privileged as we were to escape the confirms of the mundane for but a fleeting weekend and join his merry band, I thought I’d post this interim report.
“We’re in the pines. 50m west of the rubbish bins, under a tree!” exclaimed the SMS as Brad and I cruised Horsham looking to pick up supplies before joining Owen at the Mecca, late Friday night. Now which way is west? Or more importantly, which way would Owen think is west? And which tree? Very good questions, given that it’s dark. Should I dig out a compass? Ah there’s the infamous Silver Mazda, indeed huddled under a tree. Handshakes all round, and we meet Johno, who, like Brad is also from NZ, so they have lots to talk about. Johno proves to be an interesting character, spending much of the weekend calming scaling moderate grades in a relaxed, fluid style, only to, later in the trip, casually drop into the conversation titbits of information, like that he’d soloed 25’s back in the day. What the? Were we climbing with a master of the art? With an encyclopaedic knowledge of Arapiles routes, he was certainly well versed in the beta of any particular climb we cared to nominate. But I digress. On to the morning…
Saturday, lets see. Arh, yes. The northern group and the single pitch heaven of Entertainer (18) ***, a climb recommended to me by Kent as a brilliant lead with the joyous possibility of TR’ing Side Show (19) *, and Comic Relief (21) ** both nearby. And that we did! Entertainer proved to be a well protected, fun outing, though sufficiently challenging for me that I placed gear every 2m or so, and took so long getting up it that Owen and Johno topped out two 16’s in the same time. With Brad and I both at the pseudo-summit, the hardest part was a subsequent airy traverse across to the rings above Comic Relief. They looked so close I figured, yeah, I’ll just skip across here, rap down and we’ll have a TR good to go. 15 mins later we were still fighting a stuck nut and mucking with the hanging belay. Oh, well.
Above: Michael leading Entertainer (18), Northern Group.
I managed to talk Owen into also leading Entertainer, by raving about it’s safety and quality of nice stances. So he ticked that too, starting a trend of several good leads to come. Comic fell to multiple attempts by our group, with only Owen gaining the TR flash, the crux finishing move proving to be the sticking point, where-in a big throw to a side-pull horn found myself and Brad dogging. Naturally I opted for thuggery, launching ever harder until the hold could be reached, while Brad choose to use actual technique and incorporated interim moves to gain it statically.
By the time we’d done the route two or three times each, and TR’ed Side Show (19) as well, some lunch was in order. Once again I marvelled all with the simplicity and sheer brilliance of the zero preparation “reduced to clear” mini pizza rolls. Two 4 packs and you’ve got the weekend breaky & lunches covered. Takes about 2 mins of purchasing time, requires nothing sophisticated that can be forgotten, like cutlery and other such nonsense. And they taste great. A meal of champions!
The afternoon saw us feeling pretty drained, so we opted for some long easy classics. Wanting to stay within sight of each other, Brad and I headed up Driftwood/Antigone (14) while Owen and Johno took on Watchtower Chimney (12). Not sure who got the better climb. Ours was magnificent. A 60m first pitch with one easy move after another so that a real rhythm and flow developed, stopping only now and then to place obvious gear that just plonked in first try. Delightful! And the 2nd pitch was even classier, with some smeary moves above well cammed horizontals. Nice. The only downer was the heat, which by this stage had begun to be a problem. Meanwhile Owen and Johno reported feeling a tad chilly in the chimney, but looked to be having some grand fun with one move in particular that saw them doing a complete 360 and climbing facing outwards!
Above Left: Owen & Johno leading Watchtower Chimney (12). Above Middle: Rapping the Watchtower Right Side. Above Right: Owen leading Tannin (19), Organ Pipes.
We rapped down Watchtower
right side, and returned to the pines to ditch the gear and grab “the
gimp”, the bright orange, home made bouldering mat, made famous in
previous trip reports and on lone to us for the weekend. Brad, drawn
inexorably towards the pebbles and refusing to be scoured clean of this
obsession even by such glorious routes as we had done that day, lead us
towards some unfinished problems that had been causing him angst. Much
howling and barking ensured as we tor at the unsympathetic stone like a
pack of hungry wolves, devouring one problem after another with comic
style and lake of grace, at least on my part. Tender tips and encroaching
darkness saw us heading to the Nati pub for the evening, were said wolves
fortunately improved their eating habits. Ah the chicken parma… where
would society be without it?
By this stage the heat had risen into an
uncomfortable basting, so we dug deep into the cavernous shade of King Rat
Gully, and espied the intimating overhung terrain that is Glory Rodent
(22) and King Rat (18) **, with its outward arch of triumphant jugs
leading to connivent rap rings. Many crafty cries of “this looks awesome”
and similar phrases, convinced Owen to take the sharp end once again.
Stemming into the corner he placed a nut, clipped a rusty piton and
reached high to thrust in a #3 camlot, before double handing the giant
bucket hold that heralds the beginning King Rat’s crux mini-roof. A
surprisingly straightforward, jamless undercling-sidepull crack move that
accepted a whole hand (yeah, you can picture that right?), yielded a
slingable spike of rock looking for all the world like some TV week logo
award. Appropriately acting the part, Owen pretended to be getting pumped,
and proceeded to solo to the rings, though I suspect he had a lot more
left in the tank. After the other’s took advantage of the TR, it was my
turn. I ended up climbing it twice, the later to clean the gear. This left
us in a nice position to TR Glory Rodent (22) to the left.
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