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Chockstone Forum - General Discussion
General Climbing Discussion
|Treasures/trash from my old hard-drive Part II
Sorry folks...but here's another one from the old hard-drive...
the background is...I offered TB to write an intro to the last moonarie guide...however by the time i'd
finished it I was actually a bit embarrassed to submit it to him, seeing as he's always been such a polite
congenial fellow. I just couldn't bring myself to give him something that ended with the line,
"Moonarie is a family, and like all good families there is love. The kind of love that you have for a
stepfather who beats your mother and dicks your sister, but love nonetheless."
anyway heres what i wrote (and apologies to bambi who wants to use this in his new guide...but i can't
see how putting it here should jepoardise that).
and also apologies as now on a re-read my grammar was pretty shit.
People. One of the biggest compliments that you can pay to Moonarie is that there is no ‘typical’
Moonarie climber. This is not to say that there aren’t similarities between the people that return, but
that the lack of any ‘scene’, the lack of facilities, the remoteness, and the lack of climbs that don’t
require commitment, has kept away the normality of those who just want a weekend of cragging. To
climb at Moonarie is not merely to go climbing it is ‘to go climbing at Moonarie’. The cliff always
Before my first trip to Moonarie, like all good teenage climbers, I religiously read and reread the
guidebook. The names and feats of Carrigan, the Shepherds, Moorhead and Col Reece stood like
megaliths on the horizon of my boyish dreams. Long Friday evenings with George Adams at Thor
whose stories of wooden wedges, pitons made from oxyacetylene cylinders, and the location of the
last great route further bolstered my expectations. Although bitten by the bug I left my first trip
somewhat disappointed, these man-mountains were just as dead as before and the screams of terror
echoing from Curving Wall were still just words on a page. Moonarie was still only a cliff.
Some time later, sitting at bottom camp with Gus drinking our second too many too strong coffee
when a lone figure walked out of nowhere with nothing more than an Adidas sports bag in his hand and
sat with us. It was Col. He had returned home to Moonarie. Initially it was hard to equate this man with
the legend which had soloed Rip-Off, self-belayed up Machiavelli and left Louise Shepherd hitch-hiking
in the dust at Port Pirie with the casual comment, “See you at Moonarie.” But it wasn’t long before the
mornings were being broken with a lone figure burrowing through the roof of Flying Buttress, and the
still afternoon air was pierced by the screams of seconds following unprotected loose traverses high
on Checkers Wall. The magic had returned to Moonarie, but now I was no longer a longing, and the
cliff was alive.
Col’s quest for a line more absurd than the last has brought a string of gems to Moonarie. Hangover
Layback may be one of his most famed, but for sheer craziness Dorque Torque stands alone.
Although to be fair it is one of those climbs that the first person to follow the pitch deserves the greater
honour. What’s the big deal about a downward lead with no gear?…This honour goes to Mark Witham
whose enthusiasm for Moonarie is second to none. Mark’s influence over developments in the last ten
years is easy to underestimate, yet for every route that he has done there is at least one other that he
has encouraged and another whose name pays lip service to his irreverent humour.
Naming climbs. One of the biggest frauds of climbing is that a ‘good’ climb name should reflect an
aspect of the so called experience of what it is to actually climb that climb. Unless you want to call a
climb, “An annoying right leaning crack that would be a lot more enjoyable if there were a couple more
footholds on the right side of the crack,” the reality is a lot less magnanimous. Climb names are the
vehicle for climbers to compare their cleverness. As such, an analysis of climb names reveals little
about the cliff, but a lot about the people who climbed there. It doesn’t take much imagination.
Yosemite…hippies. Arapiles and the Grampians…vegetarians. Nowra…non-vegetarians. The Sydney
Sea cliffs…Claw. As for Moonarie, my completely unbiased view would be that it represents the
multicultural ideal that Australia strives for—hippies, vegetarians, non-vegetarians and occasionally
even Claw live in harmony. And as a good Australian it is incumbent on me to disclose the history of
this community’s success…
Like all Australian explorers the first climbers at Moonarie were searching for the mother country, and
up to the mid 70’s I doubt whether there was a single climb name in Australia, let alone Moonarie, that
wasn’t already a climb in some cold dark corner of Britain. Despite all their efforts not a single peat
bog was uncovered, but you can retrace their footsteps by chimneying up any number of Thors’ and
Oedipus’ all over the country. The retreating Gods were replaced with the puns and careful cleverness
of the Vegetorians. Thankfully, despite their best intentions, they didn’t change the world and retired at
the end of the 80’s to discover their vegetal self in more verdant pastures. Finally we reach the 90’s,
the much disparaged 90’s, whose route names have unveiled the beauty and eloquence of a mouth full
of marshmallows—grunts, poetic awkwardness’, and the sort of names you’d rather not say aloud. In
bits, and I mean bits, all these types of name have their merit, however, Moonarie is lucky that her
Thor is still worthy of a god (not some little ‘Thorette’ stuck on the back of a boulder) and there is
enough lunacy in the rest to air out the musty puns that are the typical inhabitants between the Doric
columns left by the first Australian climbers.
I wish that was all I could say about the names at Moonarie, but unfortunately Moonarie has Goat
Crag. Whether you’re inclined toward a ‘Thor’, ‘Sweeping Statement’ or a ‘What the f--- is
Tamagochi?’ there is nothing more nauseating than a theme crag. Easter at Goat Crag is swarming
with salivating punsters fighting for that last piece of virgin rock to attach themselves too. At least it
keeps them off the real cliff. In fairness, the naming situation has goat so out of hand that after a very
long gestation, it has finally become funny. Like a party is boring until the drunk starts puking, and
then the laughter begins…I’ll drink to that.
Urbanity. It would be fair to say that there are few developed climbing areas less urban than Moonarie.
That is not to say that a trip to the Moon is not without its battle with modernity, as anyone who has
sat in the Friday night traffic out of Adelaide will attest. It is one of those ridiculously stupid bits of
information that one picks up along ones life, but Adelaide is apparently one of the most sprawled out
cities in the world. In square foot by person, Adelaide is second to none. A trip to Moonarie is an
escape from urbanity, and that is a lot harder than it should be for a city of only a million. My most
memorable trip to Moonarie did not involve a moment of climbing. What is more remarkable is that we
were lucky to even leave the suburbs because a mad squash enthusiast decided to hold the lunchtime
Pizza Hut™ crowd to ransom by destroying the pot plant display with his racquet. In the car at
midday, Gawler by 3.30. Not good going.
Urbanity…somewhere in the space between Claire and Quorn, is a zone where urbanity disappears,
where the dreams and goals that have been keeping you going through the past months, no longer lie
in the vague future where all things are accomplished with ease, but have sunk into the pit of your
stomach and become your greatest burden.
There is only so much reality that any human can take, and by the time Quorn is reached there is only
one thing for the dedicated athlete to do—blow your brains out at the Transcontinental. Especially
when it is pissing down and there is no way any climbing will happen on Saturday.
First rule of climbing at Moonarie: Never expect to achieve anything more than getting your bags up to
top camp on the first day of a trip.
The thing about most trips that start off like this is that the following Saturday morning is invariably
bright and sunny, and all heads at bottom camp are feeling decidedly guilty for wasting the first day of
this much longed for trip to the Moon. Don’t despair, ‘getting your bags up to top camp is an
achievement, and even if you didn’t have a hangover there is no way you would be pulling at your
peak’. The great thing about this philosophy, is that it is even better when it is miserable the morning
after, because after all, with a hangover all that was ever going to happen was to get your bags up to
top camp. With that in mind Bob and I set off up the track in the most miserable weather that the end
of October had ever seen. Bob was ruing the fact that he had just spent $200 on a pair of ski pants
that he didn’t bother to pack because, ‘it never rains at Moonarie’, and I was still stuck on the guy that
had nearly succeeded in exterminating the species ‘fern’ from the planet ‘Salisbury Pizza Hut™’. The
one thing that was on both our minds was that this was the beginning of a new era of efficiency. After
the success of the ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘Durban Poison’ weekends we held the conviction that any
‘easy’ line was possible in two days. One hungover Saturday to prepare it, and Sunday to climb it.
Our mistress Moonarie had a different plan and by the time we had reached the large boulders, it was
hailing, and as we were nearing top camp the hailstones were floating. Top camp greeted us covered
in a blanket of snow. Things like this should not happen a week before November. The view looking
down on the cliffs from top of the Pound, with the secret holds and crux sequences of Curving Wall
illuminated by little banks of snow was sublime. Bob’s chastisement of himself for not wearing snow
pants on the one day it snowed at Moonarie, was soon forgotten once we realised that both our
cameras had been left in the dry sanctuary of the car. After what must be one of the few instances of
an October snow fight at Moonarie we left—cold, wet and hypothermic but warmed by the knowledge
that we had been privy to one of Moonarie’s deepest secrets. With hindsight, I am glad that the
memory of this beautiful day in my life has not been cheapened by the accessibility of a still image
that could never do the moment justice—Moonarie draped in October snow should not be viewed from
the armchair. What is remarkable, is that when we returned three weeks later it was 36°. Never take
the weather at Moonarie for granted.
Weekends like this are also an opportunity to explore some of Moonarie’s less sublime secrets. To
climbers Hawker is the last right hand turn, and it’s easy to forget that people live out here. There is a
madness in the Australian outback, the sort of madness born of living in the middle of a vast and
unforgiving continent, the best kind of madness—‘Space Madness.’ Where, “every f---in day brother”
chips come with, “salt, chicken salt or Marlborough ash” and “Lucy’s chops hang all the way to the
ground.” Where time is measured by the weather and the apparent sameness of the landscape is only
matched by the apparent sameness of the daily routine. Life out here is no idyll, neither is it hell on
earth—it is just good people making a living out of not very much. Don’t be fooled, they love and
understand the outback a lot more than most of the university bred environmentalists (of which
climbers, myself included, form a large part of) care to give them credit for, and it is for this that
outsiders can sometimes be met with suspicion, but scratch the surface…
As I said above, life in the outback is no idyll, and this is particularly true for the young. Torn between
the countryside that’s in their blood and the promises and nearness of a much faster life, it is no
wonder they are a violent mass of directionless energy. I am not a prophet, and I don’t intend to write
about the life in outback Australia, but if you do decide to frequent Moonarie’s pleasures my only
advice is, whether it is the Hawker Pub, the Transcontinental, or any one of a million pubs in outback
Australia; one meal, one drink…whatever…but do it every trip…and stay for the night when climbing is
out of the question. Don’t expect to be met with a platter of characters or packaged experiences—
remember you’re the freak not them—only then will you begin to understand the backbone of the
Climbing. As this is meant to be an introduction to climbing at Moonarie I guess I should mention the
climbing. I’ve avoided it because I cannot be objective. Every climb I do, is either training for a climb
at Moonarie, or is a poor brother to a climb at Moonarie. Nothing compares with the gut wrenching
mixture of perfection and isolation half way up ‘The Endless Pitch’, or the final sequence of ‘Sweeping
Statement’. And that is what draws the people that love Moonarie together—whether their name be
Col, Tony, Mark or simply Bob, they all have found something unique that cannot be found at any
other cliff. That something may be hard to pinpoint but it can only be got at Moonarie.
Moonarie is far away from the peddlers of the latest Californian cool adrenaline sport, and long may it
be so. In a world that packages every new sport into a coffee table book, and has beens that used to
love it, but now only care about their profile, Moonarie is a welcome oasis.
Don’t ask me about Moonarie because I am biased, and that is the great thing about Moonarie, every
name that stands out in the guide is also biased. For the people that return year after year after year
the thing that draws them together is the knowledge that they are on to something good…and in that
respect we are like a family…as I have been saying all along, whether it be climbers, climb names or
climbs, Moonarie is a family, and like all good families there is love. The kind of love that you have for
a stepfather who beats your mother and dicks your sister, but love nonetheless.
I woke up somewhere near the end of the second last paragraph.
There going to be any room left in the guide for the route descriptions?
to be honest i tend to agree with you...there were a couple of ideas worth pursuing in the piece but I
never managed to nail them....and in the end the only line i liked was the final paragraph. The problem is
that it was written by who i was 10 years ago so i feel it would be disingenuous to edit it. anyway i reckon
i'll do a completely separate intro when/if the new guide comes about.
ps. snowball...fancy going there for frocktober this year? I've always loved the look of a pig in a dress.
I very much enjoyed your intro stugang.
I struggled keeping up a bit in places but the history, mind pictures and humour made up for it.
Thanks for posting it.
i liked it a lot, its wandering, drifting thoughts has quite an appeal
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