A plan had been hatched to go and climb a new line in Victoria’s Far North-East. Several weeks later, the first attempt was made.
The Chockstoners of this marauding unit were Rod (the mighty Addax) and Andrew (the manic Count); together they schemed to create an adventure of epic proportions.
Rod had been secretly scoping the line from afar for a number of years, Andrew for the last 12 months caught glimpses as he drove past and oft wondered if it would “go” and “was it worth the drive”. At some stage in a conversation between the two, the seed was planted. On the 29th of August 2004, the seed was to germinate.
Length of the line had not been discussed, only the feature, the gear, and possible difficulty. Rod had conversed with a local climber in the early days, trying to work out if the climb had been done before, he was met with the flippant response, “Bah, it’s a walk up mate”. Perhaps this climber was confused as to the specific line and location, as no sign of passage has been found by either Rod or Andrew so far.
It was decided to take some pitons just in case there were no other belay options or for emergency retreat, other than that, it was one and a half racks of cams, 3 sets of wires, a selection of hexes, quickdraws and slings
This was to prove way too excessive. So far 120m has been climbed as three pitches involving 7 pieces plus belays, with nothing bigger than a number #2 HB Quadcam in all of the approach slab.
The walk-in took much longer than anticipated but was less difficult than expected. It is still worthy of a warning though, as it probably warrants a ‘sport grade’ of heinous! The thick scrub of Melaleuca was a wholesome challenge, which led to many a prickly situation. The lyrebirds sang and the Addax grunted, music to the young Count’s ears, “one bush-slap in the face, two bush-slap in face, three ….
Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, har.”
At the logical base of the approach slab it was decided that Rod would lead off. The first protection point was reached at about 25m, two equalised pieces with a third acting as a directional to counter rope-drag dislodgement formed this reasonable point of safety. Heading up and left a further 12m found the next piece (again doubled up), before heading up the final 8m to a good belay.
Andrew was then to lead off on the second pitch. At about 20m a marginal #1RP placement was found. Rod said; “I don’t know why you bothered!”, when looking at the runout above and cleaning it with a slight flick on its runner. A further 10m runout saw Andrew arrive at the belay, consisting of three marginal equalised pieces in a biscuit of granite which is yet to leave the mother rock.
Rod did not hang around long and set off up the third pitch. At 30m, a marginal number #1 Friend was backed up with a Skyhook nearby in a solution hole. This was weighted with large cams to again minimise rope-drag displacement. The climbing above was treacherous due to water seepage but not technically difficult, and surely Rod was wishing for a more solid piece 8m below his heels, as well as a more substantial belay. To his credit however, Rod danced through to the top to belay amongst the haggard Ti-tree shrubs.
A further 100m of bush bashing brought us to the base of the major slab, and mighty and impressive was the line of the scythe before us.
Fearing time and the weather (now closing in), we soloed two separate lines from the logical start, in order to find a suitable belay point above. 50m later, we arrived at a suitable stance that led to an island of shrubs off to the left. It was decided, that this would be belay one of the scythe climb, as a few small bushes were better than nothing at all.
It seemed a long way above to reach the bottom of the feature that curved its’ way up the slab; at least another rope length….most likely more. Where would we belay next? Would simul-climbing a protectionless slab a hundred metres above the deck be the price of our adopted ethical stance?
It was decided to back off and return again another day as the weather was starting to drizzle and it was 2 pm with at least five, if not six rope lengths of runout and unknown slab climbing yet to be done.
Yes, we should back off, but downclimbing did not seem a good option!
We traversed off left to the edge of the slab, and set about navigating our way back down.
We descended via a different bushbash route, which took a little longer than the walk-up, but was through lush wet sclerophyll forest for the most part. A lyrebird incubation mound was stumbled upon, with its’ guardian nearby sending out the alarm, so we respectfully skirted around and continued through the bracken filled glade. A forest of moss covered boulders and short grasses were the scene of the lower half of the descent. Eventually the open rural paddocks were reached, with a light drizzling rain wetting our shoulders. Looking back the slabs glistened all over with moisture, in the evening light.
Our fearless adventurers made their way back to the trusty white stallion that would carry them home to report their glorious achievement, and to work on getting back to finish what they had started.
Will our adventurers triumph? Stay tuned for the next action packed adventures of Rod Addax and Andrew Count.