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|Cathedral Range-Speigals Overhang
I finally did it. Sat down and finished the report. Thought I might have to pad it out with favourite recipes, handy sewing hints and a movie review or two. But then again, having enough to say is generally not a problem of mine. Still, I do apologize if it rambles.
5.15 am in the morning is friend to no-one! I did fight it for another 15 minutes but by then compos mentis had set in and although I had to fumble my way out of bed, did realize that I was getting up at that time for a perfectly good… no…. great reason. I was smiling on the inside, honestly!
Had been following the weather forecast all week. Sunday..predicting rain. Refused to take part in this elaborately set up conspiracy to jip me out of my first multi-pitch. Saturday night, raindrops on the roof. It’ll pass, it’ll pass. So..Sunday morning? It’s dark. It’s cold. But. It’s not raining. After the first coffee…starting to feel human. Had prepared most of what was needed the night before. It was just a matter of shower, more coffee, nice grainy toast and clothing. Layers. It was cold anyway, but had been warned about the temperature, or its lack thereof. Can’t say that I exactly resembled the Michelin Man but my arms felt like they had no contact with the sides of my body. The piece de resistance was my lovely new, previously unworn bike jacket. Such a smashing colour that fluoro green. Gawd though…would it clash with my deep orange helmut. Thought I would pack it and whip it out when those howling winds invaded. I was prepared!
6.30 departure. Car packed. Full tank. Chocolate provisions on boards. You gotta love that. Had a great run down the Maroondah Highway. Well you would hope so at that hour on a Sunday morning. Roadworks at Narbethong, but as there were few cars, there was little holdup. Saw three wombat fatalities on the side of the road in the space of about 5 kms which was a sad sight. And before you knew it, we were at the turnoff to the Park. At this point was expecting to see hordes of climbing groups heading in the same direction as us but it was all quiet on the western front. And it stayed that way all day. Passed through Cook Mill Camping ground, again very quiet and started on the road up to the North Jawbone carpark. Now this is where my non 4wd vehicle came into its own. There’s nothing quite like feeling the earth beneath you..every hole, every rut. Now if it had been raining, that would have added a whole new dimension!
Had another look at the collection of directions I had amassed, we then loaded on our backpacks, ropes and prepared for the walk in. Aah, yes. The walk in. It was a decent walk in. It was steep and difficult terrain. We did miss the small track off the main track. By this time a few of my layers had come off..but also the sun was shining. Eventually came to a fork in the track with one leading off to the right and a sign ‘North Jawbone peak – 20 mins’. Looked to me like we were in the wrong position but my climbing partner suggested we head towards the peak to get an idea of where we were in order to get around to the base…we were at the back of it. I didn’t want to go all the way up as I wanted to keep that summit view for when I got there via the climb. My partner decided we should then start heading down and around to the right. Fallen logs, steep decline, an absolute carpet of leaf litter and....hidden rocks! It was reasonably slow moving. The leaf litter was so dry and would just slide along itself. The last thing I wanted to do was to injure myself before I got to the climb. What was that I just said…injure myself? You bet! So there was this tree right? Impassable on the right side. Had to go to the left. But needed to seriously hold onto the tree, place my feet carefully and swing myself around it. But those foot placements didn’t look so good to me. Still, if I was really careful. And I was. But it didn’t matter. It took me anyway! And in an instant I was on my butt, sliding down the leaf litter. Thank god for that rock that stopped my descent I say… it used my backbone muscle as a brake. All I needed to do then, was to whack my arm down hard on the rock to complete my adventure. Whats a little more pain I say? The moment of reckoning. A yoga breath or two to equalize my breathing before I made a move. Would there be any searing pain when I did…have had that before…not good. But I was in luck. Hadn’t hit my backbone proper but had a nasty bruise appearing before my eyes on my arm and all the obligatory scratches as I had slid through the brush. And so onward we went. As luck would have it we weren’t too far away and after a bit more scrambling found ourselves coming from what I now know to be the Northern side near Bathtime Gurgles. And just as I said, “Should we look at the guide to see where we are in relation to Speigals Overhang”, well, there we were. And wouldn’t you know it, it was time for a coffee. The sun was shining and my encounter with the leaf litter was a distant memory. All I wanted to do now was to get started and get climbing.
The first pitch of Speigal’s Overhang is a very gradual incline and despite it being a bit runout, my partner did manage to place some gear. Also a good route to get some more double rope belaying experience. Vision on this pitch was great so didn’t need to rely on yelled instructions. Although the sun was out, there was definitely a chill factor to the air. Not a problem when climbing but standing there belaying, the toes had begun to freeze a bit and that cold definitely has a way of squeezing through the gaps or just clothes in general. Think that once my partner was safe, it might be time to whip out that lovely fluoro number.
And. Safe. Off Belay. And finally, Climbing. This was my first taste of slab climbing, and I think, a gentle version of it, which was great for me to adjust climbing style and to also train my eyes to look for those hand and foot placements that are indicative of climbing slabs. Headed up the crack and enjoyed finding those spots that seemed to be just made for your fingers. No real problems with removing any of the pro and all too quickly I was at the second pitch. Although the belay ledge was a comfy one it was interesting to see how one must use available space, preparing gear, ropes etc. for the next pitch. Can only imagine what it must be like on a hair’s breath ledge. One of the ropes managed to get itself stuck in a crack, so had to lower my partner in order to free it. No problems though.
Naturally, the higher we were getting, the cooler that wind. The fact that the sun was shining made all the difference between it being comfortable and maybe not so. Still, the smile rarely left my face. When belaying I had the amazing views that not only gave me a rush but gave me a wonderful sense of peace. And when climbing…..well…so many words and so little space!
Starting up the second pitch, had a bit of trouble removing one of the pieces of pro. Hands were already quite cold from belaying but after spending a bit of time on the stuck piece, three of my fingers were, screaming for mercy. By the time I got it free, they were frozen and I had no feeling in them. And one of my calves, due to the position I was in, was threatening to cramp. Interesting trying to find handholds when in fact you can’t feel your fingers. Circulation came back pretty quickly though, and my calves got back to the job they were supposed to be doing. Although I didn’t feel out of my league, second pitch gave me the opportunity to experience and practice more of the skills and techniques I was picking up. More sustained smearing at a greater incline. Small finger pockets to spot. I love the fact that there are sections when you are climbing when there is not a lot of choice as far as decent foot and hand holds….Mother Natures way of making you work at it and appreciate it and other times when just when you need it, it seems like she puts something there just for you. A wonderful balance.
Third pitch. What a great pitch to lean back in and take in absolutely everything on offer. I am enough of a realist to know that at some point, and probably soon, there will be a height/exposure factor that will scare me silly, and hopefully, I will work myself through it, but at this point I felt so comfortable up there, and it being a calculated risk, felt I was as safe as I could be. Getting quite cold now and so glad that I wore my bike jacket. And what I first mistook for ash (don’t know where it would have come from of course, but it was so fine) soon realized it was the beginnings of snow. Melted on contact but a good indication that we had timed our climb just right. My climbing partner headed up the last pitch and not too long into it, a problem with the ropes occurred where they started twisting into each other with the potential for knots. The belay device was not liking it. Made my partner aware of it and then managed to get it under control by making sure that sections of the rope were clear from twist whilst he wasn’t climbing.
And then I was climbing the last pitch myself,enjoying every minute of it. Again getting more practice on so many techniques. One of the reasons why Speigal’s Overhang is so popular I guess. Had one more encounter with a stubborn piece of pro, which after a bit of encouragement and swearing, gave itself up. It’s certainly a test of anger management. When they refuse to give up, a part of you just wants to get quite forceful….but it’s gentle does it.
I’m there. At the top. And I’m so glad I didn’t spoil it by seeing the view before the climb. I’m smiling as I write this. And yes….I do want more.
Great to hear you enjoyed yourself. Climbers all have their preferred styles and types of climbing, be it bouldering, sport or multi-pitch trad. But the main thing is that you were climbing, and that you had a good time. Oh, and that you are uninjured and wanting more. It's an addiction..........
You had to get up early
You got lost
You got snowed on and froze your butt off
Sure beats going to the gym dosn't it !
Nice work. I've only had one go at Spiegals, a few years ago. Towards the end of the day the fog rolled in across the valley - something you don't get at any of the other places I've climbed (to my knowledge). I also had surreal moment waiting at the top of the first pitch for my friend who was setting up. A domestic flight passed overhead and I remembered how a few days earlier I had been in a suit (a cheap one) returning from Canberra and looking down on the Cathedrals (I think it was Cathedrals, anyway - don't spoil the image if I'm wrong).
Aah Speigeals. I remember sitting under the first overhang watching the lightening flash as the thunder clouds rolled down the valley. Cold, wet and muddy, the day was perfectly topped off with a flat tyre!
You will have to tick "multi-pitch" in your profile now.
On 22/06/2006 NEVERCLIMBED32 wrote:
>You had to get up early
>You got lost
>You got snowed on and froze your butt off
>Sure beats going to the gym dosn't it !
Funny how all of those things are often a good excuse and a deciding factor for not doing something again.
But just a mere inconvenience when it comes to climbing.
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