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Inspired by Winston Smith's TR http://tinyurl.com/3tvguod (which I can't believe was back in 2009) but much delayed due to work, injury, rain and all the usual guff greggo and I finally managed to get out to the Wolgan for a climb on the weekend. Apologies in advance as the trip report that follows is a bit on the long and detailed side ... maybe a bit too much beta for some people as well.
The plan was for a big day from the bottom to the top of old baldy climbing Secret Swinger (16) on the lower cliff and Scimitar (18) on the upper cliff. Having driven up to Lithgow on saturday afternoon we were very pessimistic as steady drizzle and grey skies moved in during the evening. In the morning though there was plenty of blue amongst the grey so we decided to give it a crack.
The drive in was uneventful, they've sealed the road down from Wolgan Gap to the valley floor now, presumably related to that Emirates place being built. That view from the top is just fantastic especially at that time of day with sun on the rock, a few clouds for atmosphere, brilliant.
Got to the Capertree campsite and left the car at about 8am. Crossed the creek and followed the 'road' for a while. At that point we had a bit of confusion about where the 'big house' ruin was (which was important because that's where we needed to turn up the hill) but other than that didn't have too much trouble with the approach up to lower baldy and it really wasn't that strenuous despite our expectations.
Greg lead the first and crux pitch of secret swinger (16) which per the guidebook indeed has a tricky move at the start (especially as first move of the day). With some confident bridging and nice slab moves Greggo managed to dispatch it and moved up the rest of what turned out to be a very decent corner crack. Good pro and nice moves. We decided I would take the next two pitches and run them together. The belay at the end of pitch 1 is best described as a sandpit with enough in the way of cracks to provide a decent belay. The sandpit was shaped like a cave and cut into the leftside wall of the corner with a pretty decent sized roof on it requiring a step onto the steep slab on the right hand side of the corner to get around it followed by a couple of steep jug hauls to bring you up to another big sandy break a couple of metres up. Fortunately it was well protected with a bomber 1 camalot and a confident approach makes it relatively straight forward.
At the next break the "roof" came up to a bit higher than my waist on both sides of the corner (i.e. no footers). Fortunately it was slabby here so you could stand easily enough and contemplate your flexibility and why you really should do more yoga. It also gave me time to fiddle in some mediocre pro. One was a red hex slid into a deep and sandy pocket sideways then rotated and jammed against the pocket mouth, the other a 0.5 camalot sideways in a shallow shitty pocket. So frankly not that great! After a bit of a think a solution was found to the problem and up I went. The rest of pitch 2 was more pleasant corner climbing - a few big cams came in handy.
This brought me to pitch 3 and it was pretty rubbish. The pitch is short (maybe 10m max) and you have two choices. On the left a wide unprotectable offwidth of death (well it looked shit anyway ...) or a slab on the right with a narrow crack and loads of fragile looking iron stone edges. I opted for the right and although there was little pro at first good placements revealed themselves as you went up (small-ish cams). An exploding footer added some excitement but fortunately I managed to hang on. The rest of the pitch got a little more stitched up than it otherwise would have as a result!
Topping out on secret swinger finds you on the half way ledge of old baldy which is a large bushy area on a relatively steep slope. It's surprisingly vegetated and large but slippery with loads of leaf litter.
Once topped out we grabbed a pile of rope each and pushed our way up through the bush finding something vaguely resembling a track to get us to the upper cliffline and then following that around to the right (facing in) until we reached the scimitar pinnacle. We traversed around underneath the pinnacle and then scrambled up it's right hand side to reach the base of Scimitar.
From the top of the pinnacle you could see pitches one and two. The first is rightward leaning up to a large cave with a decent sized roof. The roof is split by the crack which from that point runs directly up the face with a steep vertical then overhanging section before arriving at the 2nd belay marked by a yakka and sentry box. The plan was to run pitches 1 and 2 (18) and 3 (17) and 4 (17) together with me taking the first two and Greg taking the second two.
As we were setting up to start climbing again the wind picked up and some very dark clouds started moving up the valley. We decided to push on but once I was a few metres up it started to rain (sideways) so discretion being the better part of valour we decided I should downclimb and give it 10 minutes to see what the weather was doing. At this stage we were both quite cold so we retreated to the shelter of the cave below the pinnacle out of the wind. Suggestions were made about possible retreat and climbing something else on the relatively more shelter lower baldy cliffs and it looked very much like our day might be over. Remarkably though the wind started to drop and blue sky started to appear around the valley so we climbed back up to the pinnacle and tied back in.
Pitch 1 was fairly straight forward but had some nice well protected moves. At the cave (another beach) I decided to belay as one of the ropes had dropped into a slot in an iron stone break which was causing significant rope drag and had sharp edges that looked likely to damage the rope in a fall. Greg followed up without event and it was again my turn to lead. The moves up to the roof of the cave were very sandy on suspect rock (these would be avoided if you ran pitches 1 and 2 together) but you are back on solid rock when you reach the roof and can easily protect some fairly wild bridging moves on good jams to get over it and on to the steep headwall. The next 30m or so were some of the best climbing I've ever done. Sustained difficulty with good jams for your hands and nice positive edges for the feet and hands. The wall steepens up and gets fairly pumpy with a lot of air underneath your feet just before you crest a bulge and finish off with a few easier but thought provoking moves to the belay in the bottom of a sentry box. Good protection all the way.
The sentry box provides a very solid belay and some shelter from the wind. The sentry box itself is an acute angled chimney with a thin crack (0.75 cam and down) at the back for pro but very smooth sides. A couple of holds are available on the aretes of the chimney and after a couple of metres the LHS of the chimney becomes slabbier.
It was now Greg's turn and he did a great job grunting up to get some gear in off the belay from a fairly precarious stance. After some tenuous attempts at old school chimney moves including an exploding hold or two Greg unlocked the pitch by stepping inward to the crack, placing a bit more gear and padding up the slab with a bit of bridging thrown in.
At this point I realised one of the doubles had tied a perfect figure of eight around the other rope. Ever the diplomat Greg calmly asked for a couple more metres slack before reaching a good stance above the roof of the chimney where he jammed in a couple of cams and clipped in. This allowed me to untie and feed the entire rope through the knot to sort the tangle. At this point he also took a bit of footage with the iphone which you can see here. It's not terribly exciting but shows the position fairly well: http://tinyurl.com/3lnmxcy
After about 10 minutes of faffing Greg was back underway on another sustained and challenging pitch following
Great report Peter.
Sorry I suggested lunching on the halfway ledge after you did Scimitar. Just shows how conditions can change.
I agree with you sentiments about P2: Having done it and the Eternity I'd say that Scimitar is THE classic crack at the grade... although Decline and Fall across at the Coke Ovens is pretty damn fine, as Sizzler, as is ...
Thanks for the TR. Sounds like a great day on the rock.
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