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This winter’s been a long one for me. My wife is pregnant - due very soon - so I haven’t been off to the mountains since May.
Trawling through photos from previous trips is all I’ve got right now to sate my rock related urges.
Even though it’s been a year since the following events transpired I thought: why not put together a belated TR?
Light on actual route beta, but with plenty of pics and vid: This TR is for anyone like me stuck in an office dreaming of places you’d rather be...
Seventh Pillar Portaledge Party – Trip Report – July 2010.
Words by Ben.
Photos and video by Ben, Karl, and Phil.
Karl, Phil, Adam, and I had all been itching to get out and climb together for ages. We’d been looking for an excuse to bust out the ledges and have a Portaledge party somewhere big. So I convinced the guys to jump on the Seventh Pillar for a weekend. The weather forecast was awful but we headed up to the Grampians on Friday 30th July 2010 hoping for the best.
It was Phil and Adams first attempt at aid, and also their first time in a ledge. The rough plan was to camp out on the Taipan Wall and see whether we’d get good enough weather to climb the whole line.
On the way up from Melbourne, storms where carving paths across western Victoria. The highway was cut by fallen trees between Ballarat and Ararat and the SES had us detouring all over the place. Power was out in Beaufort, police in Ararat told us there’d been significant hail damage there, and we later learned that it would snow the following night in Woodend and Ballarat.
Head home? Never!
We camped the night at the flat rock picnic ground only discovering the ‘warning falling limbs’ sign at first light the following morning – s#it!
We hiked up flat rock into the amphitheatre to discover that the whole mount was covered in cloud. The Taipan Wall only showing a little leg out from under her white skirt.
*Walk in – Flat Rock.
*Never thought I’d see cloud like this covering Taipan.
With no rain in sight and conditions pretty dry I lead off up the fantastic opening flakes of the first pitch. Dispatching the bolt ladder quickly I was having a ball and mantled across to the tiny stance at the belay. I tied a cordelette to take the first Portaledge and settled in.
*Racking up with Phil.
*Off and running up pitch 1.
*Amazing flakes on otherwise smooth rock.
*About to switch to aid.
*The bolt ladder.
*Cordelette for the ledge.
*Such incredible stone.
Karl seconded and cleaned, and the other two gents popped their aid cherries on the bolt ladder.
*Phil learning to aid.
*Adam learning to aid.
*Karl chilling at the belay.
We all hung out for a bit in the ledge and at the belay but with the weather looking promising it was time to press on. I freed through the bulges that open the next pitch, the rapped back to the ledge to switch places with Karl so he could jug then finish off the pitch. He jugged the line but the chest cold and the pseudoephedrine he was taking got the better of him so rapped back to the belay and we switched places again.
I jugged up and finished the pitch in light rain. Conditions were chilly and I longed to be hanging out in the ledge with the others listing to Splendour in the Grass on Triple J.
*The best pitch.
*Why can’t I be doing this right now?
Man it’s a good pitch too – for anyone who hasn’t tried the Seventh Pillar it’s overhanging slightly the whole way, and cuts proudly up the middle of the wall. With the exception of the bolt half way, the whole pitch goes clean and crosses thin flakes, traverses under a small roof, then blasts up a thick, bomber flake to glory. The gear is excellent.
It started to rain when I reached the belay at the end, and Phil jugged up to join me. We fixed a line and rapped back to the ledges to set up for the evening.
Just after dark a storm rocked in and lashed us with very heavy rain and strong wind. At the time we didn’t have out Jetboil stoves so used to cook at height with a Trangia hung from hanging pot plant chains. With the metho involved we’d hang it outside the ledge fly at arm’s length.
*Our early bigwall stove (pic taken the following morning).
Despite the steepness of the wall, the rain came in at an angle and cascaded off the wall. We had to zip up the fly and watch the stove blow out several times. The thing was bouncing around all over the place in the wind. We could do nothing but laugh.
Eventually dinner came and we ate, drank whisky, listened to music, and generally hung out as the storm tossed us about. I slept ok but we woke a few times when the ledge shifted in the wind.
Next morning the air was freezing but the sky was clear.
*Morning in the ledge.
*Clear skies... for a while
*Hanging out in the ledges.
I jugged the fixed line before breakfast and cleaned all the gear from the previous day. We weren’t sure how long the clear skies would hold out.
After breakfast we looked at the horizon off to the west and with the weather looking ok decided to push on and give a top out a go. Adam opted not to, and was content to hang out at camp, and lower gear to the ground later in the day.
*Adam and Phil sorting out the gear.
We all jugged the fixed line once more and at the top Phil ran out of steam too (another chest cold victim) so he descended to hang out with Adam.
Karl and I dispatched the traverse pitch and racked up for the final chimney pitch.
*Karl traversing the slot.
I got about half way up before a storm kicked in to make things more exciting. Rain was cascading down the rock as I aided. Even in thermals, a down jacket, and waterproofs I was full body shivering. Poor old Karl was in a more exposed position than me back at the ledge and was cocooned in his waterproof jacket, riding out the waterfall. My head cam had to be stowed to keep dry – which is a shame cause this was the best part of the whole trip!
I’ve freed this pitch before but had to aid every inch this time. It was frustrating as hell, and I took ages. Once topped out I rigged a line for Karl to Jumar and he came on up to join me. He’d jug a meter or so on the main line, then jug inwards to the wall on my lead line to remove gear. As each piece came out he’d swing back out into the void and repeat the process.
*Karl jugging in the wind and hail.
The wind ripped past and hail seemed to be flying sideways along the wall! We were a pair of shivering drenched rats when we finally stepped back from the wall. We headed along the top of the wall to the North and rapped off on waterlogged twin 60’s. Once down and back at Flat Rock the clouds parted briefly in some kind of divine pat on the back (either that or an up yours at us) and the wall was capped by a rainbow. Very cool!
*As walked out, a rainbow appeared over Stapylton.
All my trips to Stapylton to this point had been in really hot weather so this had been a completely new experience for me. Not very comfortable at the time, but we had a blast and talk about it often!
On 13/09/2011 hipdos wrote:
>Great belated TR. There should be more TRs on Chocky!
Well done guys, excellent TR. I haven't climbed in a few months and while busily preparing for a major test on Friday, this TR brightened my day. It feels, to me, very much like your 'pat on the back' rainbow, fueling the stoke for a day on the rock.
hey just wondering if you needed to use a stick clip for that bolt on the second pitch. tried it a few months back and got shut down, so now am planning to take up a walking pole and fix it up there for others to use...
Sorry but you lose points for setting the ledges up on the ground and hauling them . . .
Half the fun with ledges is setting them up 'on the wall' . . . Try it . . .
Apart from that and the odd bit of weird technique here and there, congrats on getting out there and doing it . . .
PS Not sure about the stick bit though, hmm, doubled wires and high-stepping often help get through long reaches . . .
On 17/09/2011 Macciza wrote:
>Cool - Just wanting to make sure you weren't missing out on any possible 'fun' . . .
haha I'm glad you put the apostrophies around the word fun. Rewarding yes. Pain in the ar$e yes. The first time I set up my ledge from a hanging belay with the delux fly, I stuffed it up royally and spent ages on it. Ended up under torch light.
Since then if we're using the flys, we pack the ledge inside the fly, inside the ledge sleeve, with our steel screwies already connected. Was much simpler last time... although not exactly fun :)
On 17/09/2011 Macciza wrote:
>So when are you heading to Buffalo? Damn, the winter seasons pretty much over . . .
You must have missed my Ozy Direct TR from May of this year:
(This belated Seventh Pillar one was from a year earlier)