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Honiara Solomon Islands - mmmm... limestone - TR

2:57:36 PM
After a bit of online organising, I finally hooked up with Chockstoner Trappers in Honiara ( Solomon Islands ), and dragged him over to the Point Cruz Yacht Club for Friday night carb loading. We met up with Peter Woiperis too, who was going with us the next morning to search for the elusive (i.e. I hadn't gone looking yet) Limestone With Climbing Potential, in the foothills behind Honiara. Trappers had been in Honiara for work and had been hiding out for the last few days at the Heritage Park Hotel – nice hotel, but it's not climbing, is it?

I picked the guys up from town early the next morning and we headed west to Kokumbona, about ten kilometres along the coast. The plan was to park near the river behind the suburb of Tanaghi, walk a bit until we hit the river itself, then follow it upstream to where the reported gorges started. I've seen plenty of photos of the river walks on the Web and could see potential in some of the places. The main question was not if there was rock there, but whether it was a big pile of choss (just like my backyard in Honiara – old crumbling limestoney reef stuff).

Just to make sure the trip was going to be a bit of an epic, I turned left off the main road about a kilometre before I should have (the local topo maps are barely readable and way out of date). We drove up a dirt track between houses, and asked an old lady if the river was up the track, to which she answered yes. Yes can mean a lot of things in the Solomons. Also, the word 'close' (or klosup in pidgin) can mean quite a distance if you are used to walking all day.

We parked the truck, and met a local bloke coming out of the bush. He had a towel around his neck. I asked him if he had been swimming in the river (swim in pidgin also means wash), to which he answered yes, and if it was close up, to which he answered yes. So we headed off through the bush/cocoa plantation/local gardens. There are paths everywhere, so as long as you stick to them and head in the direction you want to go, you are pretty much right.

Track in

We got a bit lost here and there, but after walking through a large open garden area and heading up hill, we stood on a broad saddle that looked down towards the river. We were further along the river than where I meant to start, but the morning was cool (relatively) and cloudy and the walking not hard.

We stopped for a look around and a check of the map. I just couldn't get it sorted exactly where we were – things looked wrong. Peter took the map and just went – oh, yeah, that's there, and that's there. I'd been looking at the area on Google Earth all week and expected to be able to see the same features on the map – wrong... The confusing thing was (and which showed the age of the map) that we could see an old WW2 road heading up the hill to the south, old and crumbly, unused for years, and it was clearly marked on the map (and a nearby more modern one wasn't). Peter looked up the hill and said “let's go that way” - I tried to argue that the river was down below us and that would be the easiest way, but this is where you realise that you should never take a Kiwi with mountaineering tendencies on a 'search for a crag' mission.

"Damn mountaineers, mumble, mumble.."

The idea was that we head up and over the hill and look for a side stream of the main river, then head down that to the river proper. The top of the hill looked like it had been used for artillery or an observation post during the war – good visibility in all directions. The surrounding hills are almost bare, made from crumbling limestone reef choss, and covered in thick clumpy grass.

Looking back towards Kokumbona and Honiara

We headed down hill and through a local garden, guiltily picking a few ripe cherry tomatoes on the way past. We finally hit the dry creek bed and followed it down to the river with a bit of bush bashing. We came out on the top of a waterfall, and had to scramble and abseil down the last steep section to the river. The river was shady and cool, without a lot of flowing water at that point.

Mmmm, mmm, gorge - ous

From then on the walking was easy, and little sunlight penetrated the tree canopy to the river. We didn't have to walk much further and the sides of the river started to steepen up and turn into a gorge. We soon found a small wall that looked climbable. It was limestone, with lots of horizontal breaks in it. I had a muck around on it, and apart from needing cleaning, it was nice, solid limestone.

Anyone got a brush?

Further along we found more and more walls and bouldering areas. The only thing we needed was a brush to clean up the holds, and a brush we didn't have. We came across a wall with lots of potential – overhung on the top and steep all the way.

At the end of it Trappers picked out a few problems above a pool of water and we both had a go at it.

Peter, being more of a 'tramper' and not a boulderer, sat and watched us with vague bemusement on his face. It was great fun – and wonderfully cool and shady considering what the tropics is normally like. I was glad to hear Trappers declare the rock to be of good quality. We were both surprised how grippy it was even when wet.

The only thing – lots of cleaning required. Most of the rock is covered with a fine slimey silt from being damp and in the shade. Nothing a Guerney blaster and portable genset couldn't fix – or lots of dedicated brushing. The area, to be climbable instead of just boulderable, needs at least some double rings at the top of the crag for protection.

We checked out bits of the gorge and poked around, then turned and headed back down the river. No bush bashing this time, just head down and slog with thoughts of cold Solbrew dancing in your head. I was doubly pleased – we had not only found some climbable rock (rare in the Solomons), but it also demonstrated that there is the potential for a lot more climbable limestone awaiting discovery around the place.

Heading out

As we headed down the river, the water disappeared under the white pebbly river bed. It was like walking on a white pebble road. Civilisation started to cut in, and we headed along the first significant track that appeared. Another ten minutes, and lots of saying 'hello' to the locals, and we were back on the road. I walked back and grabbed the truck and within fifteen minutes we were firmly ensconced in “Angelo's” - a bar and restaurant owned by an Aussie guy called Bruce (he couldn't really call it “Bruce's”, could he – the word 'bruce' means to fart in pidgin). I made sure that Trappers then spent the rest of the weekend carbing up and rehydrating with the local brews. We had plans for doing the Matanko River on Sunday morning, but were rained out.

Trappers is heading off to the Western Province of the Solomons this week, and with any luck we'll get a bit of a trip report from there.

3:26:56 PM
Nice work Mr high were the highest walls you saw?

3:29:55 PM
Good one Mulchy.

>The area, to be climbable instead of just boulderable, needs at least some double rings at the top of the crag for protection.

Wonem? Yupela pinis kirap long samting istap na pasim yu?
~> Would you not have finished the climb by the time you get to your protection?
Heh, heh, heh.

Rings? Why not simply sling some suitable vegetation if you are going to toprope your projects to death before leading them?

3:31:51 PM
I knew you'd be first up Rod (w) - I thought about you when I was thinking about bolts for some reason. Probably the highest we saw were fifteen metres ish (??). We weren't at the top of the gorge either - there is a decent watefall further up. Other rivers are meant to have higher stuff too - this was almost a creek compared to a lot of the other rivers nearby.

3:35:09 PM
Sounds positive... Mulchys beer & climbing tours!!!

Ill send WWS over for recon.....make sure you have beers in ya pack and he'll go all day looking for crags.

3:35:51 PM
On 27/09/2011 IdratherbeclimbingM9 wrote:
>Good one Mulchy.
>>The area, to be climbable instead of just boulderable, needs at least
>some double rings at the top of the crag for protection.
>Wonem? Yupela pinis kirap long samting istap na pasim yu?
>~> Would you not have finished the climb by the time you get to your protection?
>Heh, heh, heh.

Nah, staka bigfella sumting lo dea yet brother. Everi photo iu lukim hem just smol one nomoa. Everi bigwan lo shade tumas an hard fo makem photo supos iu no garem fricking big flash gun.
(The photos are only of the small stuff - the big ones were somewhat in the shade too much and required a rather large flash gun for your camera if you want a decent shot).

3:39:31 PM
On 27/09/2011 rodw wrote:
>Sounds positive... Mulchys beer & climbing tours!!!

I like it - perfect combination of lifestyle and addiction

>Ill send WWS over for recon.....make sure you have beers in ya pack and
>he'll go all day looking for crags.

I'll inform the brewery and get them to start stockpiling.

10:17:31 PM
Just remember he doesn't drink wog shit like Coopers.

7:23:14 AM
Mate, we've got a beer here called Red Horse, I think it's Phillipino - eight percent. I'm sure that would slow Davo down real quick.

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