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General Climbing Discussion

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What got you started?

3:04:42 PM
What was your first contact with climbing? I don't mean your first climbing trip or anything like that, I mean that first time you saw climbers, read about climbing...that first spark that started the fire.

For me it was reading a book called "Climb to the Lost World" when I was about 8 or 10 years old. This book documents an expedition climbing the amazing Mt. Roraima in Venezuela in the early 1970s. I remember being totally absorbed by this book even though I hardly understood half of what they were doing with their ropes and pitons and other equipment I didn't yet comprehend. Thats about my earliest contact that I can recall - it was many many years later that I actually tried climbing.

Cast your minds back... I'd love to hear what it was for others here.

3:10:59 PM
I was working in the UK and I saw a program about this new up and coming climber. The program followed him on a road trip. It was Chris Sharma........

A year or so later a workmate invited me to a climbing wall that was set up in a 15th century church.....

4:21:52 PM
Many years ago I was deep into hiking, and climbing was a concept I was more or less unaware of, unless you counted trickier scrambles. I drove a little Datsun 180B, which, remarkably managed to get me and my mates to the base of most Victorian mountains, though I do recall some scary incidents, like the time a tree branch speared up through the car floor beside the gear shift and gouged a mark out of the ceiling. Anyway, disappointed with my comrades, who weren't quite as enthusiastic for continuous hiking trips, I picked up a copy of the Bendigo Outdoor Group newsletter (creatively entitled "The BOG paper") in the quest for upcoming treks I might sneak onto, though I wasn't a paid up member. In amongst the ski trips and back country hikes, there was one trip in the year set aside for climbing at Araps. "Beginners Welcome", it read. Fatefully, that weekend happened to be the following one. Wanting to meet the members of this group, and not inclined to wait for their next hike, I decided to invite myself along. So for me, my first encounter with climbing, was also my first trip. I'd not read any books, and had not idea what to expect.

I remember doing a grade 3, TR'ed, on Dec Crag, in sneakers, and feeling pretty darn proud of myself, before heading up a 7 or something, and thinking that was the bee's knees. I also recall an abseil (read lower) off the Plaque with two backup ropes and so much friction I barely moved at all. I rushed home to develop the bum shots. I was hooked and wanted more. Problem was the BOG people weren't scheduled to climb again for another year. Time went by. I'd almost forgotten about it, when in idle conversation a friend of friend mentioned climbing, and chaffing at the bit to have my say, I proudly declared I'd been there and done that. Well one thing led to another and I was invited on their next outing.

Peter, for that was his name, became my mentor and Arapiles our regular destination. In fact it would be several months before I was made aware that other areas existed, and years before anyone mentioned a gym. On our first trip together I recall the exhilaration of muscling my way D-Minor (with zero technique), on second, only to stand, freezing at the top while the sun set and darkness befell us, waiting for the other team members to be belayed up. My first rap (apart from that Plaque experience), was the longer, free hanging descent off D-Minor, in darkness so total we couldn't see if the ropes at hit the ground. I was freaked. But I couldn't stop talking about the whole trip for days later.

Needless to say, I pestered Peter relentlessly for more trips, worse still when I fell in love with all the metal shinny things. Gear addiction ensured, and I soon had a rack that weighed a tonne before I'd learned how to lead with it. It still weighs more (see Chockstones main page), than anyone would sanely carry on any route. Anyway, fast forward a decade, and the rest, as they say, is history. ... Yipes, sorry for the essay!
4:38:00 PM
Abseiling in year 7. I can still remember having the jelly legs and doing a bit of the Elvis dance on the edge. U gotta love the old tape harnesses, an almost forgotten art.

4:56:42 PM
hey, i was going to buy a tape harness for my first harness 3 years ago. would have cost me 60 bucks!

10:55:40 PM
Outdoor ed trip to nuna in year 11.. man i was hooked and i made my partner stay until it was closed, hours after the rest of the class went home! Didn't manage to hook my dope-smoking friends up so easily so time went by until i started uni (RMIT) and i eagerly searched on my first day for the climbing club and jumped in head first. within about that first year I bought myself a full rack and rope :)

4:49:00 AM
I saw Lynn Hill in Painted Spider (?), that had me sold :D
10:51:11 AM
Like Mike my first experience involved bushwalking.

Back in the mid-eighties I went on a day walk around Centenial Glen in the Blue Mountains and came accross climbers for the first time. The stuff they were doing looked far to hard for me. Being a NSW bushwalker my equipment was limited to Dunlop Volleys and King Gee shorts. The climbers I saw that day were dressed in fluoro tights and looked like total wankers. This put me off for 10 years or so.

In the mid-nineties I was doing a walking trip in the Western Arthurs in Tasmania. I came across a solo walker from QLD. He was carrying 43kg of gear and couldn't navigate for shit ... no idea basically. He happened to be an experienced climber though and he was amazed when I didn't know how to tie my rucksack to a handline. I spent the rest of the trip practicing some knots he showed me and he convinced me the technical aspects of climbing could be learnt by anyone willing to put the effort in.

A few months later he came down to the Blue Mountains and dragged me up my first climb. I was very discouraged when I didn't make it up something he said was 16. He consoled me saying that it would be considered solid for the grade even at Frog. (At the time I didn't understand what frog's had to do with climbing). Sensing my disillusionment he then took me up a few grade 14's which I enjoyed much more.

Last year I went back to repeat that first grade 16 only to find my mate had misread the guidebook and it was actually a 22. That route is still on my ghost list. I now own a massive rack but have not yet acquired a pair of those fluoro tights.
11:21:34 PM
This guy was walking the Western Arthurs in the nineties with a 43 kg pack? With that pack weight it's no wonder he required a pack-line on the steep sections.
It sounds like he knew his knots, but not much else.
When I soloed the Western Arthurs in 1983, my pack weighed about 25 kg. I had 15m of 7mm climbing rope for pack-hauling. I didn't use it.
I had a really good time and moved quickly and efficiently over the rough areas.
The significant elements were that my pack was not over-loaded and as an experienced climber I was able to move quickly over steep, rough ground.
Everything you say about this guy suggests to me that he was overstating his experience. You are obviously doing well and have learned from this.
People don't have to dress up in tights to be wankers.
12:55:57 PM
Some fair points there K.L.

Obviously one shouldn't judge another's character by their dress sense. The two guys I saw in the brightly coloured tights were the first climbers I ever came across. My initial negative impression of climbing would have had more to do with the fact that it was totally foreign to me. What they were doing looked dangerous and scared me. Often we fear what we don't understand. I probably labelled the guys as tossers more out of ignorance than because of any lycra phobia.

The big Queenslander with the 43kg pack was fresh out of the army and a gear freak to boot which contributed to the 43kg just as much as his lack of walking experience. He ended up burying about 5kg of food early in the trip which made things a bit saner.

When he actually took me climbing for the first time he obviously knew more than just a "few knotts". I'd still rate him as one of the safest partners I've tied in with. I've never been able to reconcile how such a competent cragsman could lack basic bushwalking skills. This anomoly helped convince me that technical climbing skills could be learnt with patience and persistance and also helped overcome my negative first impressions of climbers and climbing.

6:38:35 PM
Kieran - do you feel like telling us what got you into climbing?

The Blond Gecko
9:19:40 AM
My story's quite prosaic really... back in 2nd year uni I broke up rather suddenly with my girlfriend of 2 1/2 years, and desperately needed something else to do with my time. So, I wandered down to Kangaroo Point and met up with the Uni of Qld rockclimbing club. From that first evening's climbing (Pterodactyl, from memory) I was hooked.

11:46:28 AM
Two things got me curios;
1) David Lee-Roth/Van Halen music video "This must be just like living in paradise" with David Lee-Roth swinging around on a rope in black and hot pink tights somewhere in Yosemite.
2) A Wide World of Sports short clip of some dude soloing somewhere in the States.

11:54:27 AM
School day trip when i was 15 to Frog Butress where we toproped and abseiled some poxy grade 13s. I immediatly went home - got dads towrope and started exploring the local "cliffs" near my home. I eventually 'borrowed' some of my schools gear and took to the real rocks with a group of 6 of my friends. We all shared one harness and belayed off trees/bollards directly.

12:16:43 PM
Low water levels on the Mitchell River in Easter 1992. Life can be fickle.

First year uni, about four weeks in - I had decided I was hardcore and would go white water kayaking. Trouble was, the planned Easter trip to the Mitchell River got canned because of low water levels - too low for the key rapids. I tried in vain to convince the other MUMC members that surf kayaking was the way forward and that we should all do that instead. They wanted to go climbing as the alternative so I gave in. I would have stayed home except I had the car and they relied on me.

We got there, and started out (as you do) at 8:00pm at night in pitch darkness bouldering (me in KT-26's) on Golden Streak boulder by torchlight. I tried the mantle problem and couldn't do it. That was enough. I was hooked.

You'd wonder how you could possibly get hooked too - when my first weekend away consisted of failing on "Holdup Line" (10), succeeding on "Stage Coach" (11) and "Long Bow" (11) - all at Bushranger Bluff, then the next day failing on "Slip Knot" (19) and also failing on every single boulder problem I tried at Declaration Crag (not to mention the failures on all of the Golden Streak Boulder's problems as well).

I went home and bought a pair of Boreal Classics (hey if Wolfgang could do Punks in them ...), tried climbing up the birck walls of my parents' house ... and turfed my kayaking dreams.

Perhaps it was because I was SOOOOO bad ...

Phil Box
12:22:15 PM
I mantled out of my mothers womb and haven`t stopped climbing ever since, oh, you mean with ropes. I`ve played with ropes ever since grabbing an old truck tie down rope out of the back of my dads car and hoisted myself up into the mango tree up the back yard when I was about 13. Then there were all the scary experiences on some of the big sites I worked on where I made up my own harnesses out of rope which convinced me that I should take a course and that was around 9 or 10 years ago. Then it was off to Frog Buttress where I took to leading cracks on gear like a duck to water.
10:14:11 AM
I did a lot of bushwalking, from about age 11, so got to love the outdoors lifestyle. I remember abseiling with a swami belt and figure-8 descender on school camps. Went top-rope climbing once on a scout camp -- it was 35 degrees C and I was wearing dunlop volleys. Every time I went to grab for a hold, black dirt would shower down into my eyes. And I had to wear a pink helmet.

After an obligatory 1st year uni of drinking, I resolved to get back into all things wholesome and outdoorsy, so joined the uni club and went on an Easter trip to Arapiles (1996?) just for shits and giggles. First climb was Kestrel. I was standing at the base of Tiger Wall when a huge rock fell and missed me by a metre. Then I was climbing with an inexperienced leader, whose gear was popping out and sliding down the rope to me. I thought this was normal. Then he dropped my camera the full 50m of the pitch and it smashed on the ground right in front of me. I climbed up to meet him (anchored with one dodgy bit of gear), then offered to lead the second pitch (short, slabby thing) up to Flinders Lane. He agreed, so I free soloed it (trailing rope behind) without really thinking about the potential consequences. Got lost trying to find Ali's Cave, sat shivering under the stars in my T-shirt until 11pm.

But the next day I seconded Salamander (grade 13, 5 pitches) on Watchtower face, and something went "click" and suddenly I was in The Zone. Have since learned how to lead, and got into mountaineering as well. I've never been a great technical leader, especially on steep, fingery rock, as it seems to demand a serious training regime, but climbing (in the general sense, not just rock climbing) certainly remains my number one passion in this life, and I see all other outdoor sports I engage in as contributing to my climbing potential.

(I should add a disclaimer here to say that uni climbing is not nearly as dangerous as it sounds -- I was just in the wrong place, on the wrong day, with the wrong leader -- have not had a similar bad experience with uni club since then.)

11:02:47 AM
i lived with this freak who ate rocks for breakfast, lunch and dinner and was so intrigued by his limitless enthusiasm that i had to find out what all the fuss was was off to centurion walls for some serious sandbagging. from then on i followed this guy to all these far out places in the grampians that no-one ever goes to and i'd watch him bolt these routes that were too hard for me to even look at...thats when i realised i was just a belay bitch. but for me i was just happy to get outdoors. it was lucky that we both got into alpine mountaineering at the same time and thats where i'm happiest! nowadays i've taken things a bit more serious and i'm actually training with the sole purpose of one day being able to sandbag this "freak" (you know who you are and i know you'll be reading this and i want you to know that i'll get you back!!).

12:15:40 PM
them's fightin' words, i'm sure he-who-cannot-be-named is up to the challenge

12:54:30 PM
ooooo i'm scared!

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