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Disco Biscuit (250m 23) - The Epic and The Rematch
4:55:35 PM

Sunday - a bit over a week ago -, Neil Monteith and I decided to tackle one of the last notorious big multis at Pierces Pass that he hasn't done, and one that I've been eying off for a while: Mikl's infamous Disco Biscuit - 250m Trad 23.

In reality, our inauspicious start spoke ominously of the likelihood of our success. We met up at Blaxland Station at 0800hrs, later than either Neil of I would ever normally dream of starting a Pierces Pass mulitpitch, never mind merely commencing the drive up the mountain. We got to the Pierces Pass carpark by about 0930, and made it to the base of the climb at 1030. The lateness of our arrival at Disco Biscuit wasn't due to any difficulty in locating it (I've spent a vast amount of time on Pierces Pass East Side in the last 6 months, trying to free the various mini-multipitches I've put up there), but rather because Neil -being Neil- was overwhelmed at the number of lines he hadn't climbed, and the potential for more lines to be added, and me -being me- was only too happy to massage my own ego by showing off my newly freed routes.

The ritualistic 'flip of the rock' landed dark side up (coincidence, or omen?) which meant I had P1. The pitch itself (45m 19) is pretty cool, despite some dubious rock and a horticulturalists’ delight of vegetation. It makes its way up a twin-crack system with a surprising number of 'moves' for the grade, and a pleasant 'adventure-trad' feel to it. Inevitably, though, our prognostication of failure continued when -a few metres up the climb- I broke off a 'bomber' piece of rock and decked back to the starting ledge. The recent fires had baked the bottom of the pitch black, which made the 'shield' of sandstone (normally pretty solid) surprisingly crumbly. Uninjured and unperturbed, I started again and finished the pitch.

Disco Biscuit Pitch 1 (45m 19).

A beautiful Mikl Bash in carrot bolt, and a Male Model in the background.

Pitch 2 is basically just a scramble through a wall of tree, but Pitch 3 (25m 20) starts with a delicate stemming corner to a really high over-driven rusty carrot bolt, then some strange honeycombed rock (with much potential for very dubious 'speed-bump' threads for gear) to the end of the pitch.

Neil cruised it in fine style, and soon I was heading up Pitch 4 (40m 20). Pitches 4-7 is where it turns up the intensity. Almost immediately you start with a boulder-problem to gain an overhanging corner crack (originally graded 22... which the first few moves probably are), it then becomes an enjoyable steep stemming corner with great small gear.

Disco Biscuit Pitch 4 (40m 20/22).

The guide advises to 'continue up the corner then step left into a choss cave, before heading out left to a dangerously run-out but easy arete.' Mikl had advised us to add a bolt to the arete, so we'd been carrying a hand-drill kit with us up the climb for this purpose.

Arriving at the choss cave in question, and upon investigating the arete, I wasn't faced with 'easy, scary climbing' I was faced with 'hard, scary climbing on ironstone micro-edges'. Gear was useless (all the rock just shattered upon loading the gear even slightly) and I came scarily close to committing to the death traverse before finally backing off and building a hanging belay in the corner. Neil was then brought up to save the day. He investigated the death-traverse, decided that a bolt was a wise investment, and then proceeded to spend an hour hand-drilling in a hole (with a blunt drill bit) for his beloved purpose made bash-in carrot (pinched off another climb, somewhere). For posterities’ sake, here is a photo of the fruits of his labour. Feel free to offer opinions on its quality:

His hard yakka finished, Neil committed to the traverse, which essentially became a 6m+ runout on ironstone edges into a steep corner system which seemed more or less unprotected. Unable to see Neil, the only commentary I can offer on the quality and general 'pleasantness' of this traverse was in the amount of cursing that echoed throughout the Grose at that point. Realising that the climbing was both unprotected and much harder than expected, Neil reversed the death traverse (with more cursing) and the two of us came to the conclusion that we must be off-route.

We were now looking at about 2.5 hours of daylight remaining to complete 3 pitches of wandery, scary, chossy, hard-ish trad, so after some debate and hesitation, we decided to bail and come back another day for the rematch. This -necessarily- meant leaving behind a few pieces of gear and rapping ~130m back to the ground. As luck would have it, it was while placing a bomber semi-perma-wire to rap off, that Neil discovered where Pitch 4 ACTUALLY went: It continued further up the (now chossy) corner crack, and traversed left into a choss cave higher up, which could only be SEEN from higher up. In short: his carrot bolt antics had all been for nothing.

And so we retreated, bailing back to the ground with our collective tails between our legs, even as an ambulance helicopter hovered on the other side of the Grose winching up an injured Hanging-Rock-Rope-Swinger (see associated post on this forum for more information on THAT particular epic).

But in our defeat, we vowed that: ONE DAY we would return and reclaim our lost dignity... One day we would have our revenge.


Roughly a week later, unable to live with the shame of our humiliating defeat, Neil and I were back at the base of the climb just after 0800hrs, racked-up and ready to rock. No primitive hand-drills for us, this time we had a Hilti 3.4kg 36v battery-powered drill to add/replace the bolts as requested by Mikl (thanks for the loan, JengA).

We'd decided to swap out leads (so essentially we were both getting a 'tick' on the first 4 pitches), and quickly raced up Pitches 1-3 (adding a bolt each to the belays at the end of Pitch 2 and Pitch 3 to replace the corroding old carrots).

Me on the stemming corner start of Pitch 3 (30m 20) of Disco Biscuit.

As Neil gunned up Pitch 4, he deviated to remove our red-herring carrot from the previous aborted attempt. For nostalgia value, here's a photo of it in the choss cave we ALMOST traversed out of:

Continuing up to the CORRECT cave, Neil added the requested bolt, and blasted up the much easier and much less deathy arete to finish up the pitch.

I've described this climb as being best defined as: 'a line of "okay" rock up a sea of superchoss'. The below picture (on the belay at the end of Pitch 4) epitomises this:

Pitch 5 (25m 23) is probably the only 'sporty' section of climbing on the whole route. It goes up a vague corner, then via some trad runouts (on easier but chossy ground) to a bolt protected sporty move, just above where I am in the picture below:

How does Neil manage to take these pictures while belaying?

Despite fears of an epic sandbag, the crux sequence was a very sporty sequence of movement and bang on at the grade. I'd actually finished the crux and was rocking over to the finishing jug (below the victory shale band below the right-leaning corner in the previous photo) when my right foot slipped on a sandy footer and off I came. (For the record, I blame my un-sporty trad shoes, and the sandy rock. My technical climbing skills are, of course, utterly perfect.) Neilio cruised it on second, then set up for Pièce de résistance that is Pitch 6 (50m 22).

Obscurity, thy name is Mikl. This pitch starts up a mega-choss corner, whereby the carrots (to protect the opening moves) force you into the corner, but you really want to climb an awesome groove of good rock 1.5m right. The result is that the 3 bolts leading to the ledge require you to traverse into the corner to clip, you then downclimb a move and retreat back right to where you aren't going to kill your belayer by dropping a cubic metre of sandstone on him. Neil figured this out via a monkey puzzle of chalk as he wandered up the face, the line can be seen in the below photo.

At the ledge, the world famous 'turtle beach' is found. This bizarre feature is a narrow cave system that can be negotiated by crawling on your belly through sand (like a turtle) for 15m or so. What makes it weirder, is that there is a narrow shield of choss (in sections) that mostly encloses the cave, created a weird fusion of caving at altitude. Here Neil looks back on the ENTRY to the cave system:

When I tackled Turtle Beach, I was dragging the haul bag with the drill and bolting kit a few metres behind me, so the whole experience has left me rather traumatised towards future cliff-caving endeavours.

And here is Neil perfecting the ultimate climbing/caving selfie 200m above the Grose. How does he do it?

I should also point out that before I'd arrived on the belay at the end of this pitch, Neil had sent that selfie to everyone on his 'Climbing Friends List' (which I think just consists of Mikl and Brooksie).

The pitch concludes with a rising traverse of grade 17ish face-climbing with interesting gear placements appearing right when things start to get worrying. Aside from having no idea if he was en-route, Neil finished up in fine style and promptly messaged the entire climbing world of his success.

The final pitch (50m 22) was mine, and it certainly doesn't have an inauspicious start. A scary traverse across a smooth low-angle slab to get to a piece of gear on the far end, leads to a bouldery lip turn to commence the pitch. The photo below seriously doesn't do the exposure justice:

The pitch then wanders up a slightly steep face on very spaced and creative gear (the crux of the pitch comes after a 6m+ runout through steepness). The only description for the route would be: 'continue upwards, balancing the 'line of least resistance' with 'whatever gear placements you can find' for 50m until you reach the top of the cliff'. The result was a great deal of overgripping by me, some desperation, epic rope drag as I meandered back and forth, and a surprising topout (over ironstone dinnerplates) at EXACTLY the right spot, as evidenced by the 9 bolts I found at the top of the cliff (apparently it was an old abseiling spot). Neil soon joined me on Rigby Hill, and graciously offered to model the mess of gear I left behind as I wandered up the pitch:

When out of sling runners, prussiks, daisy chains and codalettes are viable substitutes.

By the time we got back to the car it was 1530... Roughly 7 hours car to car.

So, to summarise MY experiences:

A 'generally easy' (containing only a few SPECIFICALLY hard moves surrounded by easier climbing) old-school semi-obscure trad-adventure multipitch with spaced gear and average rock, in a rad position. One might say: the epitome of hard-ish Blueys TRADventure. I'm bloody glad that I did it, and I had tonnes of fun, but the climb wasn't without a degree of dangerous and vegetated, chossy suffering. Suffice to say, it's an adventure I wouldn't repeat again, but not one I regret doing.

Sorry about the massive length of this TR.



5:51:40 PM
Very groovy TR PThomson. I give you an 8 for content, 9 for pictures (though Neil's selfy was a touch hirsute) and a 10 for using 'rad', which as we all know is the highest form of praise available.

That gives your TR a grand total of at least 25 points. Well done;)

5:56:21 PM
Yay for choss adventure. The only thing I would add is that the last pitch is quite well protected if you bring about five #3 Camalots, and a couple of #4s. Sadly Paul used up our only two #3s in protecting the first scary lip mantle move. He then proceeded to boldly climb past plenty of large bomber horizontals they he could only curse at for the next 40m.
6:14:51 PM
awesome that these old chossbaldders are getting repeated, and sorry for the bad route description on P4.
9:06:11 AM
Na, Mikl, the description for P4 was fine. Neil and I picked out where we thought the route would go from the belay at the START of that pitch, and I then followed that plan to the letter... The reality is that I should have been open to deviating from our plan when on the pitch in question, as it's from THAT position where the real route becomes obvious.

If it's any consolation, while setting up the hanging belay (before bringing Neil up to put in his Red Herring bolt), I actually said something like: "I don't know why Mike wouldn't just continue up the corner... The face above- [not being able to see the choss cave at that point] - looks easy and protectable in the horizontals."


9:26:48 AM
On 3/06/2014 PThomson wrote:
>Na, Mikl, the description for P4 was fine.

I beg to differ. It said go left at the choss cave after the corner, which is what we did. It should have said climb past the first large choss cave into the 2nd smaller choss cave, and go left there.

9:54:38 AM
Well done, but wasn't the 'hard climbing' bit a bit of a dead give away . . .?
If the pitch is supposed to follow the 'easy' climbing and you find yourself tackling something 'hard' them chances are you are off route . . .
Some friends did it years ago with no such drama, and no beta either . . .
10:20:50 AM
Sorry Neil, but you said it yourself "after the corner". The corner ended at the choss cave above where I first traversed left. There's also the fact that we'd already passed 1 choss cave (up the corner - you'll remember that as the ridiculous backstep move) when we went left at the 2nd choss cave, and SHOULD have gone left at the 3rd choss cave, with each choss cave getting progressively smaller.

Macciza - You of all people should know that "hard, easy, soft and sandbagged" are all VERY relative terms when dealing with obscure trad multipitch, especially from the sort of individuals who don't treat the idea of a grading system with any degree of seriousness (Burgermeister Pitch 1, first 8m, graded 20, anyone? Hotel California Pitch 1, originally graded 21, anyone?).

Furthermore, Mikl has verified that several very experienced climbers have also ended up off route and in some "exciting" positions on this route in the past.

Finally, is the fact that when weaving your way up a sea of monster choss, the route -by its very nature- is obscure, in order to avoid the worst of the choss. Had I been picking my own route WITHOUT any beta I would have gone up the corner further, but by reading too much into the route description we ended up in the wrong place. And reading into the route description was necessary because -considering the sea of choss- it wasn't improbably that the obscure line forged WAS the only non-chossy path up the wall (other pitches followed the same premise, hence "turtle beach"), and continuing up the "obvious" line might well have led to an insurmountable choss dead-end.

11:08:20 AM
For future reference...

Red is the wrong way - green is the right way!

The actual wide topo in the guidebook is right, we just failed to look at it closely. Mostly because I find some of the topo lines in that guide wrongly marked. For example some of belays in the guide on that route are marked in the wrong places.

Anyway - it was all fun and expected when doing these kind of routes!
11:44:49 AM
Or the new point perp guide... Where any of the less-trafficed hard trad routes aren't marked correctly on the topos at all.

Neil and I both came to an agreement of where the route goes before I set off based on the description... We both interpreted it wrong. =P
5:11:13 PM
maybe pitch 6 could climb, and have new bolts, further right in the good rock?

4:26:42 PM
Had just meant it should have been the trigger to think twice . . .
The same sort of thing as you are saying about 'why didn't he keep going up here' . . .
Why aren't we?? I'll admit to having been in similar situations myself . . .
Some times it can be hard to spot the line for all the rock . . .
9:26:41 AM
Great pics. Very inspiring.
9:56:14 AM
Seriously impressive ! Makes Ginsberg look like a Saturday stroll.
10:34:15 AM
On 3/06/2014 mikllaw wrote:
>maybe pitch 6 could climb, and have new bolts, further right in the good
You could probably find some decent rock a bit further over, oh, say about 800km south-west?

12:07:17 PM
On 3/06/2014 mikllaw wrote:
>maybe pitch 6 could climb, and have new bolts, further right in the good

Not a massive problem. It's pretty obvious not to touch the death to the left.
12:40:41 PM
Mike Stacey started up that pitch, and perhaps the bolts are there because there are holds/stances that he could drill from. I think he came down at bolt # three and I headed up fearfully towards the huge silly roofs of choss above, did another move or two and fell into Turtle Beach
One Day Hero
6:33:41 PM
On 3/06/2014 PThomson wrote:
>Or the new point perp guide... Where any of the less-trafficed hard trad
>routes aren't marked correctly on the topos at all.

Really? Which routes? Rob took the view that a trad route at Point Perp generally takes up a 3-4m wide strip, within which you wander about looking for gear. He drew the lines straight up the guts of these strips without putting every little 1m kink in (because often there are many equally good options). It all worked pretty well until the Southern Highlands numptys decided that 2m away from the guidebook line is open season for sport routes........but you can't engineer against that level of stupidity.

10:03:36 PM
Some of the middle routes at Thunderbird wall for starters!
11:25:01 AM
On 6/06/2014 nmonteith wrote:
>... Thunderbird wall
Anne Hasting's drawn version from an earlier guide is better than a photo.

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