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Chockstone Forum - Trip Reports

Tells Us About Your Latest Trip!

 Page 1 of 2. Messages 1 to 20 | 21 to 26
Author
Aid Climbing 101, or: Half Way up the North Wall
gfdonc
5/11/2004
11:07:21 PM
Aid Climbing 101, or: How to get Half Way up the North Wall in 36 Hours
by gfdonc and Ant

Saturday night we found ourselves dossed down under the stars at the top of Comet Ramp, after an easy drive up in the daylight and dinner in Bright. The alarm at 5:30am (first morning of daylight savings, too) woke us quickly; the last two hours had turned colder and our light sleeping bags had been tested.
The plan was to climb ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, a route I had managed to get up in the early 80’s, and then finish up Ozy Direct. We hoped for 2 long days but had plans for 3.
North Wall- KOHD marked
After confirming our head-torch inspection of the previous starry night that Comet ramp was too bushy, we packed gear and hiked the 5 minutes around to the top of Defender of the Faith, and set up the rappel.
‘Whoever drops the first bit of gear buys the beers at the end’ I declared boldly.
It was agreed Ant would find the next set of belay bolts and I would follow with ‘the pig’. At the top I set up both UHF radios with newly purchased headsets, and Ant set off down the rope, wired for sound.
Disappointingly, we quickly found my headset wasn’t working, and I jerked the plug out, annoyed, and reverted to using it as a handheld. Moments later, when the rope was ready to go and I was attempting to maneuver the pig into position on the cliff edge, the radio got jammed on ‘monitor’ and as I pulled it out to quiet it, it slipped out of its protective casing – the velcro at the top hadn’t resealed after removing the plug. AAH! I watched it bounce down the cliff, somehow expecting it to magically stop. We never found any trace of it, or its NiMH batteries. Shit. My shout.
Rap down Defender of the Faith
I joined Ant at the hanging belay, still mourning my loss. We decided the pig needed a name for the trip.
‘How about Kylie’?
‘Naah, too thin. We need to name it after some actress that’s put on weight’
‘Drew Barrymore’, Ant said without hesitation.
‘Perfect’
So ‘Drew’ was carefully lowered over two more abseils down to Fuhrer ledge, where she was refitted with harness for the short walk. Two more abseils had us at the base of our chosen route, where it was around 9am and time for breakfast. We had brought the luxury of espresso pot, stove and freshly ground Cuban so as to avoid caffeine deprivation for the planned 3-day ascent.
By 10am Ant was ready to go on his first major pitch of aid. Progress was slow! By around 12 he appeared to be around half way, but then, just as I turned to extract something from the pack, I heard a popping sound and looked up to watch Ant falling .. and falling. After about 5m and two pieces of gear ripped, the topmost of 3 bolts pulled him up, just short of the first ledge. Close call.
12 stretched to 1pm then 2pm, 3pm and finally close to 4pm Ant tied off the rope and I got ready to go. The aiding had been fairly sustained and dirty in spots. I cleaned as quickly as I could manage and led off at 4:30pm, hopeful we could make better progress on the next 2 pitches. The second pitch started well enough, a couple of moves in the top steps got over some tricky bits but then the crux came up – a 3m tension traverse from a bolt led to a small mantelshelf ledge. No placements within reach, so I managed to scare myself with two hook moves to reach a #4 Rock placement.
KOHD pitch 2
I was getting tired and slower and the belay bolts at the next hanging belay took a little longer to reach .. around 8pm I think. I’d actually aided up past the supposed belay point to the last 3 bolts on the intermittent bolt ladder, which sported some very suspicious-looking homemade hangers stamped ‘RJM’ (Reg Marron). They appeared to be aluminium but thin, a similar thickness to steel keyhole hangers, and had ‘aid only’ and ‘metal fatigue’ written all over them in my mind. I managed to prise the topmost one off by bending it with my hands, and placed a steel keyhole bracket in its place, but could only equalise a little between this and the hanger in front of me. With now 70m of air under my feet I was damned if myself, Ant and Drew were all going to hang from one 25-year-old piece of Coke can. I reached down and tied off a third bolt, which also had a homemade hanger.
Classified by the National Trust
Ant followed, managing to second the tension traverse in fine style, and joined me on the belay in the growing darkness. So much for reaching Big Grassy in the daylight! One more pitch, though, perhaps progress would be faster? I picked out the next pitch with my spot beam while we organised the gear.
I was still sweating on the hanger in front of me, expecting it to shear at any second and leave us dangling from the top bolt - with a potential shock loading onto the lower bolt if that should also fail. Paranoia tends to set in on big walls. So it was out with the bolt kit and I placed an SMC bash-in as a backup. Aah, that’s better. Security.
Ant took off on pitch 3 around 9pm. 11 hours for two pitches. This is not going well! I watched the hours tick past as Ant struggled to find placements in the dark.
Around 11pm he called for food and water, so I tied a bag onto the haul line and he pulled it up in the dark. Around 12 the moon rose, and instead of hanging in the dark nothingness I could again pick out the cliffs on the South Side, and gauge the exposure.
At this stage I was still hopeful we could finish the route, rap down to Big Grassy and recover for the next day. Around 2am this hope started to diminish, and by 3am when the ‘safe’ call came I realised we were going to have to rethink plans. Cleaning proved problematic in the dark, with a dimming headtorch, and it was perhaps 4am when I was on the belay. We were both moving extremely slowly, senses dulled by the darkness and fatigue.
The top of KOHD finishes in a small slot which is best described as ‘cosy’, and in the dark, with two ropes, two bodies and all the gear it was an absolute cluster-f&^k. Hauling into the slot was somewhere between problematic and bloody impossible; eventually we found two belay bolts on the wall above the slot (hard to find in the dark) and rearranged the belay to continue hauling.
Some more food, water and clothing. Some contemplating of options. Some talking about contemplating options. One step at a time. Coil a rope? Yes, yes, coiling a rope would be good. Now let’s organise the belay. Belay? Yes. Good idea. What is this clipped to? One step at a time. Very, very tired now. Now coil the other rope. Can we reclip into the bolts? Yes, yes, good. One step closer to sleep. Sleep. Very tired. Must get sleep. Coil rope. Sleep.
By about 5am we had things in some semblance of order and set up the 25m rappel down to Big Grassy. By the time we were set, it started to become light, and waited another 10 minutes so we could see what we were doing. The problem is that KOHD (pitch 3) finishes on the arete, above and left of the bivvy ledge by some 8m. Anyone who has tried to swing 8m sideways on a rap will realise we had yet another challenge to overcome before getting some sleep. I squeezed a small Alien into the top flake to pull me 2m across, then tensioned across to a #4 RP placement part way, and pendulumed the rest. Being able to stand up for the first time in 14 hours (about 20 for Ant) felt like bliss.
By 7am all three of us (including Drew of course) were secure on the bivvy ledge. Too tired to do much at all, I drank a can of baked beans and we dozed in our clothes. Sleep didn’t come; the bright morning sun mixed with our continued flow of adrenaline conspired to offer little more than a catnap.
By 9am a phone call to check on the weather report made up our minds; it was time to escape. We had 2 more days water and food, but were in no state to keep climbing, and thunderstorms were on the way. We set up another rap from the corner bolts and Ant headed off down the ropes.
Some yelling shortly after wasn’t part of the plan. Me: “What?” The reply was mostly lost to the wind. “WHAT?” I eventually made out something like ‘it’s the wrong corner’ and realised we’d set up the ropes down Lord Gumtree instead of down Ozymandias – and there was no escape that way. Shit. Too tired to realise.
I tied off the rope and Ant started jumaring back up. By around 11:30 we finished the 3 rappels to the gorge floor, sat and had lunch, ditched our excess water (there’s 3 litres at Big Grassy if anyone needs it), and got ready for the walk out. Fortunately Ant had brought some really good trip notes from a mate in Adelaide and we headed down to the creek to find some cairns. Just then the heavens opened up, confirming to us we’d made the right decision.
It took over an hour and a half just to cross the creek. The bottom of the gorge is overgrown, rough and wide with multiple streams to cross. Despite locating two cairns on our side and spotting a couple on the other side, we were unable to find a navigable path, so bashed our way uphill for around 200m before finding an equally tortuous route down the middle and a viable crossing to the other side.
By 5:30pm we were at the top, exhausted and dripping wet from a continual series of sharp thunderstorms and downpours, culminating in a hailstorm. A change of clothes at South Side hut, a couple of phone calls to loved ones and we were off in the Corolla, Ant driving. By Porepunkah I was ready for a kip; I hadn’t quite dropped off when Ant pulled over at Myrtleford for a power nap in the late afternoon light.
Some three and a half hours later I woke. It was nearly 10pm! Hardly surprising, we might easily have slept the whole night in the car. After a coffee stop in Glenrowan I drove the rest of the way, getting back home just after 1am, around 44 hours after we woke up on the North rim two days prior.
I showered then inspected the damage. 14 separate cuts and scrapes around my body deserved some attention, then the fingertips. A lost cause; I just used the Savlon as hand-crème and went to bed.


mousey
6/11/2004
2:05:26 AM
what i think is really disturbing is that this kind of trip report makes me want to do walls even more!!???
deadpoint
6/11/2004
10:08:03 AM
Fantastic report,can't wait to get down there for an attempt free attempt at Fuhrer Direct after Christmas. I am drooling with anticipation.....

Rupert
6/11/2004
4:12:20 PM
Great report - thanks for sharing it - and yeah it does make you want to try it.

IdratherbeclimbingM9
Online Now
8/11/2004
12:32:12 PM
LOVE IT. It brings back many fond memories ...

Excellent TR gfdonc.

I will re-read this a number of times yet, to savour the nuances !!

Though you did not elaborate greatly I also know that exiting the South-side track with 'Drew' would have been adventurous as well ...

Any philosophical thoughts on the game after a 20 year absence ??
gfdonc
8/11/2004
2:38:33 PM
If Rupert and Mighty Mouse are inspired by my report then I must rewrite it to ensure the volumes of pain and suffering are properly communicated ... ;-)

A5 - yes, it served to reinforce well-buried memories that wall climbing is physically and mentally demanding and exhausting. At some stage I'm sure I thought "I'm never doing this again, a weekend at Araps is a much better idea". Ant made comment that "This aid climbing game is too cerebral". (One should not make assumptions about the brainpower involved in alpine climbing from this remark ;-)

Yet once dried out and better slept the post-mortem discussions have convinced us that an assault at the trade route of Ozy Direct would be easier and quicker - being a cleaner route with more fixed gear rather than fairly sustained, sometimes dirty and tricky aiding up the KOHD flake systems.

I did mention on the rap in that we were committed to climbing back out and there was no way I was lugging the bag up the South Side twice in a lifetime. Must have jinxed us. It took a full hour of massage last week to straighten out my back.

I also need to mention than Ant deserves special commendation for probably being the first person ever to conduct a rap inspection of Ozy (p1-p4) before doing the route (assuming he gets back there sometime).
- Steve

Phil Box
8/11/2004
6:00:36 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this account and will also be rereading it as well. Nice work guys.
jjobrien
9/11/2004
3:57:27 PM
Good fun, thanks.
rolsen
9/11/2004
4:07:00 PM
Yes, I loved the report as well, found it very entertaining.
Can you describe your rack for this (if its not too much trouble)?
Richard

nmonteith
9/11/2004
5:48:45 PM
Totally awesome report. Thanks for sharing...

You mentioned you placed a "SMC bash-in as a backup". Where did you get this relic from the past?!! I only know them as 'death' SMC hangers that lurk (in some cases snapped) all across wall routes in the USA.
gfdonc
9/11/2004
6:43:39 PM
On 9/11/2004 nmonteith wrote:
>You mentioned you placed a "SMC bash-in as a backup". Where did you get
>this relic from the past?!!

I figured I might get your attention with that one. I was surprised it took this long for the posting!
Got given them many years ago, ex stock from some Eastern Suburbs rock shop. I still have another 4. Want them? ;-)
Unlike your well-equipped and modern setup, my bolt kit hadn't been used since the 80's. I'm not sure your comments about 'death' hangers are fully justified, but don't want to debate that point since I'm sure you've got more examples to hand. I chose to place one of those as a backup to the belay that was there, rather than trust a flimsy hanger. I used the SMC rather than a traditional 5/16'' carrot as it required less drilling for the 1/4'' hole (in the dark, tired, running short of time, etc etc). I'm happy with the placement and recommend you clip it whenever you do the route.
No plans to use any as runners on free routes, if that's your concern.




nmonteith
9/11/2004
6:50:39 PM
Not worried at all - i just wanted the historical notes about it!
gfdonc
9/11/2004
8:42:52 PM
Sorry! Realised on the way home I was being defensive. Too late to edit the post tho'.

gfdonc
9/11/2004
9:01:10 PM
On 9/11/2004 rolsen wrote:
>Can you describe your rack for this (if its not too much trouble)?

Sure. Umm .. basically smashed two free climbing racks together and added a few bits from the cupboard. As follows I think (Ant: help needed 'cos I don't remember your rack):
2 sets Rocks (2-5)
2 sets RPs
1 set Black Diamond offset small nuts (Ant's: I don't like them much, for me RPs always seem to be the right size)
A few other odd Chouinard wired stoppers in odd sizes (I picked up a bunch of 1 1/2's cheap at one fire sale).
1 set crack'n'ups (my ancient aid climbing gear; didn't get used this trip)
2 sets of cams. Basically I have Friend 00, 0.5, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3.5, 4, plus a green alien (#3?). Ant has Aliens 2,3,4 plus Camalots 2,3,4 plus some others. The Friend 00 was new for the trip; I was peeved not being the first to place it.
Some hexes sizes 4-8 and larger nuts on wire or cord.
Only about 8 quickdraws.
3 skyhooks
Lots of spare biners. Aid climbing uses lots of biners - we seemed to be scratching around for them.
Perhaps 8 screwgates.
Two chunky cordelettes (I like 8mm, safety).
A few sewn slings (130cm size)
10 tie-offs (hero loops). Not used much as we had ..
about 10 bolt plates. Dropped two, happy scrounging.
a pulley
set of jumars each, plus one spare for hauling. Redundant actually.
3-4 daisy chains (one stays on the pig). I don't use them, to Ant's disgust.
6 etriers (3 pairs; leader takes two)
Two cloth belay seats (GFdonc branded)
The "get out of jail" rack of 4.5'' tube chock, 11 hex, another size 4 friend (or Metolius something), another large hex, two copperheads, a knifeblade (ewwh!) plus the bolt kit. Mainly took the big gear for the top pitches of Ozy Direct, and it stayed in the haul bag, until some of it got used on p3 of KOHD.
A "bail option" of 10m of 7mm cord, used about half of it on retreat.
About 80 biners (non-locking) all up. Needed all of them but more effective racking would have helped.
Descender each.
Fifi hook each.
Three rack slings, padded.

In hindsight the large numbers of bigger cams was a hindrance; they're heavy and bulky, and you only get one placement out of them after all. Hexes are underrated IMHO.
- Steve


IdratherbeclimbingM9
Online Now
12/11/2004
2:51:26 PM
Interesting rack gfdonc.

Importantly; ...What would you leave out of it, if there was a next time?

You say large cams were not really the go but having only 1 x friend # 4, 1 x camalot # 4, 1 x camalot # 3, a 4.5'' tube chock, plus a # 11 hex seemed to me light on and heavy at the same time! (Light on because the needed sizes were not there, and heavy because you had plenty of that size range)!
With 2 X camalots (4.5 or bigger) you can leapfrog them up the last pitch of your objective ala crack-jumar style. The large hex would not be suited to that offwidth ...
The rest could probably have been halved ... as you had duplicates / overlaps in sizes not really needed?

8 quickdraws, and a few slings seems light on as well. Did the pieces Ant rip have runner extensions on ?
If you found this number of runners about right, then you must have used your pre-slung small cams often; ... or don't you bother putting runners on RP's?
Did rope-drag present problems at any point ?

10 hero loops. Yeah possibly half that would be the go, depending on the length of any bolt-ladders involved. Small wires and hooks can be used on bolts to good effect ...

gfdonc
6/12/2004
10:38:18 PM
About time I got around to replying ..

On 12/11/2004 A5iswhereitsat wrote:
>
>Importantly; ...What would you leave out of it, if there was a next time?
The knifeblades. Maybe the bolt kit (if we were doing Ozy Direct). The spare jumar. Possibly some wires. Maybe 1-2 of the bigger cams. The copperheads.
Ant also reckons we could leave the hammocks behind, and just go for it from Big Grassy to the top, hence cutting weight.

>
>You say large cams were not really the go but having only 1 x friend #
[snip]
>of your objective ala crack-jumar style. The large hex would not be suited
>to that offwidth ...
Probably right (so you tell me!). I've never led the last pitch and have never done it in the light, so don't know. However, they were the largest gear either of us owned, so we took 'em.

>The rest could probably have been halved ... as you had duplicates / overlaps
>in sizes not really needed?
Maybe right, perhaps in the wires. But they don't weigh much.

>8 quickdraws, and a few slings seems light on as well. Did the pieces
>Ant rip have runner extensions on ?
Don't recall. I added short tie-offs from 4mm and 5mm cord to several of my cams. This was useful to gain a few extra inches when aiding. I'll probably cut them off now, or curse them for getting in the way while grappling on some lead over summer.

>If you found this number of runners about right, then you must have used
>your pre-slung small cams often; ... or don't you bother putting runners
>on RP's?
>Did rope-drag present problems at any point ?
I put some draws on pitch 2, which wanders a little, but not enough and was suffering rope drag despite one runner falling out after I unclipped my ets from it. I reckon we had enough draws.
When rapping down to Big Grassy, we left behind two GFDonc sewn slings and two of my old Simond biners. Booty hunters doing Ozy will have to be bothered traversing out of the corner to the arete, then back again. They might be there a while.

>10 hero loops. Yeah possibly half that would be the go, depending on the
>length of any bolt-ladders involved. Small wires and hooks can be used
>on bolts to good effect ...
Yep, agree - although they don't weigh much.

Other tips:
1. I'd probably precut some lengths of 7mm for bailing 'in case', but then not everyone has a spool of the stuff in their front room, and a hot-knife handy.
2. Also the rap anchor at Defender of the Faith works fine if you extend it by 2m or so. If you rap off the chain, the rope drags over the sloping edge. There was a long piece of tatty tape there, presumably only 2 weeks old but we added some 7mm to be sure. Really needs another length of chain. We rapped with 55m+50m ropes which were fine if you extend the top anchor.
3. Some protective system for the haul line. I read (in US Climbing) about using a plastic funnel to stop overhangs from abrading the end of the haul line, near the top of the bag. As a result of this trip my 'oldest' serviceable rope is now 120cm shorter.

Bear in mind that trying to bail from the end of p2 of KOHD would be fairly difficult since the route leans to the right, then through a small bulge, making rapping down the route you have climbed fairly unlikely. You would have to deal with 70m-80m of vertical granite plus an overhang below you and no rap anchors in between (unless you can pendulum or aid across into Clouded Queen, an uncertain undertaking). Hence we kept climbing.

Still no plans to go back, but wouldn't rule it out ...

IdratherbeclimbingM9
Online Now
13/12/2004
12:41:58 PM
Thanks for the further info gfdonc/ant.
There is quite a bit of 'meat' here in your detailed TR & replies, for anyone wishing to undertake this adventure. (I am seriously inspired to try this variation myself now!).

As an aside. I have learnt (for me at least), that taking stuff because it doesn't weigh much is a flaw in efficient logistics!, as there is a point (particularly on roped-solo), where the gear weight becomes an inhibition to success.
Its probably a case of working out the lesser of in/convenience vs time savings ...
gfdonc
13/12/2004
1:30:57 PM
Shall we expand the Buffalo pages of this site with some big-wall topos?

IdratherbeclimbingM9
Online Now
13/12/2004
2:46:28 PM
On 13/12/2004 gfdonc wrote:
>Shall we expand the Buffalo pages of this site with some big-wall topos?
>

This sounds like an excellent idea to me, though I fear my computer techo skills (lack of), won't be of much help.
I found your pictures accompanying the TR very good in this respect.

Anything which adds to the resource is worth doing, as it seems to me that for those interested in such activity (Nth Wall escapades), though few they may be; their appetite is insatiable for any info available.


Miguel75
22/09/2012
1:15:48 PM
Bump, another awesome big wall TR.

It's a quiet day in Footscray:)

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