Ok guys and gals, i've been busy at work lately, but i've finally got the full report on my trip done. Enjoy! And good to see you taking a well earned break from work!! lol
I stood there on my own, with Diego filming above (unknown to me) cleaning the holds, making it perfect. This was more then just a piece of rock, it was a final test. The graduation. After this, I could do anything.
Well the day finally came. Waking up early on Monday morning, I jokingly told myself it was too warm in bed and I was too comfortable to get up at this ungodly hour. However, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t contain my excitement. This was my first big trip. Not just a few days in the Gramps then back home, but a whole month, of nothing but climbing. I couldn’t wait!
Hopping off the plane in Christchurch, the independence of it all finally hit me. From now on, I was on my own. While this may seem humorous to those who have done solo trips many times before, for me, even though it was only New Zealand, it was still a little daunting. I found the backpackers, got my ton of food from the local Pak N Save in the city, and was set for the next month. All I needed to do was wake up in time in the morning to get on the bus, which would drop me off at Castle Hill, and all was good. That was more then taken care of by the wall shattering snoring of the guy I was sharing the room with. I kid you not; I could hear him clear as day when I got up to take a pee at 2am. Not that I arose from sleep, merely a state of numbness. At 6:30am, he was up and off to the shower. You beaut! Even though I was awake an hour early (yes, I did manage a few hours sleep) I packed my stuff and bolted for the nearest exit. But the night before didn’t matter, as by 8:00, I was on my way to ‘the hill’
When I got there, I almost fell over. I rushed all my stuff into the shearer’s quarters, which was to be my home for the next month, grabbed my pad and shoes, and off I went, like a dog out of the gate. For the first 2 days, I hit it solo. I was so dumbfounded by the amount of boulders, I would spend an hour just wandering, finding a good problem, then another then another. It was a vicious cycle. But the trip was starting off well, with V4’s and 5’s coming pretty quickly and easily. On the third day of sunshine, I had a partner in crime. There were 3 poms there when I arrived, at the quarters, and one of them, Rob, shared a similar interest in a particular problem called the Dreamhouse Traverse, a really nice looking V6 on mega pocs. To warm up, we hit Quantum field, polishing of some nice V4’s, including my first V5 flash of the trip, Cyclops. Feeling a bit spent, we moved onto the traverse, which after figuring out all the moves, little Rob made short work of (pun absolutely intended). I however, got stuck on the last couple of moves. We then moved onto a great boulder called the Tuppi-Master Boulder. I was struggling with a super cool V6 slab called Over The Edge, which like with the previous problem, Rob quickly dispatched, so turned my attention to the double aręte slapper sit start which was Tuppi-Master, V7. I quickly worked all the moves, with my main problem being to link them all. But after pulling the first move, which is the crux, I slapped and heel hooked my way to glory, for my first ever V7 tick! And on only my 3rd day! Feeling quite chuffed (yes, the pommy lingo was wearing off on me a little too much…GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF!!!), we moved to another awesome looking line called The Air Below, V6. The first moves flowed quite well, and it seemed we had stumbled upon one of the classic Castle Hill problems, where the crux is the mantle top out. And indeed it was, spitting both Rob and I off numerously. One time too many for me it seemed, with ‘my last go’ sending my foot into a head on collision with an uncovered rock. Needless to say, expletives followed, and that was it for the day. Rob piggy backed me back to the car, as the throbbing pain of my swollen foot and unresponsiveness of the muscles contained within it, made it impossible to walk or even hop back.
The next 4 days were spent held up in the sitting room, in front of the fire, resting my foot, willing it to get better, so that I was able to further punish it on hard falls from big boulders. The time came the following Monday, with still a very bad limp, I managed to drag my carcass out to the rock. There is an absolutely stunning line on a big block of rock higher up in Spittle Hill called “Beautiful Edges”, V4, and this was the test for the foot. However, falling from the top of this 4m odd problem saw most of me hit the mat. My dodgy right foot felt fine upon impact, however it was my left foot this time that copped the shitty end of the stick, hitting square on the ground. Ignoring the pain, the problem was sent next go, while the rest of the day was spent spotting fellow Aussie Luke. I desperately needed a rest. And God sent one, in the form of 10cm of snow that night!
The one plus of the week was that the backpackers was totally booked out for a night with runners raising funds for Canteen. So the owner of the place, Mike, offered to put me up for the night in their newly built house for the night. Oh how warm and comfy it was! A giant country meal of sausages, bacon, mash potatoes and beans and carrots saw me over nicely that night. A few more days were spent in rest, and by Wednesday I was back out there again, but as being careful as I would when contemplating those 7-11 hotdogs. Not much was climbed, but it was good anyway to get out. This was the first day out climbing with Diego (aka CrAZy DeE), who had come here via Spain and Thailand. Diego had been taking video for a movie planned at the end of his trip, which will see him come here to Oz for a month or 2, then on to South Africa. In Spain, he climbed and did a lot of filming with Dave Graham, and some of the footage of Dave on an 8c+ (34) was way cool to watch. Anyway, over my whole trip, Diego was resting from a tendon injury, so got a lot of video of me on my sends of problems most days. It was so cool to hang around with him, as his views on climbing, training and life were very interesting to here. I learnt a lot from him, about myself and my climbing.
Few more days passed, and it was time to hitch into Darfield, the nearest town with a supermarket, for more food. My first lift took almost 40 minutes to gets, but coming back was way easier, and funnily enough, after mum jokingly said to “watch out and don’t get picked up be some big mean Maori”, a couple of Maori blokes picked me up within 5 minutes of trying to get a ride. The two were the nicest guys, who were headed over the pass to Hokatika, to pick up some greenstone carvings for sale at the market in Christchurch. While theirs was genuine Pounamu stone carved by Maori’s in NZ, one of the guys told me that 80% of jade found in the tourist shops is Columbian Jade, carved in China! After they dropped my off, and my promise to drop in to their stall in Christchurch on my way back, I was amazed to see that most of the snow from the last dump (yes, there was 2 in a week!) had melted, and it was a beautiful day. Running inside, grabbing the pad and other gear, I headed straight for the hills. My foot was feeling much better by now, and headed off to try and tick my first V6 for the trip, a problem called ‘Tricky’, and it was! Numerous attempts at the sequence shown to me by the guys before had me continually flailing onto the safety of the mat, crying and throwing rocks. As Rob at the start of the trip said about the V6’s here….”they don’t give them away for free do they?” Finally some luck! A local who had come to try the V10 traverse Sit Start into the problem helped shine some light on the situation, showing me the ‘easy’ way to do the problem…. a nifty high heel hook! Utterly spent, I couldn’t do it that night, and headed home.
Saturday was a good day, in which perfect timing saw Gary drive past just as I was walking out of the backpackers and along the road towards the boulders. I had sent Gary a few emails prior to the trip, and he was an invaluable source of info. He had driven up from Christchurch keen for a day of bouldering, as was I. Working our way around the back of Spittle Hill, we came across a cool looking line of heucos and pockets on a boulder. According to the brand new Spittle Hill Guide, there was no line up the face, not even one marked as a project. So new is the development of Spittle Hill, basically anything in the field that isn't already an established problem in the guidebook is marked as a project. So this was a cool find. Brushing holds and finding a good sequence, I got my first ever F.A, Dirty Harry, V5. Named so because one of the major pockets in the face, and crack used to top out, had grass growing in them. An instant 3 star classic! I then took Gary over to Beautiful Edges, because everyone should try this awesome problem. Unable to pull the final moves, Gary agreed with the classicness of the problem, and claimed that it was definitely within his abilities, with a little work. Good luck with it Gary! Around the corner of beautiful edges, was another project line. A really cool looking line, which went up on underclings, the aręte next to B.E, and a thin edge I later found in the middle of the face, I got to the last hold, before succumbing to gravity and rocketing back down to earth. I never went back and finished it, but it would go at about V7 I thought.
Coming back the next day with renewed vigor, I was set to finally tick a V6 that day. Well I didn’t tick a V6, I ticked 4! (Including the elusive “Tricky”) Oh what a great day it was. I was finally back in the game! On the same day, I met a couple of local guys, one of whom was quite a strong young lad. They took me over to show me this incredible looking aręte, which had not seen an ascent. He had been trying it for a couple of days already, but this was the day. A couple of photos of this aręte are at the link in Part II