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Chockstone Forum - Trip Reports

Tells Us About Your Latest Trip!

Author
TR- Excalibur on Old Baldy, Wolgan Valley
Drake
19/10/2013
1:00:42 PM
My fiance and I spent the long labour day weekend camping and climbing in the Wolgan. I was excited to climb the largest and most prominent cliff in the valley- Old Baldy- but Carrie wasn't too stoked for a long and unknown climb. We made a deal: I would lead all the pitches and haul our small bag so that she could climb each pitch without any extra weight.


Old Baldy lower and upper cliffs.



Old Baldy upper. Excalibur is the faint right-leaning crack in the middle of the wall, in-between the obvious lines on the left (Sword of Damocles) and right (Scimitar).

We set our sights on an ascent of Old Baldy via the popular Secret Swinger to Excalibur linkup. We started on Secret Swinger (16), which is a nice looking corner with great pro.




The guide cautions that the route is a bit chossy with some poor rock, but this was only true for a small section. It was a great warm up, with enjoyable stemming, a few fingerlocks, and lots of great nut placements. The guide recommends splitting this into three pitches, but the cave at the top of the first pitch was the sandiest bit of the climb with poor pro, so I ran pitch 1 and 2 together. With a 60m rope and a large enough rack, you could easily climb to the halfway ledge in one long pitch.

After a bit of an uphill scramble on loose ground, we found the start of Excalibur (17 or 18). For a grand line that climbs straight up the guts of an impressive headwall, the first pitch leaves a bit to be desired. It's a crummy looking sandy corner, with one hard move to gain the belay ledge. Carrie described it as a vertical sandbox.



However, above the layer of poor rock was a beautiful headwall of good rock split by an obvious crack. I giddily jammed my way up, enjoying the experience of plugging nuts and hexes into placement after solid placement. There were enough ironstone jugs on either side of the crack that the climbing was never strenuous, even when the crack was in off sizes like rattly fingers. Carrie doesn't particularly enjoy crack climbing, and I think she easily climbed the entire route without setting a single jam.

From Kooks R&D


There aren't any comfortable belay ledges on the route and I started running out of gear after about 40m, so I built a semi-hanging belay and hauled our bag with the tag line. We weren't carrying much besides some water, snacks, and survival stuff (rain gear, topo, compass, etc.), so the hauling was easy. Carrie is quite capable of climbing 18, but too much climbing at Narrowneck has convinced her that 18 is quite hard (e.g., we've done Fuddy Duddy-15, Tal-16, On both sides of the glass- 18, and they're all total sandbags). However, she was all smiles on Excalibur. After another long pitch of enjoyable crack climbing and a dirty slab at the top, we were on the summit. We enjoyed the views and the feeling of solitude, despite the hordes of campers and motorbikes in the valley.







Time to descend. I'm wary of abseiling unless it's really necessary- I suppose I've read too many accident reports. Too many experienced and competent climbers have died in abseiling accidents because of small lapses in judgement. We topped out at 3pm so we had plenty of daylight, so we decided to walk off the back of old baldy. We walked off to the left (looking out) and found a series of cairns marking a path back to the halfway ledge through a series of little slot canyons.

From Oct 19, 2013


Squeezing through these little slots was fun. The cairns petered out at the halfway ledge, and the few possible trails that we tried ended at cliff faces. There's probably a safe walking trail to the valley floor, but we couldn't find it. (I'm guessing the walk back to the valley traverses the halfway ledge?). We had spent some time looking at all the little slot canyons, so It was getting uncomfortably close to sunset. We decided to make our way back along the halfway ledge to find the abseil anchors at the top of Secret Swinger. After one 55m rap, we were on the ground and on our way back to the tent.

We made it back to camp just after sunset, with headlamps shining and with hexes clanging. The neighboring camping party had been worried about us when we hadn't returned by dark, so the kids ran over to greet us when their heard our clanging. It was adorable. Even better, their parents invited us to share their dinner of salad, stew, pasta, and fancy chocolates around a campfire. Carrie and I were touched by their friendly hospitality, and we thoroughly enjoyed relaxing by the fire and eating a good meal with new friends. We even got to hear part of the kids' bed-time stories- James and the Giant Peach. It was an unexpected by entirely pleasant ending to our day.

Doug
19/10/2013
1:20:16 PM
Hi Drake
Thanks for the great trip report. This route was on our agenda last fall but the weather turned a bit too cold and damp so we missed out on the Wolgan on that trip. Your report has inspired me to start thinking about when we might try to get back over to the big island to visit the Blue Mountains again and build in a side trip to the Wolgan.
Cheers
Doug
mikllaw
Online Now
19/10/2013
5:42:18 PM
awesome TR. I've never done it and it sounds great

IdratherbeclimbingM9
Online Now
19/10/2013
9:04:19 PM
I really enjoyed your TR Drake. Thanks for posting it up.


On 19/10/2013 mikllaw wrote:
>awesome TR. I've never done it and it sounds great

... ~> This surprises me given your name is on nearby routes!
Drake
21/10/2013
6:35:48 PM
Hi Mikl and M9- thanks for the nice words. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

It looks like we did our Wolgan trip at the right time- it looks like that area is burning, along with the rest of the Blues.
simey
21/10/2013
7:26:24 PM
Good TR and pics. Excalibur is an exceptional route up an impressive and exposed wall.

My memory of the approach pitch, Secret Swinger (17) was that it was quite serious. I thought the rock and pro were rather poor and that it definitely warrants caution.

For others interested in doing it, Excalibur (18) is well protected throughout and despite following a thin crack is predominantly face climbing. Even the sandy first pitch isn't too bad (it didn't feel dangerous compared to Secret Swinger).

Although I have seen Excalibur graded 17, I thought the crux moves on the final pitch were solid grade 18. However I was attacked by a large wedge-tailed eagle on that pitch so maybe that made it feel a tad harder.

Given its grade and position I would definitely rank it as one of the great classic climbs of Australia.



miguel75
21/10/2013
7:43:51 PM
Awesome TR Drake. The climb looks awesome and your TR provided plenty of stoke to get me through a wet, windy Melbourne week of no climbing.
Drake
22/10/2013
9:48:47 AM
> My memory of the approach pitch, Secret Swinger (17) was that it was quite serious. I thought the rock and pro were rather poor and that it definitely warrants caution.

I've heard that from others, but it wasn't my experience. Perhaps I'm getting used to crumbly Bluies sandstone, but I was comfortable with the gear. Or, perhaps my gear with shite and I didn't know it.

Superstu
22/10/2013
11:57:00 AM
I bumped the grades on the 2nd and 4th pitches up to 18 in the interim Wolgan guide on the SRC website a while ago as most people seemed to report it was a bit of a sandbag at 16. I have also got a bit of feedback from a few height challenged individuals who found the move through the roof and the final top crux absolutely desperate. Anybody want to comment?
technogeekery
22/10/2013
2:04:24 PM
Nice TR - these 3 climbs are so on my hit list for when I finally sack up and start leading those grades again. Great pics too, thanks
PThomson
22/10/2013
2:07:21 PM
I agree with you, Stu, having done Scimitar and Excalibur, I honestly believe that the two are inseperable in terms of grade, and that 18 is probably and accurate "trad" grade for both. Bloody classics in the style. =)

Only the top pitch of Secret Swinger is sandy/bad rock enough for me to consider it dodgy. The first 2 pitches of the climb were quite reasonable, and on par with other minor classics around the rest of the greater Blueys area. I know everyone loves to do SS into Excalibur or Scimitar, but the top pitch of SS (and subsequent vertical gardening to get up to Old Baldy Upper) is bad enough to taint the whole experience. I always advocate a full day on upper old baldy (walking there), and the same on lower baldy, rather than the linkup.

Tangent: has anyone freed the aid roof of Sword of Damocles yet? I was up there a few weeks ago eying it off, and it just didn't seem that hard compared to some of the other all-gear roofs that have now been freed.

There's also that monster choss roof at the far right-end of Old Baldy Lower (that you walk under on the way up to Old Baldy Upper)... Has that ever been freed? It might need some cleaning, but doesn't look any harder (or chossier) than Rainbow Wreckage down at Nowra.

Regards,

-Paul

wombly
22/10/2013
2:14:08 PM
>On 22/10/2013 Superstu wrote:
> I have also got a bit of feedback from a few height challenged individuals who found the move
> through the roof and the final top crux absolutely desperate. Anybody want to comment?

I was glad that my much longer-limbed partner in crime had the lead on the last pitch of Excalibur. My short-of-stature frame found Scimitar much easier by comparison.
simey
22/10/2013
3:17:07 PM
On 22/10/2013 PThomson wrote:
>Only the top pitch of Secret Swinger is sandy/bad rock enough for me to
>consider it dodgy. The first 2 pitches of the climb were quite reasonable,
>and on par with other minor classics around the rest of the greater Blueys
>area. I know everyone loves to do SS into Excalibur or Scimitar, but the
>top pitch of SS (and subsequent vertical gardening to get up to Old Baldy
>Upper) is bad enough to taint the whole experience. I always advocate a
>full day on upper old baldy (walking there), and the same on lower baldy,
>rather than the linkup.

Good advice.
Drake
22/10/2013
3:38:17 PM
On 22/10/2013 Superstu wrote:
>Anybody want to comment?

I was mentally prepared for a bit of a sandbag on Excalibur, but I think the grade is pretty accurate. Yes the roof at the beginning of pitch 2 and a move on pitch 4 were the hardest bits of the climb, but 18 felt about right. But, I am reasonably tall at 6 foot.

shortman
22/10/2013
3:49:22 PM
On 22/10/2013 Superstu wrote:
> (b) nobody bothers to document all the awful cramped roofie
>things that shut down long limbed folk and....

I hear ya Stu! It's a shortman's world, climbing included.....although I do like my 2 meter wingspan, ;)

pmonks
23/10/2013
1:57:58 AM
Great TR Drake, and such a classic classic route. I thought the crux was the sustained dirty slab at the top - the roof is hard, but short, while that bulgy slab seemed to go on forever.
sgodwin
29/10/2013
8:33:49 PM
Great TR Drake. You didn't find any booty up there did you? A couple of nuts equalised with a red sling about ten metres above the roof?

We bailed from there a while back for a variety of reasons. I really want to get back there and do it again (without bailing). Scimitar looks great too. Maybe after Christmas if the fires are out by then...
Drake
30/10/2013
8:43:18 AM
>You didn't find any booty up there did you?

Nope, I didn't find any booty, sorry. I did drop a medium hex, which is probably waiting to be bootied somewhere on the halfway ledge.

>Maybe after Christmas if the fires are out by then...

Anyone know how the fires affected the Wolgan valley?

BlankSlab
30/10/2013
9:41:03 AM
On 30/10/2013 Drake wrote:
>>You didn't find any booty up there did you?
>
>Nope, I didn't find any booty, sorry. I did drop a medium hex, which is
>probably waiting to be bootied somewhere on the halfway ledge.
>
>>Maybe after Christmas if the fires are out by then...
>
>Anyone know how the fires affected the Wolgan valley?

Looking at the RFS site and the incidents map. Doesnt look like the fire travelled that far north from lithgow into the Wollgan arourind Newnes. Thats only an assumption of mine though.

There are 19 messages in this topic.

 

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