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Trip Report: Ozymandias Direct - Solo
11:22:30 PM
Over the labour day long weekend 2014 I managed a solo ascent of Ozy Direct – my first solo multi-pitch! A big deal for me and an amazing few days. I thought I’d share a bit of my experience with you all…

I was sat in a hut, deep in Fjordland, in the winter of 2012 when I first heard of Ozy. I was there for the Darrans winter climbing meet. After a big day on the ice I was sharing some noodles with a fellow Brit who’d come over from Sydney. He asked me if I’d been to Buffalo much (I hadn’t at all) and in-between mouthfuls of noodles he enthusiastically told me about an amazing line up the North Wall he was keen to climb. A classic aid line that promised super steep granite and guaranteed multi-day epics. A seed was planted. We became good friends, we climbed some more steep ice together and Buffalo was briefly mentioned from time to time. And then, last February I got the text: “Lets climb Ozy. I have all the gear. Next weekend?”

That first trip up the North Wall was awesome. Having never stood in aiders before, the learning curve was steep but the psyche was there and we had a great weekend. Later in the year I was back with Phillipivan at the Aidfest – this time to blast up it in a day. We managed – barely! Somewhere in between these two climbs I decided I would do the solo. I’m not sure when exactly, but around October I remember a package arriving at work: my shiny new Silent Partner. It was on.

And so it was on a Friday afternoon two weeks ago, I found myself coasting up the Hume, cruise control set and heading for Buffalo. The drive up on my own gave me ample opportunity to think about what lay ahead. I’d made a few trips up to Buffalo to work on my aid and solo skills, and there was a definite feeling of excitement that I was finally heading up to go for the big solo.

I’d packed my haul bag and sorted all gear the night before. It took me less than fifteen minutes from parking the car at the chalet to be wandering down the south side track. For those who are still in any doubt: the south side track is by far the easiest route to the base of Ozy. While the Defender rap is straightforward enough, that final section of Comet Ramp is not pleasant. I took my time on the south side; to make sure I stayed on track, but mainly as I was carrying a heavy pig on my back. I really didn’t want to slip while wandering down there on my own. Despite this I was filling my water bottles at the creek in an hour and fifteen. Happy days.

My plan was to haul to Big Grassy and fix to the roof on Saturday then climb out on Sunday. It was ambitious: I had little solo experience and would be learning on the job, but with no work or commitments on Monday an extra day on the wall would be no problem. I was pleased to see there was no sign of life at the base of the route. With a long weekend ahead I suspected I wouldn't be the only one on the route. As it turned out, I had the wall to myself. I wondered how many ascents Ozy sees a year. Perhaps fewer than I thought.

I spent a restless Friday night in my hammock, slung between two trees by the creek. There was no reason not to sleep like a baby, but I was dreaming of Ozy and my mind wouldn’t rest. When the sun finally rose over the high plains, and the first rays lit up the wall, there was more than a little apprehension as I started up the first pitch. On both previous ascents my partners lead the first pitch. Both times I had seen them hesitate and curse those few slabby moves between the bolts, and both are significantly stronger free climbers than I am. I was nervous, but in the end it didn't cause me too much trouble. Perhaps the excitement of starting the climb pushed me through. It was all over quickly and I was happy to have the first pitch in the bag and the adventure properly underway.

The second and third pitches are fantastic. It blows my mind that they go free. The second pitch also saw me make the most serious mistake of the climb. I was leading with the Silent Partner and around eight metres from the top of the pitch I stopped to adjust my backup knot. I decided to just pull through an armful of slack so I wouldn't need to adjust it again and while doing so both ends of the rope went tight. I was gutted. I'd left the free end of the rope tied to the rope bag – which was locked to the anchor. The maths wasn’t pretty; I was climbing on a sixty but now had 30m of free rope on a 35m pitch. A few metres above me was a dirty old carrot. I decided to press on and asses my options from there. Using it for an anchor was not an appealing thought, but on arrival it looked like I might just have enough rope to make it to the bolts. Perhaps my old sixty has stretched a little, perhaps the pitch is shorter than stated or perhaps just a bit of both and a lot of luck got me through; I made it to the bolts with less than half a metre of spare rope. Lesson learned.

The third pitch was a corker. A few thin moves off the belay didn't worry me too much, and as with the second pitch I was immediately back-cleaning to make sure I didn't run out of draws or micro cams – both of which I was carrying fairly light. A few metres up the RP I was testing popped causing the micro cam I was standing on to also abandon ship. I fell about four or five metres – with no gear between me and the belay! Bad move. Thankfully, I’d set the anchor so the pig would be sucked up into the belay and it took the force out of the fall. It was my first lead-fall soloing and the adrenalin was pumping!

It felt good to be back on Big Grassy, although some poor rope work and a lot of messing about cleaning the third pitch meant I was well behind schedule. My plan of fixing to the roof on day one suddenly wasn’t so appealing – it was already getting late and in all honesty I just wanted to set up my hammock and call it a day. This being a solo, there was no one to convince me otherwise so that’s exactly what I did.

By morning I'd had a change of heart and cursed myself for not pushing on the day before. If I fixed to the roof and then climbed out on day three I would have an easy day followed by a pretty big day. If I moved slowly, topping out in the dark might be a real possibility and that didn’t sound appealing, especially as I needed to drive back to the city that night. I decided to pack up my gear and climb to the Gledhill Bivvy, spend the night there and split the climb into three equal days.

The pitch above Big Grassy ended up being the most memorable. I chugged up the ramp and was soon at the corner where the Original and Direct split. Stepping around the corner and working my way up towards the belay, I was on fairly comfortable ground and back-cleaning so the lead line would be easier to ascend and clean. A few metres up from the corner an RP popped as I weighted it, and just like before, the nut I was standing on blew. I fell about eight metres and struggled to stop myself going upside down as I swung round the corner. This is the biggest lead fall I've taken on any climb, and to have it happen on my first solo, half way up Ozy was a pretty intense experience! I hung there for a few minutes before jugging back up to the bolt that had caught me, took a few deep breaths and gave myself a quick pep-talk before continuing on.

I decided to leave the haul bag at Big Grassy, head up to the roof and haul the pig up both pitches in one. All went well at first. I hauled the pig and was pulling up the lead line when my rope bucket – clipped to the lead line with a snap gate – snagged. I gave it a tug and suddenly my rope bucket was fluttering down the wall. Ahhhh….. I watched

12:34:38 AM
Orright! Another good read, of an impressive ascent!

I am also impressed at how much you bite off to chew climbing-wise, and this also within the short timeframe learning curve that you have allowed yourself to achieving your ambitions.

Your easy reading trip report (and great photos), should provide inspiration to others contemplating aid climbing in general and Ozy in particular; as it demonstrates that the greatest battle is the mental tenacity to stick with it and achieve your aims. Sure the physical side can be / is(!) hard work, but it is also very satisfying/enjoyable if the mindset allows it.
It is that same character-trait that will stand you in good stead for many of life's other endeavours as well.

Overcoming the clusterjams and pushing on anyway underlines your tenacity, but even so, I am glad that you took time to savour the moments enroute, as that is the makings of memories that will stick with you for a lifetime.

Well done Huw, and thanks for taking the time to write it up and post it here.

Post edit:
When you realised the Silent Partner setup-snafu, did you consider setting a belay where you were then on the pitch, as that would have been the likely eventual outcome, short of lowering off a piece/s of pro, if unable to make it to the next belay?

Re the falls;
Silent Partners are good eh! ;-)
The gear that stripped below the 'popped when tested' piece (in each case), did you consider them progress pieces ie good for bodyweight and not much more, or did you consider them as protection pieces, ie were surprised that they stripped?

12:50:35 AM
Great to hear you've finally done it Huw! Congrats mate.

... You still owe me a visit with your bicycle. Let's go climb something on two wheels.
10:11:50 AM
Awesome Huw!! Super happy for you mate. Thanks for sharing your experience

Duang Daunk
12:45:49 PM
Well done, and thanks for sharing.

Cutting to the chase in light of other recent chocky posts as I didn't notice it in your gear list. Are you a pas man or a daisy man?
1:31:54 PM
just re-read your trip report then

some impressive falls there mate, good to see you still continued after taking some decent sized whippers. That rack is pretty light on Small Cams would have made things a bit more interesting, why no sleeping bag? would you have taken one in hindsight or you think the weight saved was worth it? Nice hammock what model is it?

1:49:23 PM
Inspirational! This sort of experience is what climbing is about for me. I hope your TR encourages others to aspire to the more adventurous forms of climbing.

1:50:07 PM
Thank you...great read.
3:38:55 PM
Nice work, seriously. Personally, I would've taken a dive off Big Grassy when the spider appeared. But we all have our weaknesses.

3:41:46 PM
On 19/03/2014 Will_P wrote:
>Nice work, seriously. Personally, I would've taken a dive off Big Grassy
>when the spider appeared. But we all have our weaknesses.

5:12:06 PM
On 19/03/2014 shortman wrote:
>On 19/03/2014 Will_P wrote:
>>Nice work, seriously. Personally, I would've taken a dive off Big Grassy
>>when the spider appeared. But we all have our weaknesses.

There is also a cat on Big Grassy!!?? Lucky I am not Ailurophobic... ;-)

Great trip report huwj.

1:48:40 PM
Very cool/inspiring TR Huwj. What hammock are you using in the pics?
2:23:15 PM
On 20/03/2014 Miguel75 wrote:
>Very cool/inspiring TR Huwj. What hammock are you using in the pics?
It looks like the blue one.

4:34:30 PM
On 20/03/2014 kieranl wrote:
>On 20/03/2014 Miguel75 wrote:
>>Very cool/inspiring TR Huwj. What hammock are you using in the pics?
>It looks like the blue one.

Hmmmmm, upon closer inspection it does indeed look blue. Excellent work Kieran:)

Please allow me another shot at this; I've never utilised a hammock on the wall and am wondering if the hammock is a simple "Aussie Disposals" type hammock or a more robust, big-wall style, super burly hammock?

4:53:06 PM
On 20/03/2014 Miguel75 wrote:
>Please allow me another shot at this; I've never utilised a hammock on
>the wall and am wondering if the hammock is a simple "Aussie Disposals"
>type hammock or a more robust, big-wall style, super burly hammock?
The latter style you refer to, at least some manufactured ones I was aware of in the past, incorporated spreader bars and sometimes also a fold over zipable-fly to shed water rather than pool it within the hammock. ~> Imagine a cocoon if you will...

Ozy lends itself to a hammock due following a corner system for the convenient timeframe bivvy spots, which negates the need for a spreader bar...

6:02:46 PM
Nice report Hugh - especially gutsy soloing the roof that troubled you on the aid weekend. Really inspiring.

On the hammock - did you have something to keep your hips from contacting the cliff? Without a bag I imagine it could have sapped the heat out of you.

6:18:57 PM
On 20/03/2014 Pat wrote:
>On the hammock - did you have something to keep your hips from contacting
>the cliff? Without a bag I imagine it could have sapped the heat out of

The photos in the TR indicate that the hammock has been strung across the route corner/s, which means it wouldn't be necessary in this case.
The Gledhill Bivvy has plenty of bolt options for suspending the haulbag, and I note from the photo that it is (sensibly) in the corner, which would ensure hammock couldn't contact the wall at body position...

8:18:05 PM
Ah, thanks for all the replies guys. Glad a few of you found it an interesting read :)

The hammock is an Exped Travel hammock. Fairly cheap ($70ish), but well made and I've been super pleased with it so far. 300g makes it a lightweight sleep system and I was super glad I had it – I wouldn't have been able to sleep at the Gledhill Bivvy without it!

The only sleeping bag I have at the minute is a winter bag that weighs in at 1.6ish kg. Would have been ok to haul but glad I wasn't carrying much more weight down the south-side track. I kept an eye on the weather forecast and decided to go with a down jacket and my BD Twilight bivy bag. I was warm enough – although a few degrees cooler, a strong wind or a downpour and I might have been a bit uncomfortable. I'd use the same system again – although a lightweight sleeping bag would be ideal.

And yes, I rigged the hammock fairly close to the wall, across the corner. I then clipped my small day pack next to my head for a bit of a headrest. It worked!

For aiding I just stick with the traditional two daisies/two aiders set-up and use these at the anchor. I've also got a Stirling Chain Reactor (picked up for $20) which I really like – especially for extending my belay device when rapping. I find I rarely take it off my harness these days.
Mike Bee
3:57:27 PM
I did Ozy with a mate a few weeks ago, and we had a blast.
I'd love to go back and solo it one day, so that was a great read.
I'm astounded at the size of the rack you too. We had a double set of C3s with triples in 00 and 1, and used them quite a lot. We both independently decided triples of 0 would be quite useful as a time saver. To do it with a single set of micro cams is pretty full. You definitely went light weight.

Cheers for the TR!
12:34:22 PM
On 18/03/2014 huwj wrote:
>While the Defender rap is straightforward enough, that final section of Comet Ramp is not pleasant.

in what way is it not pleasant?

i ask because I am planning on doing an abseiling trip down Defender to Fuhrer Ledge then down Comet Ramp and then walk out via track the way you came in (I am not a rock climber)

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There are 23 messages in this topic.


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