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|Arapiles, Labour Day weekend 2005
C’mon all you Chockstoners! It’s climbing season, and a long weekend just gone! Send in all your trip reports!
Here’s mine: Arapiles, Labour Day Weekend 2005.
It was only just last week at the climbing gym when I was talking to James (‘Bogong James’) that the words came out of my mouth and I realised what I was saying:- it had been around 10 years since I had last been to the Mount. It was overdue for a visit.
Saturday kept me in Melbourne, but about 3:30pm in the afternoon I upped-anchor in the Subaru and headed for the Western Highway. By 7pm I had the mountain in view, spreading before me on the approaching horizon in the warm evening sun.
A quick check of the pub for familiar cars revealed nothing worth stopping for; a relief in a way, as the Pines were so close, and I was looking forward to a camp chair and a yarn within view of the crags. Jen and Brad were found in the designated spot, the tent was already set up, and within a few minutes I was sipping on a cold beer and listening to the day’s stories.
Geoff Gledhill dropped around later when the wine had been opened, adding his tale of escorting two visiting Japanese climbers and their young mistresses around the place, his voice in awe of their ability to pull women several years younger than they.
It had been hot, I was warned, so the next morning we made an early start (9:15am, just kidding) and headed for the shadows of The Bluffs for Jen to have the first lead on Kincaid (20m 18). I mucked about with cameras at the bottom, then followed with plenty of water in the day pack. We all followed in good style, and we scrambled up towards Bluff Major to stand beneath the mighty line of Thunder Crack (30m 20).
Jen Stone leading Kincaid (18), Arapiles/Central Gully
Regular Chockstoners will know that Brad had posted for beta earlier in the week; he later confessed this project had been on his mind for a year. Jen and I were worried before leaving camp that he was sick; he lay down in the tent for a few minutes after breakfast and we were thinking he wanted to be left behind. Later we of course knew that it was meditation for the struggle ahead, although he ‘claimed’ his detox diet was giving him headaches.
Some hints were made that I should lead Missing Link (17) first; I swiftly cottoned on to this as a delay tactic by Brad and graciously started uncoiling the rope for him. Big psyching and scoping session followed.
A few moves up to clip the fixed wire, then a rest while he scoped the crux moves. Psych, psych, then he was off. A picture is worth a thousand words:
Brad Miller leading Thunder Crack (20), Arapiles
Through to the rest cleanly despite a struggle placing pro on the overhanging wall, Brad then spent the next 20 minutes carefully slogging it out with the top crack section which refused to go down without a fight, but it was only a matter of time. He was not to be stopped. The yell of WHO’S MY BITCH! echoed across the crags to announce his arrival on top.
My turn, and I managed through the bottom crux section confidently, then struggled to find the elegant way to manage the mantle/rockup into the rest, eventually deciding to use a knee despite Jen’s threats to preserve the moment on film. The top crack was sustained, with several 18/19 cruxes to come, and a combination of stemming and jams.
Brad showing his upper body jamming technique, Thunder Crack, Arapiles! SO SUE ME!
After the rap off – which gave me the chance to check out Missing Link – we sat around debating whether or not I had to lead ML or go back to camp for lunch, when the decision was forced upon us. Geoff had arrived, with the Japanese entourage, complete with video camera. Masai (?sorry don’t have his exact name) was there to lead ML, which now was in the sun. We decided to hang around to watch the action, which turned out to be entertaining. Masai placed a wire down low, stepped up to the hard move to place the #0 Friend, and then AH SHIT as the wire dropped out, along with gasps from the Geishas. The Friend went in without dramas, and the crowd relaxed again.
Japanese Climber – “Masai?” – on Missing Link (17), Arapiles/The Bluffs
We waited around long enough to appreciate Masai’s fine command of English swear words, and headed down for a late lunch.
The pressure was now on me for a lead, and feeling fresh I wanted to revisit an old foe: Cassandra Direct (22) which had beaten me a long time ago. This was the trip to be revisiting old ghosts and consigning them to the depths of the past. A quick sandwich and we were off across the paddocks.
An inspection from below showed 6 ring bolts; a far cry from the rusty carrots when we last had met. I racked up with a sport rack of quickdraws, only to find I wanted to place something in the slightly awkward overlap below the first bolt to prevent a groundfall if I overbalanced. Jen obliged by handing up some gear.
Cassandra herself is nice; delicate slopey climbing with bolts for pro. I got to the stance below her Direct finish feeling like I was enjoying myself. Clipped the first bolt, eased up; trying to get familiar. A small nubbin for the left foot; high reach for the left to an edge, reach higher! it gets better! then stand up, stand up, stand UP! I could not get my right foot high enough and spun off into space, smacking my hand on the rock on the way down. She had drawn blood.
Tried again, same result. Tried a couple of variations, but nothing else seemed to work, and the moves felt harder. Was this going to end in failure again? I summoned the will to give it my best shot, got the right foot up, stood up, UP, then changed feet and was able to relax and clip the second bolt. Whew. The next moves were easier, but I blew the exit sequence and took one more fall before reaching the belay ledge. Success!
Jen followed with no falls, great style, but Brad stayed earthbound – Thunder Crack was it for him. We rapped off and headed back to camp, then into Nati for a shower at the caravan park and a pub meal to celebrate, where we met some ‘entertaining’ company and talked about mountain bikes – but that’s another story.
Monday dawned even warmer, but I had another ghost from a different era: Mantis (14), that I had backed off at the end of a weekend years ago, when ‘it just didn’t feel right’. It was in full sun but we made another early start (9:20) and I racked up as quickly as I could. The lead went well, placed lots of pro for confidence, sweat pouring off me. Another ghost dispatched. Jen followed but Brad decided he was going to have a rest day, and headed back to camp.
That left us with a hot afternoon (35C), a guidebook, rope, rack and two keen climbers. Judgement Day (19) had been mentioned at some point, I didn’t take it seriously but then we were walking off toward the Pharos in the hot sun. By the time we reached the cool shadows of the back wall we were drenched in sweat. Two Melbourne lads were sieging Slopin’ Sleazin (28), Chockstoners? Mostly a verbal rather than physical assault, if you were within earshot you’ll know what I mean.
James and Rebecca turned up, and tempted us with an alternative offer of a toproping session on something several grades harder. Our resolve started to weaken, but then a scoping session from a viewpoint on the opposite wall got us fired up and we racked up at the bottom. The deal was that I get pitch 1 (grade 10) and p3 (gr 19, crux) while Jen got the longer middle pitch of gr 18. I got the guide out for a last check. “Hang on” I said, “this says it’s a strenuous crack. I didn’t sign on for this!” My protests were too late, the deal had been struck, and I led off.
The first pitch of Lamplighter was a nice warm up, and I found a comfy ledge. Jen joined me and reracked, then headed off around the corner, soon to be out of sight. Communication was easy, with only a slight breeze and the main cliff behind serving as an echo board. Progress was steady, and soon I was on belay.
This route (for those that don’t know it) heads straight across the main lower section of the back of the Pharos, and we belayed in Kingdom Come. Nice, delicate balancy climbing that was continually interesting. My lead: I headed further right on the obvious hand-traverse, finding enough for my feet to place some pro and get to a rest. Then, after a friendly reminder from Jen to place some pro for the second, I headed further right to gain the crack. Left hand on a flat top, stem for the right foot, sketchy left – no place to hang around as I tried to place a wire above my head. A small stopper went in, but the thin crack was flared and it didn’t look like it would hold. I tried to re-seat it, but it was stuck, damn! Shake out, shake, shake. No other option – a larger stopper might have gone, but the smaller one was closing out all other placements. It was time to move.
Up, stem, nothing positive for the hands, small edge there, two moves, a stance! The wire had fallen out, laughing at me from its safe position further down the rope. I was now at the bottom of the crack, but surprisingly, the difficulties were over. I tied off three bolts on the belay and Jen followed.
The walk back brought us out into the fierce sun again and we realised how fortunate we were to have found great climbing in the shade. Back at camp, Brad had packed just about everything, so there was little more to do than scull some more water and head home.
Won’t be ten years next time. I’ll be back again soon, I promise.
- Steve (gfdonc)
ps more pics at http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/stoal/araps_mar05_pics_files
Top trip report, I particualrly like the part about Cassandra Direct, I had a similar experience with that climb. Sounds like you had an absolute classic weekend, I can't wait to get up there and let myself loose on the cliffs only hope I can vanquish a few of my pet projects.
Keep up the good work.
"Body Jamming"?!? Mate! That was a no-hands rest!!!! ;-)
Good reading your TR gfdonc. Liked the immediacy of the descriptions and the piccies top it off nicely.
PS Sounds like you empathise with Geoff G's comments re / aka Geisha girls ? ...
More piccies perhaps when I get the film finished in the SLR.
Anyone who bags Judgement Day as "just a traverse" needs to be educated otherwise. A great climb.
In comparison to other routes such as Second Coming on that wall, Judgement day is just... an enjoyable outing. But I thought it's overrated.
Nice post Steve,
It was certainly impressive watching you guys do Cassandra D from the shelter of the pines (tall dacari in one hand, binocs in the other you know the type...)
I left the following Thurs. It was surprisingly empty there, I've never seen Araps so deserted.
Nice talking to you and thanks for the beta re the route. (I'm the tall guy with glasses and funny acent.)
The slides are back! The scanner may be in operation tonight ..
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