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Topic Date User
First Climb 24-Oct-2007 At 8:20:51 PM zumojugo
I went to Arapiles for the first time this weekend. Although I've done a lot of walking in the Grampians
I've never done any serious climbing in the area. In fact the only climbing I've done, other than gyms
and bouldering around Melbourne, is a bit of top roping at Werribee Gorge (FYI it isn't located in
Werribee it's in Bachuus Marsh!).

Over the weekend I led three climbs, all on the first day. My climbing partner, who has some
experience of climbing trad., wanted me to lead first up. We started with Sunny Gully which is a grade
2. At first it was a little hard to take seriously because if is the sort of thing I've gone up before
unroped with a pack when walking (walking is like trekking but without the "Mountain Design"
equipment). This is a short easy climb with plenty of opportunities to stand around and fiddle about
with the gear. The idea was to place a fair amount of gear to get a bit of a feel for placing gear whilst
climbing. Obviously I had a good idea of the technical ideas behind placing protection - as much as
you can get from a lot of background reading - but no practical experience (other than setting up top
ropes) and there is a very big difference between the two! The first climb went pretty well and I spent a
while building the belay before my partner seconded it (we've set up top-rope's together before so he
knew I had some idea about setting up a belay). After climbing up he gave the belay the seal of
approval and a bit of feedback about placing gear then onto the second climb of the day.

The second climb was Hammer, a grade 3. This is quite a steep climb which immediately made me
take it a bit more seriously. I was surprised how much harder climbing is with the added consideration
of placing gear and the added mental element of considering your own protection. Something you
never give any thought to when climbing a fingery 19 on a top rope. I think I actually felt more nervous
placing the gear than I would have felt if I had had no rope at all. In placing the gear you actually
consider falling off which is not something I normally give a great deal of thought to whilst climbing.
I normally think about it beforehand and then climb. There was one section which bulged out a bit. I
spent a while trying to fit something good in below it and finally got a nut in which I was pretty happy
with but Iwas impressed with how much more real everything felt climbing the slightly technical bit
knowing that you must depend on your own placements. Climbing is definitely a lot harder when you
think about falling!

After an overly long lunch we went to Mitre Rock to have a stab at something a bit longer. We decided
on the aptly named Baptism which is a 10. The plan was that I would lead the first pitch, a 6, and he
would lead the crux pitch which was a 10. It was hot as hell in the afternoon sun and I started off
feeling pretty good. At first the placements were pretty easy, even to my inexpereinced eye, but once I
got a bit further up there were a couple of spots with no obvious moves and not much in the way of
useful placements. There were definitely placements but nothing that I felt really good about - I think
the more I thought about the move the less comfortable I felt about my placements. I made a
couple of hairy moves including a bit of a slip and grab and then moved on to easier ground. There
were a couple of spots like that, where the consideration of placing protection seemed to distract me
from the simple job of climbing. I completed the first pitch and spent a little while building a belay and
up came my partner. He was also a little surprised by a couple of spots on the climb and it didn't fill
him with confidence. He got to the belay ledge and, whilst still on Belay, walked over to the second
pitch, took a twenty second look at it and declared he wasn't happy to lead it. This immediately made
me think he knew something that I didn't and given my limited experience of climbing in the real world I
didn't feel like I wanted to take on the task. We ummed and ahhed about whether to look for an
alternative route or absail down. In the end we decided to see if we could traverse along and head over
to the walk out gulley over the back. After a long and tedious traverse he lead up a long shitty gulley
(maybe a grade 2?) to the top of the rock. This all seemed to take ages. We then looked around for an
alternative way out. The only option was either a blind down-climb or a short absail. As darkness set
in he set up the absail, backed it up with a cam and I absailed down. He then took out the back up and
abandoned a sling and we made our way off the rock. Walking down the rocky gulley in the darkness
the only thought going through my head was, this is f@#*ng awesome!!!

The moral of the story is, I'm hooked. Climbing outdoors on your own protection is fantastic, it's much
more challanging in every way than climbing on a top rope and it becomes a much more involved
committed experience. The added glitches to my first day also have given me some understanding of
the things that can arise in the process of climbing like this. I can't wait to go back and learn some
more. Instead of thinking I can climb a 20 I now know that I can climb a six and love it! I think this
gym monkey has finally escaped.

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