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Buffalo Aid Weekend March 2010
11:28:59 AM
The Aid Weekend

After five pages of Chockstone thread padding we finally made it to Lake Catani. The roll was as follows: IdratherbeclimbingM9, Fish Boy, robertsonja, Wollemi, bl@ke, hargs, Trogster, JimmyW and myself.

Breakfast Saturday morning was accompanied by a tour of IdratherbeclimbingM9's extensive rack. Crack'n Ups, bat hooks, scary bits of elastic, made for an interesting breakfast. Thus girded for the day we trooped off to the Disabled Lookout.

Fish Boy lived up to his name and went fishing for his guide book. It took the first ground fall of the trip. Fortunately the guide book survived and Fish Boy got to practice his jumaring. Wollemi and hargs spent most of the day grunting and cursing at the off width, Cacophonic Crack. They both got their first aid ascents.

Trogster and JimmyW quietly sent Thanksgiving Crack. Stepping high in their etriers they both cleaned up the M3. Later bl@ke took a shot at the line. He took wailing whipper off the top, ending up half way down the climb. After a long pause at the end of the taut rope he let loose a manly, "Whooooohooooo!" We were all very impressed. Still later robertsonja and I got our chance to tick the line.

The Cream Machine took its toll on our party. I was first in line on this climb. My first aid climb ever and the first two times I test my RP off the ground it pops. One dodgy RP after another and finally, heart-stoppingly, a good piece at half height. The kind of piece I would love to take big whippers on. Breathing easier it is smooth sailing until the top out. High stepping on the last decent placement is not enough to mantle out comfortably. No hooks on my rack, no nut placements on the rock. After a little head scratching I settle on using my nut tool. Thank you Metolius. Topped out and breathing easy.

Next up on TCM, robertsonya. He set off up the face and upon reaching the good nut at half way actually looked like he might be enjoying the process. This did not last. He called down for the third time from the last move, "How did you do this?" "My nut tool," I repeat for the third time. Working from the last good placement he settled on a marginal RP as the seam peters out to nothing. Robertsonja oozed up on the little RP and BANG! He was dangling from that good nut. Having had his fix of adrenaline for the day he lowered off. Aiders 1, TCM 1.

JimmyW found himself on the sharp end of TCM next. The climb yielded to JimmyW right up to the top. Only then did we see any cracks in his composure. Legs shaking he lunged for my anchor that I left too close to the mantle. The ethical committee met and the consensus ruling was, "Fair enough, it is aid climbing after all." Aiders 2, TCM 1.

Trogster's attempt at TCM left us all shaken. Aiders 2, TCM 2.

In the decider, Fish Boy did us all proud and sent the climb easily. The advanced techniques deployed left the crowd in awe. Aiders 3, TCM 2.

Day two started slowly. The celebrations of our victory at the Disabled Lookout took their own toll. Off to The Devil's Couch. Oooo scary. Get the comfy chair! Well the couch did scare us.

First to arrive were Fish Boy and bl@ke. They broke the all aid spirit of the weekend and attempted a free ascent of Loose Fit. Fish Boy was thoroughly punished for his indiscretion. The climb doled out a drubbing and would not yield.

Over on Faust and Elizabeth the M4 chocked up a solid 2-1 victory over the Aiders. JimmyW and bl@ke both backing off the climb, preferring to fight another day. Fish Boy held up the pride of the side. Finishing the climb in good style.

Around the corner from Faust and Elizabeth, Wollemi and hargs were working a project up a nice shallow corner to a over hung flake and a truly frightening traverse of blank territory. From my belay on the other side of the track I had box seats for Wollemi's efforts. He was the very image of composure as he aided his way up the flake. Making the scary moves out on to the flake he was ready to send. Then with a suddenness we were starting to expect the rock under the flake blew out with a crack and Wollemi very nearly had his own ground fall. Wollemi and hargs spent the rest of the afternoon working back up to the high point and then back down. They didn't want to leave any of IdratherbeclimbingM9's gear on the climb. I guess we know what is more frightening than the prospect of a fall.

IdratherbeclimbingM9 suggested we go try the line above Damning My Soul. "It hasn't been done," he says. First up, I aid DMS to the first belay on a pleasant ledge. It probably goes at M2 with creaky flexing flakes. It looks like a fun little outing to free at 21.

Robertsonja is up next. The thin rotting little seam rises straight up from our ledge. Robertsonja starts working on his first placement. Looking back at me as each piece he attempts to set rips through the crumbling rock. After a while, IdratherbeclimbingM9 weighs in. "Looks like an M7 I put up," he shouts up at us. WTF! Robertsonja and I look at one another. He continues, "It is probably M6 because it is not as steep." Well that's a relief....

IdratherbeclimbingM9 makes his way up to our ledge like some rock wallaby. With the delicacy of a brain surgeon using a chisel on some poor bastard's skull, IdratherbeclimbingM9, assembles a matrix. Equalizing 3 marginal Peckers and a couple crappy nuts he builds us a Jesus placement to keep us from landing on our pleasant little ledge. This is about enough nonsense for robertsonja. Wisely he defers the lead to me. Less wisely I accept.

Now clipped through the matrix, I placed my first hook and ascended the etriers. I placed my second hook feeling an odd sort of confidence. Like the samurai who knows he is going to die today. Reaching down to clean the first hook and etriers there was another loud crack and I was hanging from IdratherbeclimbingM9's Jesus matrix. "f---!" and surpised again I thought, "Well f--- me running. It worked." Then up again.

The first hook was good, I used it again. I made my own little matrix instead of the bad hook. Stepping up on to my matrix I settled with one foot in the second step and the other balancing against the rock to the left. My next placement was no problem, but in a spastic moment completely out of place on that thin gear, I lost my balance and flipped right off that etrier. There I was hanging from the Jesus placement again. I was just confused. The absurdity of the situation settled firmly on my shoulders.

From there on time came to stop, and I worked my way up. One bodyweight RP, another matrix, then the Crank'N Up. IdratherbeclimbingM9 had mentioned I might need the small Crack'N Up he handed me after building the Jesus matrix. Sure enough I found purchase with it in the rotten rock. High up at the end of my reach off a top step the Crack'N Up bit. I bounce tested as much as I dared in the rotten rock and oozed up onto the thing. With my nose level with the evil little hook, I said quietly to robertsonja, "I am going to cry like a little girl."

That Crack'N Up tip was just and only just wedged in between the two most rotten looking crystals on that whole weathered crumbly face. Luck was on my side. It held long enough to equalize a Pecker and a #1 RP. From there a real nut at the top and I was standing safe on top of Division of Labour (M6).

I am always surprised by the intensity of the come down from such a powerful experience. Sitting there in the sunshine, the cool breeze blowing, melancholy washed over me.

I want to thank IdratherbeclimbingM9 and the rest of the crew. Beautiful weather, good people and an adventure or two, I could not ask for more. The siren song of those thin faces frightens me. I know I will be out

11:57:21 AM
A different (drier, compared to egosans more humorous way with words), perspective on the same events...

Buffalo clean-aid climbing 20-21 March 2010! - In a nutshell; a great success.

Nine keen people took part, and travelled from as far away as the Bluey's and Geelong to do it. The age range and experience of those varied from teenage to ancient, and none/some to lots. Some had been to Buffalo before, and some hadn't which gave their experience this weekend an added dimension.

I arrived with a well loaded wombat* (*equivalent of USA term 'pig' for a haulbag), Friday just before dark in time to find the general use area vacant, and parked where others arriving would find me reasonably easily. Meet'n'greet session was done a number of times, and after the last arrived I think all were ensconced in their tents by midnight in anticipation of the following days events.

Morning saw a civilised starting time of 9.30 am after breakfast of an aiding gear general overview, introduction. Oh yeah, some also had food and/or strong coffee too (thanks egosan)!
From an organiser perspective there were many unknowns to cater for, such as not knowing prior experience or how much 'personal gear' was available re participants, but this was quickly established and it worked out well with four teams of two forming up and me being a 'floater' between them to loan required gear and assist with appropriate advice as/when needed.

Prior to departing camp the Koala* (*equivalent of USA term 'Yogi' for a Ranger), came around to ensure PV was to receive their due fee. A friendly chap, though he was concerned that we consolidate to two campsites rather than use the general use area. We were happy to move across the road / consolidate, and to pay the appropriate fee, though with the number of vacant campsites I thought this was a little bit on the zealous side, so I asked him if he wanted me to move my motorcycle as well since it was located a little off to the side and chained to a tree, but he informed me that this was not necessary. Be thankful for small mercies I quietly thought to myself, as the general use area has a picnic table and fireplace that we were keen to continue using, and the bikes location kind of laid claim to that spot!

The Disabled Lookout area adjacent the Chalet carpark saw us lay siege to Cacophonic Block as none were phased by the exposure (reasonably significant), and all were looking for the hard-aid experience. It served us well, as Cacophonic Crack although going free at Gd 21 also goes on aid at M2, with Thanksgiving Crack (M3), and The Cream Machine (M4) adjacent. The fourth team consisting of Fish Boy and Bl@ke, went off and aided Lift Girls Lament over at the Oval area, as Fish Boys intended 'Ozy in a day' partner (Brendan), unfortunately blew a head gasket in his car and had to pull out at the last minute due nil transport from Canberra.

Everyone got hands on experience leading / cleaning, and belaying the routes they chose, with most doing more than one of the routes.
I was impressed with the keenness and perseverance displayed by all. I could see that each of the climbers had their personal moments of inner reflection while undertaking their climbs, yet they pushed on through their mental barriers once focused on the task at hand.
It was interesting for me to see at what point this barrier was approached by each, and how they dealt with it, as the inner tension builds from the moment one ties in to the sharp end and it does not take many moves off the deck to know that they are feeling 'out there'. Although encouragement was available and given by all concerned, I noted it was quite different to that displayed by a similar group of climbers perhaps undertaking sport or bouldering genres of the game. Maybe it was the atmosphere of the place, or the concentration required in having a newish challenge, as the encouragement was low key rather than loud or raucous.
Certainly their abilities were being pushed to their present limits but in a quiet sort of dignified way, and from what I could ascertain not in a competitive way either, as I think they were finding the experience all absorbing, and as a result quite personal. I was beginning to wonder what I could present them with on the following day that would extend their experience, though need not have pondered too long on this however, as I soon heard the familiar sound of rope-zing and gear-slap,... robertsonja had pinged off Cream Machine and was roundly congratulated for providing us with some entertainment! The excitement had just subsided when Bl@ke renewed it afresh by doing the same off Thanksgiving! Both these falls were in the 5+m range and provided the participants with fresh insight into how little it takes to creak gear out, even if as in Bl@kes case, one is making the topout move.
A point I noticed about both these falls was that although the belayers involved were appropriately placed close to the base of the climbs concerned (hard not to do this due being on a ledge above a considerable dropoff), the lower third of both climbs were stripped of gear by outward tension of the belay rope. This reflected the thin nature of the placements involved and should serve as a heads-up for others undertaking the game, as the 'Jesus piece' in thin-ish aid extends to subsequent placements unless the first piece placed is actually placed for the upward-outward load.

On Cacophonic, Wollemi and Hargs were coming to terms with using stacked hexes to fill the offwidth upper reaches of it, and the intricacies of rope-drag dislodging same due the upper reaches of that climb curving back over to the sensible side of evil. Whilst I was lending a verbal-hand here, I again heard the zing of rope, but unfortunately this time accompanied by the muffled 'whump' of somebody decking out...
Over on Cream Machine, Trogster was on the ground, and all that remained on the route was a broken wire at 8m height plus a limp rope in one remaining piece at about 5m height.
Rushing over, I held him securely as he was writhing in pain and I was concerned that although he was still on belay that if he rolled off the ledge he would be in for more of the same, but at a considerable distance lower...
Things happen in a blur during such moments. There were plenty of helpful hands and after we made him a little more comfortable by removing the forearm thickness branch from under him that he had broken off the ledge shrubbery with his ribs/back, securing him with a sling anchor to the remaining portion of shrub to prevent his falling further, we were suitably concerned with the hoarse gurgling noises he was making, and expecting at any moment to see him start frothing blood from his mouth. His helmet was undone and coming off his head, and once he lay still for a bit his breathing settled and his responses were lucid and coherent.
Due his helmet being undone my thoughts were that he had crashed through the limb and probably broken ribs (or worse), plus taken a head knock. He informed us that he was sore but not in any pain that would indicate a broken bone or limb. Despite this advice we waited and watched with concern though reassuring him at the same time that all looked OK (which in fact it did), till we believed this ourselves! I was much relieved when he got to his feet and continued to act reassuringly normal, but even so, it was agreed by some of us that we would be keeping an eye on him for the remainder of the evening, despite his reassurances that he did not require taking to hospital to be checked out, nor wanting the pain killers that Wollemi offered him, as he felt that he was only badly winded. (He informed me later that he undid his helmet as a first reaction to not being able to breath easily). He was escorted up the access gully to the car and we then engaged in post-morteming what had happened, cleaning the climb and packing gear, as it was late in the day anyway.
On that point, Fish Boy led the climb to clean it. Many of the remaining persons were impressed at the aggressive testing Fish Boy utilised during that lead, and more fully realised that true testing involves sufficient bouncing to get the remaining gear on your harness flapping properly! I have now decided that it is one thing for someone like me to say this as instructional advice, but it is much more meaningful if demonstrated...

It turns out that he was on a #zero size RP that had been placed a move above the remaining broken wire, and in fact was reasonably high in his etts (ie had been on the placement a while), to make the next subsequent placement when the zero ripped. His fall of approx 1 m broke the #2 RP at the base of the clip in loop, but by then the rope tension had (like the similar falls earlier) dislodged much of the thin remaining gear on the lower third of the climb, whilst he simultaneously zippered further placements till he decked and the rope was limp on the last remaining piece still intact on the climb. It was subsequently found that the krab that had been connected to the broken RP was also damaged due its gate spring becoming dislodged from within the base of the gate.
As a side note, I have noticed in the past that many small RP's break one of their wires where their wires join the head. This one broke at the clipping point primarily due to it being a relatively new item and not having been placed or 'cleaned' much, therefore not having had its wires worked over / stressed near the head with prior usage, and indeed if this had been the case it may have broken more easily, ... but this is academic; as the result is the same due this particular fall generated sufficient force to do the job anyway, even though the head remained in it's placement.
In hindsight I recall him asking me what strength the small size RP's are rated at, and I told him #3 is 370 kg, #2 is 190 kg, with the smaller sizes being less but this is mostly to do with the cable breaking strain and not the head shearing out of the placement. I now wonder if he 'put the mocka' on himself and set himself up for a 9 to 10m deckout?
~> He is now known by the group as 'Lucky Adam' and given the circumstances I doubt he will win anything in Lotto or similar for a long while, as I reckon he dipped heavily into the luck bucket on that occasion to come out of that one relatively unscathed.

What can we learn from this?
If facing a thin lead put the first piece in for an upward load as every piece on thin aid is a 'Jesus piece'.
Place the biggest gear one can that fits in any given placement for pro.
If the pro is ordinary/thin, back it up, ... multiple times if necessary, and equalise the matrix.
Aggressively test the placement as much as prudently possible and preferably more than tentatively.

Hmm. As it turns out, an exciting end to a good day.

Sunday saw us pack up camp, and depart to the Devils Couch area, mainly to try Faust and Elizabeth, another grade M4 climb but this one getting the grade more from awkwardness and fiddly placements (mostly of medium size), rather than from thin gear as The Cream Machine takes.

Fish Boy and Bl@ke went off to try the free version of Loose Fit (Gd 23), Wollemi and Hargs gave a potential new route a shot on clean aid, which will probably go at M3 for grade from what I could see from below. Egosan and robertsonja aided Damning My Soul first pitch and then proceeded to add a direct finish aid M6 second pitch to it, instead of doing its easier free version diagonal crack second pitch finish.
Over on Faust & Elizabeth others played the aid game, and some found themselves shut down at varying heights due to the sustained awkward nature of the placements. It has a slightly overhanging initial crack that stops at the 'lip' and another crack starting above the lip off to its right, which makes for an out of balance high step reachy move. Once that is tackled the crack then becomes flared/groovish and although good placements for pro can be had, they are spaced, and involve less than good placements between them to make progress. Perhaps it was Trogster's grounder of yesterday afternoon playing on their minds, but the initial zeal to push the envelope was a little less evident today, so relying on such tactics as two lobes of a cam etc, to make progress seemed (understandably), less palatable today. The potential sandbag(?), of; "it's thin at one spot out of sight above what appears to be the top from the ground, but takes a bomber #3 RP" did not get a chance to work to full effect, as after Fish Boy led it to topout, and it was jumar cleaned, the feedback comment I got was along the lines of 'after cleaning it I am glad I did not finish leading it!', from one player of the game.

Over on Damning My Soul, the aid section was proving problematic to robertsonja and egosan, so I roped up and traversed in to their level by bridging a wide chimney slot and mantling a broken shelf to the base of the aid seam. The issue they had was that the rock was sufficiently weathered and crumbled enough to let thin placements rip when tested. The seam was definitely a goer in my opinion, and the difficulties could be hooked past on good hook placements, but being a pitch up if the leader fell then it would result in a fall-factor 2, back onto the belay. With being an onsight involving some unknown climbing above, and the seam being incipient in most places, it would take a bold runout to simply launch up it under such circumstances; ... so the obvious solution was to make the first protection adequate to the task. The lesson from this being that if the desire is there, then the time it takes to finagle it doesn't matter.
Five pieces were hand-finagled within the space of a metre of incipientness, then equalised. My assessment of the individual placements was that two were certainly 50%-ers for holding bodyweight, one was good for bodyweight, and two were good for better than bodyweight. The matrix being equalised egosan tested it and one of the 50%-ers ripped but the rest held securely. He got higher on a hook and was finagling the next piece that was again proving to be a problematic process, when the hook popped. The resulting fall certainly tested the matrix but it held, and egosan resumed the task of completing the climb.

While this was taking place the now familiar sound of zinging rope came from over on Wollemi and Hargs line! Earlier I had observed that the placements Wollemi had made, although awkward at times, at least for the first third of their route appeared to be medium to large nut size, and I had confidence in them completing the route. There lay ahead of them an unknown aspect involving a horizontal traverse crack higher on their chosen line, but this is part of the appeal of onsight ground up ascents for those who prefer such.
This time the gear lower on the route held but at least one piece up higher had ripped (apart from the piece he was on), and Wollemi was left dangling on the rope at about level with his belayers stance, located slightly to the side of the line on a perched shelf at the top of a short scramble above the deck. I yelled out "Are you OK?" and the answer was affirmative which pleased me, but I think Wollemi was still absorbing the full import of what had happened as he appeared to have a wide eyed expression now seemingly etched on his face! I also noted he was rubbing his shoulder and closer inspection revealed he had taken some bark off it during the fall, but not enough to slow him up, as he reclimbed his line then down-climbed it on etts while back-cleaning his gear.

The afternoon was passing by and people had distance to travel to get to other commitments, so at this point we decided to pack up and call it a successful day.

Hmm. Five aid falls by five different new adherents to the black art of aid in two days; a number of moments of concern by leaders on their routes; no significant injuries, save to the mind(?); ... is that a success?
I consider it is. Heh, heh, heh! ☺
The feedback I received indicates the others felt it was also, so we look forward to climbing together again in the future.

To top things off nicely I found the ride home on the laden bike was a joy to be savoured in the glorious clear autumn evening weather. While doing so I reflected on the energy revitalisation and simple pleasure that it is, to be in the company of like minded individuals who are positive about life and willingly participate in new experiences to the max. The enthusiasm is infectious and I found myself musing that it is good to be alive and share in such things.

12:00:50 PM
What's coming?

1:48:11 PM
On 23/03/2010 ajfclark wrote:
>What's coming?

Hopefully some other perspectives from other participants, and photos from those who took them.
1:59:13 PM
Mate, I am working on that now. How do you resize photos? - the smallest I have is about 1.06MB. Should I download freeware called Gimp and use that? Where do I get my pics hosted?

2:09:31 PM
Most (if not all?), the info you require can be found here.

2:14:10 PM
On 23/03/2010 Wollemi wrote:
>Where do I get my pics hosted?

I'd just use flickr. Free account displays your 200 most recent photos (stores more than that but you can only see 200 most recent uploads on a free account). Automagically does resizing for you. Even generates the code to insert images into chockstone posts (click the all sizes button on the image you want, select the size you want, copy paste the code shown at the bottom of the page...).
Fish Boy
2:37:48 PM
Twas great to meet you folks and realise that there are some aiding people under the age of 72...I thought M9 was the only one left ;)


2:42:50 PM
I've met M9. I didn't realise he was under the age of 72.

2:47:58 PM
And I wanna get rid of the snail icon. That joke ain't funny anymore.

edit: Done with the gastropod...

3:08:41 PM
Just get yourself a Fish "Big Wall? Snail Eye" T-shirt. They rock.
3:22:31 PM
On 23/03/2010 Wollemi wrote:
>Mate, I am working on that now. How do you resize photos? - the smallest
>I have is about 1.06MB. Should I download freeware called Gimp and use

I recommend FastStone -
4:26:38 PM
It was an awsome weekend. I am ordering some aiders this week! Originally i tried 2 ettriers and i thought they were not to shabby but then i tried some of Fish Boys Yates ladders, heaps better!
Although i managed to whip off an M3 and bailed off an M4 i hope to be camping on the north wall sometime in the near future :)
Thanks to M9 for organising the weekend and thanks to Fish Boy for lending use of his gear and everything else.

4:39:14 PM
So young Bl@ke, we await your take (ie TR) on your ascents (not many heard feedback about Lift Girls Lament), how you pushed through the mental barriers (you did top out on the M3 after whipping?), anything else relevant/mischievous to pass on to other punters thinking of trying the aid game...


FB & ww, you guys should live so long!
Heh, heh, heh.
4:47:00 PM
Ok TR very soon. (next 20 min max)

salty crag
5:21:08 PM
Great TR's, tempted to give the dark art of aiding a go. Eargerly await pics.
5:30:13 PM
Fish Boy arrived at my place at around 9 o clock on friday night and we began our journey to the mt. We arrived at around 11.20 and located M9 and had a bit of a chat before hitting the hay. I awoke the next morning and met all the other attendees and had a quick breakfast. As most of us were settling into the first coffee of the day M9 got me to drag out his wombat (haul bag) and he then gave us a rundown on his aid gear and the systems he uses. After that we all headed for the disabled lookout to finally touch rock. Fish Boy and I decide that the 3 routes at the lookout will be busy for a while so I stock up on small cams and we make our way to Lift girls lament 22. We fix a static line and rap down to the hanging belay. I start my aiding pretty dodgyly and do 2 M1 and a half moves before a chicken out and hand the reins over to Superfish who aids it faster then my normal freeclimbing speed! I thought aid was slow. I was yet to find out what some M4 can do to your flow and speed.
So i jug out and head back to the Disabled lookout.
Thanksgiving crack M3 is free for an aid so i jump on while Fish Boy goes off to solo aid Zeus.
I start off well placing RP's and soon find myself at a bit of a tricky spot. I place a number 1 RP and test it and it blows, i find another number 1 Rp placment but it too blows. I step up another step and get in an awsome number 3 Rp in. I place a hex and a few cams and find myself at a very old carrot bolt. Dam i forgot my hangers, o well. I put a wire over the bolt and give it a bounce because i dont trust it fully. I can now see a bunch of tourists at the lookout. Almost at the top i say, but i am too chicken to mantle my way to glory. I place a bodyweight nut about a foot higher and try to top out. I still dont feel comfy with the topout position so i step down and sit on my fifi, Bang! My nut has popped, I am screaming, i am falling. I keep falling. I fell something wrapped around my wrist. Finaly my plummet stop and after i realise fully what has happened i like out a loud WooHooo! what a rush! i am lowered to the ground and i relax for a moment before i walk up to the top, rap down and clean as i go. My wrist is a little rope or daisy chain burnt but nothin that bad.
I walk back up to the top to take my rope off parks super anchor that they have kindly instaled for us climbers to use. As i am flaking my rope i hear a thud and some sort of groaning noise. Sh!t i say and i run down to see the damage. We all know the rest of the story. I was expecting to see a body with some frothy stuff coming out the mouth but i was glad it ended the way it did.
That night we had a good few yarns over a meal and we were all keen to see what the next day would bring.

5:41:29 PM
Good to hear the weekend went well.
I have been under M9s wing in regards to aiding and am glad to see that he hasn't sandbagged any of you guys.

Hows that long-term project looking M9????
5:54:14 PM
Project you say? i have my eye on a line next to Faust and elizabeth 30+ metres of only hooks ;) Yeah M9 whats this project?
6:09:06 PM
Oh and at the end of the days climbing i took off my harness to find the skin where my harness was sitting on my hip numb and the meaty bits under the skin quite painfull.

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