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Tells Us About Your Latest Trip!

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Freycinet - March 2010
9:58:39 PM
“Oh, damn”. It was one of those situations that should never have happened. Not a major disaster, but still, the whole trip had gone smoothly up to that point. Yet here I was, in the fading light, halfway between the cliff-edge and the sea, at Freycinet, and with the abseil rope stuck firmly and unreachably in the crack beside me.

It was one of those trips that came together easily. With my family away visiting relatives, I was not wanting to be stuck in Melbourne for 2 weeks. My initial keenness for a trip into Frenchman’s Cap failed to gain momentum when my intended partner declared himself uninterested and/or unavailable. I was contemplating a hiking trip for a change when, in talking to Jen, we worked out that she was back from Thailand the week before I was available, and heading to the US the week after. With a week spare in-between. A quickly-booked flight from Sydney to Launceston, and a ferry booking for me from Melbourne to Devonport, and the trip was on.

I packed the car on the Sunday, drove onto the boat and was at Devonport 10 hours later. I had several hours before meeting Jen’s incoming flight - a breakfast stop, some supermarket shopping and an attempt to fix the fridge’s 12V supply, then I was at Launceston at 10:30. We drove to Whitewater Wall, set camp and headed off. It was that easy.

First up was Apline*** 12, a classic. We fixed a rap rope, found the route easily and romped up, enjoying the sea views.

Jen on Apline (***12)

It was fairly late after that, but we weren’t keen to quit, so rapped again and I led Baystone Blues ***17 without the guidebook - my misguided variant finish is destined to fade into obscurity.

At camp, a small school group had arrived, led by Bill, a soft-voiced veteran of the crags who apologised for disrupting our holiday with his band of ten 15yo boys, and his assistant Will.

“Are you sure it’s Will and Bill”, I asked Jen while we prepared a curry. “At least it’s not Bill and Ben”. “Yeah, or Bill and Ted”.

The next day was the best weather forecast, and we were still fresh, so the aim was to do the Sea-level Traverse around to Flowstone Wall, then Arocknaphobia*** 22. An early start was advisable, so we parked the car around at Sleepy Bay at, oh, just before 9:30am.

In the current guide, the Sea-level Traverse says “8hrs, grade 16” and only a paragraph of description. In other words, you’re on your own. We found the track out of Sleepy Bay and followed it around to the point where we thought we should drop down, so scrub-bashed and scrambled a relatively short distance down to the ocean.

Approaching the Sea-level Traverse

A bit of route finding got us to a short boulder-problem to gain the next section, so Jen stuck the guide inside her top and cranked around. Oops! The sea was calm, but an unexpected swell almost caught her off guard.

Watch that swell!

“Shit, the guide!” In her eagerness to escape the water the guide had come out of her top and splashed into the water in front of me. I managed a quick bridging move and plucked it out before the water took it away, then spent most of the rest of the day attempting to dry it out. Fortunately, it survived.

We made our way easily around to “The Horizontal Chimney”. Now I had been wondering what exactly, a ‘horizontal chimney’ might refer to. It looks like this:

Checking the guide at the Horizontal Chimney

Jen seconding the horizontal chimney

With a long drop to the water we opted to belay, but didn’t bother with climbing shoes. I was in my 5.10 Guides, with good friction, Jen in some more plasticky-soled walking shoes. We coiled the rope afterwards and kept moving.

One of the steeper sections – don’t fall!

Some route-finding across steeper slabs caused Jen to switch shoes; we scrambled and soloed around several sections until another steep corner well above the water warranted the rope again. It was easy once tackled but it was tempting to keep the rope on once you were set up. After 3 pitches we coiled the rope again and made our way all the way to The Gonk, the prominent point on the coastline.

“I reckon it’d go”, I said, looking optimistically at the flared crack above the roof at the corner. We were kidding ourselves, there had to be an easier way. We climbed back up the slabs and belayed one short corner, which got us across the ridgeline and a lunch stop with a view of Flowstone Wall. We’d be there soon.

Soloing up easy slabs to avoid The Gonk

We quickly discovered things were not so simple. The way forward was blocked by a steep and boulder-filled gully. Higher was a chossy, dangerous wall. I scrambled down for sea-level hoping for a traverse line, but decided it wouldn’t go. We spent over 30 minutes negotiating the next 500m of coastline, before finally crossing the gap and reaching what we thought was going to easily lead to the base of Flowstone Wall.

But it was still not to be. A short but exposed steep wall was managed unroped, then another buttress blocked progress – we both managed to solo up a handcrack, but ahead was another impassable overlap. It was 3pm, and we estimated another 30 minutes to get to the base of the route, then 5 pitches, then an hour back to the car at least .. “ah, let’s bail”.

We spent an hour bush-bashing and soloing up the gully south of Mt Parsons. Scratched and tired at the top, we had a view of Coles Bay, temptingly close down the other side. We found the Skyline Traverse and were back at the car, and to camp, in due course, pretty happy with the day’s adventure despite me not having put my climbing shoes on all day.

Time for the shoes: avoiding scrub-bashing by soloing some slabs.

Next day it was back to The Hazards again. Bill had recommended a route, Stud City, and the prospect of a shorter walk-in made it an easy choice. We missed the turn-off and bashed our way down into the Hazards Main Wall, then Jen led Full Sail** 19.

Jen leading Full Sail (***19)

Some lunch, then we followed the ledges across the wall to reach Stud City, but rapped off a small tree when we couldn’t find a safe route across (next time, I’d try staying lower). Stud City was found easily, and it was my lead.

The route ran easily up a corner, then read “until the large hollow flake is reached. Traverse right, along the flake..”. I climbed up then stepped left, eyeing the large (3mx3m) flake with suspicion, as it appeared to be detached and standing on its end, about 40cm thick. It was the size of three large tombstones, and well capable of creating two more it it fell off.

I pulled up onto its left side, steep but with good holds, then up the corner to a sling runner on the knob it its top. Tying myself to such a large loose block was a dubious strategy. I mantled on top, stood up, then .. ?? No holds?? I stepped right a little, very balancy with a small gaston, then realised I was standing precariously against a blank face, on top of a large loose flake, and probably couldn’t reverse those moves.

After some debate with my partner below we conceded “traverse right” meant at the base of the flake, not the top, so there was no other option. I thought about jumping off, but managed to cam my foot against the flake and climb back down. At the base, a couple of underclings held the key to the traverse, then tricky moves led into the crack/groove to my right.

“Wow” I yelled down “This is sensational climbing”.

Jen arrived soon at the belay and led off on the second, crux pitch. Nice climbing up the corner led to an undercling around a flake to the right, then a committing set of slab moves allowed her to fall sideways onto the small belay ‘ledge’ – which was really just some mud and grass in the corner.

Jen on pitch 2, Stud City (19)

“Be careful standing on this” she said when I joined her “it isn’t attached by much”.
I led pitch 3, more grade 19 crack and face climbing. A cool gust of wind arrived, and the weather was closing in. We escaped up to the Skyline Traverse and were back at camp at 8pm for dinner.

Thursday we figured we’d earned a rest, so had a swim, shower, Internet and lunch in Coles Bay. We drove out of town to the shellfish farm for some fresh scallops and mussels. When we got back to camp, we found that Bill’s crew had moved out, but had been replaced by a larger bunch of teenagers from the Police Youth Club.

Dinner was a feast of scallop-and-bacon paella as follows:
One cup arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
½ green capsicum, chopped
½ red capsicum, chopped
a few green beens, cut into lengths
one chicken thigh fillet, cut into pieces
3 rashers short-cut bacon, cut into thin strips
olive oil
½ red chilli, seeded.
250g scallops
½ kilo mussels
Fry chicken, garlic and bacon in the oil. Add rice and cook for a minute or two. Add capsicums, beans, chilli , spices and the chicken stock. Cook, stirring occasionally until the rice is about done, adding water as required.
Steam mussels in a separate pot. When the rice is nearly done, add scallops and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with the mussels and a dash of olive oil, and a nice dry white wine.

Friday the plan was to stay closer to camp, and avoid the bush-bashing. We found the Harlequin area easily, and Jen started clipping all my cams to her harness in preparation for the corner-crack of Harlequin (***18).

“Nice rack” I said when she had finished gearing-up, aiming for a reaction.

Jen leading Ice Nine (** 16)

Jen led up the route while I fed the mosquitoes at the base, the bastards were inglourious. We then top-roped Beaman’s Route Direct (**22), which might be missing a key foothold near the start. I preplaced some gear on the way down, thinking I was up for the lead, but wimped after finding the starting moves tough.

Jiggery-pokery on Beaman’s Route Direct (** 22)

After that, I was keen for the adventure of Beowulf ***17, requiring a rap down into Deepwater Zawn. The sea was calm but the environment still spectacular.

Jen on belay on Beowulf (***17)

There was still some daylight left, and we wanted something harder, but couldn’t be bothered going back up to the top, then rapping back into Whitewater Wall. It was less than 100m over to the right, surely we could get there? We packed all the gear and I looked into options. The safest one appeared to be a short handcrack-traverse, but we’d need to rope up, so we did, and sack-hauled across the gap. I then led After The Goldrush*** 19, combining the easy pitch 1 with 2, but coming unstuck on the crux jamming moves.

Part way up the pitch, we realised our error – we’d brought the packs with us, but there was no way to get them to the top! We’d have been better off leaving them at the base of Harlequin. I pondered options while Jen followed.

Jen the sports climber was all tradded out, so it was up to me to lead the top pitch of 16, which is also the crux pitch of Slaughterhouse Five (16), and a classic jam-crack. At the top the decision was easy – I’d rap back to the base, pick up the packs and then try and find the descent gully to scramble out. It was nearly dark, so Jen ran back to camp for the head-torches.

Which gets us back to where I started. The rope had slid into the deep corner-crack of Leilani (11), but disobediently tied itself in a slip-knot, which pulled tight when I tried to extract it. It was now a metre deep in the crack, stuck like a crab, and I was was contemplating cutting it.

I grabbed the Ropeman ascender from my harness, turned on the head-torch and jumared up to get level with the knot. A few tugs from above and it gave suddenly, and I was on my way again. I found the ascent route in the dark, hauled both packs to the top and we were back at camp safely.

Saturday we were heading out – but there was still the morning. Back at Harlequin Wall we did Ice Nine (** 16), then around to Whitewater again (rapping in this time) to finish on No Turn Unstoned(***19) which was also brilliant. Face-climbing felt so much easier compared to the previous-days jamming, and the slightly run-out easier sections kept my interest almost to the end.

Jen above the boiling sea, seconding No Turn Unstoned(***19)

A quick lunch, pack up, and I dropped Jen back at the airport at 5pm and had boarded the ferry back to Melbourne around 6:20pm. We’ll be back.

10:22:07 PM
Great trip report , Steve. Photos really make a difference.

I'm really envious and Freycinet has definitely moved up my list of climbing areas I want to visit.


2:40:31 AM
> “Nice rack” I said when she had finished gearing-up, aiming for a reaction

So? I think most of your readers would like to know if Jen had a nice rack...

Freycinet is truly a magical place. I can't tell from your TR if the Sea-level Traverse is worth the effort though. Care to comment?

7:43:51 AM
I think that the pic labeled Harlequin is actually the start of Ice Nine. I could be wrong but check the pic sequence and date.

Great write up Steve, thanks!

And no, her rack is somewhat disappointing! Pretty old and tatty. : )

Winston Smith
8:41:21 AM
On 28/03/2010 Yonnie wrote:
>I think that the pic labeled Harlequin is actually the start of Ice Nine.
>I could be wrong but check the pic sequence and date.

Yep I agree, that's Ice Nine.

Phil Box
8:45:30 AM
On 28/03/2010 Yonnie wrote:
>I think that the pic labeled Harlequin is actually the start of Ice Nine.
>I could be wrong but check the pic sequence and date.

That's what I thought too. Mind you Ice Nine is of equal quality as Harlequin. Both awesome routes.

We roped up for the horozontal chimney too but once you are doing it you think to yourself that you had no need to rope up. It is very secure, particularly if you put your shoulders up against the roof and or jam your hands into the crack in the back. We didn't get as far as the Gonk so can't comment. Slow large party.
1:27:07 PM
On 28/03/2010 Yonnie wrote:
>I think that the pic labeled Harlequin is actually the start of Ice Nine.
>I could be wrong but check the pic sequence and date.
Oops yes you're all right. Correcting ..

And whadder you doing on Chockstone without replying to my emails! How's Joshua Tree? More granite!
1:34:00 PM
On 28/03/2010 Phil Box wrote:
>We roped up for the horozontal chimney too but once you are doing it you
>think to yourself that you had no need to rope up.

Yes we had the same experience, but the consequences of a fall might be disastrous. So that's what ropes are for.

>the crack in the back. We didn't get as far as the Gonk so can't comment.
>Slow large party.

I have a few other photos of the SLT to share, freed from the 50kb limit of Chockstone's servers:

Roped up on the middle sections. This part looks easy, but we headed up through the overlaps above Jen's right shoulder.

View of Flowstone Wall from just past The Gonk.

Navigating through the boulder field between The Gonk and Flowstone Wall.
1:45:06 PM
On 28/03/2010 f_ladou wrote:
>So? I think most of your readers would like to know if Jen had a nice
Well she's already replied herself, so you'll have to settle for that.

>Freycinet is truly a magical place. I can't tell from your TR if the Sea-level
>Traverse is worth the effort though. Care to comment?

Yes! It's wonderfully scenic, interesting terrain and a bit of an adventure. I'm still not sure about the swimming bits. I think our plan to climb one of the routes on Flowstone and return was a good one, we just didn't start early enough or move fast enough. Route finding takes a bit of time, don't expect to be following a clearly marked route.

Swimming the section past The Gonk would have been quicker than finding the way up and down through the boulders.

Phil Box
6:06:56 PM
I really really want to do the whole Sea Level Traverse some day. Thanks for posting the extra photos, helps a lot. I looked at the steep cliffness at the Gonk and thought it wiser to simply bash our way back up to the top. When you have four seconders and one is very timid it pays to allow discretion to become the better part of valour.

7:05:01 PM
On 27/03/2010 gfdonc wrote:
>to finish on No Stone Unturned (***19)

It's No Turn Unstoned isn't it?
8:56:31 PM
On 28/03/2010 ajfclark wrote:
>It's No Turn Unstoned isn't it?

Umm .. yup .. corrected.

Phil, I have plenty more photos & "directions" whenever you want to have another shot at the SLT.

Phil Box
9:13:15 PM
On 28/03/2010 gfdonc wrote:
>On 28/03/2010 ajfclark wrote:
>>It's No Turn Unstoned isn't it?
>Umm .. yup .. corrected.
>Phil, I have plenty more photos & "directions" whenever you want to have
>another shot at the SLT.

Thanks for that. I reckon that I have it pretty much sorted now.

Blow up air bed, tick.
Wet suit, tick.
A lot smaller group size, tick.
Partner who can climb and not afraid of a bit of exposure, tick.
Review this thread before heading off, tick.

6:26:16 AM
Great TR GF. You did a lot more climbing than we did....

12:44:38 PM
Here's one more treat for you. An ultrawide panorama of Deepwater Zawn, Harlequin Buttress, and Whitewater wall, stitched together from about a dozen shots with my 11mm lens. Downsampled from the 41.5 megapixel composite:

If you're not inspired now, I can't help you.

12:51:54 PM
I have a very similar photo taken just after dawn last February some time from almost the same place by the looks of things: link

4:31:18 PM
What did you guys use to stitch those together with?

Phil Box
4:51:28 PM
Great wide shots. I still think though that photos could never do justice to this incredible climbing destination. Has to be experienced to be believed just how awesome the climbing is. It is on a par with Arapilies and Frog for my all time fav climbing destinations.
4:54:36 PM
On 29/03/2010 Pat wrote:
>What did you guys use to stitch those together with?

I've probably tried 4-5 packages over the past year. I have been using PTGui for the last few months, up until the weekend, when PTGui did a hash job of one of my other panoramas. I switched to Microsoft's ICE, downloading the latest version (it's free).

8:44:41 PM
I've been using autostitch. Also free. Will look at this MS Ice thing though. Zoomify is the thing I use to make the interactive scaling version of the image.

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