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Monkey Fist -- a TR of sorts
9:22:50 PM

PART ONE -- About a year ago we moved to a leafy Sydney suburb, into a house at the bottom of a gully crowded with tall gums and rainforest ferns. A creek, which is a torrent after rain, runs between the road and the house, so walking to the front door reminds me a bit of dropping into a Blue Mountains canyon.

The house is classic seventies: exposed sandstock bricks, dark stained timber, and Stegbar wind-out windows. Itís tall and imposing: two floors straight up into the, tree tops. Along the front, five timber posts stand the full two floors high supporting broad overhanging eaves. The first post, at the front door landing, stands just far enough away from the bricks to make a wide -- a very wide -- bridging move. I thought Iíd climb the 8 or 9 metres up to the roof with one foot on the bricks and the other on the post, protected with a sling wrapped around the post prusik-style. Iíd just slide the sling up as I went.

As it turns out, climbing the house isnít that easy. The sandstock bricks are trecherous, even with climbing shoes, and the painted post is slippery and splintery. I manage a few moves before slumping onto the sling, then a few more, but sitting on the sling binds it so tight itís impossible to shift. The system is hopelessly unreliable; a top-rope would be much better.

Across the top of the vertical posts, a long horizontal beam runs the entire length of the house, and between the top of the beam and the eaves thereís a gap, about 30 centimetres high. If I could get a rope through the gap Iíd be on my way. But how to get the rope up there? Itís a long way up, and thereís only a tiny gap.

Maybe I could poke one end of a rope through using a long pole? Around the back thereís a long-handled brush for cleaning cobwebs out of the eaves. Itís way too short of course. I try the pool scoop. Itís longer, but nowhere near long enough. So I lash the eave brush to the pool scoop with 10 metres of 8 mm static cord that just happens to be lying around. Itís ridiculous overkill, but my new contraption won't buckle in the middle. I climb delicately up onto the landing railing, balancing on tip toes and at full stretch, I can push the whole wobbly arrangement up to the roof.
9:20:39 AM
Maybe you can start a urban climbing trend in Sydney. A friend of mine inspired by the alpine horizons of the Netherlands did just that in Utrech. Check it out here. Photos, topos, the lot.

Cheers, FranÁois
9:34:13 AM
When house hunting a few years ago I looked at a place in Brunswick where the back fence was the bluestone wall of the factory next door, about two storeys high. Sadly the house was way too expensive.
10:05:11 AM
After watching a couple of climbing vids, I got the urge to do some quick climbing. After climbing around on the underside of our living room stairs, I started messing about with an Arete style climb on the outside of our town house. Everything seemed to work pretty well. The space between the bricks big enough to jam fingers and grippy enough to work the toes in.
Unfortunately this convenient climbing location was short lived, as it only took about 8 days for body corporate to send out their angry letters.
- Now if only they responded to maintenance repairs that quickly!

12:29:16 AM
On 22/10/2010 ClimbingNT wrote:
>After watching a couple of climbing vids, I got the urge to do some quick
>climbing. After climbing around on the underside of our living room stairs,

We used to have a tradition of heading to the Lansdowne Hotel after a climb at the Ledge - after which most of us would be hanging off anything climbable in the restaurant, around the pub & often all the way home.
Sadly, a mate (after a night on the town) somehow was convinced to try to climb something by a non-climber. Being way too inebriated to climb, he accepted the challenge & woke up in hospital with a collapsed lung. Apparently he got about 4m up and....
7:35:54 PM
Francois, that's some impressive topo work right there. We used to go "buildering" at lunch time when I was at school. Angry security guards would chase us off premises. Cops hauled me off one of those big chimney stacks at Vaucluse or Diamond Bay once. People really don't like people climbing stuff.

PART TWO -- The wobbly pole is a bust. I can get the rope up to the roof, but thereís no way I can poke it through the gap and leave a long-enough loop hanging over the beam. Back to the drawing board.

For my 40th birthday, a good friend gave me a beautiful present: a monkeyís fist tied the traditional way from three-strand sisal rope, whipped, spliced, and smelling like just seagrass matting. (A monkeyís fist, in case you havenít wasted years mucking about on wooden boats, is a knot tied in the end of a rope to form a solid ball. Sailors used them to weight heaving lines which theyíd throw down to wharfies on the dock as their ships came alongside. Climbers used them too, for jamming into cracks before modern metal gear.) It occurs to me that the monkeyís fist could sneak through the gap between the beam and the roof.†

I bend a length of old climbing rope onto the sisal tail, feed out a pile of loose slack, and weigh the monkeyís fist in my hand. At first it feels too light to carry far but as it whooshes faster and faster around my head it seems to generate some extra heft, and I start thinking it might just travel all the way to the roof.†

The launch position is directly underneath the beam. Itís kind of cramped, half on a step and hard up against the brick wall. I have to swing the ball hard; hard enough to launch it and ten metres of rope two floors into the air. And I have to release it at just the right moment so it carries up far enough, and across far enough, but not too much, to find the gap. I wind up a couple of solid swings and let go. The monkey fist flies up, but only halfway up the brickwork before turning around and diving into the garden. I crouch down for half a dozen big swings, full force, but this time the monkey fist flies off at the sky, way off course. It tops out at roof height though, providing a sliver of hope this might work. Iím gathering everything up for another shot when my wife appears behind the vast expanse of glass on the upstairs landing. She observes proceedings for a few moments, furrows her brow and then walks off shaking her head.

The next throws are variously uneventful, tantalisingly close, and way off again. Once, the monkeyís fist travels just far enough to clout me on the head -- Iím inadvertantly standing on the rope -- and then the next fifty or so throws follow much the same pattern as the first few. Some have all the right vectors but not enough oomph; others have plenty of oomph but the angles are all wrong. The sun is dropping lower in the late afternoon sky, I can hear the rattle of pots and pans in the kitchen, and my shoulder is starting to ache.

Zane Priebbenow
11:29:29 AM
Great read Hargs! Get back on it please, ASAP. I canít wait for the next instalment.
My place is located in a remanet Sydney sandstone gully bushland setting. The cliff our house is perched on has a large cave of about 10 meters high that is perfect for rainy days. Only drawback is the complete lack of holds. Iíve been considering advancing climbing grades to the next level with a mindset shift from rock features to colour pigment transition in the rock for purchase. Havenít quite fingered it out just yet but with each rainy day the solution grows nearer.

The large gum in the backyard has seen a few frozen waterfall ascents over recent years protected by slung branches in place of ice screws. Plenty of branches for tool hooking and the thick dry bark makes for solid placements. I know those arms-crossed-head-shaking bewildered expressions only to well HargsÖ ďYou idiot, your a 10 year oldĒ she mumbles to herself as she passes beneath the tree to take out the rubbish, or to perform some other equally unimportant domestic duty when free hanging pillars have formed on the backyard tree and WI8 first ascents are there for the picking!

Completing the bridging moves from the french-doors into and up the stairwell void between the lounge and first floor has always been a sticking point for me Ė or lack there of Ė itís a friction issue. Iíve considered repainting the household interior, this time with a rough sand texture, but is that just bringing the climb down to my level? I mean for all I know the original wall texture could have been rough and I might just be restoring it to its original state. And anyway some builder went and installed a set of stairs in an otherwise perfectly good bridging chimney; if thatís not a cardinal offence then surely a lick of textured paint is acceptable by comparison, isnít it?

Iím thankful for Chockstone though. Itís the most wonderful of self help group Iíve found to date, I gain great comfort from the group therapy sessions in particular and feel Iím making headway with my condition. I think Iím ready to commit to the Chockstone 12 step program! Just need to find the right sponsor.
8:04:15 PM
PART THREE -- This time the monkeyís fist carves out a perfect trajectory, tracing a tall arc to the roof, slowing as it approaches the beam, and stopping at the upper limit of its track, miraculously, right on top of the beam. Iím surprised for a moment -- long enough to realise the monkeyís fist isn't falling down -- and then Iím surprised that Iím surprised: Iíve been telling myself for hours this could work. Now it has, Iím a bit excited. But I still have to get the rope down and flicking the dangling line just threatens to dislodge the ball from its tenous perch. The eave-cleaning end of my wobbly pole is hopeless, and the pool scoop end doesnít have enough purchase. No, I need to grab a hold and haul it down.

On my desk, right where I keep the monkeyís fist, is a sand-cast bronze boat hook. Itís been a paper weight ever since the boat went. I dig through my rusting toolbox for a couple of mismatched self-tappers, screw the hook on where the cleaning brush went, lash everything back together, climb up on the railing and jag the moneyís fist first go. Moments later, both ends of the rope are on the deck, Iím harnessed up, clipped in, and bridging my way upwards.

My daughter appears on the landing. ďDad,Ē she yells from inside, ďyouíre gonna pull the house down!Ē

ďNo Iím not,Ē I say automatically, a response which is based, well, on nothing. The post does bend when I push on it and, halfway up a very long spar, itís bending in a frightening kind of way. It must look spectacular from the landing.

ďDad!Ē Sophie calls again before changing tactics. ďMum! Tell him to stop it.Ē Iím at eye level now and she fixes me with a hard stare, mouthing words slowly: ďStop. It. Now.Ē

Finally I get a hand on the beam and wriggle into a less uncomfortable position, shoulders on the bricks and tip-toes on the post. The next job is straightforward: tie a sling around the beam, unclip from the rope and clip into the new anchor -- not in that order, actually -- then pull the rope up, clip it to the sling, re-attach myself, and abseil down to dinner.

Iím testing a new method for getting myself from dangling and onto abseil: Clip one end of a long sling into a carabiner then wrap loops about 20cm long through a second carabiner, back through the first, and so on. The finished arrangement looks like a bulky quickdraw, except one end of the sling is free. Tie off the loose end with a mooring hitch. Top carabiner clips into the anchor, bottom carabiner clips onto my harness. It's all solid, so I unclip from the rope and hang directly off the beam.

The rattling in the kitchen has stopped, and I can hear Edwina messing about with the barbecue out the back.

The rope comes up easily. I clip a bight into the anchor, drop the rest to the deck, thread the rope through the Reverso and clip it into my belay loop. Iíll need to drop a good 30 to 40 centimetres to transfer my weight from the beam onto the Reverso, so I unhitch the loose end of the sling and start carefully feeding it through the carabiners. The loops extend in a more or less controlled fashion and I start lowering onto the rope until the sling jams and Iím stuck midway between anchor and abseil.

Edwinaís lighting the barbecue now. I can hear her fiddling with the auto-igniter but itís a tricky operation: the lighter spark is set a bit far from the jet -- Iíve been meaning to fix it for a while -- so the gas doesnít ignite straight away. You have to let it build up in the casing for a while, stand well back, and then push the igniter button with a stick. Click, click, click, but the barbecue doesn't fire up.

I try jumping up and down now to loosen the sling, but it doesnít budge. I take my brake hand off the abseil rope so I can wrestle the sling with both arms. Click, click, click. The sling is jammed tight and Edwina is becoming increasingly frustrated with the barbecue. Click, click, click. I wrap two coils of rope around my foot, stand up and latch a hand over the beam. Hanging from that hand, I jiggle the carabiners with my other hand hoping to free up the sling. Nothing happens, so I jiggle harder and harder until suddenly the loose end jumps free, dangling uselessly from the top carabiner. Christ. Click, click, click... whoomph! An enormous fireball explodes out of the barbecue, followed immediately by a high-pitched squeal and then the faint waft of singed hair. I wrestle the sling onto my harness biner, then back up and through the biner on the beam, and ease some weight on. It feeds cleanly now and I lower away until Iím on the rope. Itís a quick slide to the deck; I slink into the kitchen, grab a couple of cold beers from the fridge, and head out the back to the smell of sausages hissing and spitting on the grill.

ďBeer, honey?Ē

8:56:01 PM
Top work Hargs!

11:24:44 PM
On 24/10/2010 ajfclark wrote:
>Top work Hargs!


(This TR will prove to be an interesting rewrite job for someone if they try to...
~> as I imagine it would be hard to do and still keep the undertones of commitment running through it that I detect at present!)
Heh, heh, heh.
10:11:18 AM
On 24/10/2010 Zane Priebbenow wrote:
>Completing the bridging moves from the french-doors into and up the stairwell
>void between the lounge and first floor has always been a sticking point
>for me Ė or lack there of Ė itís a friction issue. Iíve considered repainting
>the household interior, this time with a rough sand texture, but is that
>just bringing the climb down to my level? I mean for all I know the original
>wall texture could have been rough and I might just be restoring it to
>its original state. >

You need to contact the VCC and trawl the internet to make sure it hasn't been climbed before. If it has, you need to contact the first ascensionist and ask for thier permission before you equip it.

There are 11 messages in this topic.


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