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|TR: Genghis Khan (22) at Katoomba Cliffs
I've been slowly but surely working my way through some of the old-school adventurous trad classics over the past 6 months or so, and so it was that on Saturday I found myself below Echo Crack at Katoomba Cliffs, wading through knee deep garbage as I struggled to get to the start of the goal for the day: Genghis Khan (5 pitch, 200m, trad 22).
My climbing partner for the day, Taib, being a taller and slightly more solid chap, had the prestigious task of 'icebreaking' through the sea of garbage.
It was like a scene from a movie as iconic pieces of mountains 'history' echoed flashback imagery from Neil and Vanessa's recent trip up Echo Crack:
Standing beneath Echo Crack, that monolithic classic looks 100x better than it does from a distance... But that's a battle for another day.
Today's goal is this:
In typical adventure climbing fashion, we unintentionally ended up off-route from the get-go, as I chose to climb a wide-ish, slightly steep clean crack to the ledge and traverse RIGHT along the ledge to the belay. At the time it seemed a bit harder than the grade 14 pitch mentioned in the guide, but was much cleaner climbing. The reality is that the route ACTUALLY starts up an unpleasant vegetated corner further around from where I started, and trends LEFT to the belay. Fortunately, my variant pitch wasn't too bad.
Taib got the 50m 2nd pitch, which was loose, vegetated and dirty... But it had length going for it. It also featured one tricky move around a bulge, made worse by the mud and slime. Here's a picture of Taib working on his horticulture expertise.
Pitch 3 is where the real climbing starts, heading up a beautiful overhanging orange headwall, with tonnes of exposure, and countless tourists frothing at the mouth as they watch you from the Echo Point viewing platform.
Again, sticking with the theme of 'typical adventure climbing' I broke a footer off the manky choss start, and fell from about 5m up, being saved by a terrible nut I'd placed badly behind a moving flake, but still landing back on the ledge due to rope stretch. 'Nice catch Taib!' Starting the pitch again, and fighting past the scary (but not technically hard) choss start, the ensuing steep corner is great technical climbing on good rock, and in a stunning position. Though the crack eats wires and passive pro, it fuses periodically creating some nice runouts (and you're a good few metres above your gear when you do the crux move of the pitch).
Here's a photo of Taib nearing the belay at the end of the pitch.
Aaaand one of me in the hanging belay, posing for the tourists up at Echo Point. I expect to see these shots of me on glossy magazine covers soon.
Pitch 4 had a pretty tough start up a corner system to gain the roof, followed by an exciting traverse under the roof to the arete out left with some exhilerating runouts.
Little did we know, that the original route ACTUALLY goes around the arete (you can see the piton in the photo below) to a belay a bit further around and up a bit. Taib decided to make the pitch harder, by going straight up the tricky steep crack you can see there, which is ACTUALLY part of the variant finish 'The New Right'. All in all, a great pitch, with good rock, WILD climbing, and just the right amount of gear and runouts to make it memorable.
Another shot of the same, with Echo Crack in the background.
Finally, I scored the last (crux) pitch. And soon enough we realised that we were off-route. While The New Right variant finish looked pretty rad (though Taib wasn't psyched for the thin finger-crack start of it) we both really wanted to finish Genghis Khan the ORIGINAL way. So, I commenced the pitch with an unprotected 6m traverse/downclimb around an arete, and back into the original corner system, winding up at the belay for the end of P4 on the original route. As we were climbing on two ropes, I then kept going up the original finish.
The last pitch is crazy. Two distinctly bouldery crux sections, (the upper one, near the roof, was bloody tough), with some terrifyingly awesome runouts, obligatory 'psychological support' gear placements that won't do a thing if you fall, and fiddly -but good- gear when there was gear at all. With a couple-a-hundred metres of exposure below, it was an intense and memorable pitch which blew my mind, my nerves, and nearly my bladder.
The below photo looks back down on the pitch as I neared the top. You can see at the bottom left of the photo where I traversed around the arete to regain the original route at its start.
Topping out in the tree cluster after all this climbing was a great experience, especially since I'd managed to onsight the pitch despite having to incorporate our "variant" traverse start. Taib soon joined me atop Katoomba Cliffs, and we celebrated by 'enjoying' an unpleasant gully bash to get back to Echo Point proper.
Arriving back at the cars at 4pm, somehow the climb had taken us 9 hours car to car (about 3 hours slower than I anticipated, though I blame our route-finding difficulties), which meant I was now late for a birthday gathering/piss-up... But it was totally worth it.
So, to summarise: Genghis Khan. Aside from the first 2 gardening pitches (which can be skipped by traversing in from the 3 Sisters via the Halfway Ledge), the top 3 pitches are great, classic trad climbing in trademark Blueys adventure-style with spectacular exposure. Perhaps more serious/committing/dangerous than you might expect for the start of Pitch 3, and most of Pitch 5, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't climbing quite a stronger than the grade. But it's an adventure I'm glad I had.
Awesome Paul. I wish I had been there!
Nice one guys, great read. Sounds like the go is to traverse in and so avoid any gardening or 'garbage icebreaking'!
I actually remember that trolley, bins and those planks of hobo goodness at the base of the cliff from the time I attempted (to aid) Echo Crack with a friend back in... 2007?
Made us want to eat ice cream, that pauls sign did... (i think it was pauls ice cream wasn't it?)
When I freed it with Kim it was late summer 78, we rapped in from Honeymoon bridge and traversed across 2 pitches up. I think Kim led the long pitch up to below the roof and I led the top pitch, but what was foremost in our minds was a fire in the valley below (hot windy fire hazard weather). We were also out of water and dragged our shrivelled carcasses up the manky walls towards Echo point when we came across a mossy trickle of water which we spent several minutes sucking up, then followed the trickle further up to find it came from the men's toilet.
Now you're ready to do "You can't stop the music". It's only 19
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