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|Just enough suffering - Buffalo North Wall
An attempt at Ozymandias (270m M5/22?) in 5 Acts
Act One - The Intro
Jeremy and I seem to have a similar history. We’ve been around about the same number of decades, climbed with some of the same people, and bumped into each other every few years or so. I think we even climbed together once in the 80’s, but doubtful either of us can remember it.
As luck would have it we were on adjacent campsites at Buffalo in January. He, planning to do Defender of the Faith with Jo who was looking to borrow a hammock from yours truly, and me, planning to do some free routes on the plateau with my main squeeze. As luck would have it we started chatting.
“It would be good to do some adventure climbing”, I’m sure he said at one point.
“I still want to get back and do the Nose”, perhaps I said.
“We should do some walls sometime”.
“How about Ozy?”
And so, we exchanged contact details and the story unfolded over the next few weeks.
Act Two – The Planning
Jeremy managed to come around to my house one Saturday. He had the haul bag and miscellaneous aid gear to prove his credentials, I had similar. We melded the racks and planned for rapid 2-day ascent the following weekend.
I even have one, badly lit, photo of the racking session.
It was agreed I would shop for food,we would meet at my place at 5pm on Friday, and head north. A weather check a couple of days prior indicated heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday, but clear on Friday and mild for the weekend with clear skies. Near perfect. “Thunderbirds are go” came the email.
We drove north and stopped for a beer and steak at Euroa, relating the past 2 decades of lifetime.
Act Three – the Approach
Jeremy, clearly the smarter one of the pair, had brought a nice thick Thermarest, so probably enjoyed a reasonable night’s sleep on the concrete floor of the south side hut. While I tossed and turned on my foam mat. Eventually it was 6:15am and time to move.
Espresso was served and we were ready to go at first light, 6:55am. The south side approach was preferred for speed, but we took our time, stopping for photos and for water at the stream. Sunrise was glorious. We were at the base, racked up and ready to go at 9am. Jeremy’s lead.
Act Four –The Ascent
It was pretty efficient really. Despite the runoff from the week’s rain (>50mm) Jeremy managed a few free moves on wet rock and was at the belay in just over 90 minutes. I clamped the jumars on, with a feeling of both familiarity and unfamiliarity. I cleaned, we changed over and I was off on pitch two.
Jeremy tying on.
After about 10-12m of aid climbing I hit the first thin section. A good cam, but then a cam hook and a #5 RP in a flare. I tested it and it seemed OK, so I stood up, pulled out the cam hook and went looking for the next placement when it went pop! and I was heading downwards.
Aid falls are always scary because they happen unexpectedly, without warning. This one, with the top two pieces out and some slack in the system, lasted longer than most. I bounced off the wall with my left hip, kept falling, falling, and watched Jeremy getting closer. I wondered if I was going to collect him, but pulled up 2-3m short. “Hello Jeremy” I said cordially from a short distance, inconceivable a moment before. I batmanned up the rope to my high point, placed another RP then cam hook, and reached secure placements above.
The top section was thinner than I expected, some 2 & 3 RPs and cam hooks, but eventually I reached the belay and secured the rope. Jeremy yelled up to place the next placement for him, so I looked around but found nothing decent, eventually placing a bomber cam hook just above the belay. Jeremy followed, cleaning then took over the lead for pitch 3. I was relieved to see the water bladder in the top the haul bag when it arrived, but curiously it was empty. Thirsty, Jeremy? No, turns out the hose had come off the bladder and dumped 3 litres of our precious 9 litres into the haul bag. Erk.
Silly sweaty selfie with Jeremy cleaning pitch 2.
Pitch 3 took a while. He baulked at the cam hook, but was quite stressed about the small cam he placed instead. The bulges are awkward, but he eventually prevailed. We were on Big Grassy behind schedule, but still with plenty of daylight.
Jeremy not impressed with my camhook placement.
I could have been lazy and hung around, but success on big walls requires work, so I launched off on pitch 4. Easy but wet aiding led to some free moves and some worrying placements that weren’t going to take an outwards pull. I backed them up, reached a dodgy pin, and kept going up to the roof on small cams and a creaking cam hook to some cams in the crack above. It was nearly dark and I couldn’t see the belay bolts in the corner above, so I lowered off to the ledge to share an evening meal. Tuna wraps and baked beans with shiraz, followed by chocolate puddings. Yum.
We were on schedule, more or less, with the stars above and a fine day predicted for the morning. What could go wrong?
Act Five – the Retreat
I woke up at 5am due to droplets falling on my face. What? It must be a passing shower. Jeremy didn’t stir, so I lay there for a few moments, but the droplets started getting more insistent, so I went looking for my head torch.
Fortunately we’d brought my trusty green tent fly that has endured many an expedition, mainly as a tarp for the rope. I was lying on it, but pulled it out and started arranging it above us. Jeremy had awoken and helped put the makeshift shelter together. I found some cord in my pocket and stretched the bottom out to tie it to the Big Grassy Tree, then went back to sleep. Surely this was just a passing shower.
Unfortunately the rain picked up, and the tarp just served as a funnel into the edge of my hammock. So I woke up about 45 minutes later in a puddle. Whoever said ‘synthetic bags are warm when wet’ clearly hasn’t laid in one. I was sodden, getting cold, and bored. The rain was continuous and we clearly weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We checked the weather radar, still incredulous that “26 and sunny” had turned into a downpour. But there was no relief in sight.
Me, not enjoying a Sunday morning sleep-in.
About 10am we decided we’d had enough. In any case, I was as wet as I was going to get. I got up, wrung about 2 cupfuls of water out of my sleeping bag, and packed. I had to jumar up and clean the 4th pitch first, lowering off a bolt, then we made preparations to rap off. Yet again, I was going to have to walk out the South Side.
A sopping wet Jeremy at the base of the gorge.
The upwards journey was a struggle as always but we made reasonable time and were at the car only about 4 hours after getting out of bed. For an epic, really, it was mild. We even made it to the bakery at Myrtleford for a late lunch.
The North Wall and Angels Buttress with a clearing storm.
1. Cam hooks are awesome, even if Jeremy doesn’t think so.
2. Always take a tarp.
3. Don’t trust the frickin’ weather bureau
4. Big walls can be fun, if you wait long enough afterwards before thinking about it.
Seems to be a few people doing Ozy recently, so I'm loving the trip reports (ours is coming soon, I promise).
Cam hooks are definitely awesome, I seem to remember starting the third pitch with a hook straight off the belay also, so it's great to hear I'm not the only one!
Awesome TR. You make getting rained off sound kinda fun...
That haul bag is huge! Did Jeremy use it to bivvy in?
Nice trip report, having been rained off the Nth Wall once before i understand the pain of the walk out in the rain.
Hopefully you guys can go back for another shot
Bugger about the rain gfdonc, but a great trip report nevertheless!
... and thanks for posting it.
My mates and I once got rained off Ozy, and needed a tyrolean to get across Crystal Brook so we could re-ascend the south side...
I have also been beaten off Lord Gumtree during a heatwave with 38 degree night-time temperatures. I allowed myself 3 litres of water per day, but after going through 9 litres on the second day, decided discretion was the better part of valour...
~> Keep going, you will get the trifecta of repulses yet!
Isn't a trifecta first and second?
If so I've had them already.
Actually that's my third time up the South Side. The last effort is still online here: http://www.chockstone.org/Forum/Forum.asp?Action=Display&ForumID=2&MessageID=1374&Replies=22
Crystal Brook was clearly up but easy to cross.
On 3/04/2014 gfdonc wrote:
>Isn't a trifecta first and second?
>If so I've had them already.
>Actually that's my third time up the South Side. The last effort is still
>online here: http://www.chockstone.org/Forum/Forum.asp?Action=Display&ForumID=2&MessageID=
>Crystal Brook was clearly up but easy to cross.
I would have thought the "tri" bit was the hint ...
Quinella is first two.
Awesome work! Great trip report. Thanks for sharing your adventure!
Nice. Given how wet u got it is worth remembering u can climb ozy in pouring rain. Not the most fun u will ever have granted.
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