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TR: I finally went to Mt Arapiles

6:45:46 PM
(This is going to be bare compared to some of these great recent TRs sorry. I'm not a camera guy but I'll try and add some photos as I get them!)

Let me tell you something funny - until this trip I'd never been to Mount Arapiles. For someone who's been climbing for four years in Australia this is a bit silly. It got to the point where I was saying half joking that I planned to climb at every other area in Australia first, just so I could really appreciate how good it was.

I've climbed at less popular places such as the Wolgan, Point Perpendicular, Mount Buffalo (twice?!), the Hunter, Mittagong, Armidale (also twice!?), SW Tassie, the Wollondilly (no-one even knows where that is), and also the freaking Alps (including Cresciano and a go at a 4000er). I've bolted sport routes and done ground up trad first ascents (not nude though, that's one to add to the list)

I was sure it was great and an important place, but to be honest, it didn't really seem like my scene. Plus it was such a long way away. I guess I just figured I'd end up there eventually so there was no point going out of my way.

We were at the end of a really great wilderness kayaking trip down the lower Snowy River, from McKillop's Bridge to Buchan. The sort of trip that afterwards leaves you making little paddle motions in the air with glazed eyes at the service station, as you recall the endless gorges and rock races and waves and the mist over the river in the morning. We drove down out of the high country, and the others were continuing on to Arapiles. In the end I didn't really want to leave everyone behind, and so we drove on to Melbourne and started west. I was about to end up there at last.

The Wimmera is really flat. Proper gunbarrel highway country. I think I counted one stretch with like 20km and one slight bend. Sometimes you flick the highbeams off for an oncoming car and you're staring at them for another ten minutes. Or you think you're going at an easy pace, until you hit a bump and then you look at the speedo. The last stretch from Horsham seemed to take forever. It did take a little time actually, as Niels' roof racks were starting to collapse with all the kayaks. Yes, we were the people with all the out of place kayaks in the Pines.

In the end I got about 4 easy days of climbing done. The list was

Tiptoe Ridge (at night as soon as we got there)
The Bard (historic)
Little Thor (flash, with James' gear placed ground up from his excellent onsight attempt. Gnarly)
Necrophiliac (apparently hard if you can't jam. I can, so it was straightforward)
Wizard Of Ice (second...not clean. A masterclass in thrutch).
Mari (real rock star climbing)
Cunrack (could have been worse)
Trapeze (good)
Kaiser-Resignation link up (excellent journey)
Agamemnon (actually way better than I expected - what a chimney!)
Collision Course (second clean. I had a serious amount of fun climbing this)

I'll tell the full Tiptoe Ridge story because it's the funniest. I haven't had my butt kicked so hard by a low grade climb since Hocus Pocus at Piddington.

We got there with not much light left, and by the time James, Jared, Pok, and I are ready to go do Tiptoe Ridge it's dark. The first thing we do is get lost, lose all the trails and bush-bash clear from the Pines to past the Watchtower before turning around and finally finding the base of the route. It took like an hour and was horrendous. I'm not joking about the bush bashing. Welcome to Arapiles! James was muttering "Drunk people do this. High people do this. Why are we having so much trouble?!"

Finally we found the climb and I roped up with Pok to simul climb (although we ended up pitching it out somehow). After all that's been said about Araps I was basically expecting to spontaneously orgasm the moment I touched the rock. This didn't happen. By headlamp it was just this smooth hard granite like blobby stuff. It also turned rough and juggy in places and actually it most reminded me of Point Perpendicular. Except melted slightly and baked, which is exactly what it is apparently, as a metamorphosed sea-cliff.

Did I mention this was Jared's first multi-pitch? We climbed upwards, slowly and in an increasing clusterf---. The pinnacle was interesting, you could actually feel the exposure somehow, even in the dark. Maybe it's the air.

After abseiling off the pinnacle, I led up the final face with vague directions ("Head leftish. There's like a ramp. Or blocky steps. Actually mostly up. Just follow the easiest line. Maybe it goes right")and immediately started getting off route. I could see about 3m with the headlamp and had no idea where I was the entire time. The rope drag got really bad, so I slung a bollard in a little alcove and belayed.

After than I climbed up and left, slung a sad little jug, and then ran it out for a long way up something which was WAY harder than grade 6. The classic easy safe Arapiles climb, I am not experiencing it.

We also managed to leave behind my yellow Totem cam somewhere up there between Tiptoe Ridge and the Green Singer. No-one in our group found it on Tiptoe Ridge the next day, and no-one in the Pines ever did own up to grabbing it, so in the end I guess it was an offering to the Mount and if you do have it then good for you.

We got to the top and down the descent track and met some excellent friends who had come looking for us. Apparently it was 11pm and everyone had gone to bed. So much for the Pines nightlife!

I'll just go over my impressions of the rest of the trip. I was in a bad mood at first. I was swearing a lot, felt I had no control or direction in life, was stuck at this sad collection of flyblown pinnacles in the middle of nowhere, and unimpressed with our camp in the Pines. I was dirty, my stuff was dirty, the cutlery was dirty, there was trash strewn around, I kept running into slacklines, and worst of all there were climbers everwhere. The leper colony/religious cult quote in the guidebook seemed accurate.

Me and James went and climbed the Bard. It was good. Even from the Pines, I wasn't particularly impressed by the size of the cliffs, but once on them the exposure was there. It turns out the place is really quite big. Actually, setting off on the third pitch I remember thinking "Damn, if this is a 12, I'm not sure I wanna know about the 21s!". It was quite a shock to realise that the Victorians actually do sandbag harder than we do after all.

I was stoked at first that everyone was climbing trad, from the older couples strolling around, to the kids discussing tiny wires. However I soon found that Victoria has, if anything, a higher population of numpties than NSW. It's just that they do worrying sketchy things on grade 10 trad climbs instead of on grade 18 sport routes. On the other hand there was a young guy attempting Undertaker while we were at Castle Crag. It was almost like being back at the Glen with teenagers power-dogging chalked 25s. I was sad to see the famous graffiti has been so badly removed leaving a huge scar.

One of the things that really started bugging me around camp was people saying "You should get on X". I was ready to headbutt the next person who recommended me a route. One in particular was Lamplighter. I really did want to get on Lamplighter, but I couldn't find a partner.

The rock was obviously quite bomber on the starred climbs. Every time I yarded on or placed a wire behind a big flake or jug I could feel my hard won choss skills slipping away. Some of the gear on e.g. Collision Course was just silly, on real "living" sandstone you would have ripped half the cliff off and killed everyone queuing for Agamemnon.

It was funny how much bird poo and black scunge there was on some 3 star routes. The rock was quite smooth, a change from flesh eating Blueys ironstone and granite. I wasn't even bleeding after Wizard Of Ice which was great.

It's interesting that although everything is so close to camp and accessible (even three pitches up on Tiger Wall you can have conversations with boulderers lounging the base) you can still have some adventure, miss the descent and get caught in the dark. It's too easy to set off on a multi-pitch at 2pm and waste ages building belays. If you don't return in the evening, someone just drives up the summit road and yells at every set of headlamps until they get a reply. A great place to have some practice epics really.

I was surprised that when I did Kaiser-Resignation with Luke that it was the hardest thing he'd climbed all week by a little way. Where was the gung ho Blue Mountains lad, that persuaded me to embark on a new 5 pitch grade 20 as one of my first multi pitches? I guess it's easy to get into day after day of jug hauling. Actually, he did sneer at me a little when I went to clip in to the chains on Alis, before down-soloing at a very rapid pace, so I guess he still has it.

The crazy gesture of the week goes to Tom Morris, who carried his grandfather's 200 year old bagpipes up the Bard at dawn to play them from the Bluffs last saturday. He's climbing pretty darn well for a canyoner.

James and Bjorn were going to get up super early on the last day to finish Kachoong. "Why so early?" I asked, seeing as he is a known sleeper-in. "You didn't leave gear on it did you?". "Ha ha of course not" he loudly exclaimed, before looking around, leaning in and whispering "Uh just quietly, yes". They got it back, James flashed it and got his obligatory photo at dawn.

James claimed we wouldn't have to queue as long as we climbed over grade 16. This was true. And everything in the 18-23 range looked bananas good. The only concession I made for my "no waiting in queues" rule was to climb Cunrack while waiting for Trapeze to be free on Castle Crag.

The group who was on Trapeze actually included the celebrity of the hour, Mr Failed The Squeeze Test, who I know as a regular at The Ledge gym in Sydney. He'd come straight back to Araps to do more climbing, now with a big set of bruises. I was surprised at the number of people who were there that I knew, and who I got to climb with. It was all quite fun and stimulating in the end. I think everyone wanted to stay another week.

I could go another week actually. Or month. Even a season...eventually it definitely did feel like the rock was alive and drawing me in. Just one more great pitch to do. It's unreal out there - literally unreal, like climbing in a dream. And it's hard to return to reality.
8:59:20 PM
It's great to read a newcomer's perspective to remind me how great Arapiles is, sometimes I realise I take it for granted a little.

Listening to the pipes being played from the top of Bard Buttress was very special, as a bagpipe lover and at the time just pulling through the crux moves on Iphigenia, I was truly moved. It was just disappointing he only played one tune!

10:06:44 PM
On 29/04/2014 Justcameron wrote:
>Listening to the pipes being played from the top of Bard Buttress was
>very special, as a bagpipe lover and at the time just pulling through the
>crux moves on Iphigenia, I was truly moved. It was just disappointing he
>only played one tune!

Its things like these that make Araps really special. I had the same experience on the last night of the nati fringe last year when the opera singer performed from the top of the plaque with her shadow stretched across Bard buttress and the bluffs. It was unbelievably surreal.

Thanks for the TR, I'm glad you had a good time and got to experience the magic of Arapiles! Its an addictive place.
11:36:37 PM
Entertaining TR.

9:11:33 AM
Great report...

9:38:09 AM
Yeah...this was a good read. Were you hangin with the mob who got stuck in Mr Chicken by chance? (Beck is the only one I can remember by name as we spent almost an hour on the last belay of Watchtower Crack together.) Wondered how the rest of their trip went?

12:30:08 PM
On 1/05/2014 shortman wrote:
>Yeah...this was a good read. Were you hangin with the mob who got stuck
>in Mr Chicken by chance? (Beck is the only one I can remember by name as
>we spent almost an hour on the last belay of Watchtower Crack together.)
>Wondered how the rest of their trip went?

I think that was the Newcastle uni group we were camped with! I heard Nick and Pok (aka misterpok, who was on our Tiptoe Ridge adventure) had to retreat and climb Watchtower Chimney with a total rack of three cams. "We may as well solo, I don't want to live anymore anyway"

12:37:46 PM
Here is Jame's obligatory Kachoong photo, which I thought was pretty good as far as they go.

12:41:01 PM
I didn't realise that Simey was flying again.

12:56:32 PM
On 1/05/2014 sbm wrote:
>On 1/05/2014 shortman wrote:

>I think that was the Newcastle uni group we were camped with! I heard
>Nick and Pok (aka misterpok, who was on our Tiptoe Ridge adventure) had
>to retreat and climb Watchtower Chimney with a total rack of three cams.
>"We may as well solo, I don't want to live anymore anyway"

Yep, that is them...that last pitch of the Chimney is an easy solo though. Lucky they had the double ropes...made dragging Beck up the last pitch of the crack a bit less complicated, :)

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