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Echo crack

10:14:07 PM
After a recent trip up Samarkand went well Neil and I decided we should get on the other 5 star, grade 25, multipitch trad classic in the mountains- Echo crack. I didnít know much about this except vague recollections of people aiding it. A name with ďcrackĒ in it, and the description in the guide of sustained hand jamming should have had me reconsidering. Well it did- but I figured I could always prussic and I added a Tibloc to my harness. My hand jamming avoidance behaviour has drawn laughter from many climbing partners. I have lay backed up Kaladan. I have monoed up Windjammer, I have crimped up the Rack. I had a bad feeling that a grade 25 hand crack was not going to be so forgiving.

Although we checked the weather we kind of missed the bit about storms, and rain. We stopped at Echo Point in lovely sunny weather only to realise it cost over $4 an hour to park so drove about 500m away and walked back to the Giant Staircase to begin the descent into the valley. We had 3x #2 cams, 3x #3 , 1x #3.5 and 2x #4, singles in smaller sizes and a large hex. A second #1, another #3 and a couple more large hexes would have helped. About 5 bolt plates are needed and wires arenít necessary, or any microcams. Tape hands well.

Walking towards the scenic railway, you can see the crack up through the trees. Leaving the trail we headed up towards it. Rubbish soon appeared. Firstly a golf ball, then beer cans, then beer kegs, shopping trolleys, street signs, chairs, park benches, wheelie bins, icecream placards and bus stops complete with timetable to Katoomba. Is it really that boring to live in Katoomba?

We had decided to do the original route rather than Silent Echo, an alternative start.
Pitch one is a chossy ramble (13) to the base of the corner and my sole contribution to leading for the day. As I pulled above the trees the lovely hot blue day had turned into thunderheads and rain in the distance.

Pitch 2 (18) was a pleasant crack/ corner with the odd bit of choss and lots of vegetation. It actually climbed quite well and had enough areas dug out to get ample gear. This is where the smaller cams are most useful. There are ringbolts at the top of this pitch so escape could be possible. However a few drops of rain did not deter Neil, though he may have had second thoughts a few minutes later as he tried to establish himself in the crack on Pitch 3 (25).

The lower section below the crack was seeping and ferns were obscuring some of the holds. A fixed wire at the base of the crack didnít look good on close scrutiny and pulling into the crack was tricky and made much worse by the damp ooze that marred much of this pitch. A bit of sitting on gear after a heroic effort (mainly because he thought the placement was going to blow) and then shuffling the #1 and yellow link cam for 5 metres with associated moaning and whimpering suddenly saw Neil high enough to use some of our ample #3s and #4s he finished the rest of the pitch in style, wishing he had even more large cams as he ran out the last 8 metres to the belay (carrots). The degree of overhang was evident as our little haul bag for shoes and water swung out into space.

Shortly after I did a good imitation of the haul bag. After removing the first 2 cams and before getting into the crack I greased off and with rope stretch ended up nearly at the ledge. Keeping up the swing I regained tenuous contact, then repeated the process about 5 times. Eventually I managed to stick a cam back in and aid up only to slip off again. A four letter expletive may have sounded more like ďslackĒ at the belay and I found myself getting lowered. Iím not sure how many kiddies were at Echo Point or what their parents said about the echoing swear words. However I had now given up on climbing and lunged for the next cam and then fixed wire and at least managed to pull into the crack. Did I mention I donít like jamming? I lay back the next 5 metres and then morphed into Vanessa cam hand. With a #3 in my right hand I made good progress. A bit more air time was had after an old sling that Neil had clipped popped off. This may have made good viewing for the tourists, but by now the cloud was rising up from the valley and we were engulfed in white.

Tired from my aerial efforts, demoralised about my poor crack technique and with loud thunder claps around us I surrendered my planned lead as I could see a slow and protracted struggle. Neil did a lovely job on the top pitch (22), again shuffling cams around and pulling some moves around wet and slimy bands of vegetation. This pitch was really good, involving major stemming and invoking major calf pump. Very rusty carrots and an anchor circa 1965 completed the awesome climb.
A bit of a vegetation bash on a ledge, we got to the footpath just as it started to rain. Visibility was about 20 metres at this stage and taking a wrong turn, we completed the climb by mantling over the fence right into the tourist enclosure. For some reason it was fairly deserted.

Good fun all round.
Maybe wait for a prolonged dry spell.
I am sure Neil can add some photos and further advice....

10:28:22 PM
Nice work. Well done for getting up it regardless. I'm sure you can develop your crack technique on some easier things, vanessa. Ever heard of Mt Piddington? :-P
With joseph, eternity, carthaginian and my favourite climb psychopath, you'll be breezing up cracks in no time!!! (assuming you use those leads to learn to jam :-P)

5:53:34 AM
"Vanessa cam hand" - love it!

Thank you for your report.

7:12:15 AM
Yeah I was wondering how you were going in yesterday bogus weather. Very keen to try in one day sounds good fun. Pity about the wet seep spots.
Any plans for carrot replacement?

7:52:18 AM
book yerself a trip to Indian Creek and you'll come back a crack goddess!

10:32:01 AM
On 5/12/2011 superstu wrote:
>book yerself a trip to Indian Creek and you'll come back a crack goddess!

All that does is make you a bloody whimpering mess.

10:42:58 AM
Cool scars though...

p.s. when ya back home? we have all your guidebooks gracing our kitchen table. some are a little dog eared tho.
10:49:37 AM
Hey Ben, didn't you and Lee do this at night with home made wooden chocks!? Badass!!! :)

11:13:43 AM
On 5/12/2011 marky wrote:
>Hey Ben, didn't you and Lee do this at night with home made wooden chocks!?
>Badass!!! :)

I think your talking to the wrong Ben, mate.

Also, I'm pretty sure Lee C did that with Andy Richardson and Lawry Dermody.

Definitely "Badass!!!" though, especially given Lee and Andy where climbing barefoot.

12:34:29 PM
And the photos...

The line from below

The base of the route is littered with rubbish that tourists have thrown from the lookout. This bus sign was speared into the ground.

Evidence of Wetwideanslipperys previous ascent

A shopping trolly would hurt if it hit your head. Lucky Vanessa was wearing a helmet.

Bizarre construction built out of scrap wood at the base of the route. The ice creams had sold out.

Actual climbing photos to come shortly....
12:37:25 PM
Awesome read Vanessa.

Have always been super keen to do this route!

12:47:21 PM
Eternity and Psychopath were fine. I'm lining up a visit to Ben Lomond for my next spanking.
Ademmert- I'm sure Neil will love to do it again via the direct start when you are next up this way...
12:48:45 PM
doesn't really look much different to how it was when we tried aiding it a few years ago (around 2007?). Only thing is that now there appear to be more trolleys than last time, and i reckon a few less ice creams in the freezer...
1:42:45 PM
On 5/12/2011 superstu wrote:
>Cool scars though...
>p.s. when ya back home? we have all your guidebooks gracing our kitchen
>table. some are a little dog eared tho.

We are back home as of a few days ago. Turns out 9 months of climbing overseas does shit all for your climbing ability back home. Who would have thought

7:12:12 PM

Pitch 1 - totally awesome grade 13 choss.

More novelty junk thrown from above - this sign was one pitch up the route!

Crux Pitch 3 - the leaning corner crack.

Every hand/fist cam we owned - still wasn't enough.

Look at the storm coming!

More pics tomorrow...

2:48:16 PM

Vanessa on a rare free move on the marathon jam crack of pitch 3 (the crux). Even with four or five fist sized pieces I felt very undergunned in the protection department.

Don't worry Vanessa - only another 40m of jamming to go!

Awesome 1960s era bolts on the top of the last pitch. These should be put on the National Trust register... i hope no one ever removes them!


And then the fog rolled in. Vanessa sliming up the end of the last pitch.

And then the rain started. Yummy wet crimps.

3pm on a sunday. For some reason there were no tourists at the Three Sisters lookout. We couldn't find anything not bolted down to throw off in celebration.

3:37:09 PM
Oh I have been so hungry for some photos of this beast. Does your photo of pitch 3 show the ring bolt on the off the belay crux??

4:08:03 PM
On 6/12/2011 benjenga wrote:
>Oh I have been so hungry for some photos of this beast. Does your photo
>of pitch 3 show the ring bolt on the off the belay crux??

No, those ringbolts are a Duncan Hunter project that starts about 5m right of Echo Crack.
12:57:48 PM
date 5 December 2011

To whom it may concern,

the main Australian rock-climbing website has a trip report today, complete with photos, of rubbish accumulated at the base of Queen Elizabeth lookout (I think this is the area). This includes several shopping trolleys, a bus-stop sign and wheelie-bins and beer kegs.
Can anything be done to get this stuff helicoptered/winched out of the Jamison Valley adjacent to the Katoomba cliffs?

Could I also suggest ideas such as;
- council having a new standard of longer pole length burial and triple the amount of concrete used when erecting bus stops
- fining hotels for leaving beer kegs unsecured. I imagine individual kegs would have to be encoded/tagged with serial numbers, so they may be then traced.
- pushing for significantly increased penalties for vandalism + name-and-shame

With thanks, etc


Just took a call from BMCC Community and Corporate Team to thank me at length for the email and ideas. I had to remind them that tourists probably can't see this stuff Vanessa and Neil encountered due the rainforest trees.
They said they would get someone down there soon, and also rock-climbing is not discouraged by council, but the 'track' directly below the cliff is currently off limits - others have applied for permission recently (for a certain something that council were not allowed to tell me [not that I asked]), and it was denied.
The land is jointly managed by BMCC and NPWS/Office of Environment and Heritage.

1:13:38 PM
On 6/12/2011 nmonteith wrote:
>Awesome 1960s era bolts on the top of the last pitch. These should be put on the National Trust register... i hope no one ever removes them!

~> You are aging now nm(?), as I see that you are starting to appreciate our climbing history!

I enjoyed reading more about this adventure climb vw, and the pics were great (along with the humour) nm. Thanks both for posting.

I was also rather stunned by the amount of touron rubbish at the base, so it is great to see pro-active action (indicated by Wollemi post), being taken to remove it.

Not as bad in scale, but there is similar at many popular tourist destination cliffs. My efforts at removing rubbish in a plastic bag don't cut it, when it comes to old railings etc at the base of sections of the gorge at Buffalo!

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There are 23 messages in this topic.


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