The first time I heard about the route Whistling Kite (32), aka ‘The Kite’, located at Frog Buttress in Queensland, was a few years back through Duncan Steel, a local legend from Brisbane, who was working the line at the time and had kept me up to date with his progress. I clearly remember the day that he called to tell me of his success, I could hear the smile in his voice. Five years on I finally find myself at Frog and like Duncan I’m going through the motions of trying this wafer thin face climb. Like a slippery snake it’s hard to get a hold of it and it’s ever harder to keep a hold of it, you are either on, or you are off, there is no in-between. The bulletproof face is dead vertical with very few face holds making the climbing very much on the feet, extremely balancey, and uber technical. The climbing weaves its way up a shallow seam and you climb it by employing thumb presses, side-pulls, laybacks, a knee scum, some finger locks and strangely enough not by jamming it. ‘The Kite’ is predominately protected by natural gear, which is good when you can get it and would be very hard to place on lead. It also has three bolts where no natural pro is available and so the route has only been done with pre-placed gear. The sun hits the face early, 9.30am, shade is your friend, any bit of extra friction counts when using credit card edges.
I had been on the route four days, certainly making progress through the lower and upper sections, but the main crux, midway, still had me baffled. I only wanted to spend one more day on it to see if I could come up with a working sequence. Day five, fresh and with new skin, I went straight to the middle crux and dogged some moves. The night before I had thought of a new possible sequence and so put that to the test. It didn’t work the first time but as I got it sorted something was coming together. By the end of the session, not only had I climbed this crux I was making great linkages on the upper and lower sections. Game on.
Day six, I decided that I had to start leading the beast to sort out the clipping spots and to get my head around the falls. Let’s say it wasn’t my best performance and I only just managed to do all the moves and get to the top, once. My mind was shot but I was positive. It took me four more days of gradually linking more moves, pushing my high point higher, and higher, honing my sequence. Each time I was working out more finite details of body positioning, pull and hold with this arm, release with the other, trusting marginal footers, getting into a rhythm and remembering to breathe. This is definitely the most technical route that I have come across. It was a pleasure to work and very satisfying to unlock. Attempting The Kite chewed up my time and skin for climbing other routes. There are so many really awesome routes at Frog that I can’t wait to get back there next year.