A quick play on the Rings

For the first time in five years I have time to myself. At first the thought of unleashing myself on myself was rather disturbing, not knowing if myself could handle myself all alone, all at once. It wasn’t that hard (or bad) in the end, manners were on high alert and constantly engaged. Where is this coming from? Quite simply I (yes I, alone, implying no Coco and no Simon) had packed my bag and joined Will Currie on a trip to Mount Arapiles at the end of November – usually one of the hotter months. Was I crazy? I guess that depends on what one views as being the objective. When this impromptu trip surfaced I was eager to get away, anywhere, and my family supported me, and so I left quick smart before they changed their minds. Arapiles looked like the easiest and quickest escape so off we went.

Gradually, as I got farther and farther away from home my heart sank deeper with the knowledge that I couldn’t just rush home and give my Coco bunny a kiss and a cuddle. I called her late in the afternoon of day one. No tears there from her just a casual, Where are you? I miss you. When are you coming home? My body held the tension of holding my heart in my hand all that day and the days that followed. A few days into the trip I was exhausted physically; by trying really, really hard on my project, and mentally from trying to convince myself that it was ok to relax.

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I was working on Lord of the Rings (31), a route that I had tried back in 2006 for two days then again last year during a heat wave of 40+ degree temps, it went well…perhaps not, but I thought I could do all of the individual moves. To clarify that’s on top rope, off the dog, not linking a single move, but it was a start and I always had the hots for this line. So I was excited to try this route and see if I could progress things somewhat.

I was battling a barrage of mixed emotions. I felt incredibly guilty not having the task of chasing Coco around dealing with her day-to-day requirements, having left that all to Simon. Was he coping? Was she coping with him? I know I was not coping with the luxury of time and my new found freedom.  Nor was my body coping with climbing. Climbing anything was hard, I was tired, my elbow hurt, my bicep hurt, my body had shut down. I recognised what was happening, rather than beating myself up I gave in to doing nothing, and waiting for it to come back on board.

Encouragingly, each time I called home I was reassured that, “all was quiet on the home front” and gradually I was able to chillax.

At last the day came when things just clicked together. It was my first attempt at leading the route and conditions were good. Sporadic, but good. I got through the lower crux (which had been giving me grief) and just kept going… … snatch left edge, right toe up, right hand cross-over to credit card crimp, plant left toe, rock-over to high side-pull, right toe to edge, tension and snatch to right side-pull, drop down and cross left foot under to pocket, left hand snatch… And it was going great until it came time to clip; clearly that needed more work. But I was ecstatic, I had overcome a huge hurdle. I was on lead and I wasn’t scared and I got so much further than I thought possible. It was a good outcome. I’m sure it can go down and I’m psyched to return.

I had also come to realise that not every move had to be perfect. Sometimes just doing the moves and staying on the rock was enough, just to keep on going seemed to work, little hand or foot adjustments could be made on the run, this was something I thought would not be possible on this route.

So I returned home grateful for the break and overjoyed to see my family again.

Posted in Trip reports

Taipan Squeeling

For the last two months I have done diddly squat as far as climbing goes, my efforts in WA were enough to see to that, pulling up just short of rupturing my finger tendon. Not to let a sleeping dog lie I decided to do a weights hypertrophy program to bulk up a bit. I achieved my goal, some even commented so, but unfortunately, in the process, I managed to develop tennis elbow, go figure I don’t even play, but it rendered me as useless as wilted lettuce.

So now I find myself in the Grampians. Hallelujah! Climbing on the magnificent Taipan Wall. Hallelujah! Apart from a brief interlude two years back I haven’t clocked any time on Taipan since I did Serpentine 10 years ago.

Simon had a gig with prAna to shoot Chris Sharma, with a camera of course, so off we went.

Let’s say Taipan is not the easiest place to “get back into climbing” but it sure makes it inspiring to “get back into climbing”. After some slapping around a bit in the middle of the wall my attention focused on the left flank, and zoomed in on Daedelus (28, cough, sandbag). It’s a route that’s been on my radar for a while, I can thank Simon for that, but his photos can sometimes make things look amazing despite the sandbag. My radar sometimes has some fun with me, it picks up on aesthetics but neglects to pass on some finer details such as loooong run-outs and rusty old bolts. My brain should have registered the bright flashing lights and the alarm bells sounding, “Danger, Will Robinson!”, and have done a runner, but it did not.

So nervously I gave it a crack. Did I mention the loooong run-outs? I don’t normally mind run-outs, in fact I kinda like them, they keep me focussed, but these are beyond ridiculous – quite unnecessarily dangerous. Despite these extra challenges the climbing is rewarding, rewarding enough to keep my scared little mind from talking itself out of trying it again and again. After finally figuring out what I needed to do on the thin crux I was out time and skin, my tips were soggy. I’ll have to puff out my chest and grow some skin if I want to get back on that pony some day?

Daedalus.

Daedalus.

Sometimes getting the “tick” is not what matters. I realised that I had gotten everything I wanted from working this route and ticking it really wasn’t important. Mentally and physically I had succeeded. Even though this route may not have been at my limit, dealing with the stressful run-outs and managing to trust my ability after a long break meant I was psyched again to be climbing, just climbing anything was awesome but being on Taipan made it special.

Clocking up some miles with HB at Muline. The route is the stellar 45m Central Latitudes (30).

Clocking up some miles with HB at Muline. The route is the stellar 45m Central Latitudes (30).

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Posted in Trip reports

Kalbarri Gold

Kalbarri Gorge is unworldly. Imagine slicing through the pristine air, a slit from head to foot, just enough to squeeze through to the other side, into a moment from the past, as you enter the gorge the brick red cliffs, the serpentining river and the cobalt sky do their wonderful reveal, your breath leaves you and your skin tightens as goose bumps rise. The only other place that has had such an impact on me was The Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and if you have been there you’ll know what I mean. Just being in the gorge is a privilege, a glimpse of something very special, a place that hasn’t changed for ages, except for a few chalked up holds, here and there.  A feeling of calm washes over you and life as we call it ceases to exist.

Its June already. Its panning out to be yet another one of those years where you vow, “I’m not going to let this one slip by”. But inevitably you find yourself stranded like a humpback whale frolicking in cold seas when the rest of your pod have migrated to warmer climes or climbs as the case may be. Last year, when winter’s icy fingers tightened their grip we escaped north to Queensland, this year we went west, you know just like the song goes…Go west life is peaceful there. We went as far west as we could possibly go before dropping into the Indian Ocean and boy was it peaceful there. Kalbarri is located some 600 kms north of Perth, its where the fishing rods outnumber the postage stamps for sale in the tackle shop come post office, and the local pelicans are obnoxious.

Here at our makeshift HQ; a typical holiday garden villa, with a typical screen door that squealed like a cat caught napping in the engine bay every time it opened and closed. It was here that our numbers doubled. We were joined by our northern comrades; Sam Cujes, Lee Cujes and John (JJ) O’Brien. It was to be a whirlwind three day climbing trip.

Motley Crew

Our mission was simple: to climb as much as possible in Kalbarri Gorge. We focussed on The Promenade – the most condensed climbing area with routes graded 24-29. The days were short and climbing time was precious, like gold, and many things tried to ransack our loot. The closure of the main road into the gorge meant that navigating the sandy 4WD track was tedious and annoying, much like sand in your cossies, but at least we had the place to ourselves.

Nice…Crankshaft (24)

It was a nice hike to get to the crag, a chose-your-own-adventure, negotiating between the upper and lower terraces that hugged the lazily meandering river. You could certainly shave minutes off by stashing your climbing gear at the cliff and if you minus a certain four and a half year old you could easily be done and dusted with your warm-ups in the time saved. In saying that I certainly have to acknowledge the tremendous effort that Coco put in, walking in, and out, of the gorge three days straight. She loved it!

Coco leads the way

On the weekend we were joined by Perth locals Brian Tan, Gesa and Jean-Phillippe Dumas.

Brian Tan on Look at the Bears (26)

Like pent up monkeys in the zoo the comradeship was antagonistic, the antics acrobatic and the energy endless only thwarted by waning daylight hours not lack of wanting. The rock, a fiery fine grained sandstone, which seem to ooze a lifeblood of its own, climbed magnificently well, offering up Mulinesque scoops and open handed madness alongside pinches, pockets and jugs that were bigger than those found in a Bavarian beer hall.

The pace was furious, so much so that by day three my A2 finger pulley was starting to whine. I like wine so I didn’t pay much attention to it and just kept climbing.

Nastly fingery crux on Homophobia (28)

Things came together; JJ, the master of funk managed to unearth undiscovered knee bars to send Root Canal (27) in an unlikely fashion, and I’m not talking about his clothes.

JJ on Root Canal (27)

Sam, stepped up and didn’t let Rattler (22) rattle her stylish cage.

Sam warming up on the route right of Rattler (22)

And Lee, well, he diligently picked his way through every route at The Promenade and sent them all — every single one.

Lee on Homophobia (28)

Meanwhile Simon happily fossicked away climbing and snapping some of the action.  I tried my new X4 Camalots out and went prospecting for some Kalbarri Gold (26) and found plenty. And Coco became a savvy little entrepreneur by selling us back our lunch and climbing kit… thereby collecting all the loot. Mission complete.

Kalbarri Gold (26)

Down at Margaret River (Margs) I ignored my finger further and managed to get a bit more climbing done in between sporadic showers. Just like a Chihuahua with small dog syndrome nipping away at my ankles, the rain and my niggling finger gradually wore me down. I guess we’ll have to come back and bring sunshine… and a less annoying dog.

WOW!

Thank you Rob Crowder for being so generous with your time and assistance. Thank you Anthony Brandis (CAWA) and the many energetic climbers we met along the way. Thanks for making our trip so memorable. Happy climbing…

Posted in News, Trip reports

Paciencia

 

When is enough, enough? Is it wrong to want to push myself further, to explore my limits, to achieve something in my lifetime that I once thought was impossible? Is this wrong? No. I don’t think so. To me it’s a personal quest that I can’t explain. But perhaps you feel it too?

 

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”. Leo Tolstoy

“Venga Monique. Rah! Allez Monique. Rahh! Venga. Rah, Rahh, Rahhhhh!” Not much went through my mind as I fell from the top moves of Mind Control into the crisp evening air. It’s only a split second between ejection and when the boing of the rope takes hold. But memory of this moment was pure and simple, happiness. Not failure, or disappointment, but rather — wow, that was awesome! I was so excited and grateful to have had the opportunity to try something at my utmost limit. And to be climbing this route with utmost conviction was a remarkably rewarding experience for me. But I already knew that I wanted it over again. This was my final day and my final attempt on Mind Control (8c/+, 33/34) in Oliana Spain 2012. That trip I had succeeded on Fish Eye (8c, 33) and with a little time to spare I turned my focus to Mind Control. I spent one day working the route right through to the anchors and then, the very next day, the heavens opened and the top tufa remained wet. Regardless, totally infatuated by the route, I spent what time I had left working the bottom crux section, in preparation, in hope, just in case perhaps a window of opportunity would present, and the tufa would dry before we left. Indeed it did, with two days to go. It came down to the wire, last day, last shot scenario, but it was not to be.

 

Back home, confronting thoughts turned my mind against me. Whilst wishing that I were back in Spain my mind simultaneously concurred that climbing was a self-indulgent pursuit, that added nothing to society, and sucked up incredible amounts of time; time I didn’t necessarily have. The ‘responsible’ side argued for work and the mother in me wondered if a more ‘regular’ routine would be better for Coco. I had to be honest. When was it all going to stop – this climbing caper? How could I justify travelling back to my all-time favourite cliff in the world, when I had climbing available in my backyard? Could I find a balance, or a legitimate reason to return? I was racked with guilt but time dissipated such thoughts and along with a little udge from my friend Will Currie, I returned.

 

So here I am now, back at Oliana. We (Will Currie and I) have been sending and working several lines. Mind Control was initially dry when I arrived. However, I had promised myself that I would use the first weeks getting fit by trying other routes. I stuck to my guns and got some stellar climbing done. One route, Humildes pa’Arriba (8a+, 30), which can be described as the ugly duckling of the three lines that share the Mind Control start, was so enjoyable that it was a pity to do it. Next I tried China Crisis (8b+, 32), a long crimpy face climb, a great route but not exactly what I’d come to Oliana for, as it was somewhat reminiscent of the climbing that I’d get back at home. Very much my style, this route went down quickly.

 

 

Getting some mileage up on China Crisis (8b+).

 

 

Feeling out the moves on Full Equip (8b+) a reachier next door neighbour to China Crisis. Will sent Full Equip when he lost his place in the queue for Fish Eye (8c).

 

 

My bunny testing out her new ‘Croc’ shoes on the start of Mishi (8a).

 

After gaining some fitness I was eager to take my place in the queue for Mind Control, but my plan turned pear shaped. It rained. As I mentioned previously any bit of rain meant the Mind Control tufa would stay wet for a very long time. The weather has been testing me, over and over, with more and more rain, but still I remain unfazed. I am content because I have been trying another route, Humildes pa Casa (8b+, 32). Not just any route but in my opinion (and many would agree) the ‘King line’ of the cliff. Humildes pa Casa is impressive, a real line or more like a channel of bricks laid end to end for 20-meters, cement rendered and stuck to the cliff. Before it gets to the top however it tapers to a fin and incredibly at the same point a left hand tufa becomes available to ride for another 5-meters before the final crux arrives — some 50-meters up. This route has kept me absorbed. My mind is scattered throughout the route, brick pinching, side-pulling, lay-backing madness, with too many moves to remember the unforgiving sequences merge into craziness, a blurrrr…

 

Me practicing my brick-laybacking skills on the lower tufa of Humildes pa Casa (8b+).

 

 

Any way it was yesterday when I got to the top of Humildes that I glanced across at Mind Control and convinced myself that it could be dry, but alas it was not. More rain fell overnight and it won’t be dry again for weeks. Even Humildes pa Casa is wet now, and the reality is that I will not get the chance to finish many projects this trip. Yes it’s disappointing, I am frustrated to feel close to doing these extraordinary routes and then have to have to walk away. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Still it has been a fantastic trip. I tried hard and did a lot of great climbing. I love it here, the energy is contagious, I feel a part of a greater international family here. Can’t wait to see you all again next time!

 

 

The lovely Daila Ojeda gracefully mastering the spectacular line of Mind Control (8c/+) and showing what is possible.

 

 

Coco giving Chris a victory ‘soft punch’ after his send of La Dura Dura (9b+, 38).

 

 

Oliana, not only my favourite cliff, it attracts climbers from near and far.

 

 

PS. Special thanks to my new sponsor Climb On — for their hand creams that I used for breakfast, lunch and dinner and between each burn on this trip. Last year I had up to five fingers taped at any given time due to the splits in my fingers, but this year I had none of those problems. Thanks Climb On!

 

Posted in News, Trip reports

Climb UK cover

My favourite climb, Tom et je Ris gets a little bit more exposure, this time on the cover of UK’s Climb magazine January 2013. In this issue the Editor in Cheif, David Pickford, talks about enticing lines and how they captivate and motivate climbers to strive to achieve their best. This is certainly one of the finest landmark lines that I have ever climbed and it took me on an incredible journey. I hope that you can find your own amazing line.

 

Posted in News

Coco turns four

With what seems like the blink of an eye yet another year has seen us through some fabulous times and travels. Now our sweet darling Coco is four. Its funny how we measure time based on Coco’s age.

Posted in Family

Back to ‘The Mount’

After completing the Queensland guidebook we packed the car to the rafters and headed to ‘The Mount’ (Mount Arapiles) to stay for while. We set up camp in the gums and went climbing…as you do. Araps is flooded with climbing history, it whispers in your ear when you’re climbing, it rustles the leaves in the trees and oozes out of the gullies. I tried some classics, succeeded on some and failed on others…as you do. I felt compelled to get back to the times, get back into lycra. And so I found Gloria who fitted me out with neon tights that I am sure gave me super powers. This idealistic situation lasted for two weeks, long enough for me to send Ethiopia, but as the temps reached the ridiculous we retreated to Natimuk (Nati).

photocrati gallery

Nati is a community in for the long haul, a hive of enthusiasm buzzing to the beat of one drum…positivity, creativity, longevity, sustainability. In Nati if you don’t have solar panels on your roof, water tanks and a vege patch the you’d better hurry to keep up with the Jones’. We stayed with Louise Shepherd and admired all her efforts to live a low impact life. Thanks Louise. The Nati Cafe was our savior from the heat with thank god air-con, coffee infusions and free wi-fi. Friday night at the cafe is the night to catch up with old friends and enjoy a great meal. If your feeling energetic then early Saturday mornings limber up at Marissa’s yoga class or join the pedaling peloton for a ride up the Mount.

All too soon or time was up. But this time I’m not waiting another six years for a return visit. We have already planned some Mount time for next year….hope to see you there!

 

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Posted in Trip reports

Miss Snowwoman

What a beautiful surprise it was to wake up this morning to snow. Not the usual mushy, slushy wet stuff that hardly settles. This time round we were blessed with lots and lots of snow. The type  that goes crunch underfoot. Snow that sticks together and is perfect for building snowman or snowwomen. So that’s what we did. We built our very own Miss Snowwoman.

 

Coco and her new friend little Miss Snowwoman.

 

Posted in Family, News

Happy Jam

Here’s just a quick update on my crack project in the Grose Valley which I talked about previously. After a long spell from the route I finally got back on it two weeks ago. I was very pleased to send the route on my first day back on it and on my first redpoint attempt; the first pitch all on pre-placed gear. I had always intended to do this route in good style, for me that meant placing all gear on lead. And so, last weekend I returned to the crack and that’s exactly what I did; lead the route placing all the gear during my actual ascent. It’s certainly harder this way and definitely more satisfying but the point was to push myself on trad and do something I hadn’t done before.

As I said previously, “It may not present such a hard ‘tick’ to some but for me it was a personal challenge”. In the process of projecting this route I have achieved my goals. I wanted to become a more rounded climber particularly in trad and this was a great start. I needed to get more comfortable placing gear in strenuous positions, trusting these placements and then being prepared to take big whippers on the gear. I ticked all of those boxes, got scared, got scratched up (let’s say that my hand modeling days are over) but thoroughly enjoyed the learning process.

A few months ago, when I did the first ascent of this route (with one fall) I decided to call the route ORANGE JAM. It stands for Orsum Rock And Nice Gear Everywhere Just Ask Michael, but not to be. As for the grade, I think the first pitch (28m) is solid 27 placing gear on lead and the second pitch (36m) is about grade 19. It’s a beautiful route in a stunning location. I wish there were more like it.

Here’s a look at the beautiful crack.

Here’s a photo of the initial rack that I took down to try the route. In the end I used way less gear than this. For anyone wanting to repeat this route it starts in the corner just right of Slipstream (two new lower pitches to Slipstream have been added since the 2010 guidebook). And as you can see, there are many micro cams on my rack and you will require lots of these for the critical placements low down on the route.

 

 

Thank you Climb On for soothing my hands in between attempts.

Posted in News

Julbo

I am very pleased to say that I am now sponsored by Julbo Eyewear thanks to Mont Adventure Equipment the distributors here in Australia. I’ve got to say they are bloody awesome!

The 120-year-old Julbo brand (originating in France) is at the forefront of multi-sport eyewear for all active outdoor pursuits and they have developed a line of  100-percent UV protective sunglasses for children.

Sunglasses for every walk of day-to-day life.

 

 

alagna

Posted in News