Trip reports

Mind Control

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Here’s what happened the day I sent Mind Control (8c+, 34) at Oliana in Spain.

Before I started up the route I questioned why I was even having another attempt, my first attempt was average to say the least and I felt embarrassed, I felt “so not in the league” to be even trying something so hard. “Open your eyes Monique”, I thought, “look around you, climbers are crushing hard routes without much ado and you’re faffing around on the start of something beyond your ability”. Oliana has become somewhat of a testing ground where climbers come to pitch themselves on hard routes, a place of high hopes, where dreams are made or broken. Oliana makes me feel humble, sometimes too humble and I stop believing in myself. This self-dialogue has got to stop and I’ve got to be positive. I change my mindset and as soon as I tie into the sharp end I am focussed, not for a send, for a training burn just to see just how far I can get. This would at least give me a marker for which to improve on with future attempts. My goal was to make it through the lower crux and make it to the hole, the halfway point of the hard climbing.

My rationale for having another attempt that day was quite simple. The route was free, it usually has a line up at least three people deep, this time however there was no one waiting = no pressure = I could work it as much as I liked. I had no skin but tomorrow was a rest day so there was no point saving it for later, saving it for what? There was no later. The weather forecast said it all, over 30mm of rain was due on the following Tuesday, it was Thursday and this would give me three days of attempts. From previous trips I knew that once the tufa on Mind Control gets wet it stays wet for a very long time. Even on this trip I’ve waited two weeks for it to dry out, so that I could try the route, and today it was totally dry, it wont get any dryer than that. So what are you waiting for Monique? Stop your whining and get on with it.


I picked my way through the lower 7c (27) section and made it to the first rest without problem. I rested for a bit, probably not as long as I would if I were really having a red point attempt. I was grateful that I hadn’t abandoned my t-shirt on the ledge lower down, the breeze had picked up but I was not cold.

With no expectation I set off, it was 30 moves up the ‘runway’ with only two quick shakes to make it to my goal of the day. If I could do that I would be ecstatic, I’ve only made it past the hole one other time. Two days ago I’d reworked my sequence up the second part of the ‘runway’, more moves but higher percentage. I hadn’t linked it yet but I knew it was better than before because I could at least repeat it consistently. In the flow of the moment I somehow managed to make it through the first section up the ‘runway’ and then power screamed my way through to the hole. Yahoooooo! I was so ridiculously pumped and graciously happy at the same time. I’d achieved my goal. I was completely thrilled. Some people had been yelling encouragement to me as I was climbing the last hard section and while I was resting at the hole I remember thinking, “don’t bother watching anymore, I’ll be here for a long time and I’ll most likely fall off the next move”.

I kept going and going and going, I wont bore you with a blow-by-blow detail, even though I’ve already taken enough liberties with that. I never once thought that I would make it to the top, remember this was a training burn and I was pumped beyond belief. I don’t know why I was still “on” the climb. I stuck the upper drive-by move, clawed my way to the next hold, power screamed every time I changed my grip in order to shake, got a little something back, set off again completely pumped, remembered my sequence to stick my left hand on nothing and bunny hop my left foot up, got to the next hold, thought OMGness I am still “on”, just keep climbing, remembered that my right foot goes on that downward sloping piece of rubbish but just go with it anyway, got to the top of the tufa completely blasted, still not entertaining any thought of getting to the top, I was just wondering where I would fall off.

My last draw was meters below me and I only had four more moves to go. With blurred vision and pumped out of my mind and body – I never believed I could feel so blasted and still be climbing, well not climbing actually only just hanging on like velcro to the rock. What happened next was automatic, left hand side pull, left foot back step on tiny tufa thingy, right hand switch to thumb crimp on top of tufa, left hand launch to high pocket, think OMGness I’m still “on”, right foot on tufa, push hard to high right undercling, foot swap through to gain left clipping hold. Clip draw, blink, realise that rope has dropped out of the undersized quickdraw (obviously not BD) because my finger stopped the gate from shutting. Think, “oh shit what do I do now?” Move position. Move position again. Whatever you do don’t panic but go back to original position because the other position isn’t doing it for me. Think, “can I clip it again or do I grab the anchor?” Clip draw again, move finger out of the way so that rope does not get pushed out this time. Scream. Scream. Scream again. Punch the air. Scream. Wahooooooo!

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Days later… I am still on a high.

Thanks so very much to everyone who has supported and believed in me!





Monique Forestier, Mind Contrtol (8c+, 34), Oliana, Spain.



Wild Borneo

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I first visited the island of Borneo in 1999 with a group of Aussies who were developing a new climbing area called Batman Wall just outside of Kuching (Sarawak). Garth Miller and Simon Wilson were among the climbers and Simon Carter had been commissioned to take the photos. Just by chance we bought a memento of our trip, a book of Borneo, Wild Borneo it was called. And in that book we found a mesmerising picture of a massive sweeping orange cliff, on an island, sitting idyllically above rainforest and a beach. We hadn’t told a sole about our discovery until recently, as we vowed, that one day we would find this island and explore it’s climbing potential. So the story begins…

We did some research to discover that the slash of rock is located on Berhala Island, just off the coast of Sandakan on Malaysian Borneo. The potential for climbing there has been described as huge and the cliff is said to be between 150 to 200-metres high.

After fifteen years we are finally here. We being, Simon Carter, Simon Wilson, our good friend from Adelaide who comes armed with a power drill, and myself. To reach the island we hire a local fishing boat for a hefty price (later we negotiate more appropriate rates). As the boat skims over the net barrier, intended to keep the rubbish from washing up on the beach, we come up underneath the monolith and are completely dwarfed by its enormity.

Wow. What a rock. We have finally arrived.

Wow. What a rock. We have finally arrived.

We gaze and stare in wonder and it doesn’t take us long to spot a line, potentially a new route taking an arête to the top. We discuss our options and hiking in to the top and rapping the line would be impossible. There are not many crack features, it’s a fused face, so doing a new route would mean bolting it. And so to access the top of our new line we plan to first climb an existing five-pitch route. We start the following day.

Hot work on pitch 2 of Make it Snappy.

Hot work on pitch 2 of Make it Snappy.

Progress up the route is slow and our feelings of awe are soon squashed as we realise the reason for there being limited development of this place. The rock quality is poor, friable edges, and the sun beats relentlessly on the wall until late afternoon, which we didn’t realise the day before because we got there very late. Even ferrying packs and supplies to the base of the cliff in 30 C, 85 F with 80% humidity is enervating. We persist and make it three pitches up the route, mostly stick clipping our way due to the fragile rock and difficulty in route finding, well I mean ‘hold’ finding. From the anchor of the third pitch Simon (Wilson) begins his mission of tensioning across to gain the arête to bolt the new route that we had spied. After hours of work he concludes that this idea is not a viable one, again due to the soft nature of the rock, with many sections of un-climbable rock penetrating the okay rock.

All is not lost. We spend a rest day visiting several animal sanctuaries around Sandakan.

All is not lost. We spend a rest day visiting several animal sanctuaries around Sandakan.

We return to Berhala to attempt to free climb the existing route. Even with a pre-dawn start our fingers and minds are destroyed after three pitches. We strip our gear and head to the beach to play on the single pitch routes down there.


Make it Snappy pitch 3.

Surprisingly these are good, and fun. Simon (Wilson) decides that there is no point taking his bolts home with him, and so goes on a rebolting mission to replace the eroded bolts.

Simon heading up on his rebolting mission.

Simon heading up on his rebolting mission.


Simon on a 7b+ or thereabouts with a super bouldery start.

Monique, testing a newly rebolted route (7b).

Monique, testing a newly rebolted route (7b).

It may not have been a successful climbing trip in terms of establishing a new route or getting up an existing one but it was a true adventure and a long awaited dream come true. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.


Patiencia cont…

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Arriving in Spain was like jumping into an icy plunge pool straight from the Simpson Desert, literally. I had escaped the sweltering heat of the Blue Mountains to winter in Spain, with my friend Will Currie, hoping that the fitness I had acquired on Tiger Cat (8c) would translate to fitness at Oliana, and maybe, just maybe put me in the league to give Mind Control (8c/+) a real good go. The first climbing day was stellar. Mind Control was as dry as a bone and as I clipped the anchors and lowered, a grin spread from ear to ear, I loved this place and I felt privileged that I was able to be here. Overnight rain fell, a lot, perhaps even enough that would see the route wet for the remainder of my short trip.


stocking up … mmm

Even so, I was optimistic that it would dry (fingers crossed) in time for me to try the top ten or so metres of climbing to the anchors again. But realistically the only thing that happened in the first week was that I got a huge kick in the pants, as Will says,” got my ass handed to me on a plate”, once again. What I had neglected to acknowledge was that my fitness on Tiger Cat (35m) only translated to pretty much half way on Mind Control (55m). I was fit, but not that fit, and so I had a lot of work to do.

The problem being after a week or so more rain had fallen, again making the route only workable to half height. What to do? Should I keep trying this route in the hope that my patience (or stubbornness) would pay off? Or should I look for another project? Even though I was already half way through my trip I decided that getting a high point on the route was worth it, anything else would be just giving in. In the meantime Will was progressing nicely on Fish Eye (8c), almost getting through the lower crux on several occasions, if he got through that he was surely going to send.

And there was plenty of sendage every other which way you turned. Every second day a new team would arrive, we already had team USA stationed here for two months, ticking left, right and centre. The usual Spanish locals and international regulars, Barbara Raudner and Hannes, which I now call friends, are always a comfort to see. Team UK, two young lads came and went in a matter of three days, vowing to return in a month. Then team Austria arrived, Barbara Zangerl (if you are not familiar with her, she is the first lady to complete the alpine trilogy last year) and her not so sloppy other half Jacopo Larcher. I couldn’t trip over myself quick enough to congratulate her on her achievements. Needless to say they quickly despatched everything they touched. Daila Ojeda and Colette McInerney paid us a flying visit. Ramon Julian Publique rolled in one day with his younger brother and effortlessly onsighted Fish Eye (8c), worked a 9b+ then polished off another 8b for dessert. All in a day’s work really. I guess that is one of the reasons I love coming here. Being a teeny weeny fish in such a huge ocean is incredibly inspiring (and grounding) to watch such athletes do their thing without pomp and ceremony.

After another spell of rain I questioned my thinking once again, new project or stick with the one that blows my mind away? Encouragingly when we arrived at the cliff the next morning the damage was not as shocking as I would’ve expected, considering the fallout from the other downpours. I was excited in the hope that I could at least just try the route again in its entirety, be it, perhaps, only on the last day of the trip.

So I went for it. My prediction was almost right. The route did dry but not completely. I had been pacing myself so that my last two days of climbing would coincide with the best weather, that being the last day of the trip. Send day came and went with mixed effects. I can happily say that Will sent Fish Eye (8c) that day. A huge congratulations to him, he worked so hard and finally it paid off. As for me, well it was definitely my worst day of the trip. I guess I had realised that the route would not be dry enough for me to even try let alone send and I was disappointed that my fitness had eluded me, I was getting weaker and further away from where I hoped I would be. I guess that’s the result when you are only working half a route, be it a long one. I’m not one of these super elite climbers just a 41 year old having a hack. I didn’t send but I wouldn’t swap the experience. I was in Spain giving it a go, living my climbing dreams and having fun in the process. I guess it will have to wait till next time … if there is to be a next time?


our favourite detour … oh so yummy


goodbye Spain … until next time?

A quick play on the Rings

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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.


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.

Taipan Squealing

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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?



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).



Kalbarri Gold

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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.


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…


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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!


Back to ‘The Mount’

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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!

Queensland all wrapped up

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Our Queensland trip got extended a bit… things changed, we loved exploring a new place without the long haul flight. Here’s a roundup, don’t mind my blabbering.

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At Frog we found bombproof rhyolite crack lines divine

Stuff any body part, or gear in them, and you will be fine

Down your eyes as you push through grass trees

If someone yells ‘ROCK’ run for cover, put your head between your knees


A little further north, The Glasshouse Mountains we found

Celestial and Clemency walls had it all, multi-pitch trad routes abound

They are on Mt Tibrogargan, Tibro for short

Whilst you are there do visit the caves and Slider, if you seek sport


Just up from the beach, Mt Coolum sits proud

Here knee bars, butt scums and body tetris is the way around

You’ll either love it or hate it, I had a ball

Be sure to savour Screaming Insanity, Wholly Calamity, Spoonman, Chevy and The Call


Up, up, further north to Brooyar we went

there Coco Pops, The Great Devoid, Little Wednesday were sent

The  sandstone is coarse, gritty at best

Toby Saunders rates the Black Stump and Eagles Nest


Whilst at Cooroora we ogled at rubble brought down by the rain

We sampled two routes, a lichenous slab, an airy arête, both awesomely insane


Up the road from Cooroy, round the back of beyond, just near JJ’s freehold

Poignantly sits, Mt Tinbeerwah, slabs kitted with rap stations and bolts, I am told


Last there is Serpent a trudge up the hill

Be sure to climb Minotaur (17) a crag classic if you will

Do turn around to savour the scenery

Susy G says watch out for snakes that hide in the greenery


Then we were gone….Goodbye to Sir Coolum you kept to your name

I worked out some semantics (thanks JJ) of how to play your body contorting game


Goodbye Tassie Dave who elbow jammed the Smoked Banana in a white shirt

And likewise to crust eating Joel, Mary, Babsi, Tash, Gemma, Leon and Geiske in her sexy skirt


I’m pointing my finger in search of a conviction

Its JJ and Rob who are to blame for re-igniting my chilli addition


Coco had fun camping, making new friends and stringing bead necklaces

At Noosa she met up with her uncles and she put a big smile on their faces


But mostly she wants to say thank you to Sandra, a big hug and a kiss go to you

For making her a Red Phoenix Emporium silk dress, complete with green buttons and a pink bow too


Also huge thanks go to Donna who made Coco a doll and rescued her ballet tights from a whopping great hole


There is so much left to do so next when I’m back I’ll have a new tick list

The Trousers, Devils Dihedral, Child in Time, Evil and The Beast from the East


So now sunny Queensland I bid you adieu

thanks for the memories, blue skies, custard tarts and also the flu.





Whistling Kite

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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.

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