Category Archives: Trip reports

Patiencia cont…

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?

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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.

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Taipan Squealing

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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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…

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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!

 

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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).

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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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Queensland all wrapped up

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.

 

 

 

 

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Whistling Kite

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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Mt Coolum coo-ee

I had been warned, or let’s say even deterred, to visit Coolum crag, mainly due to the knee bar, knee pad shenanigans to be found there, basically anything goes. I love trying new things and felt compelled to give it a go. To my surprise I very much enjoyed this style of climbing. The entry level is grade 20, but the 23/24 is a far more enjoyable warm up. I discovered that the way to become ‘at one’ with the routes at Coolum is not to fight and muscle your way through the moves, but instead,  use body positioning to optimise the holds available. Think of the climbing at Coolum like playing a 3D game of Tetris, a metropolis of skyscraper buildings turned 90 degrees. Now imagine that you are the falling piece, imagine morphing and molding yourself into the rock slotting in sideways into the fissures. Cool hey!

Coolum is funky and John (aka JJ) O’Brien is the master of funk and a Coolum groover from way back. He has all the moves and has done some of the routes here over 100 times. For a warm up he’ll easily romp up Holey Calamity (26) or even Call of Duty (28) in his Volley’s, putting me to shame. I may be left floundering, but I’m loving this new beat and besides with JJ as my guide I’m in very good hands.

Coolum Send Fest weekend (28th and 29th July) was busy and to escape the queues we (JJ and I) spent most of our time on the upper tier, left side. Wafts of freshly brewed coffee kept our minds buzzing and our boodies boogying. We managed a few crag classics before coming back to earth.

Coco getting into the swing of things.

preferred warm-up, Has It Got a Chevy Motor (24)

JJ O’Brien cruising up Call of Duty (28), this time not in his Volleys’.

Tetris climbing style. Photo: Phil Box

Gasoline Rainbow (28)

JJ and me on the belay of Gasoline Rainbow Photo: JJ O’Brien

One of the crag classics is Screaming Insanity (26). But a few more bolts will give you Wholly Calamity (26).

Stepping up to the Call of Duty (28).

 

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Nil bastardo carborundum

Following on from my previous post, here’s an update of my progress on Fish Eye. For some background, Fish Eye is a 50-metre, steadily over-hanging, stella line which blasts up the centre of the cliff and was established by Chris Sharma. It gets its name from the ‘fisheye’ perspective, bowing of the cliff, when you stand beneath it; unlike my theory that it was named after the ‘fisheye-like’ pocket at the top crux. After 28 meters of physical punchy climbing you reach the first crux; made up of 13 hand moves through the blue rock which take in a series of under clings, long spans and a deadpoint throw to reach the rail, where you need to work hard to gain a rest if you’re to get anything back. Following a solid move off the rail its sustained running between pockets until you gain the final open hand grapefruit rest. From there its 14 hand moves to the anchors, skipping one clip along the way, the first four moves off the rest are the critical ones.

The most frustrating thing about this route, or even Oliana for that matter, is that it has a very short red pointing window. It’s in the sun all day until about 4pm and only recently have the days been getting longer, till about 7pm now. Unfortunately this translates to one red point burn per day if you get high up on the route or possibly two burns if you fall at the lower crux. For me it’s not a given that I will get through the lower crux and so many days I don’t even get a look in at the top crux.

After four days of working Fish Eye (this trip) I reached my high point, or the upper crux, for the first time. I was very surprised to say the least. I pretty much knew all the way up that I didn’t have the fitness to see this thing through to the chains. But I was climbing it, I was in with a chance, slim but I was there, not for long enough. The second time I reached the upper crux was again a surprise. In fact it was my warm-up burn and I felt so good on the bottom crux that I just decided to keep going. I was carrying a cold pump all the way, but the whole cliff was yelling ‘Venga’ and it motivated me to keep pushing. When I left the last rest I felt pretty fresh but I guess I was so blasted and dehydrated that when I went to crimp my fingers just didn’t work. The brain was sending a signal but I stared in disbelief at my dumb digits that did not follow the command. I did not try this tactic again.

Monique Forestier, Fish Eye (8c), Oliana, Catalunya, Spain.

I cannot recall anything special about the third time up at the last crux, only that I fell off, again. After some more dogging I was convinced that I had unlocked the puzzle, and so I was psyched again, charged with new hope that I could send the route with my newly cut key. So on I plugged and this is how it goes. The fourth go up at the last crux I rushed the moves, didn’t seat my fingers in the shallow pocket properly, the tape slipped and so I fell off screaming, again. The fifth go up at the last crux I held the pocket, got my hips in, reached up tall for the crimp, got it, but got it badly, then my next foot placement was out, my arse sagged and so I fell off, screaming, again. The sixth go up at the last crux I had three fingers (instead of one) heavily taped with deep splits underneath. It was just ‘a see what happens burn’ and surprisingly I was staring at the high crux again. I could smell the rain in the air, the wind picked up and then the rain started, I could hear it coming. I rushed from the rest before I was ready. Again I came off screaming in disbelief as a flood of bitter disappointment hit me like a brick.

And so the rains came, they threw everything they had down on Oliana for three repugnant days. Then as quickly as they came, they stopped and the sun reappeared. And so my saga continues. The seventh go up at the last crux I was sick but fresh. I thought this time for sure. But it was not to be. I don’t know for the life of me what I did or didn’t do wrong, but I had already decided to walk away and try other routes, and so I did. When I came back to Fish Eye a few days later I was psyched again. The eighth go up at the last crux everything went perfectly. I adjusted my foot placement only slightly (as planned), drilled into the shallow pocket, grew three inches, crushed the next crimp, squeezed the life out of the right pinch and continued to the top in what seemed like slow motion. Eventually my day had come. Wow what a journey. In the end it took me 20 days in total, over two trips. Thank you Simon, and I’m sure Simon thanks that belay slave god out there once again. Thanks to Chris for establishing such an amazing line and to Daila for your inspiration and kind encouragement. Thank you Rosemary & Keith and my mother, Diane, for giving me the opportunity to return to Spain and attempt my dreams. Thanks also to Allie and Tamara for your wonderful support.

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