Monday, 14 January 2008

From Czech with Boskov

The week before Xmas was punctuated by the arrival of Karel from the Czech Republic, along with one of his good friends, Cody. They would be staying in Oz for a month to escape the northern winter and, as it turned out, cram in as much activity as is humanly possible before their departure. The small welcome BBQ thrown in their honor backfired on account of not only persistent rain, but a phone call mid-way through from an apologetic Karel (in Korea) confirming a mix-up with the arrival dates.

Whilst I spent the following week drifting from work party to work party, the Czech boys had their own agenda - catching up with many of Karel’s friends, almost exclusively via riding the bikes they brought with them. On most days they were clocking up 100 km. Karel brought with him the trusty aluminium mtb shod with slicks he used in Europe, whilst Cody was equipped with the “Rock Machine”, a hybrid tourer out of the dark ages – TIG-welded steel tubing, no suspension, road wheels with inch tyres, which weighed in at about 17 kg including pannier rack and kick stand. Bloody hell! Undeterred, Cody put in a solid effort on a group ride of the 3 valleys.

Not content to spend Xmas day on the beach (part of my plan, foiled by the coldest Sydney Xmas day in memory), Karel and Cody headed off on their own grand adventure. Their aim was to catch the train to Blackheath (no trains boxing day), descent into the Jamieson Valley, ride the 6-foot track to Jenolan Caves, climb to the Kanangra plateau, pick up the Uni Rover trail, and gradually work their way south via bush and (eventually) back country roads to first Goulburn and then Canberra, over 5 days, where I would meet them after attending Jeremy and Claire’s wedding. I must admit, as they stood outside my house in the drizzle with bikes that could barely be lifted, I had my doubts as to whether they would go the distance – especially the Rock Machine which I was certain was headed for some sort of major mechanical incident, hopefully not involving a fast descent on a rocky track.

I needn’t have worried. On the morning of my departure to Canberra (29th) Karel phoned to say they were both doing well, had enjoyed endearing themselves with the locals, were already in Canberra, and were going to push on to Thredbo, our ultimate destination. As it turned out, they only made it as far as Cooma, but not for lack of trying. Karel’s bike suffered a rim failure, the result of grit encrusted brake pads eventually wearing the rim wall thin – an occupational hazard for non-disc brake mtbs. Onward to Thredbo!
Annual crystallography picnic - Neilson Park
Another good spread at the MMB Xmas party
MMB bowls day
Part of the team - we either consumed too little or too much to make an impact on the leader board
Karel and Cody tucking into traditional fare
At St Peters with Ben
Karel, Cody (and Rock Machine) on the 3 valleys
Christmas Eve - West face of the Mirror ball - Pierces Pass
Karel cruising the first pitch crux
Cody in the cheesecake - top of the second pitch
Karel in orbit on the 3rd pitch
The boys at Walls Lookdown, with the mirrorball pinnacle and face behind them
Xmas day - loaded and ready, the boys set off

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Climbing in the Blueys

With the year winding down I managed to intersperse mtb activities with a bit of climbing. It was nice to get back to the blueies again. Had a good day at Piddo with Neil, Ben, Tony and Damo. I’d been attending the rock gym (St Peters) most Thursday evenings throughout the year so was not completely hopeless and riddled with Elvis-leg when we first hit the rock. Neil, as usual, was in good form, tackling the freshly ring-bolted On Edge (22), whilst the rest of us bumbled around in the low teens. None-the-less, it was most enjoyable placing gear again. On subsequent trips I performed the role of part-time belay-bitch for Anita, who impressed with several solid clean leads on 21s, 22s and 23s at Shipley Upper, Porters Pass, Bardens Lookout and The Freezer. With my fitness slowly returning I even managed to lead the odd 22 with the gear in (traditionally my bogey grade). However, my returning enthusiasm was dampened by pulling an elbow at the gym. The resultant tendonitis only got worse such that climbing took a ~ 6 week break during which I ticked the highland fling and steeled myself for Xmas – or, I should say, guzzled my way towards Xmas. I can’t recall if it’s always been this way (perhaps not a good sign), but there seemed to be a disproportionate number of parties, boozers, social engagements etc leading up to Xmas this year. I don’t think there was a day from mid Nov to Xmas that didn’t involve imbibing of the amber liquid. The arrival of two Czechs on my doorstep mid Dec didn’t help either – but that’s another story.

Tony, geared to the gills leading Angular Crack (12)

Ben belaying

Damo staying warm and offering advice from the lounge

Neil high On Edge (22)

Thawing out at the Imperial

Anita cranking Lardy Ladies Lats (22)

and in the dust at The Freezer.