Wednesday, 27 February 2008


One of the most amazing storms I've ever been caught in. Full blown thunder, lightening - indeed frightening - for about 25 minutes. Man, i'm pretty over this Sydney summer weather. Contemplating the use of axle-greese for chain lube. Might just have to throw the current chain away first - its already rusted up a few times courtesy of the wafer-thin rubbish they market as chain lube these days.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Arapiles 08

Late Feb 2008

Given the extreme heat suffered towards the end of Araps 07, there was initially little enthusiasm for Araps 08, but eventually three of us committed to habiting the dust/beer/blood of the pines once again. The pigs in the pines were back – although not as back as in recent years, thanks to Anita’s determination to clean up all traces of the peanut shells which would normally adorn such a camp.

Having just attended the Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function, I did the shopping then picked Neil and Anita up from Avalon at about 9 pm. We bombed it all the way to the pines, setting up camp in the wee hours in the bottom-middle section – reasonable shade and reasonably flat. With temperatures of 35 C expected every day, the plan was to be smart and stick to gullies in the mornings before hitting the sun-effected faces in the afternoons.

Day 1 got off to a rocky start when we bashed up to the start of Saracen (16) on Dunes buttress only for Anita to discover, when it was her turn to climb, that she’d forgotten her shoes – back to camp for her. Having led the first pitch I belayed Neil before he tackled the grade 20 variant second pitch (Scarecrow) with ease, although I found it pretty goey. Another typically lumpy pitch got us to the top after which we did the 2 abseils required to get back to Central Gully terra firma. After lunch we headed up to the Atridae, for a much awaited (for Neil and I, at least) re-acquaintance with It’ll Never Fly, which had gained a grade since we last did it many years ago (now 24). It soon became obvious why. A low flake has disappeared making the initial moves thin and bloody hard, but we managed to pull through on the gear and once again enjoy the grade 23 traverse. Anita wasn’t so keen on having a go – a bit spooked by the exposed approach – so opted for a climb round the corner, Hell For Leather (16), which turned out to be lovely and full-on for the grade (as they usually are for Araps).

On Day 2 we headed for Major Mitchell Gully and started on the lovely Kinkaid (18). Anita then led the committing Philanthropist (15), after which Neil had a play on Feral Chicken (22), although couldn’t quite get through the crux due to weeping holds. We then moved to the top of the gulley and I managed to get through Firedance (20), which turned out to be quite nice, as the guide suggested it would be, despite its uninspiring appearance. With the sun now dancing across to the other side of Dunes buttress, we strapped ourselves in for one of my favorites, Eskimo Nell (10). Five pitches (and some caving) later we were on the top and made our way back to camp (abseils) for requisite showers, beer (kept cold in a dedicated esky) and the evening meal and banter – although en route Neil and Anita hadn’t quite had their fill so ticked XI (18) on Fang Buttress whilst I hit the beer and the hammock.

Day 3 saw us start in the shade of D-minor buttress to tackle firstly Aardvark (18) followed by the excellent Cadenza (20). No incidents with belays this time (the advantage of doing it in one pitch and twin ropes). As our food and beer supplies were running a little low we then skipped into wHorsham for a swim and a shop. Murmurings of a rest afternoon were quashed by me (of all people), so we headed up to the King Rat cliffs in the afternoon to sample “I’m A Little Asteroid” and I’m A Little Dinosaur” (both 18). I was tickled to discover little dinosaurs en route!

Day 4 saw us start up Central Gully Right where Neil jumped on Rosy Shy (which has since been upgraded to 20 – it was always a tough assignment at 19), Anita led Stalacmite (12) and I led Preludes (17), which had some lovely roofy moves up near the top. It was nice to be milling around the Pillars of Hercules again. Noticed that Dreadnought gulley has been re-chained – my yearly contributions to the Nati bolting fairies perhaps paying off. After lunch we made the long and arduous trek to Upper Yesterday Gulley where Neil had eyes for Blue Hawaii (21). This turned into quite a battle, with Neil yo-yoing up and down just below the crux, trying to figure it out and get the protection sorted (not great pro) without blowing the onsight or killing himself. Eventually (that boy has stamina) he cracked the crux, then made the rest look easy, despite my finding it quite sustained in places. Certainly the lead of the trip. Anita was next and climbed Future Past (15) which was another lovely meandering route benefitting from twin ropes. With the sun well on the way down, we rapped from the Blue Hawaii anchors, packed up, and trudged back to camp. En route, we came across the squeeze boulder that we played with during the last trip, and managed to sandbag Anita into giving it a go. Unsurprisingly, it only took her about 5 minutes before she emerged out the birth canal at the other end – couldn’t stop laughing. We think next on the list for her is the infamous squeeze high up through the back of the watchtower! (aka Mr Chicken).

Day 5 – our last day of climbing. We decided to have a day on the Bluffs. Anita kicked things off leading a nice grade 15 on John’s Pinnacle (Shoadee). Next lead was mine, and I opted for one of two 18’s at the end of the Pinnacle (Shanghai). This looked to be a little dodgy to protect at the start – and sure it was, but once the bottom crux was negotiated (and broken ankles avoided) it turned into a lovely line on an arĂȘte with consistently good gear. We then trudged further up the hill to the lovely chalked line just down from Thunder Crack. Unrequited (22) is one of those lines that Neil and I had walked past many times and thought, “well, maybe next time”. Couldn’t think of any excuses not to give it a go, and, we were there! Fortunately it was Neil’s lead. It quickly became apparent that this route was going to require maximum effort for the grade and turned into a bit of a siege – with Neil backing up piece after piece in a seam that wasn’t nearly as bomber, or easy to climb, as it looked. In all the climb soaked up about 8 runners in ~10 meters, 2 of which were spat out at one stage, another 4 of which were spat out higher up as Neil wrestled with the little traverse. One of the nuts which came sliding down the line squared me straight in the nuts – served me right for not belaying from closer in to the line. Neil subsequently managed to scale it clean on top-rope, whilst I required a few rests at the crux.

We descended back down Ali’s (which has also been re-chained, BTW). Then headed to the base of Bard Buttress for our last hurrah of the trip. Although already feeling drained from the day’s activities (Ali’s can take it out of you – even if you only abseil back down it), I somehow found myself at the base of The Desired (19), geared to the gills, tied in, and pondering the steep and powerful line – all 40 meters of the first pitch. From the ground, the cruxs looked to be located at three overlaps. The first I got through OK – felt about right for 19. Perhaps the crux was over with? Not so fast! The second overlap turned into a desperate thrash as I first wrong-handed myself, then had to correct the move and advance to a reasonable stance to de-pump, all whilst not falling off (“if you don’t let go, you can’t fall” – Jerry Moffat). Felt like 19 going on 22! Neil of course cruised through both cruxes without fuss claiming that yet again I had neglected obvious jams which made the thing relatively easy. After the horrors of the first pitch (I won’t be rushing back to lead it again any time soon), I was relieved to have Neil lead the grade 17 second pitch – which I still found pretty desperate (batteries running low at this stage). Anyway, all three of us got up it OK, then sidled around the side of Bard Buttress to Ali’s and the rap descent.

Next morning we packed the car as it started to rain (naturally the cooler weather arrived as we departed) and gunned it back to Sydney (about 11 hrs for the 1100 km). Overall a good trip – just too short, with everyone starting to gain fitness and form by the time we were leaving. Same old story.

Neil high on Scarecrow (20)

Neil spanning on It'll Never Fly (24)
Anita on Hell For Leather (16)
Caving on Eskimo Nell

Neils memory trick for tying the alpine butterfly.
"Budda sits on the mountaintop, crosses one leg
then the other...."

...then sticks his head through his arse"
Atop Eskimo Nell

Anita on "I'm a little Asteroid" (18)

Dinosaurs en route

Dave on the lower crux of Aardvark (18)

Neil at one of the Herculean Pillars
Pigs in the pines
Neil sizing up Blue Hawaii (21)
...and placing wires
Anita emerging through the birth canal of the squeeze boulder

Anita on Shoadee (15)

Dave sillouetted on Shanghai (18)
Dave contemplates the first crux on The Desired (19)

At the tiny belay on The Desired