The last months have probably been the roughest few months in a while for me. A lot of traveling, a LOT of climbing, hiking around endlessly searching for new areas, cleaning boulders, carrying heavy shit everyday, filming, making topos, building trails, battling weather… You’d think there’s always time for a little blog update, but no. Not on the schedule we’ve been on. And now, I don’t even know where to begin. So much has happened in the last few months that it’s overwhelming even just thinking about it all. Finland, Poland, Spain, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Norway, Sweden.. I completely missed summer. It’s all been amazing, but I needed a little break, some downtime to recoup. Living on the road for too long, always being on the move, takes it’s toll.
Fast forward Poland, Spain and Italy. After my last year’s trip to the Grampians, getting back to Australia was all I could think about for months. In the beginning of May I jumped on a plane to Melbourne straight from the Melloblocco event in Italy. The main crew for Australia was the same as last year; Dave Graham, Ian Dory and myself. After last years recon mission, we knew exactly what we wanted to do and focused our scope to the Victoria range in the southern part of the mountain. We booked a place in Wartook, rented a 4x4 and were much better prepared in every way. The plan of attack was clear; find the sickest new stuff out there and climb it!
Buandik, where we opened lots of amazing problems last season, was an obvious place to start from. Surrounded by rock in every direction, finding something new shouldn’t be too hard. First off I finished off some old projects from our previous trip, like Slippery Slope (V12), the first line we ever saw in the area, and Losing Grip (V12) a project that we worked on a few days last trip but couldn’t pull it together. Then I found an area that we later named Amusement park. It’s another sector in Buandik, just a quick walk from the main sector. It’s all big boulders. And by big I mean BIG! There we spent days and days brushing up problems and establishing some of the best highballs like Knowing is Half the Battle (V11), which is a gigantic highball on the biggest sandstone bloc I’ve ever seen. Once you top it out, you better have a plan for getting back down… I also put up Rule Number 1 (V13) with really cool tensiony moves, Rootarded (V13) a very uniquely shaped prow and Happy Ending (V11) an amazing, basically 2-pitch highball problem. The great thing in the Grampians is that you can just go around and pick the best lines, so all the problems we put up are the cream of the crop! Of course there where many projects in the area left for next seasons, namely one that was simply too hard for us this trip.
Ian on Knowing is Half the Battle (V11)
Last year at one point there were more photographers than climbers with us, so this time we wanted to keep it a bit more mellow. We had Simon Carter shoot some great photos with us, some of which you can see here on his website. For video we did some filming on our own for an Island project and we also had Nelson join us to shoot for Chuck Fryberger’s upcoming film called The Network. Nelson got a ton of great footage and while following us around filming our efforts, he got to do a respectable amount of bushwhacking himself. For those who don’t know, the Australian bush is no joke. It can be very difficult if not almost impossible to navigate through and floods knocking down trees make things even worse. And since it’s Australia, there’s probably are all kinds of poisonous critters everywhere. If you’re carrying a pad through the bush (or trying to), you’ll be hating life!
After bushwhacking on a daily basis, like we had to, you really learn to appreciate the trails. A lot of our time was spent marking and clearing trails to some of the areas to make access easier for everyone.
Mid-July the weather turned to shit. Rain, however, didn’t stop us from still doing our thing, but surely it was a big limiting factor. At some point the rain got to be a bit too much, so we fled to Arapiles, a well-known trad climbing area further up north. There I established one of the coolest problems of the trip, which I named Never Say Never (V14) after climbing it while it was more or less soaking wet and everyone called me crazy for even putting my shoes on.
First ascent of Never Say Never (V14)
Some of the grades that I proposed for my FA’s last year were settling and a few of my old problems got upgraded. Right Thurr, which I quickly did the first ascent of in 20 minutes and graded V12, got bumped up to V14 by Dave and Ian after they spent days and days trying it. Also we all agreed that my dyno problem Massive Dynamic is definitely more V14 than V13. It’s good to get a bit more consensus on the grades as not that many people have tried them yet.
Buandik has already become a top destination world-wide for hard bouldering. Here’s a list of my first ascents in Buandik:
- Massive Dynamic, V14
- Occam’s Razor, V14
- Right Thurr, V14
- Cherry Picking, V13
- Rootarded, V13
- Rule Number 1, V13
- Boredom, V13
- Losing Grip, V12
- Slippery Slope, V12
- Instakill, V11
- Tunnel Vision, V11
- Happy Ending, V11
- + MANY other problems
When you add Dave’s and Ian’s first ascents and what other people have opened, there aren’t many areas in the world with such a high concentration of hard boulder problems. And all of them very high quality!!
First ascent of Massive Dynamic (V14)
At Mt. Stapylton area, I had pretty much climbed all the existing projects in 2011, but there was one project left that I didn’t get to see on my previous trip. It was an old Klem Loskot dyno project at Snakepit, which had been tried by quite a few people over the years and the guidebook said that it is “destined to be one of Australia’s hardest jumps”. It’s a crazy blind double dyno that requires good coordination skills. It’s a huge dyno and you can’t see the hold you’re jumping to at any point, but you still have to coordinate it perfectly and hit precisely the right spots with both hands. I just kept rapid-firing tries on it until one time everything went perfect and I stuck the dyno. I called it Quitline and proposed V12, but it’s very hard to grade boulders like this, so we’ll see if the grade will go up. About it being Australia’s hardest dyno, in 2011 I did the first ascent of Pigeon Superstition and Massive Dynamic, both of which are V14 and the crux on both is a very hard dyno. But Quitline is still up there. It’s a different kind of dyno compared to the previous as it relies more on coordination, whereas the other two are more straight forward power moves.
First ascent of Quitline
We also did quite a bit of
sport climbing, roped climbing as most of the routes have mixed protection. In Muline I climbed the previously hardest route in Australia, Flower Power (8c), on my 2nd try and flashed Eye of the Tiger, possible the best 8a route in the world! On Taipan wall (which, by the way, has the best rope climbing in the universe) I flashed the the famous trad pitch Mirage and without shitting my pants once. Mirage is very techy and delicate climbing, some of the gear seems questionable and of course you’re doing huge diagonal runouts between placements. At the very top there is a huuuuge all points of dyno! It’s nothing like what comes to your mind when you think of trad climbing!
Flashing Mirage on Taipan wall
Also on Taipan wall I tried an AMAZING project unfortunately only on my last few days of the trip. I got really close to climbing it on the last day, but just ran out of time. I can’t wait to get back on it!!! It starts Taipan wall style with a scary section where you’d deck on a ledge if you fell. Once you get the second bolt or a cam clipped you’re safe. Here begins the first 8B boulder section with very precise and shoulder intensive moves, bad feet and the two worst slopers I’ve ever seen on a route. This is followed by an easier but absolutely amazing scoopy section to a pretty ok rest. From there you set up for one of the craziest dynos I’ve ever done! If you stick the low percentage dyno, there’s still a sustained run-out section with long moves to the anchor. Sport climbing often tends to be very basic and simple movement, but this project is NOTHING like that. It’s like a crazy boulder problem, just much longer and the rock could not get any better!
Getting painfully close on the incredible Taipan wall project on our last day.
Grampians has some of the craziest rock you’ll ever see. It’s the most bullet sandstone I’ve ever come across, yet it forms incredible features. Ranging from the dark orange pockety stuff to the grey spiderweb rock, there is a big variety of different types of sandstone, which is very rare to find within one area. Of course there’s always some choss too… oh, wait.. there isn’t any in the Grampians!
The craziest thing is that we found so many new areas that we didn’t even have time to go back to. Developing each area is always more work than you think and takes a lot of time and energy. Even a 2-month trip was barely enough to scratch the surface and see a glimpse of what’s out there!
From Australia, me and Dave flew straight to South Africa for another two months of bouldering on orange sandstone! Read about our Rocklands trip in my next blog post….Soon!!