1 October - The trip over.
Awww shit, why do I always have to write something about the trip over, and why does it always involve me at some stage?
Okay, first things first: Before we even left town the Nailclipper changed hands three times!
Meg got it for whining about wanting to eat something because she was hungry and had been soooo busy that day: "I'm hungry, I wanna eat something right now! And then I wanna stop at Murray Bridge for a pub meal, and I think I am going to fall asleep so if I have to drive I better do it now, blah blah blah!"
One minute later, Tom: "I don't wanna stop at a pub, it will take too long and then we'll get there late and the food will be expensive anyway and we have to leave the main road and wah wah wah!"
Then Gimp got it, not sure why, but Megsy will hopefully let you all know about it.
Well, everything turned out fine, we ate at a truck stop in Tailem Bend, where things were all going smoothly until Gimp deep throated a crab stick... The problem was we were sitting right next to a family.
Quang showed just how mentally sharp he is when I received a phone call an hour out of Naracoorte (and two hundred km from Arapiles) as we followed Meg and Tom. It was Boz and Karen asking me how to get to the campgrounds, they had left several hours before us and were at the mobile phone repeater tower. Upon hearing me give directions on how to get from the tower to the campgrounds Quang exclaimed "Holy shit! are they there already? How fast is Megan driving? I can't believe they are there already!"
"Quang, what are you talking about?" I asked after hanging up, "That's Meg and Tom in front of us, it was Roger and Karen on the phone."
The rest of the trip went smoothly, if you ignore a slight hiccup after Naracoorte. It wasn't my fault, honest! Quang was giving me directions and I naturally assumed that he was wrong and went the way that I thought was right - a perfectly natural thing to do if you know what Aunty is like with his directions. Well, wouldn't you know it, I ended up getting us a long way from where we needed to be and added an hour to the trip. But look on the bright side; we got to see the lovely town of Frances, population 10!
Oh, and Tom managed to shower Dan's car with gravel as he showed off doing a burnout, saving Dan the need to have the paint removed when he decides to have the car re-sprayed!
Setting a new record in arrival times for Arapiles trips, we got to the campgrounds at about 11.30 and set up camp after a beer or two. Once in bed we were drifting off to sleep when the ghost of Dr Nick turned up in his car driving erratically around the camp grounds and shining his high beam into our tents!
Day 1: 2 October 2004
Next morning we all woke up at about 6.30am and had breakfast. Of course when I say "we all woke" I mean everyone except Quang. Quang did impress us though by getting up four hours earlier than normal, 7.00am!
"When should we climb Kachoong?" Gimp asked during breakfast.
"Tomorrow or Monday," replied Gump.
So, off we headed for the Watchtower Face to climb some classic Arapiles routes.
Quang, Feral, and Dan (aka Lieutenant Dan, or Lucky Legs) decided to climb The Watchtower Chimney (12), while Gump and Gimp (and yes it did get confusing after a while) climbed the other side of the Watchtower on The Watchtower Crack (16).
The Watchtower Crack (16)
I must say, it was a great route too. On pitch two Tom told me that I shouldn't use too much big gear, so I just used the number 2 RP.
Pitch three was an absolute beauty, with an exposed traverse followed by some even more exposed jamming on limited gear, which Tom led with surprising coolness (unlike a certain whimpering Cardiologist I could mention). Decidedly uncomfortable with my task of leading the crux final pitch I headed off without the 4.5 cam that everyone had said was essential for protecting the crack. At two metres I clipped the bolt and backed it up with a 0.3 cam just in case. Thirty Three metres later I used my next piece of gear as I set up my belay station.
"You idiot!" Said Tom when he joined me at the top.
"Gear's overrated." I replied, then added "Would you like me to use more gear next time?" When I saw Tom's disapproving look.
By the time we had hiked back to the base of the cliff and eaten lunch, the "Aunty party" was at the top of the second pitch and debating whether to set up camp there for the night for a summit push the next day, or continue on. Tom and I discussed the next climb we would tackle, and after finding our first choice taken, decided to climb Sundance (14), next to The Watchtower Chimney. As it was my turn to take the first lead I headed up the first pitch and managed to miss the turn-off point, turning our climb from having a 35m first pitch into a 50m first pitch; lucky we had a 60m rope! Unfortunately for Tom, this meant that we were on Antigone (15) which turned out to have a very run-out and tricky slab to negotiate. After taking a wrong turn himself involving a long unprotected traverse (which he had to also downclimb) Tom eventually made the belay ledge.
Heh heh, sorry Tom.
While cleaning the second pitch I came across an interesting gear placement that had pulled; it was Tom's last placement and was resting on the previous piece approximately 20m below his belay station. A no. 2RP connected to a straight-gate carabiner, "No wonder that pulled," I thought. "Tom did you run out of quickdraws?" I asked, thinking this could be the only reason for using such a dodgy arrangement.
Tom said that he hadn't, so I made a mental note to have a chat with him about the preferred way to clip wires. Five metres later I found the rest of the arrangement; Tom had created a long sling to remove the effects of drag using a 60cm sling and two carabiners, but the RP had still pulled. Somehow in the process the carabiner attached to the RP had disconnected from the sling while simultaneously clipping itself to the rope!
The Gimp having just cleaned the last piece on Antigone 2nd pitch.
Meanwhile on The Watchtower Chimney two members of the Aunty Party (Edna and Feral) had also reached the same height as our belay, succesfully negotiating the crux pitch; a huge exposed chimney. I am reliably informed that on his first ascent of this route Dr Nick did the whole pitch in the fetal position. Well done guys!
Gimp nearly got himself in some serious trouble on the grade 10 last pitch by deciding to take a more interesting route. After a couple of unprotected tricky grade 18 moves he found out why this wasn't written up in the guidebook: No more protection and no more holds. Oh crap, now faced with a grade 18 overhung downclimb with the last piece of gear 10m below and off to one side I felt a little ill. Happy to say that after some whimpering I made it back on route and we walked off like the guidebook suggested.
At the same time Quang and Dan had appeared on the descent path (Feral was doing what Ferals do - claiming the summit with a celebratory pee). We waited for the feral to finish her handiwork and then headed back to camp together.
Back at camp we tended to the essential tasks first - drinking beer, then did everything else (whatever that was.
Day 2: 3 October 2004
Kachoong today? Nup.
Wanting to get up and climb Agamemnon before breakfast, Adam was up nice and early. Everyone else got up, agreeing that a climb before breakfast was a great idea, so The Gimp set about getting the gear ready.
Everyone else took this opportunity to have breakfast and a coffee, and then we set off for the cliff-face.
Agamemnon was busy so we decided to climb Muldoon (13) while we waited. Muldoon is a great climb with good rock the whole way, and moves constantly at about the 13 mark throughout the climb. Well worth doing. When we had summited, Megan and I waited at the top for Tom and Dan to come up with their rope so we could abseil down, while Quang went back to camp for extra supplies. When he had disappeared from sight at the camp ground Meg thought we should have asked him to bring some food and extra water back, so Gimp yelled out "QUANG!"
"As if he's going to hear you" said Meg.
"Well it's worth a try."
Minutes later Quang appeared at the edge of The Pines calling out to us.
"Can you bring some food, and water?" I shouted.
After a few requests for various types of food called out at the top of our lungs, Quang (who was getting pretty shitty by now) returned to the campsite to do our bidding.
After completing the climb Tom, Meg and Dan abseiled back down (Dan's first abseil) while the Gimp stayed at the top to take photos of everyone on Agamemnon.
The Feral negotiating the crux of Muldoon, while Gump takes a picture.
Quang returned from the camp with food which everyone (except Gimp who was still at the top waiting to take photos) ate some food. Now, the more perceptive readers may have noticed a slight aberration here; Gimp got the climbing gear ready that morning while everyone else had breakfast before our "pre-breakfast" climb, and now they were eating again while poor old Gimp faded away to nothing. They didn't even think to send up some food when they tied my shoes and camera bag onto the rope for me to haul up, and for this I award the High Beam Award to Quang, Tom, Dan and Megan for showing a complete lack of social awareness, by stuffing their faces for the second time that day while Gimp (who hadn't eaten at all) waited patiently to take pictures for them.
Agamemnon (10) was climbed with a minimum of fuss, that is, until Adam led it and checked out the gear placements that Tom had made while making the first ascent (We all followed on the gear that Tom placed in order to save time, pulling the rope through and re-clipping the gear). Most of the gear was good, except the last piece, a cam with only two of its four lobes contacting the rock! Good one Gump, that wouldn't have held a feather falling!
Anyhoo, Tom decided that he would follow Adam back up again, this time only using one wall of the chimney instead of both which was fine right until the last part near the top where he narrowly avoided dropping and smashing into the opposite wall (from which I was belaying him).
Gump, climbing one face side of Agamemnon - note the swing potential in the event of a fall.
Once down from Agamemnon Gimp (who was starting to blank out from hunger) discovered that some little piggies had eaten all of the food Quang had brought, so we headed back to camp for lunch/breakfast.
After lunch Gump picked out a nice climb to Sand-Bag The Gimp into leading - Yo-Yo (16), a route with a "Show-stopping" finger layback. All I can say is: Show-stopping is friggin right! Bloody hell, it was hard! My fingers just would not hold me, and I found that due to my height (or lack thereof) I was unable to put my feet against the wall to lay back, having instead to place my feet on the side-wall below my holds! After a number of tries (no falls though) I finally managed to somehow get myself up through the crux, only to hear Tom proclaim how easy it was as he seconded it. For a fleeting moment I looked around for something to throw at him before realising that it would be a lot harder to get to the top on my own.
Megsy, who had gone to Natimuk for supplies returned to the campsite and called us on the radio. Being a vein lot we immediately asked her to come and take photos of us, which she very kindly did.
Quang and Lieutenant Dan meanwhile climbed a 50m single pitch route opposite us called Kestrel (14). It looked like a lot of fun, but as it was a single pitch route, they were up before Tom and I were on the final pitch of our climb.
Aunty being Aunty though, took the next hour and a half to set up his abseil, so Tom and I finished our climb, abseiled down, and then waited at the bottom watching Edna and Lucky Legs as they came down in the dark.
Smartarse Tom on the crux of Yo-Yo. Note The Gimp (top centre) considering the costs/benefits of rock-chucking.
Stay tuned for day three!