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Australia, for starters - David Graham

Australia, for starters - David Graham
Australia, for starters - David Graham
Australia, for starters - David Graham
Australia, for starters - David Graham
Australia, for starters - David Graham
Australia, for starters - David Graham
Australia, for starters - David Graham
October 21, 2011 - 

Im sitting on a couch, trying to get the local house cat to stop killing mice. Dutchez, a gray Maine-coon looking kitty, is taking mice from the outdoors, bringing them inside, and then losing them. Major cat fail. A whirlwind of voyage set in as I left Australia, and I find myself trying to ride the wave, yet not lose sight of shore. I will be leaving for China in two days and I am feeling extremely excited for the trip, especially now that I have to climbed the one problem in Colorado I found this year I was extremely syked to do.


But before getting into the present, lets dash back in time about a month. The last time I wrote a blog here at Five Ten, I had just gotten to Australia, I think I had a cold, and I was trying to get in shape for all the sick projects we had at the time.  An amazing experience ensued. I have been attempting to quantify it in conversation so far, telling my friends and family of the far away land which I found so mystical, but utterly daunted by the idea of expressing it all in words. Do I write a novel? Do i just speak it all into Siri? No. I am sure I could try, but instead I will write a blog, and try and touch base with some of the most interesting moments, and memories from the trip.

I am trying to go somewhere back in time, and all I have are fleeting thoughts, images of moments passed. This massive collage like whirlwind of a vision, nothing like the movie Australia, made for viewing, but a recollection of a journey through Australia, made for telling. Where would I start? Hanging in Melbourne with Remi and Madeline, driving with Nalle on wrong side of the highway, hanging outside taking with Keith looking at the stars-  I wish I could plug my brain into a computer, and download all thats been recorded, but it won't work like that.

Maybe I will throw the mind shuffle on, and see where things stop: The faux-koala, the emu's and the fence, the dumb birds who fly in front of cars, all the roo's, Horsham, the photography, maybe Ableton, the MIX, the new rock,


Lets stop there.

At the point I've rewinding too mentally, the crew is sitting in the casa at Mt. Zero log cabins, deliberating on the crooked weather, the what to do's and the what not's of where to go climbing for the day, and the proposition of checking out a new spot only an hours drive south in the Victoria Mountain Range. A local Australian climber named Toby lent us his old guidebook one day at the Taipan Wall, with the intent of aiding our route climbing experience, i.e. giving us a chance to see which routes had gear on them, and if the routes with bolts on them had anchors that where actually safe to rappel of or not. I started perusing through the old pages, reading the funny comments coming from the author on the quality of climbs, thinking back to Henry Barbers book which documents thousands of routes in New England. When I was young, I would leaf through the black and white photos, scanning the pages for photos of existing walls, with the hope of seeing lines and boulders, lying somewhere in the photo, which hadn't yet been remarked upon. Cutting in between reminiscence and reality, I found a page which showed a large old-school map of a hillside, leading to the famous "sport" climbing called The Gallery. The name of the area was Buandik, and it was right at the brink of the flood damage area which was incurred the winter before, leaving the bush and the roads in shambles and all the roads closed. We seemed to be in luck, as this place had just recently been re-opened, and we needed a change from the brutal day in day out we had created in the Gramps.

Amongst the weeks leading up to this point, we had done a ton of climbing on Mt. Stapylton, and Hollow Mountain.  We climbed almost every day, working as a team, and delving into the plethora of climbs which had been established. Nalle dispatched all kinds of sick first ascents, amongst the problems we knew from old magazines and stories, and Ian and I attempted to keep up with his pace. We sampled all the sectors, brushed many new climbs, and did tons of nice problems on really diverse rock, reminding me of almost every climbing area I had ever been to. Randomly we would end up in the Hollow Mountain cave going for some A Muerte training sessions, but we were too drawn by the vast quantity of new rock we were seeing everywhere to focus something like the Wheel of Life, which lived up there. We climbed at the Taipan Wall, everything from easy routes, which were not "easy," to stunning lines like Sneaky Snake, and Groove Train. I only managed a try on each line, as we only had a handful of climbing days on the wall, but I was floored. The wall is massive, and bright orange with streaks everywhere. The climbing is hard, and bizarre, and I was amazed at how scary and sick the routes were at the same time. Running out the necessary 25 feet in between bolts, figuring out the sections "ground up" and also trying to take in how sick the view and the rock were proved to be a very overwhelming feat, and I was just left feeling crazy, and desperate for more. There was too much already, just in the Grampians. I couldn't wrap my head around it. I managed some repeats of classic's like Lost for Life and Mana, put up an amazing problem called On the Beach, did many new ones with the crew, and got lost in the amongst projects, but there was no way to do it all. I knew I would be back again, that was obvious, but I wondered where and what we do at that point, with so many options, and so much rock.

All of this prefaced the moment I looked back to first. Marking the day we would decide to see even more. Solidifying the day from which we would be back for years.

After driving through the majestic countryside of Victoria's finest canola fields, and staring at endless mountains of sandstone formations looming in the distance, we all had an intuition of what was to come. We all knew that we would get lost in what the guidebook quoted as "mazes of boulders" and "extensive bush"  as I read out loud the hike's description. The region was wild, and we were just about to find out in a real Aussie way.

Immediately after parking in the wild campground, where the trail was said to start, we get lost hiking on the wrong trail, through the wrong bush, heading the wrong direction, and we end up finding ourselves stressing out a little. We know there is a wealth of rock stashed higher up in the mountains, but can't seem to extricate ourselves from the thick bush, and massive flood damage comprised of fallen tress and tangles plants. Eventually we manage to break through and find ourselves, hike up a very steep hill on some archaic aboriginal path, just to get more lost in one of the most amazing boulder fields any of us have ever walked through. We find a multitude of sick projects within the first afternoons recon, and laps into some euphoric state, still reeling from what we had just observed.

Finding a new area is potentially one of the most enchanting experiences I have ever processed. The energy of the people involved, and the beauty of all that's discovered is seemingly elates the group to some child-like euphoria, where everything is amazing, and wonderful, and all of reality shifts into a giant jungle gym like sculpture nature created for us to delve into, with no rules and answers, just interaction. With the discovery of the bouldering in Buandik, we passed into a special phase of our triple, and a time warp was set into place, making everything move much faster, as we hustled day in day out to clean and climb all these crazy objects we had found, we always new the journey would come abruptly to an end. And it did.

The colors in Buandik, and the Grampians as well, are particularly off the hook. Surreal splashes of orange and red, almost like paint, mixed over a blue grey matrix of sparkly quartz filled sandstone. The rock has spider web like structures, creating radical geometric shapes, and sculpting bomber grips for both hand and feet. Lapis brushes seem good enough to clean almost any problem you walk across, so brushing gear is minimized.

Right around when then started climbing in Buandik, Nathan Bancroft arrived on the continent to film the situation we had developed for the new Island film. Immediately it was go time, and we added cranes and sliders to our payload of pads which we had to hike up the steep death hill daily. Syke was extremely high, we set out to climb our projects, and Nate set out to film them.

We did all kinds of problems on the hill top. Many were not so difficult, many were challenging, all of them seemed sent from the heavens. Lines which come to mind i'd like to describe are things like Cherry Picking 8b, a massive death star looking boulder sitting beneath the Gallery itself, and Occam's Razor 8b+, an amazingly placed prow, overlooking the Buandik Bush, on perfect rock. Both these climbs stand out on their own in terms of rock quality, and perfection, with the holds all somehow exactly where they should be, and an energy to them which is un-describable.

The trip to Australia ended in a flurry. I had a really good run the last week, just before the epic departure which took me all the way back around the world to SLC. I managed Ammagamma, an amazing problem done by Klem Loskot first, and a couple more mini classics I wanted to send before I left. The trip was a hug success, and I didn't even begin to tell all the stories I could have. We had an awesome crew, which was refreshing and inspiring.

I looked back, once on the airplane, and thought for the first time in a long while, how radical it is to go somewhere completely new, and how much I love the life I live. Sometimes its difficult to find something brand new, but if you get in a plane, and fly somewhere you know you have never been remotely near, you are guaranteed an experience, by the world we live in, and I like that. Till next time.


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