I have been in Australia for five weeks now, climbing, rampaging the bush, and exploring the never-ending ins and outs of the Grampians National Park. Its the 17th of June today, which feels radical; time has swept by on this trip like a flash flood, leaving us wondering what really just did happen, questioning how time, space, and good climbing actually work. It's 4:00 pm here, and I find myself writing this sitting in our pimp 4x4 rental at the Hollow Mountain parking lot, on a pseudo rest day.
Although I am forcing myself not to climb today, it will be only the 7th one of the trip so far where that has actually happened. With such incredible potential for new climbing on the best rock I have found in the world, we have been incapable of stopping ourselves from storming the hills, and attacking the rocks.
I am back here in the Gramps with the same crew as last year, Nalle Hukkataival and Ian Dory. Motivation is at an all time high, and our relentless pursuit to establish more and more zones has us scrambling day in and day out to finish off our projects and moving on to the next ones.
After a long stint of climbing through a terrible rain storm at the ultra-inspiring Taipan wall, I found myself waking up too "early" again today, and rallying out to the Cave with Ian Dory, and our homie Remy Abonneau.
Our goals for the day ranged where broad. Ian was to make a summit bid on the Wheel of Life, Remy was going to fire off Amniotic World and my at hand (not necessarily a goal), was recovering all the gear we left the previous night at the Taipan wall (notably Ian's camera, my climbing shoes, kneepap, and quick draws).
While driving from Wartook, the village where we live within this vast National Park, we navigated through small rainstorms, "kroos" of Kangaroos, spirits where high, however the weather was outright awful, so the mood was somber.
I was deposited at The Mount Stapleton parking lot to begin my journey. Headphones on, I started trekking off, snaking up a massive slab, grooving to the beat. It was one of the first moments I was actually alone so far on the trip; light rain blowing in my face, haggards legs attempted to do their job, I drifted off in thought, a Needle in the Hay remix banging…
…What a trip its been so far! The time warp has been radical! I can;' figure out how it has been five weeks so far, I can only seem to remember bits and pieces, moves for moves, days and nights, and it all blends, was it last night I woke up passed out in the couch, or was that it all of them? I have never felt so fatigued in my entire career, yet nothing stops, the driving forces drive, the vehicle goes where directed. I have done many of my projects from last year, Nalle problems which seemed impossible, things we couldn't figure out get resolved by kneepads, heel hooks, dynos…
…This is living the dream. When climbing, or hiking stops being something you go out and do, and its starts to be something you become, a hiker, a hiker-climber, rolling around dodging sticks and smashing through bush, staring at all shapes and sizes looking for the one thing to climb that looks right…the things we talk about finding at night…its truly the life….
Tapian wall is so daunting. After hiking the snake slab I find myself starring….
….blacks streaks are darker now. SHIT. The wall is getting no love. Groove Train is still, not a bad thing. When will I figure out the rappel in? I want to work the top moves. Yesterday was ridiculous. Third try on the rig over two year, I climb through the "crux" and stop. Petrified. Couln't pull it together and keep it moving, got into the bklack streak and had to just test fall. Yelled "yes FALL".. or was that last year…yeah. it was. So I took the fall. I gave up and fell. More so. Which is ok right. I am gonna stick that rappel. All about the rappel….Where the hell was.. in the scoop with the green to the right? Or to the left?
After starring for so long I realize I'm just getting wet from the rain, I conclude that the rappel in I want to do for Groove Train, the massive 50 meter route which juts out the most impressive section of cliff. The climb tackles Groovy, an old school "28" protected by 7 bolts, then 3 bolts take you to the top, for the last 25 meters. It is a line of Legend, a force to be reckoned with, nearly a myth. It's my project, for the next week.
Bolted by numerous equippers, established by Ben Cossey and repeated by Ethan Pringle, this climb is pretty much smoke and mirrors for most people. When there is chalk on the wall, its a fair bet you can connect the dots, but you will need beta; snaking through the sequences you will most likely be taking some 50 foot whippers, if you make any mistakes. With no chalk on the wall, you can get to a point of disbelief. You may stare back down at you feet, as you can see them at least…everything above looks blank, a sea of color-like space...You know there are crimpers…so where did they go.
I set off into the valley, and realize its humid and wet. I think of Ian, try not too fret, then inevitably break a sweat. Quick glances up the hill turn blue and orange, as the looming wall starts to bend in shape. As you come closer the cliff turns from flat to undulating and steep…You see Sirocco…then Mirage…Way up and right there is Serpentine….I'm blazing up the hill, and the rain has stopped. Jackets shed, I get another look the wall. Theres no one at the cliff., so the Camera will be safe….my shoes will be wet, but all is not lost. First checkpoint on my hike, I wonder if Ian is already done.
….back on track…I got the gear…the hill under the cliff always feel extra steep. Why does it feel so steep….
Once Ive reached the Taipan its time to summit. A wet hike leads me to the solos, which are all wet, which I don't like, but I do them. Next up is the winding summit track, acclimatization is clutch so I take five and chill on the rail, starring out at the expanse, from the top of the cliff…where my rappel project hides.
…I wonder how Ian is doing on the Wheel! Temps are nice, But ooooo, my skin is fucked. Wind is getting dry though, could get good, I think I some those clouds break? This could be the day. The day I did it was all crunk too…didn't we watch Return of the King the night before, until like, 5 am? Yes Sir. And we even drank whiskey? We drank whiskey last night so. That could be good. God I love Archer…"Lanna…Lannna!….LANNNNNAAA!!!!! and that Mordor song…Bum bum bammmm, bum bum..tsch tsch tsch…
What on earth. Who cares. Mind over Matter. I love how complex climbing is. So psychological. One shot one kill. Thats the idea. The mentality. The way of being. There was that day I fell off the the slope, the last hold before the pocket, right at at the end. And I did first try the next sesh. This is a good thing. Ian fell of that same slope our last day…therefore he will do it today. First try of the sesh….The logic prevails…One Shot One Kill…I LOVE CLIMBING…I better hurry up…I hope he doesn't need this kneed-pad… its all wet…sheissa….I gotta hustle now…I don't want to miss this…The Wheel Of Life….He is gonna send.
I move onwards on my quest, think briefly of Frodo and Sam, then quickly summit the cliff. As I move along the top, clouds part, sun shines… I bask in the warmth but my right knee just plain hurts.
30 years old…and now my knee is hurts.
I wind back towards the Hollow Mountain, navigate more mini solos, then go through the crevasse jumps. I find myself on the edge of massive cliffs every ten minutes, exposure makes me quest and also slightly want to learn to base jump, so I try not distract myself and keep on moving.
As I near the cave I feel something strange. I think of Star Wars. The Force. There has been a ripple, in some structure. I am aware of it, but how can it be explained. Potential danger. Mountain Lion? Or has Ian just done the Wheel. I hope some guy hasn't just fallen from the cliff. I think I hear things in the wind.
…what is this I hear in the wind…Aborginal spirits?…Ian sending the Wheel?…OMG…Did someone yell help? look around!!!
My journey is almost at an end, and I stand atop a massive boulder the size of a cliff itself, trying not to kill myself rushing downwards. As usual, when I going to solo something, I think of my heroes. Leo Houlding. Dean Potter. Alex Honnald. Patrick Edlinger. These guys do truly crazy shit, down climbing is better then up. I descend. 100 feet later I have scrambled down some random 5.7 climbing on chicken heads I thought would break, lived to tell the tale, then touched down on Hollow Mountain for real. I run up the slab in excitement, and enter through the south part of the Cave, or the bottom, south to me, whatever, and look through the gap to see heads with beanies. The energy seems high, I shout, "I have the kneepad!" And then I see Ian beaming. He responds, "I don't need it! HAHA! I did the Wheel!" And then begins the jubilation.
After a massive session of high-fiving and talking about the send burn, we sit in the chilling wind and spot Remy as he battles a heel hook at the end of Amniotic World. Our Buddie Eddie has filmed Ian's send, and is replaying it for us, where we see Ian crush the finish in a amazing battle style. I feel proud of him for accomplishing his mission, it was amazing to work such a rig with him, and see his process, ending with success, and pure domination. He was proud of me for accomplishing my mission too. His camera was now safe and sound (lol). The Wheel had been done again, peace and liberation startled to settle in on Ian, so I explained him the beta for Pretty Hate Machine. I couldn't help feeling a little pride for the unofficial Team USA (Ian and I)…So I did, then geared up for the next part of the journey. I heard the song from the Hobbit Cartoon I can't find on Youtube play in my head, even though I am not quite sure how its goes, and began walking down tot he car, to mind some other business of the greatest importance.
…oh no! I need to go down to the car! I cannot put this off ay longer! Dying minds want to know! Or not! Dying Minds? Does that make sense? OOOO, The conditions are amazing! I could try something! BUT NO. REST. SKIN. DAMAGE….and I brought my computer specifically so I could be disciplined enough to go down to the vehicle, take a time out, and force myself to write. Suck it up buddy, we are headin' down. People will be pissed. Do a blog dude.
Well there you have it. I lucked out big time with writing today, as I had some good material. I will try and write some more about the phenomal climbing we have been doing here next time, and talk a bit more about Buandik, Muline, and our explorations. Or maybe not. We will see what happens during our last three weeks of the trip.
Blue Sky Amigos,