A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Australia - Arapiles and the Grampians

break in the clouds
break in the clouds

Okay so first off we need to apologize. It's been 3 weeks since our last post which had us leaving South Africa. Things have happened since then and there's no reason we couldn't have posted so just assume that our fun was outweighing the desire to do another post (sometimes this posting thing gets a little old) so here's a summary post that you can use if we ever get a little lax again:

Hi there! We're in -cool place here- and are having an -amazing,awesome,great,wonderful- time and are having a lot of fun climbing on the excellent rock at -climbing area name-. We've gotten on a lot of great problems such as A,B,C,D and are starting to work on our projects such as E,F. Cassie really wants to climb F because it would be her first vSomething and that would be really swell! We've seen a bunch of cool animals such as -reptile-,-bird-,-mammal- and even had a crazy experience with the -mammal- because it tried to eat our food. Wow time really has been flying though and we can't believe we only have (choose acceptable timeframe) weeks left before we have to leave and go to -insert next area name here-. Well that's all so far and we'll post as soon as some more stuff happens. Toodaloo!

Kangaroo at the campground

For reals though here's what's really happened:

We arrived in Melbourne totally jetlagged. Picking up the rental car was easy and we slowly worked our way to our friend's Hannah and Seamus' place in Melbourne. We met these two bouldering in Switzerland and stayed in touch. It was super cool of them to offer for us to crash at their house and we were exhausted when we finally laid down to sleep. The total traveling ended up being about 2 full days in airports and planes plus an 8 hour timezone change. We slept well that first night and wandered around the neighborhood the next day in a jetlagged daze. Hannah and Seamus came back that night from their music festival and we caught up and made plans to meet up in the Grampians for some bouldering. The next day we picked up our camper van rental and drove the three hours to Natimuk to see our friends Mars and Kim.

a fun v3 traverse at araps

Stumpy-tailed lizard

You might remember Kim and Mars from our Squamish posts and our Red Rocks posts. We met them in the US and they offered us to stay at their place when we came to Australia. We were more than happy to be able to do so. Their hospitality was excellent and we were soon slumbering away. Within a few days our jetlag started fading, but the weather wasn't cooperating so we stayed in Nati for a bit longer than planned. That gave us plenty of time to enjoy catching up with Kim and Mars, the excellent morning espresso shots from their fancy coffee machine, and also for some bouldering at Araps. Now all you trad climbers out there are going to to have a conniption that we would boulder at Araps instead of doing routes but that's what we did, and it was great! :) I even went back to finish a great v5 called "around the world". We saw our first kangaroos and some cool stumpy-tailed lizards who came out to warm themselves in the sun (it hasn't been as warm as it was that day). Eventually we left the safety and comfort of the house to go camp at the Gramps (Grampians) and boulder.

echindna - unfortunately we missed his head which looks kind of like an anteater. these guys also roll up into little balls when they are scared so getting a picture of the face is tough. in this case he just walked past the rock too fast. missed the shot.
Around the World v5 - At the Arapiles
fun dyno at Arapiles

The drive from Nati (Natimuk) to the Gramps is about 45 minutes each way so that makes it less than ideal for a day trip given the cost of gas (that would be about $20 each day to drive there) so we've been coming back to Kim and Mars' house every 4 days or so to get showers and sleep in a bed, then head back to the Grampians and climb. It's worked great especially since it's been quite rainy here. Though the weather has been less than ideal the rock has been exceptional.

We were told that the Rock in the Grampians is similar to Rocklands South Africa but we haven't found it to be that exactly. It's generally a grey-white sandstone with slopers and crimpers.The rock varies significantly from stone to stone but the closest we can find to compare it to is the Southeast US. It reminds me a lot of Stonefort specifically and climbs quite well. The only thing we have noticed that is disagreeable are our slowly disappearing fingertips which have been sandpapered off over time. Almost all our tips are missing a few layers of skin and we're constantly managing our climbing to try and preserve what little skin we have left. That being said the rock here is far less coarse than Rocklands. The temps have been excellent for climbing at around 13C which is about 55F and though it's been relatively rainy (raining every other day or so) we have some large overhanging caves to climb in which allows us to stay dry and still climb even in a major downpour.

hike to Kindergarten cave
Cockatoo - these guys are very noisy
aborigine paintings
Ngamadjidj - aborigine art in the Grampians

We've met some great people here but we must say that there isn't nearly the huge international contingent that was in Rocklands. Seems like in Rocklands there was 50-100 climbers in July with even more on the weekends. As of yesterday we were the only climbers staying at the Mt.Staplyton campground. There had been a group of Austrians (whose friends we met in Rocklands) but they opted to go to some log cabin rentals to wait out the rain. It seems as though this area hit its hayday of climbing about 6-7 years ago. Austrians and Germans still come here a bunch considering the original developers included a group of Austrians such as Klem Loskot (who also developed a lot of climbs at Rocklands) On the weekends it has gotten fairly busy with all the Melbourne climbers coming up which filled up the campground last weekend. That was probably about 50 or so climbers, but bear in mind that the Grampians is also a sport climbing and trad climbing area so not all of those are boulderers. It's been quite strange to sit in the campground by ourselves, but as usual we are quite happy to do our own thing and it hasn't stopped us from having a lot of fun and doing a ton of climbs. That being said we can see why it's not the mecca that Rocklands is, the total amount of climbing is much smaller. We're happy with the bouldering that we've found and there is more than enough to satisfy us for another month or so. It's not really fair to compare the total amount of rock and say that this makes an area better because we're still only climbing a tiny percentage of what's available in either area.That's still a lot of climbing either way. Still we can't help comparing the two areas since we saw them back to back. We like both and for different reasons. My brother Nick and I were talking the other day about how to pick a "favorite area" and we all agreed that depending on your criteria "favorite" can have many different answers.

Master Bates v5
Out of the Bleau v5

Well now to the problems. Our first few days we explored Anderson's. It's the easiest area to access and has some of the most highly rated easier climbs. We were blown away by the cool lines and quickly picked up quite the tick lists. Some of them went down easily with a few v5s going our first few days. While we were at it we started testing out the waters on the harder lines and found plenty of v6-v9 climbs that are worthy of some effort. Cassie got "Out of the Bleau" v5 (this is a play on words: Bleau is short for Fontainbleau,France which typically gets credit for any sloper problem on sandstone because it has tons of them) and just yesterday finished up "Master Bates" v5 (sorry for the 5th grade potty humor). I've done a few great 5s as well such as Silverchair, and Epinephrine, and Magnum, and a great sloper v6 called Riding Shotgun. Now that we've done lots of the classics we're going to start focusing on projects. Hopefully some of those will start going down in the next few weeks. We're having a lot of fun trying.

flash gordon
Flash Gordon v7 - still a project at this time

tim tam traverse
Tim Tam Traverse v7 - one of our projects - tim tam's are australian biscuits (cookies)  - there is a special way to eat them by biting off the ends and then using it as a straw to drink your coffee. we ate all ours before trying this so will have to buy more...

passion or fashion
Passion - a great v4

Silverchair v5 - i gave it a thumbs up. fun roof climbing. Cassie didn't like it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

moving on from South Africa

Two months goes by incredibly fast when you're in a great place having a good time. We left Rocklands yesterday to head to Cape Town for a couple nights before our epic two day flight to Australia.

Orange Heart. A beautiful piece of rock v4/5
We don't have any amazing accomplishments of the last couple weeks, just a bunch of good fun climbing was done. Matthew had focused a lot of his time and energy on a project called Weichi which was a 7c+ or v10. This was the first climb of the grade he had really tried and while he gave it everything he had and got incredibly close (fell off the final hold), it didn't quite come together on this trip. That's the problem with setting your sights high and trying something that is harder than what you've done before, it doesn't always end in success when you want it to. The positive side of this is that he now knows he can do something this hard so will be more likely to try that grade again. With any luck there will be a post with Matthew sending his first v10 sometime soon.

weichi 7c+
the project Weichi v10

Bullet Proof an amazing v5ish dyno

Cassie spent a bit of time focusing on a climb that is much different than the normal style she enjoys. Generally she seems to favor slightly overhanging climbs with crimps (thin holds) rather than open handed slopers especially when those slopers require compression (squeezing the arms together to maintain contact). Considering her finger injury Cassie stayed away from crimpers and started working problems that had slopers. I think she did quite a bit better than even she expected and possibly we'll see her spend more time on compression and sloper problems. In the photo below she is setting up for a double heel hook double sloper position. It's basically squeezing the rock with your hands and feet while upside down. It's hard (and requires serious strength).
cassie runs Against the Wind
Against the Wind v6/7  7a+

the right hand sloper on Against the Wind

the left hand sloper on Against the Wind
In the last two weeks, we returned to a number of problems and areas we hadn't been to since early in the trip. We were both able to finish up or do a number of classic problems that we hadn't tried or didn't quite finish earlier in the trip. It felt good to finish up these problems that felt so impossible the first week of the trip.   Matthew also tried another classic v10, called Caroline on our last day here. It's a beautiful line and he was able to work out a few of the moves pretty quickly.
Caroline v10 7c+
We enjoyed the climbing in Rocklands so much that we're already trying to figure out if we can get back here next year. For now though, all good things have to come to an end, or move on to somewhere else.

We were excited to head to Cape Town where we are staying at the same bed and breakfast we stayed at our first night here. Again they upgraded us to a nicer room and we are really enjoying the comforts of living inside with a great shower, comfy bed, and TV to watch the Olympics on. We left our new found comforts today to explore a bit. We drove down the coast to see the African penguin colony here. And yes, penguins are amazingly cute and fun to watch.

penguin chicks

While we're a bit sad to leave rocklands, we're off to another great location and are looking forward to climbing in Australia and seeing friends there.