Day 2: Let’s climb some of the routes that are in the sun today.
The Making of a Feral Part 2
Waking up from my dream about sexy women wanting me I opened my eyes to see a bare bottom. YAY! Moments later I realised it was hairy and belonged to Tom. Yuck!
Then I noticed that my sleeping bag was damp...
Honest guys! I was aroused BEFORE I woke up, and the sleeping bag was damp from condensation!
As we ate breakfast we discussed the order of the day’s activities. Initially we had planned to pack up camp then climb, however as it had proven to be so cold in the afternoon we decided that if we climbed on the Southern Wall in the morning/early afternoon and headed back to camp at around 3.30pm we could make the most of the sun and then pack up on our return. Good plan. Okay, so we are going to climb on the Southern Wall and do some short routes so we don’t get cold then return at about 3.30 pack up and leave for home at about 5.00pm right? Right.
We were all agreed. The hike up to Top Camp was not so strenuous without our climbing gear but we still managed to become fairly warm on the way up. As we approached Top Camp Tom remarked how impressive Flying Buttress looked and how there was still a bit of sun shining on it. It looked so warm in the morning sun.
“Should we climb Flying Buttress?” Tom asked.
The stories I had heard about Flying Buttress and the implied suggestion that it was harder than the grade 15 it was given in the guide book made this a defining moment for me. With memories of Megan’s climbing the day before and my late night revelations I answered Tom without hesitating: “Sure.” There it was done, if I said anything now, I would look like a Nancy Boy. No Backing out now Adam.
Megan raised an eyebrow at us and said: “Errr can we revisit the whole ‘let’s climb in the sun today’ conversation?”
“It’s got some sun shining on it now, and it’s not as windy as yesterday.” Tom returned in his usual laconic manner.
“You’ll be fine today Meg, if you wear your shell to keep the wind out you shouldn’t get as cold as you did yesterday.” I said.
“Okay, fine let’s do it.” Megan was still not showing signs of being intimidated. If Thor had presented Megan with moves she hadn’t done, they were nothing compared to what Flying Buttress promised; a roof on pitch two followed by jug hauling without foot placements on pitch three!
As we prepared to climb the first pitch at about 10.00am the sun disappeared over the summit and we immediately felt the cold return to greet us as if it had been waiting for us to commit to a route. I rubbed my shoes in an attempt to bring some warmth to them before placing them on my feet and got some route direction from Tom about the position of the first belay. With the final checks done I took hold of the freezing cold rock and started up the easy first pitch (grade 10). Finding the chimney to the base of the roof was a little harder than I expected as it was not visible from the traverse, but soon enough I spotted it and headed up. The rope drag from the traverse was immense and I soon found myslef thinking that it was pointless going any further. Setting up a belay halfway up the chimney I radioed that I was safe and that Meg was on belay. Tom asked me if I thought we would be able to abseil off from where I was if Megan was unable to go any further as she was feeling a little sick. We should be able to I replied, and wondered just how bad she was feeling.
Megan began climbing and was soon at the bas of the chimney where she immediately began to feel the immense drag of the trailing rope, but with a few big hauls to provide some slack she was on the ledge with me in good time.
Tom quickly followed and upon arriving at my belay said the he and Stewy had actually set up immediately below the roof last time. As our ropes were 50m long and the second pitch was 35m it was decided that putting in another short pitch to get to the top of the chimney would be wise. Not wanting to hold things up too much I waited until I was on belay and climbed the chimney in my descent shoes (I had put them on to warm my feet while belaying) which made things a little more tricky, but not too bad. As Megan ascended Tom (15 metres below me) gave an apology for farting. Moments later, Megan who was about two metres above him was hit by the shock wave and threw numerous curses down at him that even the roughest of ferals would have been proud of. Despite the blustery wind that had picked up I did not really think it was too unusual for Tom’s gaseous attack to reach Megan, but it was lucky I was anchored because nothing could have prepared me for the stench that assaulted my nostrils! UNBELIEVABLE!! 15 metres up with a strong breeze and the MOAF had not been diffused! To have kept it’s integrity over such a distance in windy conditions it must have been on the border of being solid! Fortunately none of the gear was corroded enough to cause any safety concerns and when we regained consciousness Megan was able to continue climbing.
Once we were all at the belay under the imposing roof we quickly set about preparing Tom for the intimidating pitch. Time had gotten away from us and it was now early afternoon. The wind had picked up a little and the rock continued to sap the heat from our bodies. As I watched him move up to the roof I was impressed by the way Tom climbed confidently despite the cold and kept us tight on the anchors to remove as much chance of gear failing as possible in the event of Tom falling; protection failure during a fall from the roof would have resulted in a messy drop down through the chimney and either onto the ledge some distance below or down into the gully below the base of the Buttress. Having placed a BD no. 2 cam at the start of the roof then a number 3 at the halfway point, Tom paused to put in a 9 hexcentric prior to committing to the pull up and onto the face above the roof. As he moved to gain the wall it seemed as though the cold had taken it’s toll on Tom’s fingers and he was unable to maintain his grip on the left hand hold… “Take!” Came the call.
“Yep, gotcha.” I called as Tom fell into space and was caught by the hex.
“Ahh! I just couldn’t keep my hand on that triangle block!” Tom cursed. “Well, the hex worked.” He casually remarked as he smiled down at us.
The fall brought home to Megan and I the difficulty of the move. Tom is about 6 foot 4 inches tall with a much longer reach than either of us and if he was struggling to reach the holds how would we go? Both of us immediately began to shiver as our bodies responded to the surprise of watching Tom fall and as he pulled back onto the climb and moved through the crux I worried about the possibility of hypothermia again. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before Tom was on the next belay ledge and ready for Megan to follow.
Convinced that the roof was going to prove too difficult for Megan I again set up a Jumar system so she would be able to climb the rope if the going was too hard. Megan had never even attempted a roof in the gym let alone on a multi-pitch route! Once again Meg displayed the same business-like attitude and headed up the wall below the roof. Within minutes she was at the roof and beginning to commit to getting herself horizontal. As I watched she simply copied the moves that Tom had done and was at the crux within no time at all, unclipping her rope then re-clipping mine. Following beta from Tom, Megan moved out to the lip of the roof, but at this point found that the moves that had worked for Tom were of no use due to the difference in height; the kneebar that he was able to use was simply too long a reach and so from that point on, she was on her own. After a slight pause Megan pulled up around the lip reached up for the holds that she hoped she would be able to reach. Unfortunately the combination of the pure strength required to pull through after having to work out the required sequence and savage cold of the rock was too great and despite getting hold of the crimpy right hand scoop and left hand block and Megan fell. With a short exclamation of disappointment that would have made a Northern Suburbs speech therapist blush Megan pulled back onto the roof and completed the moves on her second attempt!
Feeling a little warmer from having worn my descent shoes I got ready to climb by removing my hydro pack from my back so it wouldn’t get stuck as I moved through the gap at the end of the roof and…. “shit, that wasn’t my hydro pack!” I thought as my chalk-bag dropped down through the chimney to the ledge below. I relayed my good fortune to Tom who countered that at least it wasn’t hot, and if I sweated in this weather I was a freak anyway! I waited for the call to climb then pulled apart my belay and began to climb removing the gear as I went. Going through the roof I removed the cams and came to the no.9 hex that Tom had fallen on and found it to be firmly jammed. Wedging myself in to get a better attack with the nut tool I spent a few minutes bashing at the hex to no avail, it was going to require a long bar and hammer to remove it so I donated it to the rock and moved out to the lip. As Megan before me discovered I found that the kneebar that Tom found so handy was not an option for shorter folk so I had to reach up to the finger pocket on the right promised by Tom and… (my thoughts) no, that’s not it, just a small scoop with a crimp, hmm maybe it’s a little higher… no, maybe lower… aww crap! It’s the crimp isn’t it? “This isn’t a bloody pocket Tom!”
“Well it’s sort of a pocket, it’s round.”
“Thanks for that.” Ecstatic with this discovery I looked up to the left and spotted the big triangular block Tom had mentioned and pulled up to grab it when I found myself unable to go any higher; my descent shoes had become jammed behind me and were stopping me from moving up – I had removed my hydro-pack and was trailing it, but forgot about my shoes!. “Oh you F*!@ &%$!*!!!” My language became a little colourful at this point as I could see my clean ascent of the pitch going south really quickly as I struggled to maintain my freezing fingers on the right hand crimper hold while trying to find an alternative hold. Eventually I had to make do with a left hand smear on the last rock below the block and just muscle up forcing the shoes to eventually give way enabling me to move up. Thankfully once on the face the moves were easy and I was able to recover through the last few metres. I posed for a nice picture as I approached the belay and then pulled over the top and prepared to lead the next pitch.
Guide Book: “Up the crack to a niche, move to the front of the overhang, swing out on a jug or two then up.”
“Cool, jug hauling.” I thought. Tom backed up the guidebook saying that they were really good jugs and even though you had no feet it was a lot of fun.
Apparently the person who wrote the description for this route was a similar height to Tom. Leaning out as far as I could I found my left hand a good twenty to thirty centimetres away from the jugs. Improvising by using a fist jam to gain some extra reach I was just able to get my longest fingers over the edge of the “jug” and had to cut loose on what was effectively a crimp and a smear. From this position I then had to heel-hook up. Jug-hauling my ass! The rest of the pitch was relatively easy except for a little face climbing through a bulge just below the next belay that required some really technical hand and foot work to get through.
Setting up a belay in seconds thanks to a lovely horizontal crack that just loved cams I quickly pulled my socks over my shoes and called Megan to climb.
Despite having seen her get through the roof with a minimum of fuss, I knew this pitch would present more of a problem as it was just as committed and exposed, but was a little more technical (for climbers less than 6 feet tall) and required quite a bit of upper body strength, and the combination of trying to keep warm and pulling through the roof had used a lot of Meg’s energy. Soon I could see Megan as she got to the crux and watched as she committed to the moves. As I had discovered, Megan also found the holds to be a little out of reach, but this time she just didn’t have the energy left to pull through in one go. To her credit she kept working the move and finally, after dropping enough swear words to make my earlier shoe tirade look like a Sunday School lesson, Megan managed to get through the crux and cruised the rest of the pitch, including the tricky bulge.
Next up was Mr Albatross Wingspan and within seconds he was JUGHAULING his way up through the crux with comments like “You guys must have gone the wrong way, the holds are easy to get.”
I just sat there and tried to resist the urge to throw stones down at him.
When he got to the bulge with the technical moves, Tom merely reached up and grabbed the hold that took Megan and I three moves to get to and pulled up with comments like “Oh, that was easy.”
Megan caught my hand before I could let go of the stone.
Once we were all on the ledge Tom decided that he was going to lead the direct finish that scared him last time when seconding it. (Sometimes I wonder about that boy)
Even though the pitch was very short (15m) it was pretty tricky – up through a slightly overhanging scoop on limited gear. After a couple of investigative moves to find the holds in the scoop Tom committed and made his way up the serious looking pitch.
By the time He was at the top it had begun to get quite dark so we decided that it would be quicker for me (Gimp) to climb up and remove the gear, then go up the alternative final pitch graded 12, which I did. Unfortunately a piece that I left in to protect a traverse jammed as Tom tried to take in slack for Megan and so we lost the rest of our daylight while I abseiled down to remove the piece.
As it was now quite dark Tom suggested that I take my rope and solo the exit route so that when Megan was up and they had packed up the gear all they had to do was tie into my trailed rope and climb up. “It’s okay, Stewy and I soloed it last time we were here…”
“Yeah, but not in the dark and not in freezing conditions.” I thought – I knew what I was in for, Quang and I climbed the face last time, me on lead, Quang seconding.
It was however the best plan given the conditions, so taking my rope I tried to contain my sense of overwhelming joy at the prospect and made my way over to the exposed 25m cliff face.
Soloing the wall was not too bad, I couldn’t see the huge drop below me, but then, I also couldn’t see the holds in front of me; thinking we would be finished by 3.30pm we had foolishly left our head torches behind.
At the top I set up a belay using the nearest tree and waited for Meg and Tom to come up as the icy wind funnelled up the left side of Flying Buttress blasting me with the coldest wind I had felt all weekend. Thankfully Tom and Meg simulclimbed (Tom attached to Meg’s harness) and in a short time we were all up. With no time to take summit pictures I sent Gump and JennyBob off to head down the descent gully while I coiled my rope.
The descent gully was pitch black and required a lot of concentration but I soon caught up to Meg and called out to Tom to go on ahead and organise our packs and some light.
Carefully picking our way down we were pleased to see the bright beam of light as Tom found his super bright bike headlight, at least we wouldn’t have to hike all the way back to camp in the dark.
After having to explain to Tom that a bright light shining at us did not help us in the final few metres of our descent Megan and I made it back to the packs where we all gratefully ate some chocolate and then started the descent to camp.
Megan admitted to us that she was a real feral now as she had taken the last step in moving over to the Dark Side during the hike up: Blowing snot out of her nose. Nice one Meg, your Mum will be so proud! Youse are a real grouse chick! Tops!
On the way down we listened to our new feral mate as she talked about how f*cken grayt the cloyming was, and how Styoowee was such a rool f*cken poofta ***hole fer not cloyming routes harder than her.
We arrived back at camp, packed up and got in the car for home. Little Megsy was so tired from having such a big day that after an hour of singing along to Cold Chisel with a bottle of scotch and sticking her head out the window to scream “YEEEEHAAAAGH” and then peeing on the side of the road, she fell asleep. And what a peaceful sight it was; little feral had a big day.