Sand-Baggers Anzac Day Weekend Moonarie Trip
Day 1: If it happens once it’s an Epic.
Having noticed the night before that we had forgotten to bring a kettle and matches, we had discussed the possibility of driving in to Wilpena to buy some (as well as firewood). Luckily, as Alex and I were leaving (Edna was still asleep) I noticed fellow climbers (and frequenters of the VR Gym) Tony and Bill out and about, preparing to hike up to the cliffs and asked if they had a spare billy. Thankfully, they did and lent it to us, saving a trip and unnecessary spending of cash, we could do without the matches (Action-Gimp fire lighting skills), and firewood was not that much of a deal.
Sleeping Beauty arose at the leisurely time of 10-10.30am and proceeded to have a nice quiet brekkie and coffee while Gimp looked wistfully at the so-near-yet-so-far cliffs that called out invitingly to be climbed. With climbing gear organized I began hopping excitedly from foot to foot as Edna finished his repast and then announced that he and Alex were going to go into Wilpena quickly to get wood and matches.
“Oh, okay, is it far?”
“About 15 minutes round trip.”
“Cool, I can handle that.” Doing the dishes while I waited, I looked occasionally to the cliffs that we would be hiking up to in a matter of minutes and couldn’t wait…
Almost an hour later after dishes were washed and dried and the camp was tidied and all gear checked and rechecked and I had been to the loo again and taken some photos and looked (more impatiently than wistfully) at the cliffs and gazed at my phone to confirm that it wasn’t just my imagination and that more than 15 minutes had most definitely passed I began to consider hiking up by myself to at least say that I had been up to the cliffs that day. If I even had the slightest inkling that there would be someone to climb with if I hiked up alone, Edna and Alex would have returned to an empty camp.
At last Edna and Alex returned (having had a wonderful time shopping and using the apparently beautifully clean toilets) and proceeded to dither about getting ready to go. Lucky that Gimp didn’t have a gun.
At the delightful time of 1 ‘o-fucking-clock we started our hike up to Top Camp. Yay!
Deciding that The Great Wall was going to be too hot (it was about 30°C) we decided that climbing the nice cool Great Chimney via Shangri La (14), 105m was a good plan.
After loading the packs I told Edna that he had the ropes, quickdraws and redundant gear. As we geared up having decided that Alex would lead the first pitch I casually asked Quang where the quickdraws were.
“The ones in your pack.”
“I didn’t know they were in my pack.”
“It’s okay, we have enough cams with carabiners for Alex to do the first pitch, you belay her and I’ll jog back to the junction to get them…” I sighed, glad that he hadn’t left them at camp and muttering about Alzheimer’s and wasting more @!$#% time.
When I got back Alex was most of the way up the first pitch and doing well. I must say it was a pretty impressive effort to lead the first pitch of an unfamiliar route at a new and big cliff, and all on your first multi-pitch! Well done Alex!
Edna soon followed as did I and we were off.
Fortunately there was no rain to wash me off the second pitch this time, and armed with the right information about where to go (Edna had previously put me up it thinking it was Nervine), I found the climbing to be very good. Alex followed with relative ease and Edna brought up the rear (metaphorically as well as the fat one).
Alex, near the top of pitch 2 and Edna finishing off pitch 2, then Gimp
We all sauntered unroped up the third pitch (Nature walk up delightful grassy ravine) and set up for Edna’s assault on the fourth pitch.
As Quang started up I couldn’t help but experience a sense of Déjà vu as I noticed that the shadows had begun to creep across my limited view (we were in a chimney) of the valley. I reported this to Quang who happily continued to describe each hold and placement to me as he enjoyed leading the penultimate pitch.
After a slight pause where the climbing and pro became tricky with an exposed traverse (which also increased the dither factor), Edna moved up the wall relatively oblivious to the impending darkness giving us a commentary on the route as I glanced nervously at the shadow filled valley and the glowing-with-the-colours-of-sunset Chace Ranges. Naturally, satisfied with his negotiation of the crux, Edna regaled us with the obligatory narrative about the intricacies of the section.
“Ummmm, yeah, it’s getting dark Edna.”
“Okay,” came his unconcerned reply, followed a few moments later by more commentary.
“No, really dark.”
“Uh-huh. There’s a good hold here if you look, it’s really quite nice.”
“Less talk, more climb. It really is very dark down here now.” I said, thinking that it was fine for him; he wasn’t going to have to lead the last (crux) pitch in the dark.
“I don’t know whether I should go under this boulder or over it.”
“Dark. Really, really dark.”
“It’s not very stable, it might fall if I go under it… it would be easier to go that way, but I think the rope pulling might make it fall, it’s on a really good ledge one side, but then a really small ledge the other side.”
“Can you go over it?”
“Then do that.” I said, silently adding “quickly” to myself.
Finally Quang was at the next belay and ready to bring Alex up. After briefly mentioning that she might drive in to Wilpena for a shower when we got back Alex called out that’s me, and as there was very little light left I put my head torch on her and away she went.
By the time Alex was at the exposed traverse I was unable to see anything apart from what the torch was illuminating and had to be content to just sit there and listen once again to Edna’s description of the route.
“Sixteen!” I called.
“What’s that?” Asked Quang.
“The number of stars I can count. It’s more now, though, too many to count. Funny, it really is quite dark you know”
By this stage Alex was climbing in pitch black, with only a head torch and Beta from Quang on the fourth pitch of her first multi-pitch route, and managing to keep a fairly cool head about it. Maybe ignorance is bliss. I wasn’t quite so relaxed, knowing that the final and crux pitch was described as being a delicate corner with small holds.
When Alex reached the “perched block” some discussion ensued as to whether she should go under or over it. After some (read 5 minutes worth) to-ing and fro-ing it was decided that perhaps going around was the best option.
“Take your time now, it can’t get any darker.” I thought crouching with my head covered as invisible cricket ball sized rocks rained down, whizzing past my ears each one miraculously missing me by centimeters.
After what seemed an eternity it was finally time for me to climb the fourth pitch so that I could meet my doom on the final pitch. With a Maglite hanging from my hydropack to illuminate my foot placements I climbed often finding (as the downward pointing torch illuminated the rock below) that the small holds I had just been grasping were right next to much bigger ones.
“Did you see the balanced boulder?” Quang asked as I negotiated an awkward underclinging traverse to the belay ledge.
“I didn’t see much of anything.” I replied gazing upwards with trepidation at the final pitch.
Noticing the direction of my gaze, Quang assured me that it looked just like my type of climb, “It’s a good corner, with crimpy holds, you should find it easy, and it’s not too long.”
Pausing for a photo I geared up and headed up the thankfully short and tricky-but-good last pitch with the aid of my head torch.
Just before sending up The Gimp in total darkness on the last (crux) pitch of Shangri La
As I reached the summit I was greeted by a huge and almost full moon, and set about making a belay thinking that things hadn’t turned out so bad after all, and that I really had enjoyed myself immensely. Things always seem better after you summit, especially when it’s on a route that has previously beaten you.
As Alex came up she seemed to move with relative ease, and was surprisingly calm about the whole affair. As she topped out on her first ever multi-pitch route she seemed to be very satisfied with her efforts, and she had every right. I wonder how many people have finished their first multi-pitch in the dark (without it being their last).
Glad to be alive, Gimp and Alex look down at Edna
Edna followed easily and we were soon at the top feeling much happier about things in general. After posing for the obligatory summit shots for Alex’s first big route we set about heading back to the descent gully in our climbing shoes as we had left our descent shoes at the bottom thinking we would abseil back down. Obviously this was no longer an option as we weren’t sure how close the chains were. As we blundered through the scrub Alex casually remarked that when we got back she might drive in to Wilpena to have a shower. We nodded and told her about the absolutely amazing view of Wilpena Pound that you could see during daylight from where we were. Adding that she would see it tomorrow when we got to the top earlier.
It was a little dark at the summit
Some time later, and after many near-misses with orb spiders on my part (never leave the trail, or walk between trees Gimp) we were back at the campsite, pausing briefly to say hi to Rob Baker and then a couple of very drunk Kiwis who were visiting eh?
By the time we got to our camp it was 10.30pm. Just in time for dinner!
And beer, and wine. As it was so late, Alex thought that she might just have a sponge bath and have a shower in Wilpena in the morning.
Interestingly, she thought it would be better to have her wash behind our tent so that Edna and Gimp could not see, admonishing us to not look... as if we would. The funny thing is, from the spot she had picked for her wash which prevented the two people she could trust to not look from seeing, every other campsite would have been able to see her! Go figure!