Sand-Baggers Anzac Day Weekend Moonarie Trip
Day 2: If it happens twice you’re fuckwits!
Gimp rose shortly after sunrise and set about cooking breakfast, bacon, baked beans, tomato and eggs. Yum!
Alex rose soon after and appeared to be distracted by the smell of food from her thoughts of a shower and set about happily making some tea.
Princess Edna arose in a leisurely manner just in time to have breakfast served by his manservant Gimp, and actually spoilt us all by condescending to making coffee. Lucky us!
Would you believe it? We actually left the campgrounds at about 10.00am and were at the junction by the astounding time of 11.00-11.15!
Following a short recovery break we set about organizing the gear that we had left at the junction overnight. I asked Edna if he had any toilet paper and he told me that he did, in the top of the backpack.
“Cool, can you bring it?”
Then we headed around towards The Ramparts to check out a route called Kneedeep Chimney.
Upon hearing what we were intending to climb, Rob Baker advised us that it wouldn’t be such a great idea. One look confirmed his thoughts for us: a heinous looking offwidth thing that was as black as midnight! Our other target Garden Refuse Removed Cheaply (13) [GRRC] was already being climbed by a group who somehow had made it up before us! God only knows how they managed that!
Rob recommended we try a single pitch route called Moondance (15). A route which he said was good, only 25m in length, and had chains at the top. I think he was hoping that we would be able to finish it before dark. We were suspicious of a Sand-Bag, but set off anyway.
Looking in the guidebook I soon located the topo with Moondance wall in it and spotted the route marked by an “M” and we made the 10 minute hike around to Callitris Corner.
After scrambling onto the base of the route poor Gimp found that nature had begun to call a little too insistently to be ignored any longer and asked Edna for the toilet paper.
“What toilet paper?”
“You are kidding right?”
“Why would I have toilet paper?” Edna asked.
“Ohhhh no, please!” I thought, “Because you said you would bring some.” I replied rather urgently.
“No, I left it at the junction, can you wait, or head back there?”
“Not a chance, oh well, grass and leaves.” I was actually surprised to find that curled bark actually worked quite well.
Ten minutes later a relieved Gimp was tying in to climb Moondance, remarking that it looked higher than 25 metres.
“I might have a shower at Wilpena when we get back tonight.” Added Alex.
After climbing up to a very big ledge that surprisingly was not mentioned in the guidebook I walked some 12m away from the face to the edge of the ledge (it was a very big ledge) to see if I could see the chains at the top. No luck.
“Rob did say they weren’t that easy to spot.” Came Edna’s reply when I told him I couldn’t see any chains.
Not too bothered I walked back to the wall and started up the overhanging section. Although the climbing was strenuous and a little tricky and run-out at times, I wasn’t worried too often, but did start to wonder just when the chains would come into sight. Quang asked on a number of occasions if a traverse to the left (where the chains should be) was possible, and each time I looked at the blank unprotectable wall to my left and hastily informed him that no, I was not going to be traversing at that moment. Having gone through a number of crux moves up the route I found myself experiencing that interesting combination of fear of dropping and exhilaration at making moves that could not be executed without risking a run-out drop. I was scared and enjoying myself at the same time, although the rope drag towards the end did make the final run-out/crux combination on sloping holds very interesting.
At the top I found a set of chains off to the right of my position and wondered if it was a typo or if the book meant to your left as you face out from the cliff. Strange.
Pulling in the slack I had taken up 2 metres of rope when Quang called “That’s me!”
“How the hell do you confuse 48 metres with 25?” I called out; frustrated that such an obvious error could be made in the guidebook.
Quang followed, and seemed to really enjoy the route as well. “How did you get this hex in here?” He asked at one point.
“Threaded from above, it was really just there to protect me moving out from under the rooflet.”
“Oh, I see. This is a tricky route, good though.”
Once he was up, we set our abseil off the chains, tying two ropes together and one at a time dropped off the ledge. Reaching the bottom I disturbed a sleeping Alex who had obviously been greatly inspired by our efforts.
Once Edna was down I pulled the rope through hoping to be able to catch the rope within a metre of the end as it whipped down from a height of 48m up so that Quang would buy me a pint of beer. I did catch the rope within a metre of the end, but Quang contended that seeing as it had gotten caught up in a bush just above my head that all bets were off… cheapskate.
Walking back towards GRRC Alex, distracted by thoughts of having a shower that night slipped and received a very bad gash down the side of her leg. Quang and I debated whether to try to get a helicopter in to airlift her out, but Alex, trooper that she is assured us she would be fine, and amazingly, stated her intention to continue climbing!
If you look really close you can see it.
I lagged behind to take pictures of a climber on a hard looking sport route while Alex and Quang kept moving.
Meeting up with Rob again, they told him how Moondance had been closer to 50m than 25, which surprised him a little. Hearing the conversation as I approached I took out the guidebook and checked again, only to discover that the “M” on the topo referred to a route named Melodrama, luckily, also a 15, but a route with two pitches! That explained the rope drag.
Read the guidebook Gimp you Doofus!
Okay, so now that we had established that perhaps my decision skills were a little off today we talked about what we were going to climb next. Rob seemed a little surprised by our discussion about climbing Garden Refuse Removed Cheaply (13) so late in the day, but perhaps sensing that we were determined to have another epic, suggested that if it got late we could traverse right and abseil off some chains at the top (somewhere).
Right, decided! Let’s climb GRRC! Yay!
Pitch 1 (crux). Gimp led (naturally, if unsure, send up The Gimp), and found things to be a little tricky, especially for a 13. As I progressed I had a nagging feeling that maybe I was about to be the victim of yet another Moonarie Sand-Bag. Hmmmmm. Not only was the start tricky, a thrutchy, awkward little chimney-type thing made the finish of pitch 1 interesting as well.
Oh well, soon enough we were all on the first ledge and thankful that the hardest part of the route was behind us.
Yeah, sure thing Gimp.
Edna volunteered to climb the next pitch and he seemed to do it in style, making his way (in inimitable Edna style – slowly, and carefully) up the corner crack that really was no walk in the park.
Seconding him I reflected on how sometimes you can tend to over-think things when you are seconding, and convince yourself that if you were leading instead of seconding that maybe you wouldn’t be able to do it. I think it has something to do with having the time to actually think about what is going on because your mind is not completely occupied; you actually have time to experience fear and doubt. For this reason I think it is not wise to spend too long seconding without leading as you increase your chances of convincing yourself that it’s not something you can do. Gimp wisdom, make the most of it, I now return to talking bullshit.
Alex amazed us with her flexibility, high stepping so much (straight legged) at one point that her foot was level with her shoulder! Bloody show-off! Next we’ll climb a friggin 23! That’ll teach the smartarse!
Edna did his best Buddha impression while belaying Alex up.
“Should I even bother taking all of the gear?” I thought as I weighed up the next pitch, a grade 9, described in the guide thus: The Garden Pitch – up the bushy corner. “Grade 9, not even a proper description in the guide, a bushy corner. Pffft! I bet I solo it.”
Of course, (and shut up Tom, Matt, Edna, I do think about these things), I was not silly enough to place no gear; mindful of the dangers of a factor 2 fall if I did not place any gear I placed a piece, clipped the rope, and trundled up at a fast pace, not pausing to place any more (obviously) redundant and time wasting gear as the shadows had started to march across the valley. “The less gear I place, the quicker we will be,” I thought.
And then, 27 metres above my last piece: “Hmmmmm, this is an interesting move.” I thought as all of a sudden the holds disappeared on me. Knowing that this could not be the case on a grade 9 I looked around for the jugs that I must be overlooking… not there. “Errr, that can’t be right, where are the gumby grade 9 jugs?” I thought with that sense of a Sand-Bag slowly seeping into my bones.
With arms fading from holding myself in a fairly awkward position on less than great holds I placed a cam in the awkward corner crack, clipped the rope and looked again, thinking that at least I could rest on gear if needed. Nope, there was nothing, except, maybe, just up there, 5cm up and just out of reach in the crack I could see a square looking ledge that looked big enough for a hand. Inching my way up on nothing I tried to contort my arm to get my left hand on the ledge… no good, “Dammit!” The crack was oriented so as to make it impossible to get my hand on the ledge! “Maybe my right hand,” I thought. Shifting position to reach in with my right hand I soon found that this just made things even worse; despite being able to get my fingers onto it sideways, I could not get a secure hold, and my body position was all wrong. Dead end.
Now, it was starting to get dark. “Shit! Come on Gimp, work it out, it’s only fucking grade 9! Don’t over-think this!” Looking onto the blank left face I noticed a small horizontal ledge, big enough only for a small crimp. It was no grade 9 hold, but it was a hold, and crimps were right up my alley. “Okay, well, that’s one hold, where to after that?” Above it I noticed what looked like another similar hold, “but what if it’s no good? Well, do you see anything better? Good point. Come on Gimp just climb this fucker, don’t think too much. If you’re gonna drop, bloody do something, because otherwise you’re gonna drop anyway, this is burning energy and daylight. Just shut up and move, it might work.” It’s funny, my fellow Sand-Baggers have noted when I get a little worried about things that I tend to stop talking. That’s not exactly true, I just stop talking to them and start talking to myself.
Grabbing the crack to layback awkwardly with my right hand I placed my left hand on the crimp, smeared my right foot on the slightly undercut right face and pulled.
With nowhere for my right hand I threw my left at the next crimp and to my relief found it to be about the same (not great but at least useable) as the lower one. I jammed my foot into the crack and lunged for the high sloper on the right face and… caught it. “Oh shit, thank God for that!” I thought as I performed an awkward mantle/beached whale manoeuvre and hauled myself up onto the small ledge.
“I’ll be fucked if that’s a friggin grade 9!” I called down to Edna and Alex. “More like a grade 20.” I thought, wondering how Quang and especially Alex were going to fare.
I set up on the small (2 person) ledge and belayed Edna up. He paused at the crux, and then seemed to breeze up it; “It wasn’t a 9, but not a 20 either. The fist jam was awkward, but not that hard.”
“Yeah, I just reached up and jammed my fist into the constriction. It wasn’t the best, but it was okay.”
“Oh man! I’ve go to work on my jamming. I didn’t even see, let alone consider it!”
“Heh heh heh,” Edna laughed, incredulous that jamming the crack never even occurred to me.
By this time guess what? Yep, it had started to get dark! Weird huh? Who would have thought? I had noticed the light fading as I fluffed around on the Garden Pitch, and with a desire to finish as much of the route with some semblance of daylight (and a ledge built for two) we decided that I would head up the final pitch using the last five minutes of light before Quang brought Alex up.
With thoughts of the previous pitch still firmly in my mind I started up the last pitch tentatively, placing a couple of pieces early… no more smart arse assumptions about grade for Gimp today! To say I was shitting bricks would have been an understatement.
Approaching a flaring crack I discovered a nice big spider on the inside face (thankfully) not close to where I needed to put my hand. I clipped the piece of fixed gear (a stopper jammed years ago) and then marvelled at the next piece of gear that had been left behind; a quickdraw clipped to a bolt! Hmmm, someone’s second obviously misunderstood the difference between fixed gear and a quickdraw clipped to a bolt!
Now in darkness and climbing with the aid of moonlight and my headtorch, I climbed slowly and deliberately, cursing myself for deciding to climb the tallest route at Moonarie at 2.30pm. Convinced that we were all going to die I resigned myself to the fact and climbed.
It wasn’t until I reached a spacious ledge some 15m below the top that I realised that it had been a while since I had placed some gear.
As this was going to be the last chance to lower my head torch down for Quang to use I untied and lowered it using the end of the rope. Although this sounds risky (and Edna told me so), it wasn’t, the ledge was bloody big.
Oh well, looks like not much gear to finish with either I thought as I wandered along the ledge looking for the final exit section of the route by moonlight.
Edna called out that perhaps I should place something (we had discussed the run out casually as I wandered around) but I assured him there was no way I was falling off this ledge (It would have been like falling out of your lounge room by accident). Finally I spied the exit and made my way up, placing no gear, more from a lack of light than anything else.
“If I fall now I’m fucked!” I thought as I made the final dicey moves before the top.
Topping out I couldn’t help the thought that just popped into my head, and I apologise to Edna and Alex for it now: “Well, at least one of us lived through that.” It wasn’t something that I thought consciously, it just popped in, I am not proud of it, and only report it here to illustrate how serious I really thought things could have become.
Tying myself in to a convenient tree I radioed to Quang that I was safe, allowing him to bring Alex up. The time was 7.30pm.
“Hmmmm, I wonder what Alex has been doing all this time?” I know you are thinking dear reader. Well, I can tell you with a reasonable level of certainty, although we have never discussed it; She was sitting on the second belay ledge with her hands clasped in front of her, head tilted slightly with a far-off look in her eye, rocking back and forth slightly, oblivious to the darkness and repeating the same mantra over and over: “gotta have a shower, gotta have a shower, get nice and clean, go to Wilpena, gotta have a shower…”
And thus, Rainman was born! Honestly! She just had not shut up about the friggin’ showers at Wilpena ever since seeing them the day before! It was driving us nuts! She would actually change subject with “I think I might have a shower in Wilpena tonight” in a matter of fact tone that would just stop conversations dead!
Anyhoo, Edna brought Alex up to the third ledge with a little hauling at the fist jam crux (while I took pictures of myself with the moon in the background), and then started up the final pitch. Delighting at the booty (quickdraw) he soon began to wonder just what the hell was going on in my mind to have run it out so much. Of course, it was mostly just because I couldn’t see potential placements too clearly.
Joining me at the top, Quang and I shared a nervous little laugh and I set about bringing Rainman up.
All was fine until a tired Alex arrived at the awkward crux: “You might have to help me here a little,” she told us over the radio.
“No worries,” I called back “we’ll drag you up if we need to.”
“Okay!” Alex immediately took me up on the offer and all of a sudden the rope became a lot heavier.
“Oh crap! I think she’s sitting” I said in a falsetto voice as the rope attempted to provide us with crushed nuts for dessert.
“Hang on,” said Edna coming over to help me haul rope.
The next few minutes felt like we were reeling in a big Marlin: Quang and I would get into a crouching position then stand up while holding the rope static. He then locked his legs and griped the rope as tightly as possible while I took in slack and crouched again with the rope locked off. Edna would then crouch and the process was repeated until Alex was able to climb again (and no, there was nowhere decent to set up a pulley system).
Finally Alex was at the top with us and all three Fuckwits began the long walk back down in the dark again.
The end of day two, and despite summiting twice, Alex had still not seen the spectacular view of Wilpena Pound.
Flying Buttress by moonlight
We got back to camp a little earlier than the previous night, (about 9.45pm). By the time we reached camp I was completely sick of hearing about how Rainman was going to have a shower in Wilpena when we got back… Edna had not bothered to wait to listen, he had outpaced both of us on the downhill run, not because he was fitter, just because it was downhill and momentum had begun to take hold. By the time he was within 500m of camp he was rolling at about 60km/h and only stopped after knocking down his fourth tree.
Luckily, he was able to use all the felled trees to get a fire going and Alex and I arrived in camp to be greeted by a nice warm fire.
Dinner consisted of a spaghetti followed by some rather nice nibbles, camembert, mettwurst, cheese, crackers and other savoury snacks. Yum.
Needless to say, the leftover sausages from the night before were not needed, fate it seems, had a different plan for them.
We drank a lot more beer and wine (from the lovely Port Wakefield district, one of SA’s more famous wine producing regions), and Rainman flashed the other campers again having a sponge bath, while Edna and I attended to more important things (drinking beer).