Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tiptoe Ridge, Bushranger Bluff

We are back at Mount Arapiles after an 11 day house-sit at a lovely little hobby farm at Jindera in NSW. Met two wonderful people and had a fun time looking after a range of animals, including a couple of poddy calves who were hand fed twice a day. Fritz, the dachshund was the cutest dog, but not the sort of dog you could take on a long walk - a combination of extraordinarily short legs and being 14 years old. 

I've neglected my blog of late as I've been too busy to sit down and write. Furthermore, I doubt this post will win any awards for witty, compelling or even moderately interesting writing. Our first day back at Mount Arapiles it was disappointingly cold and windy. Victoria is a windy state, and, at least in spring, the temperature yaws up and down like a storm tossed boat. Today, it was barely 11 Celsius with a gusty wind when we set out to climb, but, by the weekend, it will be 30 Celsius and climbing in the sun will be impossible.

I was up for the pick today (we alternate picks) and, initially, I had wanted to climb Xena (four pitches, grade 10) on The Pinnacle Face, but, I also thought that if Tiptoe Ridge - which the guidebook calls "an absolute must do" had no parties on it, I thought I might pick that instead. Tiptoe Ridge, at grade 5, is ranked as the best route at the grade in Austalia - who can resist - but frequently has multiple parties (some quite slow) strung along the route. School holidays, however, are over, the weekend has not yet arrived, and Arapiles was back to being pleasantly quiet. In other words, no-one was on Tiptoe Ridge.

The first pitch is an easy (the whole route is easy) amble up a buttress. We simul-climbed with running belays the first pitch and a half up to a good ledge with a bomber thread belay just below the summit pinnacle. It was windy and cold, and, arriving at the belay, I thought we might pitch out the last steep exposed half pitch to the summit which the guidebook says is "not well protected." Doug led this pitch and it turns out the protection was quite adequate. We opted to rappel off the pinnacle into the gap as the downclimb was very steep. For a rappel anchor, you simply sling the summit pinnacle. We made sure the rope was not too far down the pinnacle and that it pulled easily before the last person rappelled down. There are two more easy pitches, which, in hind sight, we could have easily simul-climbed, but, from below they looked very steep. Of course, this is Mount Arapiles, and, although the climbing was steep, the rock was also liberally sprinkled with jugs and good protection placements. 

It was only 1.00 pm when we finished so we had a chilly lunch down at the car, and drove off to climb a rappel-in route from the summit, but, driving past Bushranger Bluff parking area there were no cars, so no climbers. This just never happens at Arapiles as Bushranger Bluff is a favourite haunt of top-ropers and climbing schools and is generally festooned with dozens of top-ropes and inexperienced climbers falling their way up. Taking advantage of the lull, we changed plans (again) and walked to the sunny side where we were pleasantly sheltered from the wind and even had some sun. It felt great to be warm for the first time. I led a couple of steep but fun 7's and Doug led his first 14 - a very steep and pumpy route with a slick start. The routes at Bushranger Bluff are incredibly good. I've done all but one climb on the sunny side, and a half dozen on the shady side and all are high quality. The only down side is that the routes on the sunny side are too short.

So, there are no photos to accompany this post as I didn't take a single picture today, despite having my camera with me (it's hard to get anything but a butt shot anyway). Finally, a note on grades. According to the YDS to Ewbank conversion chart we were climbing between class 4 and 5.7. In actuality, we were probably climbing between about 5.9 and 5.3. The conversion scale is off, but, the grading is (as I've said before) consistent, although the discrepancy in grades seems to get smaller as you move up in the Ewbank grades. As usual, solid rock, great protection. Now if the bloody wind would just stop.

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