After a pretty unpleasant 40 Celsius day the usual southerly change came through and it got cold again. Victoria seems to be a continuous cycle of hot and cold weather never really settling into anything really pleasant. We had a casual day at Arapiles climbing some one and two pitch routes until it began to thunder and rain just as I was finishing up Mesa (an easy grade 10). For once, there was a rappel anchor on top and Doug and I were off in a flash as the thunder rumbled all around us.
Detour ahead in Watchtower Chimney
The next day I had my pick and we climbed Xena and Diapason. Xena is on the Pinnacle Face so has the standard easy walk off down the tourist track. I led all the pitches and it is a fun route with good gear, good belays and solid rock. Pitch one is supposed to be 8, but I thought it was slightly harder than pitch two which is 9, although there was really only one slightly thin move on the first pitch up a steep smooth crack. Pitch three is a ramble up easy terrain and pitch four pulls a roof on good jugs and then eases to grade 8 terrain. We scored a booty cam from the belay on Siren which some party had left behind. It was a bit hot in the sun, but there was some breeze so after lunch, we walked up to the Organ Pipes and I led all three pitches of Diapason (grade 8). Pitch one rambles up a steepening crack which can be tackled straight on or out to the left. Pitch two is quite easy up the buttress, and pitch three involves a couple of quasi-chimney moves before a steep little traverse and then easy ground. Lots of protection available on all the pitches and you can rappel off rings past Piccolo so the descent is easy too.
Doug on pitch two of Panzer
Doug led all three pitches of Panzer (grade 12) the next day. This is really a good route with a lot of variety in the climbing. The first pitch is quite slabby with a thin traverse. Gear is adequate but spaced. Pitch two climbs a steep corner, then steps right around an arete onto the face and continues up on more spaced gear placements. The last belay is under a roof, and, in classic Arapiles style, the final pitch traverses out right on easy ground, climbs a little corner, and then continues up juggy terrain to the top of a little tower. The last pitch seems easier than the other two but is still graded 12. You have to downclimb off the back of the tower (about 5.3) and, as a fall would be greatly injurious if not fatal, I climbed down first on belay and stuck a couple of pieces in for Doug, none of which he appeared to need.
A pretty bomber anchor
The usual punting was being done on Arachnus on both days we were nearby with the leaders endlessly shouting "slack" and grunting with effort as they tried to surmount the rope drag resulting from using sport draws on this route. I'm beginning to think a sign at the bottom of the climb warning people not to use short draws but to take double length runners would save a lot of grief. The rope always zig-zags so severely from side to side that the gear being placed is subject to huge sideways pulls.
Doug starting up Watchtower Chimney pitch one
Yesterday we climbed Watchtower Chimney and had time for Stalagmite (nicely in the shade) afterwards. Watchtower Chimney is alternating pitches of grade 12 and grade 8, Doug led the first three pitches and I the last easy pitch. Pitch one starts up a steep crack that gradually fades out and then you traverse left on slabby terrain to a slippery corner. Doug took the high line on the traverse putting his feet on the little ledge with a crack in the back, but that left nothing for the hands and no gear, but I took the low route with reasonable dishes on the slab for my feet, good hands in the ledge/crack (and you could put in a couple of pieces of gear). I found the corner slippery and tricky, but I always suck on the first pitch of the day. Pitch two finished up the corner and then tackles the chimney. Doug got a good chockstone belay after a couple of chimney moves, but I suspect most folks belay below this chockstone. The chimney is interesting climbing and tough for the leader to work out exactly how to tackle it. You start above the chockstone with some stemming moves, then step onto a ledge on the right and balance up this awkward stepped ledge on the right wall of the chimney. A step across to the left wall gives a few more face climbing moves, then you move right up into the chimney until you are almost, but not quite, wedged in and with your back against the right wall, and your feet on ledges on the left, chimney up until a couple of good holds help you pull up out of the chimney onto a big belay ledge. The route is pretty much over by then with just a couple of 8 moves up a crack on the right and a romp to the top.
Doug in Watchtower Chimney
We walked up to Preludes Wall after a late lunch and Doug led Stalagmite (grade 13) which has two distinct cruxes up overhangs. The bottom crack, although steep, looks featured but is a little harder than it appears at first glance and the second (final) overhang requires good body positioning and tension to avoid thrashing about - as I did At the top of the route is a big cave with huge "stalagmites" that make bomber belays (although I am sure a certain local guide would insist on "backing" them up). A short walk along the ledge with the stalagmites is a rappel anchor so this was another cushy route.
Lake Wynn Reserve
We decided to stick with our two days on/one day off climbing schedule which has turned out well as it has been raining since mid morning today. I wandered off on a 14 km walk which took me across the now completely dry Lake Natimuk to the northern end where I picked up a track through a wildlife refuge that runs along the also dry Natimuk Creek, a short stretch on a quiet road and I got on another track through melalueca forest by Lake Wyn (salt) wildlife reserve. That's another week at Arapiles gone by.