Saturday, November 29, 2014

So Long Arapiles

I am way behind in this blog as I've been out and about climbing and hiking too frequently to have time to record our latest activities. Which means this will be another of those ultra boring travelogue type blogs where I just bleat on about the last things we've done. 

Aphrodite at Arapiles was a grand climb, although I got stuck on the first pitch for a while contemplating a ground fall if the micro nut (rated for aid only) were to fail if I failed to pull the slick moves up to easier ground. Finally, after staring at this "crux" for a long time and testing the moves, I stepped left, found myself on route (instead of off-route) and with a lovely cam placement to protect the few moves to easier ground, and, I was away. The first pitch has interesting climbing to a belay stance not far below the notch on Tiptoe Ridge, the second pitch ambles up easy terrain but you can make it more interesting by taking the steepest route, and the third pitch traverses left to pull a roof on big jugs in "an exposed position" (it is pretty exposed). Halfway through the crux moves there is the most bomber thread, but I ended up moving past it as I had no long sling handy having used my usual thread sling on a chicken head lower down. If you plan to climb this route, keep a double length skinny runner handy for this most awesome bit of natural protection. 

We wandered off and climbed Diapason after Aphrodite, although it was getting a bit hot in the sun. A nice starting pitch up a steepening crack with some interesting moves, a rambling pitch up the middle of the buttress, and finally a chimney move or two and an interesting step across onto the wall complete the route. 

We also climbed Watchtower Chimney which is about the most fun you can have on a chimney route and the third pitch is just superb. Doug led pitches one to three, and I took the easy final pitch. Pitch one starts up a steep crack that gradually fades out, there is a carrot bolt, and then you traverse left to a corner crack. I traversed low with my hands on the ledge, while Doug did this section the hard (unprotected) way by traversing with his feet on the ledge and no hand holds. I can just about always find the easy way. Anyway, if you go low, you get some gear placements at your hand level, go high, and you'll have a longish runout to the corner. The corner crack offers sustained and quite slick climbing and I was happy not to be leading it.
There is a small belay stance in the corner, and then a short pitch up to the chimney. Doug went a bit higher than the normal belay spot to the top of a chockstone which made a bomber belay and necessitated just a few chimney moves that required me to hang both pack and shoes off my belay loop. The third pitch is atmospheric and a little difficult if you are leading it as you are not quite sure where to go or how to tackle it. If you don't want beta, don't read on! First, stem up above the chockstone, then step up onto the right hand wall where a ledge runs along the top of the chimney. Climb along this stepped ledge until you get back into the chimney proper higher up. A few chimney moves with good ledges for feet and you are up out of the chimney and at a big belay ledge. No Joe Herbst moves required. The final pitch climbs an easy crack then rambles to the top. 

One of our other last multi-pitches was Hurricane Lamps Crack which I enjoyed but Doug found a bit choppy. The first pitch requires just a few chimney moves to start but most of it you can stem. Pitch two is up a steep crack and has multiple options. Pitch three traverses a small ledge to pull around a nose of rock and up steeply. Pitch four is short, just 10 metres, but is tough to combine with pitch three due to rope drag. There's a slightly stiff for the grade but fun start and then you are up on the "tennis court" and the final two pitches are easy rambling to grade 8 and can be done as one long pitch. 

We also did a few routes up at Preludes Wall as it stays shady in the afternoon. All good routes that are between 25 and 35 metres long and feel a bit stiff even for Arapiles grades. Steep and technical at the same time requiring good footwork and body tension. Of course, the Pillars of Hercules at the top provide bomber anchors and there is a rappel anchor at the far left side (25 metre rappel). 

After six weeks or so of climbing, we've finally left Arapiles and are now in the Grampians. The climbing was beginning to feel a bit the same - which is not a criticism of Arapiles as, everywhere in the world I've climbed if you stay in one place the climbing begins to feel a bit the same. Squamish is slabs and cracks, more slabs, more cracks. Skaha is steep crimping followed by more steep crimping, the Black Rocks are steep basalt jugs and cracks, Frenchmans Coulee is similar, and, well, you get the picture. It was also starting to get a bit hot at Arapiles with lots more days of continuous over 30 Celsius days in the forecast. Already I've got a bunch of Grampians hikes to write up and not much time so the boring travelogue type blog post is likely to continue.

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