If you follow this blog, you've probably worked out we are back camping at Natimuk Lake and climbing at Mount Arapiles. Last year, I somehow managed to have time to walk an hour in the morning, an hour at night, and keep up a blog (of sorts) about our climbing experiences. This year, I am barely managing an hour at night walking and virtually no blogging. Something, apart from me being a year older, has obviously changed.
I do have other priorities. When I got back into the gym in Tasmania, I discovered two things, one good, one not so good. While I had lost less strength than I might have imagined, I had also lost more mobility than I anticipated. So right now, my big focus, outside of staying alive while trad climbing, is mobility and this consumes more than an hour a day. On the plus side, my mobility is improving, on the negative side, I have noticed my strength is waning.
Such is life on the road. You can't train strength when you are trying to perform, yet, especially when trad climbing, you tend to climb at a lower grade than you would when sport climbing so you get less training effect even if you put in the same number of hours on the rock. Trad climbing is more about fiddling in gear and assessing your relative safety than it is about pushing the limits of your climbing.
The weather has, overall, been pretty good. We've had a few hot days and it is noticeably drier around the area than last year (Natimuk Lake is dry and overgrown with vegetation). Most days, with a little thought, starting early, climbing in the shade, it is possible to climb pretty comfortably, but, the flies are numerous, viscous and make being outdoors thoroughly unpleasant.
Today, however, is one of those days when you just don't climb - it's 35 Celsius, the Antipodean sun is beating down, and the hot north wind offers little relief. In other words, it's a rest day and a good day to catch up with the blog.
A chronicle of all the routes we have climbed would be tedious, and this blog post is likely tedious enough, so I am simply going to record some thoughts about some of the new routes (new to us) we have done this year.
Oops, cross loaded biner
First off, climbs I really did not like as much as I thought I would. Syrinx is a seven pitch route up Tiger Wall and, while it gets three stars, I liked it less than Siren. While, the first three pitches offer some good climbing, and the cruxy moves right off the ground on pitch one will wake you up, the last four pitches are not nearly as good. Pitch four rambles up juggy terrain, which I liked but Doug did not, and the remaining three pitches are kind of average. Pitch six traverses a huge terrace before climbing two metres up a steep little crack, and the final pitch is another traverse - although there is a certain novelty factor in this pitch as it is quite airy. Overall, Siren (a grade easier) offers better climbing in my opinion.
Dunes is one of those unsatisfying climbs that combine easy terrain with a few brutish moves out of character with the rest of the route. The steep little crack on pitch one is really hard at the grade (I pulled on a cam) so five metres of hard, pumpy climbing follows 30 metres of rambling. Pitch two is a bit similar with some slick steep moves to start then much easier climbing above. Pitch three follows a similar format except in reverse. After pulling onto a wall, there is some easy rambling followed by a short steep crack. Pitch four seems more consistent at the grade but it is ledgey at the crux so you don't want to blow those moves and fall onto a ledge.
Now onto more enjoyable routes. Keyboard and Conifer Crack at the Organ Pipes are all great fun and well protected. If you want to do Keyboard without continuing up pitch two of Conifer Crack you can walk over and rappel off the Horn Piece anchors. Pedro is pretty challenging at the grade and requires some technique and some strength, definitely daunting for a leader at the grade. Gecko and Chameleon Connection are on the smooth slabby wall to the right of Arachnus (must be Mount Arapiles most climbed route) and are balancey, technical and run-out in equal measures.
Kestrel is a full body experience up a giant crack/chimney which requires no chimneying but a lot of gymnastics. The climbing is never really hard but you have to work it out. It's a real corker. There is a rappel anchor, a rare treat at Arapiles which saves lugging up shoes for the walk off.
The chimney on Harlequin Cracks defeated us again. Doug went up and tried for ages to climb it but found it slick, hard, and impossible to protect safely (that is not hitting ledges if you fall) so he climbed a - challenging for a few moves - variation out on the right wall then regained the chimney higher. The remainder of the pitches are fun, easy, well protected. If I did it again, I would just climb BA Mosquito to start. In the same area, Harlequin Cracks has a great first pitch up a corner crack with easier climbing above.
Agamemnon is a fantastic chimney, which does require a bit of chimneying, has dizzying exposure and is just great fun with great positions. Doug led this and did manage to get adequate gear, although it isn't what you would call plentiful. In the same area, Tantalus is surprisingly steep, particularly the start of pitch two, and Clytemneastra Buttress is also very steep at the start of pitch two and a bit confronting at first.
Eagle Cleft and The Eighth are just enjoyable climbs at the grade and it is fun to climb Trapeze - the traverse is exciting and exposed - on Castle Crag and we top-roped swinging which, at grade 17 is way easier than the crux moves of Dunes. Go figure. At Charity Buttress, all the climbs are good, difficulty wise, it is hard to see the difference between Loyalty/Faith and Charity/Hope. The buttress is certainly a nice place to spend a morning climbing all the routes on the buttress.
Bygone, despite the guidebook write up, does not seem particularly hard at the grade, and the protection is adequate and, in the same area, Debut is shady for much of the day so a good choice on a hot day, although, I had to break the first pitch into two as, even with only two pieces of gear in the first 20 metres and long runners on both pieces, I simply could not drag the rope up the crux moves. The second pitch has some loose blocks but is fun and easy to protect. Rope drag gets pretty burly at the end of that pitch as well.
Those are the highlights. We'll probably be here for another week as a southerly change is forecast for this evening - I cannot wait - and the temperatures through the next week look good. We did manage, by luck not diligence, to be in town for the Natimuk Frinj Festival. The locals, all 500 of them, do go to a lot of trouble for the bi-yearly event and we saw a couple of funny films and I went to a yoga class. The next one won't be until 2017, so you have two years to prepare for the event.