Welcome to trad climbing

Mt Arapiles 23-26 April.

“Water. You need water. There’s no water.”

Well, not entirely true, but it’s important to create good habits. Or what I like to call ‘best practice’. This was a term Rachel, Katie, Pauline and Troy would hear many times over their introductory weekend at Mt Arapiles.

We drove up on Friday night, having carefully packed 5 people’s camping gear, almost all of LUMC’s climbing gear, and the bouldering mat, into my just-big-enough new wagon. The drive involved lots of rain and traffic, a stop at Ararat Noodle for dinner, and squashing three days worth of shopping onto people’s laps in Horsham.

Day 1 – Introduction to lead belaying / trad climbing / multi-pitch climbing / seconding / Arapiles micro-climate / real rock

After arranging for Rachel to spend the day in RMIT Sarah’s capable hands (thanks again Sarah!) Katie, Troy, Pauline and I headed over to the Pinnacle face to climb the super-appropriate Introductory Route. During the walk to the cliff raincoats become increasingly necessary. At the base of the cliff the clouds had cleared (somewhat) and I quickly ran through the plan. The plan included an explanation of what gear I would be placing, what to do with a nut-key, how to belay a lead climber [(when to give slack, take slack, when to let go of the brake end of the rope (never!)] and the necessity for everyone to double check everyone else!

After seven hours we’d all made it back to camp with a bunch of firsts under our belts. My first’s included the route, the top pitch of the route (shared with tip-toe ridge) in daylight, not getting too lost on the walk-off, and my first lead climb in about 2 years. And taking three beginners up a multi-pitch.

Day 2 – Top-roping and First Leads

Sunday saw our intrepid adventurers head out to Deacon’s Dilemma area at Mitre Rock. I set up my first top ropes (ever). These included the single starred Deacon’s Dilemma (14) and the undeservedly no-starred Prelate (17). The severely overhanging but rather cool 17 proved too much for all but Rachel, who styled it to the top first go.

After much jumping around on top-rope I led The Priest (8), and justified my excess bomber gear placement with the idea that I would get someone to lead it after me on my gear. Back on the ground, Rachel and I gave an earnest explanation of why not to back-clip, and then Katie, Troy and Pauline led their first climbs! We then all gathered at the top of the climb for a run-down of what to do at the top of a climb / pitch, the importance of communication and how to set up a rope anchor.

While we were all busy learning the sun disappeared leaving a beautiful sunset and necessitating a speedy, mostly dark pack-up. Cheers to those who thought to bring head-torches to the cliff! True trad climbers in the making…

Day 2 (Evening) – The Squeeze Boulder

Following a scrumptious dinner of Pumpkin, Baby Spinach and Pine Nut Risotto, washed down with two litres of expertly mulled wine, our crew wandered out of lodgings in the North campground and over to the Pines in search of playmates. Finding an empty circle of RMIT chairs, we decided to befriend a nearby group of climbers. A bunch of random friends from Albury and surrounding towns, the group were unexpectedly enthusiastic about our night bouldering ambitions, and followed us and our wine to the notorious squeeze boulder.

Lots of squeezing, bouldering and social drinking ensued. Highlights included attempts to climb one armed, one armed one legged and backwards up the boulder; and me getting very stuck inside the squeeze test, twice, and Troy helping me escape by pulling up and backwards on one of my legs.

Three boulders were visited and a late night had by all. Unfortunately I was the only one to attempt the squeeze test. The rest of the…well thinner, LUMCers, declined the opportunity for squeeze glory (soft).

Day 3 – Sober bouldering / how to spot / how to land / why you should consider the descent before the ascent

(see title)

In conclusion, it was a swell weekend. And we only got rained on once.


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