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One More Time - Oz Climbing Dispatches


 

by Josh Janes

April 06, 2004

Well all, I found this free internet terminal in the Syndey airport so I thought I'd just send a quick shout out from Down Under while I wait for my shuttle. Haven't seen much of the city yet (duh), but I got a good view of the harbour and opera house from the jet.

I'm way exhausted from flying (5 hours to LA, 14 to Sydney), hot, and sick of awkward luggage. But, on the bright side the weather is a balmy 80 degrees here and for some reason the Australian accent makes everyone seem sexy - even large hairy men. I must be tired. Maybe it's the airplane food.

It's amazing just how FAR I am from the States. I mean I'm a really LONG way away. It's only weird when you think about it though - it doesn't feel far. Maybe that's because they're playing american music here in the airport - just heard Shania Twain and now Matchbox 20.

Ok, enough rambling. I'm going to get going, but I'll write soon. Miss you all -

Josh

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Hi all,

Just spent the last week or so up in the Blue Mountains - a huge system of sandstone ridges and escarpments 100 kilometers NW of Sydney.

I spent my first couple days in the Wolgan Valley - a definate wilderness area. Did some climbing there: a 7 pitch linkup up an impressively huge, blank wall. While the route was very steep, it was definate "adventure" climbing: Lots of loose rock, lichen, and other obstacles. One unexpected highlight of that part of the trip was all of the animal life. In the Wolgan Valley there were many, many parrots and cockateils. As I'd walk through the grasses I'd catch a glipse of crimson and blue and then I'd see take off flying into the trees. Interestingly, the birds always seem to travel in pairs. Also, the cicadas were incredible - nearly deafening. My partner and I had to shout over the noise to hear each other while climbing, but unlike climbing above, say, Eldorado Creek in Boulder, the noise is all around you. At least until you get above the canopy of gum trees.

I spent the next few days in Katoomba - a pleasant mountain town and popular weekend destination for Sydney folks. Here I climbed at several different sport climbing areas: Piddington, Shipley, The Freezer, Big Top, etc. Most of the climbing was very steep, but generally well-bolted. The town was a lot of fun - lot's of little coffee shops and friendly locals and travellers alike. I've been amazed as to how MANY travellers there are here - and how FEW Americans.

Back in Sydney I toured some of the sites and got a much-needed shower. While I was wandering around the Harbour area I was approached by a friendly woman and her husband who apparently had an extra ticket for the St. George Outdoor Cinema. It was a fantastic surprise to get to watch a film on a screen that actually rose up from the water in the harbour - with the Sydney skyline, Bridge, and Opera house in the backdrop. The couple was incredibly friendly and said if I was ever up north to look them up.

I've got to get going - there are people waiting - but I'm on my way down to Melbourne today. It's been almost too hot to climb here in the Sydney area, and I suspect it won't be much better down South, but I at least have to check it out (Mt. Arapiles).

I had been travelling thus far with a climber from Colorado, but I've decided to forge out on my own a bit. The drive is a full-day, which should give me plenty of practice on the wrong, er, left-hand, side of the road.

Cheers,
Josh

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Hi all,

I've been in Araps for the past week now, the climbing capital of Australia... and it is amazing. The climbing is superb, and the people are even better.

From the moment I arrived at "The Pines," (the Arapiles campground), I've made dozens of new friends and have had a blast. There are a few Brits, dozens of Australians, and even a couple girls from Colorado. There is certainly plenty of climbing going on but also just a lot of fun - going into the Natimuk Pub in the evening, going to the swimming pool together, sharing cooking, playing stupid climber's games... it's just a great scene here and very different than the Blue Mountains.

Fortunately the weather has been uncharacteristically cool - low to mid twenties (C) - and has made for extrodinary climbing. I haven't done "Kachoong" (the most famous 5.10c in the world) yet, but have had fun doing some other classics. Yesterday a did a 5.10- called "Thundercrack," an incredible overhanging line that was a long standing aid route until the young american Henry Barber showed up at Arapiles: In front of a crowd of onlookers he free climbed through the crux placing a lone runner around a horn for protection, then asked the crowd if anyone wanted to second the climb. When no one stepped forward he casually kicked the runner loose and effectively soloed to the top... I wish I had been there to watch the expressions on the Aussie's faces... but it was fun to repeat his visionary line with my modern protection and shoes. Yesterday I had a lot of fun on a neo-classic called "Auto Da Fe," a 2-pitch slab/face climb (5.10d and 5.10d), and then logged some airtime on a 5.12 appropriately named "Have a Nice Flight."

There is much more climbing to do here, and I've basically moved into the Pines and plan to stick around for a bit. It's good to feel "settled," and not on the move.

Thanks to all of you who have written - it's good to hear from back home.

By the way, Benson, make sure to thank Gabe for the tip of hanging the solar shower from a #2 Camalot in the bathroom. It works perfectly =)

Peace,
Josh

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Hey all,

Not too much to update you on at this point, aside from climbing. I've climbed about 48 routes in the past 10 days, so that hasn't left a lot of time for other things - except the Natimuk Pub of course. Kachoong went down this week - it was great fun. Other highlights have been "A Taste of Honey," (5.10+), and "Orestes" (5.11d), which I nearly onsighted with one fall. My best effort of the trip thus far was an onsight of "Curtain Call," (5.11c/d) - a beautiful traverse beneath a huge roof system.

I'm still alive and well, taking some rest days at the moment.

Josh

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Hey all,

Well, my time in Australia has begun to wind down. This past week three different groups of long-term residents at the Pines have left and the place now has a pretty quiet feel. Believe it or not, aside from one other guy from Melbourne, I now have senority at the place. My time here has been good though - over the past month plus at Arapiles I've done over 100 climbs and countless pitches, and during my remaining days here I'm hoping to repeat some of my favorites and do a few new ones as well.

One highlight has been a trip that Shaun (the other long-term climber here) and I took to the Grampians to climb the infamous route "Passport to Insanity," on a rock formation called the Fortress. A fairly imposing name and even more of an imposing climb, Passport is a three pitch adventure route in the heart of the Gramps that has been touted by many to be "the best line in Australia." The first pitch towers upwards for 50m - an overhanging offwidth horror that is capped by the second, and most famous, pitch - the 6m (that is 20 foot) roof. The roof is split by a thin hands crack and the lip of the roof is actually one meter lower than the start! This pitch is so difficult that only four people in the world have freed it - three of whom are women (having hands small enough to jam the crack), including Lynn Hill. We did the climb in the more common fashion - aid! But I'll be back. =) I've included three photos to give you a feel for it - a shot looking up from the base, a shot of my belayer taken from the lip of the roof (notice my shadow!), and of course the summit shot.

Well, where to next? I'm considering heading to Thailand to meet up with the two Colorado girls, Ximena and Lynsey or heading to Potrero Chico in Mexico. A lot will depend on airfare and whatnot. I'll keep you posted.

Best wishes,
Josh

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Hey all,

Well, I've wrapped things up here in Oz. After almost three months of climbing & travelling here I've had enough and am ready to move on. At Arapiles I climbed a grand total of 152 climbs - including the Blue Mountains and the Grampians, a little over 200. The most memorable climbs were at the Gramps - especially doing "The Seventh Pillar" on the Taipan Wall. Back at Arapiles I finished things up by getting on a project of mine called "Despatched." Despatched is a fantastic, exposed trad line that goes at 5.11d and took quite a bit of work. My first time on it I fell over a dozen times, and had to aid through the crux traverse (which at the time seemed impossible). A few days later I got back on it and managed to do it with just a single fall! More importantly, I was able to decipher the crux sequence... and I could taste that the next go would be victory. I went out again the next day and my parnter Max patiently belayed me while I fell off a good ten times... I was definately losing ground and I only had one more day at Araps. That evening I found a local climber, Wendy, who was psyched to follow the climb and I convinced her to meet me at a disgustingly early hour to give it a go. This time I made a point to not think to much about the sequences and just go for it... and it went! A perfect note to end a near-perfect trip.

Strangely fitting, it rained for the first time in two months at Arapiles the day we tore down camp (Max and I made arrangements to continue travelling together a bit), and we caught the bus and train to Melbourne.

I wish I had more time to explore Melbourne (it seems infinately more cool than Sydney). Oh well - next time! I didn't spend as much time as I thought I would running around seeing the sights here, but what I did get - a chance to really know one place really well - was worth so much more. The friends I've made in Australia and from around the world are amazing, and I'll miss Natimuk (population 500) in a sick sort of way.

So I'm on my way. Muscles very sore and fingertips in need of skin. I'll keep you posted,

Peace,
Josh


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