Friday, 16 November 2012

Mt. Arapiles

After an early start to get the hirecar and get underway from Melbourne, i was finally making my way to Arapiles. The loan of Karen's satnav made the journey up to Horsham relatively easy, boosted along by a Cadbury's Dairy Milk and cola induced sugar high. From the outskirts of Natimuk, the satnav seemed to want to take in off down a side road so i reverted to my back-up plan.

The back-up plan was a fuzzy photo of the guidebook "getting there" pages I'd snapped in Outside, Hathersage whilst discreetly reading the book with zero intention of purchase (40 pounds on a guidebook for 2 days use didn't seem like good value!)

Arriving at the pines campsite i was hopeful of getting some tips of where was the best bit of the crag to find a partner. Precisely the first group i walk up to pick the brain of and i find not only the desired info, but a partner who's keen to get going there and then. Awesome! Julian was on "domestic leave" between jobs and had a whole month to climb in Oz. Unfortunately he'd not gotten to climb outside for a while, but gave the impression he'd be a capable partner.

First off we hit the Organ pipes and climbed a classic 2pitch grade 16 (VS?) before then walking over to Fang buttress to tackle what was previous Arapiles test piece. Julian took over the lead and battled valiantly with the roof crack. A quick slump on the rope was taken, but the impression given was of a tradesman at work; up and over with the minimum fuss - no need to get too pumped on your first day trad climbing in months.

After seconding this roof crack (soft E1 5c?) I took a shine to a line of bolts to the right. Now, this didn't turn out to be sports climbing by any definition; 1st bolt at 25ft and only 2 more in the remaining 45ft of the route. I racked up with a light rack of nuts and a couple of cams. The 1st bolt was a sod to clip up right of a sloping hold, so i was glad of the cam I'd slipped in below. I then engaged sport mode and cranked through a steep boulder problem before stopping again to place more gear. Another bolt and another boulder problem followed above before the route traversed out right. Here i was faced with a dilemma: Go high and clip the next bolt from slopey holds, or stay low and hope i could stretch back and clip it from the better holds a good distance out right? I took the pansies option and stood up, only to realise i couldn't get a hand off to clip. Faff ensued trying to reverse the tenuous, slopey moves I'd made before eventually pumping out and taking the ride. 25ft later (a good 12ft farther then i expected) my stretchy new skinny sngle rope came tight and i swung gently in the air.

Ergonomic (Grade 26, 7b+, E6 6b?) turned out to be a simple redpoint with the gear in place and after finding a hidden foothold on the low traverse option, but it taught me a good lesson about what Arapiles was all about - slopey holds that respond more to technique than thuggery, and bolts only where you need them. Elsewhere it was obvious where trad gear went with the placements frequently being bomber nuts or cams.

The next day we indulged in ticking as many 3* classics as we could:
Scorpion Direct
Quo Vadis (best route of the trip, E2 5c ish and absolute class)
Missing link
Dramp (not 3*, but convenient to the campsite)

Bizarrely, as i returned to the campsite, i bumped into a friend I'd not seen since uni. At this point i twigged that the suspiciously familiar faces in of the Brits next door were exactly that; familiar because they'd all lived in Bristol at the same time as me (1999 - 2005) and shared many mutual friends without knowing each other directly. Blimey, it's a small world sometime!

The Organ Pipes - home of my first route at Arapiles
Morning view of Mt. Arapiles from the Pines campsite
Bluff buttress - home to the classic Quo Vadis (in the sun on the left) & Missing Link (hidden around to the right in the shade) 
Summit of the Bluff with new found friend - Julian

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