Warrumbungles April '95

This probably looks better on truecolor displays

This is just a brief report of some minor epics in the Warrumbungles, the home of climbing in Oz. There were four of us going: David, Pete, Andrew and me. None of us had been there before, but we had plenty of guidebooks (or at least copies of one guide) so, along with our double ropes and helmets, we were assured of success. Or so we thought.

After waiting some hours for David we departed Canberra at 4pm on Friday afternoon, ate all we could at the PIzza Hut in Dubbo and arrived at Camp Pincham at about 11pm. WE hefted the 30-35kg packs (we were carrying about 25 litres of water between us) and proceeded to make heavy weather of the grunt to Balor hut. We got there at about 1am, to find it occupied, and accordingly pitched our tents.

Belougery spire (at right) was the goal for the next day and we were heading towards it before 8am, after not enough sleep... David and I decided to take on Caucasus corner, a classic 12-pitch 17 that goes up the prominent corner obvious in the photo. Apart from some minor route finding problems, the only major problem facing us was a much slower party that started the climb from the halfway ladge. Despite this obstacle, we topped out at 4:30, and met Pete + Andrew at the top. they had been cruising up and down the mountain all day, having failed to find their proposed climb, Out and Beyond (15). We had no real problems rapping off before dark

Next day Crater Bluff beckoned, and it was the big west face that really grabbed the attention. After much consideration, David and Pete headed for the mega-classic Lieben (17) while Andrew and I took on The Crucifixion (18). After lots of trouble finding the start, we soon discovered The Crucufixion's true nature -- it was a face climb with minimal pro, and so the first ascencsionists (Ewbank et al) had put a double bolt at each belay, and one or two bolts for runners. The complete lack of anything else made it rather run out. To cut a long story short, on about the third pitch (it was our fourth 'coz we had been geographically challenged at the start), a hold pulled on Andrew when he was about 8m out from the belay. His only dodgy runner pulled, and he went sailing past me. I learnt a little about 'no extension' belays, and 'factor 2' falls as I got tugged off my stance and tried to drop him. In the end there was about 20m rope out, and we were no longer sorry about the lack of ledges on the route.

We were rather shaken, and I was a little damaged (see the pictures for Andrew's back and my hand) so we backed down and spent the rest of the day licking our wounds and feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. Meanwhile Pete and David finished off Lieben, having many 'leader doesn't fall' moments on the way, and made it back to camp about an hour after dark.

After this, we all decided to head back (I was in no condition to climb, or in fact roll up my sleeping mat, or take my harness off), and did so at a leisurely pace on Monday.

It was a great weekend, despite the setbacks, and it's a great place. And as for the reputedly solid rock on Tonduron and the classic almost-too-much-for-one-day Bluff Mountain routes? Next time!