Two days ago saw the commencement of the 2009 Upskill Hawkesbury Houseboat super trip. Glenn and Sheree Ferguson, Erik Smits, Neil Monteith and Kathy Dicker arrived at a property beneath the new cliff Deliverance, and were met by Sam and me.
While Neil went off on a mad new-routing rampage, the rest of the group went on the great via feratta adventure to gain the top of the cliffline. This was a good way to take in the sights of the area and get a feel for the rock. We then went bouldering at the great sandstone bouldering area on top of the ridge. The boulders here are smooth and windblown and slightly reminiscent of Fontainbleau. Every time I go here I manage to put up a few more cool things, usually involving horrendous mantles, and this time was no different. Glenn had never really done the ‘holdless sandstone mantle’ before, and by the end of the arvo, his shins and forearms were showing signs of wear. He would come to be thankful for this mantling practice later…
Yesterday, Neil commandeered Erik early to belay him on his two newly equipped projects at Deliverance. Chubby Boy sits next to my super overhung line Buck Yeager 25 and involves one of the more amazing mandatory dynos I have seen. Neil was flying through the air time and again to overcome a big section of overhung blankness, and doing his best to put a hole in his rope sheath. By the end of the day however, it remained a project. His other new route did succumb however, and after much power-yelling Drop Them Pants 24 was born, taking in some big spans between deep pockets, leading to a desperate tech slab. I managed to onsight this by the skin of my Magos.
Erik and Glenn both climbed Neil’s long Swampy Cow Corner 20 first try, and after I did the first ascents of the orange marble corner of Purty Lips and varied face and bulge Squeal Like A Pig, the rest of the group swarmed up them both. To assist with democratic grading, a secret ballot system was devised where all ascentionists submitted their vote in a hat. Purty Lips received 2x 17, 2x 18 and 2x 19, so a grade of 18 was locked in. Squeal Like A Pig settled at 19.
Dusk was not far off and some light rain was moving though, but that didn’t stop Glenn attempting Sea of Sleep 21, a link-up wall climb with endless slopers (thank god for that bouldering!). He topped out after struggling with one slopey layoff section. I decided to equip an easier looking long line we’d spied last time (dubbed Manta Ray) and managed to get it bolted and sent. As I clipped the anchors the heavens opened and night fell. Manta Ray climbs a feature not unlike Miss Kandy Kane at Brooyar (for those that know that route) i.e. the arête of a huge cave feature on massive holds. The top layback kicks you back into overhanging terrain and it’s quite a unique feeling for a grade 17 route. Before dinner we bid farewell to Neil and Kathy who were due back in Sydney for work.
Today we woke to rain and despite much enthusiasm, much of the cliff was wet. Thankfully, Manta Ray was dry enough to climb, and Erik and Glenn both flashed the route with ease, confirming the grade. This was the first route to feature my new anchor design concept, the single oversize horizontally-placed U-bolt. When installed, this looks like a large kitchen drawer handle. The rope can run along the whole surface, so there is no concentrated point of wear, the legs are far enough apart to be considered separate bolts, the visual impact of the anchor is quite low, and the rope pulls much easier than with double bolts.
Glenn was itching to clean up Sea Of Sleep 21, and did so in fine style despite a light misting rain. Thankfully the route is capped by a roof and is fairly protected. Because of the general wetness of the cliff, we conducted a mini bolting clinic with me going ground-up on a section of dry cliff protected by roofs. I was explaining to Glenn how good I was at judging sandstone strength when I busted a hold and fell onto the first bolt I’d placed. This mishap made the next placement even more interesting, as there was no regular gear placements to hang off and I had to rely on a hook on a 10mm thick bit of jutting flake. I gingerly sat on it while squinting my face up a lot. After getting braver, I bounce tested it, pulled up the drill and placed a U-bolt. By this time, we could see our ride approaching on the river. It was our 45 foot deluxe houseboat ably captained by none other than Hawkesbury aficionado and King of Kneebar, Jason Piper. Nobody knows more about climbing on the Hawkesbury River than Jase (and guidebook partner in crime Anthony Alexander) so it’s great to have him along on the trip.
We’ve now loaded up the boat and our merry band of six have cruised to within cooee of the super impressive Bluffs, 100m high cliffs above the wreck of the HMAS Parramatta. I’ve caught a nice sized flathead and we’re ready for an adventurous day on the Bluffs tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Our sweet ride - the Rumpole! © L Cujes 2009