What I failed to mention last time is that our intrepid local guide Jase Piper rocked up complete with back brace. Yep, he’d come a cropper deep water soloing six weeks earlier and had been healing ever since.
“So Jase, you’re allowed to swim?”
“Well, the doctor said to do nothing.”
“What about walking around?”
“Nothing. Bed rest.”
The Bluffs are some of the biggest and most atmospheric cliffs on the Hawkesbury. Due to the adventurous access, there’s only been a small amount of development on these cliffs to date. The left Bluff contains a couple of multipitch routes (which look pretty great) and a couple of projects. The right Bluff has a fully developed ‘High Wall’ which was our target for the day.
So after piloting the Rumpole close to the cliffs, we boarded the orange dinghy (dubbed the Stiltskin) and cruised through oyster leases to the little beach under the left Bluff. What followed was some epic steep gully bashing with Piper leading the way in his back brace and pack! It felt like mountaineering but with leeches.
After about 45 minutes we stood atop the left Bluff and began picking our way over to the top of the right Bluff.
We set a fixed rap line and abseiled down to a vegetated ledge where the routes start. The exposed position combined with the gritty rock type really reminded me of Point Perpendicular (which I love). Glenn, Erik and Sam all led a long grade 16 corner and Sheree seconded.
The left hand flake route looked every bit as good, but I found this grade 20 route to be poorly bolted, with almost every bolt in a silly position, creating needlessly dangerous fall potential. The only redeeming point was that Piper snapped some great photos.
There was a middle variant which finished up a sustained face which looked good so I jumped on and enjoyed the technical climbing on pockets and crimps. Glenn put in an amazing effort to second this cleanly. I thought this was a hard and sustained 21, I’ve done many easier 22’s. The final route of the afternoon was the mega exposed arête of Fretted Pom 23. Situated on the bottomless far right section of the High Wall, you must rap down to a small ledge with an 80m clean drop beneath your feet. The climb itself is roughly 20m high and takes in some superb orange rock with big punchy moves to overcome sections of blankness between good breaks. I led the route, loving the exposure and positions. Glenn gallantly seconded, falling only in one place – top effort. Glenn said the anticipation hanging around on the belay (read: cold sweats) was heaps worse than the actual climbing itself, which was fun and absorbing.
We were very thankful to not have to walk down the gully of death, with Piper showing us a sneaky abseil descent down the left Bluff (2x 60m raps). (Tim’s project on this wall looks fantastic – get ‘er done Tim!). This did however leave us with a rather horrendous bush-bash to get back to the Stiltskin. I punched down to water-level which was covered in big rocks and mud and ran, jogged, slipped and bouldered my way back at top speed so I could get the boat and bring it closer to the exhausted troops. When I got back to the beach I found the Stiltskin high and dry, five metres up the beach. No worries, I’ll just drag it back. Fat chance! The poly hull is heavy as sin and I couldn’t budge it using my hands. A climbing based solution was in order. I clipped a short sling from my harness belay loop to a rear lanyard on the boat and did a series of fierce leg-presses to shift the boat, inch by inch towards the water. Once I motored back to the crew it was ladies first and we ferried back to the Rumpole for some well earned icy cold drinks, spag bol and cannelloni. Tomorrow will see us deep water soloing at Crafty’s – woohoo!