Hawkesbury 2009: Dose 4: Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock. I remember reading about this crag in an old ROCK magazine which made continual reference to the J-Man. This sounded pretty dicky at the time until, now, I’ve come to know the J-Man, and he’s about to guide us on his home turf.

Imagine a chaotic surge of monster surf fifty metres high. Freeze it, metamorphose it to sandstone and paint it orange. Here we are. Eagle sits right on the water. The water literally laps the base of the wall. There are some routes starting here, but most of them start up in the guts of this chaotic maze-like crag. A series of fixed (or hidden) ropes provide assistance, and stainless rungs have been placed at strategic locations to allow climbers to move about between the sectors.

Eagle Rock © J Piper 2009

The nice thing about Eagle is that although it hosts huge overhangs with grade 30 roof cracks, it also serves up sweet, exposed arĂȘtes and slabs around grade 16, and it was one of these that Erik and Sam headed off to do. Pirate Treasure 16 takes a 20m line up a black, blunt arĂȘte. Great photo op.

Erik leading Pirate Treasure 16 © J Piper 2009

While on the boat I’d quizzed Piper on the central line of the cliff which punches through the biggest section of roof on the main wall. I was expecting him to say this was grade 27. “Nah, that’s Antho’s 22, Sea Monster” he casually replied. Whaaa? My sandbag senses were tingling! Parts of it were dripping water, but the line was so bloody amazing looking I grabbed Glenn and we got to work. We could always back off, right? The first pitch called Floater was grade 20, and was a traverse line on crazy holds which kicked you back into pumpland. This set you up for the stellar second pitch. Perhaps 20m long, and overhanging at least eight metres, this line punched through the orange ceiling with the aid of a crack and an intermittent sidewall. Using bolts, cams, fixed slings, and pitons(!), I worked my way out through mind melting territory, taking the frequent super funk rests (e.g. ride the motorcycle, mega-bridge-the-chasm) between punchy moves. I can’t think of a crazier pitch of climbing at that grade I have ever done. I was in heaven. Glenn seconded while Piper the videographer gave encouragement and moral support. Even though he had two rests, this was a great effort given this grade is at Glenn’s current upper limit. That will be an experience he’ll never forget. Actually, looking at the guide now, I see that pitch is given 23! Knew my sandbag sense was spot on!

Glenn seconding me out the amazing pitch Sea Monsters 23 © J Piper 2009

The final pitch was Glenn’s lead up a low angle, holdless grade 16 slab (Children Overboard). This couldn’t have been further away in style from what we’d just done, but it was a nice way to top out the cliff and celebrate. Woohoo, what’s next?

Glenn leading pitch three of Sea Monsters aka Children Overboard 16 © J Piper 2009

Sam and Erik both led their way up A Port In Every Girl 16, a black edgy slab, and the whole group adjourned in the kitchen (the boys have been busy!). I got antsy and went for the onsight of the short and punchy Fish Fingers 25, but had to settle with second shot.

Me crimping hard on Fish Fingers 25 © J Piper 2009

Time to head back to the mothership for late lunch and relaxation. Wait just a minute! The Stiltskin is high and dry on a big boulder! Not a problem for the muscular strongman Erik, who proceeds to act as foreman and gets Sam to lift and push the boat off the rock herself. He’ll argue different ("I was holding the rope!") but too bad buddy, this is my blog. You’re outed!

Erik's doing nothing while the boat sinks. Nothin! © S Ferguson 2009

It was mid arvo and there was still more juice to be squeezed out of the day, and I managed to wrangle a belay from Glenn, so headed over to try a linkup of The Gill 24 into Sea Monkies 23 for a bottom to top of crag experience. The blank vertical face of The Gill reminded me of a hard Frog Buttress face climb, with a start devoid of footholds, and lots of crazy moves I can’t even remember to reach easier ground.

Me on the onsight attempt of The Gill 24 © J Piper 2009

Once I’d reached this easier ground I hooked a foot onto a juggy flake and sat on it for a rest, when it snapped off and sent me flying. There goes the onsight! Back on and I went through to the top. Shirt off, mop the sweat off, and time to continue up into the madness above. Sea Monkies is the mega classic three star route of the crag and provided excellent steep climbing which unfortunately got more and more wet as I climbed. Despite the shocking rope drag and epic swampiness, I managed to come away with the onsight, but only my the skin of my teeth.

Me linking it up into the wet Sea Monkies 23 © J Piper 2009

Even by the time I got back to the boat after cleaning the pitches, I was still just a bit pumped. © J Piper 2009

Yesterday there were some sore muscles and complaining fingers. The rest of the group were also feeling it. Glenn was quite keen for some verticality after yesterdays cosmic steepness, so we headed over to the two pitch link-up of Starboarding, a 42m face route. There was not a skerrick of chalk to be seen, and I struggled for a number of minutes to read the crux of the first pitch, but eventually went the right way, crimping for all I was worth. The second pitch continues off a ledge onto a face above using the most amazing large scoopy pockets, then leading to an unrelenting patina-crimp covered face. Not one large hold to be seen. I thought the second pitch in particular was an absolute pearler! Thoroughly recommended. Glenn seconded with a couple of forearm explosions, and Erik (the big guy not usually known for his endurance…on the rock) made it to one move below the top before crashing. Awesome effort!

Me on the upper section of Starboarding 21. Super duper! © J Piper 2009

We were all pretty shagged, but headed up to the Crows Nest sector to check out the scoop of the century(!) aka Front Page News 22. This is a mega orange scoop reminiscent of those found on Taipan Wall.

The man and his wall. © L Cujes 2009

I led and Glenn put in a sterling job seconding cleanly. There’s a right hand variant of Pete Weatherhead’s which finishes up a bit of a blank gap, so I jumped on this (Sports Page aka Sports Illustrated) for the second ascent. While mostly easy, I reckon the final move is worth 23 all by itself.

Scoop of the century! Me reading the Front Page News 22 © J Piper 2009

By the time we were done with this, we were quietly zorched, so retired to the Rumpole and began our cruise to Jerusalem Bay for our final day of climbing. As we pulled in to this deep water soling venue at about 5:00pm, the rain began to fall. What is it about us, DWS and rain? Ah well, there’s nothing for it but to go fishing. See ya!

It's fishing time I tells ya. Tomorrow is another day. © J Piper 2009