I love Kalymnos, and I care about the future of climbing on the island. I wrote this paper in 2010 and submitted it for consideration by some of the key climbers and rebolters on Kalymnos, and I was keen for the Municipality to see it also. With news of the upcoming "bolting festival" in October-November 2013, I now publish the paper as an "open letter" to any and all interested parties.

An analysis of climbing on the island of Kalymnos with respect to new routes, the safety of fixed hardware, and route maintenance now and in the future.

Lee Cujes, 2 June 2010

"Since then, approximately 100 routes were maintained every 1-2 years (replacing corroded bolts and lower-offs). This is certainly not as frequent as we would like, and the number of routes being maintained each time is very limited compared to the grand total of routes on Kalymnos"
-- Aris Theodoropolous, Guidebook author and Kalymnos route developer

Issue: Route volume and quality

The number of new routes being established per year on Kalymnos is not decreasing. We have ~2300+ routes on Kalymnos already, with more every year. As more of the available rock is developed, we would expect to see (and encourage) fewer routes being established each year. It is important to encourage quality rather than quantity, as poor quality routes decrease the overall quality of Kalymnos climbing. Furthermore, doubling the number of routes on the island will not double the number of climbers, nor will it double revenue for the island. Nor will it even spread the impact of climbing – 90% of climbers into the future will continue to climb at only the major existing sectors, as it is these sectors which offer the highest quality climbing.

  1. Withdraw Municipality funding for new routes [edit: it is my understanding that this has happened some years ago, however corporate sponsorship of foreign route developers continues]. This was useful in the birth phase of Kalymnos climbing as it encouraged rapid development, but we are beyond this phase now. 
  2. Channel funds from all existing bolt funds that may exist on the island (example - Glaros) into rebolting, rather than new routing (ensuring climbers who donate know what they are donating for). As elsewhere in the world, motivated new routers will fund their own routes. We should see the number of new routes decrease to a more sensible level, and the quality of routes maintaining a high standard.
Hardware Issue #1: Corrosion of hardware on fixed routes

Bolts are not permanent. Especially on limestone and near the sea, we see significant corrosion within just a couple of years. This is also true in areas where the water transfer through the rock is high (i.e. anywhere with tufas e.g. Grande Grotta, Ghost Kitchen etc.) It is vital that routes are inspected and rebolted as required.

Figure 1: Unsafe, corroded anchor at Ghost Kitchen
Figure 2: Corrosion can also occur because of two 
dissimilar metals as shown here on a relatively
new route on the Vathy road sector

Figure 3: Climbers are too afraid to trust this
corroded anchor on Ghost Kitchen. They tie their
own slings and carabiner as backup

Hardware Issue #2: Wear of hardware on fixed routes
  1. Anchors in certain areas receive a lot of wear (the rope wears and cuts into the metal) and need to be replaced regularly, in some cases every year. There has recently been some analysis from Black Diamond showing how worn carabiners can cut rope.
  2. Bolts that are repeatedly fallen on can loosen in the hole and deform, especially in softer or more 'active' limestone. This can lead to failure of the bolt.
Figure 4: Dangerously worn lower-off anchor.
    Hardware Issue #3: Bolt choice

    The trubolt is the most typical bolt used on most Kalymnos routes. However, it is not the best choice.

    Figure 4: Trubolt
    1. Easy and quick to place
    2. Can be used immediately (important for equipping steep routes)
    1. Cannot be extracted from the hole to allow for clean replacement. Must be cut off using a cordless grinder and then beaten back into hole and the hole patched with epoxy and camouflaged.
    2. Because the thread sits exposed from the nut, it can foul the carabiner leading to dangerous orientation of the carabiner. There are cases where this has led to a carabiner snapping.
    3. Sideways forces on the hanger cause the nut to loosen. If the nut loosens completely, the hanger falls off and the climber has no protection. This happened to me recently during a fall. I was very lucky to escape injury. Many routes are missing hangers due to this issue.


    Figure 5: Titanium glue-in bolt.
    The best long-term solution. 

    To purchase these, visit:
    1. Corrosion
    Option 1 (mandatory): Continual assessment and rebolting with high grade (316) stainless steel as required. "316 L" is the low carbon version of 316 stainless steel and has been found to have even better corrosion resistance. Hardware is available in 316 L.

    Option 2 (possible): Thailand climbing areas have moved to titanium glue-in bolts and Hilti RE-500 epoxy glue for maximum corrosion resistance and longevity. It is suggested Kalymnos also obtain these (more expensive) bolts for use on the most corrosive sectors.

    2. Wear

    Figure 6: An anchor is replaced,
    leaving bolt remains and
    ugly scars on the rock.
    This is unnecessary, yet
    this kind of damage is
    There are several options for anchors which are replaceable without having to install a completely new anchor in a new position (this is a horrible worst case scenario, yet is the most common form here currently on Kalymnos). Glue-in threaded rod allows the same bolts to be re-used. Quickclips attached with mallions allow for the wearing component only to be replaced. The more the type of anchor set on the island is standardised, the easier ongoing replacement will become.

    3. Bolt choice
    For new routes, discontinue using trubolts. Instead, use 12mm x 75mm flush-head dynabolts of the following configuration:

    Figure 7: 12mm Flush-head dynabolt - a better choice than trubolts.

    Flush-heads offer all the advantages of the trubolt, and eliminate many of the disadvantages. They are replaceable, they have a low profile and do not snag carabiners as readily, and they do not loosen as easily as trubolts.

    Issue: Maintenance and rebolting

    Kalymnos has a reputation as a haven of ‘safe bolting’. This is important to many climbers who come here and is a reputation worth protecting.

    Rebolting is happening on the island, however the following issues have been identified:
    1. The poor quality of some of the rebolting work
    2. The fact that trubolts are being replaced with more trubolts, instead of taking the opportunity to upgrade to the best, highest-longevity solution (glue-in ringbolts)
    3. The fact that there is not enough rebolting occurring to keep up with the wear and corrosion on the ever-increasing number of routes on the island. The generally thankless task of rebolting is left to just a few motivated individuals.
    Figure 8: Seven holes drilled and not patched.
    Poets sector.
    Figure 9: Too often this is the case (we see this
    at every sector). Because trubolts cannot be
    extracted, they are left to rust. This is unsightly
    and simply lazy.

    1. Quality:
    For Kalymnos to retain its reputation and natural beauty, it is inappropriate to allow sub-standard rebolting. Trubolts must be cut, recessed and patched. Old anchors need to be removed in full. Any scars on the rock must be camoflauged. We must strive for all routes to be as perfect as they can be.

    2. Phasing out trubolts:
    We must rebolt with superior hardware. Therefore we must move to glue-in bolts. These are preferred by all climbers because they are stronger, safer, do not notch climbers’ carabiners, and allow for rope to be directly threaded to allow for retreat from any point on the route if required. They do require more skill to place, but most importantly, they will last much longer in this environment than any form of expansion bolt. In this seaside environment, a minimum specification of 316 or 316 L stainless steel should be mandated, with titanium preferred as the best possible option (see: Thailand titanium rebolting article).

    Figure 10: 316 stainless glue-in ringbolt, correctly recessed.
    3. Establishment of a centralised hub for bolting/rebolting
    1. Online and offline method for climbers to report “bad bolts/routes” for inspection.
    2. Online “to-do” list with routes and sectors scheduled for rebolting/maintenance.
    3. Online and offline methods for visiting climbers to donate money to the rebolting initiative. If even a small fraction of the money entering the Kalymnian economy by climbers went towards rebolting, this would ensure the initiative could be appropriately funded.
    4. Online database of rebolted routes to show how the money is being spent, exactly what hardware is used etc. (Example of such a database)
      4. Dedicated focus on ongoing maintenance and rebolting
      One or more rebolting specialists must be engaged by the Municipality (or corporate sponsors) to conduct the required work every year, on an ongoing basis. The Municipality has spent a great deal of money establishing Kalymnos as one of the world’s premier climbing destinations (by investing in new routes), however we must continue to maintain and protect that investment in the long term. This requires an ongoing financial commitment.


      I would like to offer thanks and gratitude to those climbers such as Aris Theodoropolous and Simon Montmory who have contributed serious time and effort to rebolting on Kalymnos. This article is not a criticism, rather a call to action.

      I believe a combination of both local commitment (Municipality), corporate commitment (sponsored initiatives) and commitment from climbers themselves (via donations) will provide the assistance necessary to fund the recommendations in this article.

      As the world's premier sport climbing destination, Kalymnos deserves ongoing care and ongoing investment.

      Other resources:

      Prime Evil

      It's been almost a year since I've been to Mt Coolum. But last weekend there were some huge storms predicted and apart from an indoor gym, Coolum is the only possible option. There's been a few routes go up since I've been gone, and one of them is Prime Evil (29/8a/13b). This (like a bunch of other routes) shares the start of my 2008 first ascent Evil Wears No Pants before breaking left and taking in a series of boulder problems and outright rests. Very stop-start, and in true Coolum fashion, pretty weird.

      I put a couple of burns in with Jimmy who had already done the route and was kind enough to swap some beta (he was working my route Bite The Hand That Feeds). I did some good links, and it is always fun remembering how to climb the tricky, 70 degree overhung start of Evil. Yesterday, I dispatched the route on my second try - fourth all up.

      John O'Brien was there with the camera and captured some of the action, and some of the sitting around...

      This is the handy kneebar you get at the end of the first section of Evil. It's bomber.
      The Wildcat move. Slippery slide out of kneebar, catch horn, swing gracefully towards Marcoola.

      Yep, this is a complete sit down on a horn. Throw in a kneebar and toe-hook and all you're lacking is a cool beverage.

      I think this is my fave shot. You take a three finger pocket with your right hand and roll around a kneebar to snag a big sloping edge.

      You can fall on this move, it's a bit wacky.

      My bro, JJ!

      Ask The Coach #8: Training Series 3/3: The Seven Deadly Sins

      In ROCK #91, you'll find my final article in my three-part training series entitled The Seven Deadly Sins. Why ROCK decided to label this article on the cover as "Just Climb It - Lee Cujes' seven awesome things" is anyone's guess.

      Sidenote: With the news that Newsweek magazine will cease print at the end of the year and move to an online-only distribution, I had thoughts about the future of poor old ROCK magazine. As anyone who reads ROCK knows, it was the baby of prolific Australian climber Chris Baxter since he created the magazine in 1978. With Chris' ailing heath, the magazine was acquired by the Prime Creative Media stable in 2009. As well as producing a climbing magazine, this team also produces Global Coffee Review, Italianicious, Trailer Magazine, and many others. Initially, avid climber Ross Taylor was put in charge of producing ROCK, and he put in a valiant effort despite an obvious lack of resources. Eventually, Ross left ROCK and co-founded the excellent online publication Vertical Life, and editorial duties of ROCK fell to Prime Creative staffer and non-climber Aaron Flanagan. Once again, I have no doubt that Aaron is doing the best he can with the resources he has available, but I can't help but thinking that with the above-mentioned progression we're seeing the lid of ROCKs coffin being slowly nailed up. Perhaps it's inevitable. As Newsweek's editor said, “It really has not been a question of if, it was a question of when.”

      Without further ado, please enjoy my final training article for ROCK magazine.

      Page 1. Click to open image in viewer, then right click on it and select 'View Image'
      to more easily read the full-size scanned pic.

      Page 2. Click to open image in viewer, then right click on it and select 'View Image'
      to more easily read the full-size scanned pic.

      5 months between bourbons

      Yeah I know. It's been five months since I posted on my blog. I guess it might be how some agoraphobics got started. You're sick in bed for a week and suddenly, very quickly, the idea of going outside is just too scary to consider. So too with the blog posting. I'm not the only one either it seems. I think blogging is on the way out, personally. I posted about that earlier. Blogging was then, Facebook is now, and something else or a variant will be 'later'.

      BITD, I never had to even try to produce when it came to climbing. My psyche was overflowing and all spare time -- especially at work ;) was devoted to writing, thinking, planning, discussing all things climbing. The qurank web forum, this Upskill blog, online guides,,, multiple Facebook pages. There was a lot to do! I never really questioned why I was doing all this. Why? Pfft! Why not? It was primarily about engaging with other climbers, and I loved it.

      So what happened? Well, work happened. Proper work. After Sam and I got back from our year trip around the world, I had the opportunity to join a small but rapidly expanding company pretty much at the ground floor. Previous jobs I've had in big firms lauded the specialist. You know, the .NET coding expert. The Project Manager. I never really was a specialist, and so honestly never really believed I had much value in a work environment. Then this job came along with a small firm. And hell, specialisation was not needed - not in a small company. The company needed someone who could just jump in and do everything. And I did. Within a handful of months, I was managing the company.

      Massive hours? Yep. Massive challenge? Heck yes. Massive feeling of accomplishment? Certainly. Why work so hard? Good question. Well, the way I see it, the harder you work, the more you should get paid. So working really hard is a means to an end and that end is increased freedom. The freedom to take long holidays and go climbing. The freedom to do what you want to do because you can afford to. But some things fall by the wayside. Suddenly, the time needed to recreate online completely evaporated. I stopped going to qurank. I disabled the Upskill Climbing Facebook page. Stopped blogging. The only non-work activities were training (just enough to maintain, not improve) and a bit of weekend climbing, and putting up new routes.

      The six weeks I just spent in the Red River Gorge was the first actual holiday since taking on my mad new work role. It was pretty crazy going from 60-80 hour weeks to the backwoods of Kentucky. The weeks in the lead-up to the trip I did minimal training and figured I'd get fit over there. Well, it worked out pretty well. I ended up bagging five 13a/7c+/28s - two of these onsight and the others second go. In the heady world of Ondra's and Ashima's that's nothin'. But for me, that's really good. I've only ever done one 28 onsight previously.

      I also did 17 7b/25s and 7b+/26s and 13 of those were onsights. All in all, 109 pitches of extremely enjoyable climbing - nearly all onsighting. I did almost no projecting. Got on some great harder routes like Kaleidoscope (13c/8a+/30) and Golden Boy (13b/8a/29) but only gave a few tries before moving on. That's always been the case for me in a new area. It's hard to limit yourself to one route when there are so many classics nearby begging to be climbed.

      What's the point of this story? I like stories.

      I guess the point of the story is to say sorry, yeah, haven't been blogging. But I'm still hammering away. I'm putting my collared shirt on and walking back into work, ready to kill it there, but also aiming high with my own climbing - nothing's changed there. It's a balancing act, and I'm still learning.

      One of the onsights that got away - Zen and the Art of Masturbation 5.12d/7c/27, The Gallery, Red River Gorge, KY, USA.

      My interview in KORFES (Greek climbing mag)

      Thanks to Aris Theodoropolous who did an interview with me for KORFES magazine. Here it is. The translation follows...

      How did you start climbing?

      I started climbing in 1994. I was 17, went to a climbing gym a few times and was hooked, and immediately started venturing outdoors. This was before climbing info was available on the internet. We had to work out everything ourselves, which meant rope was purchased from the hardware store, the same 8mm nylon rope you use on your trailer. We made harnesses out of the same rope using a soldering iron. The exceedingly painful G-string configuration we came up with led to some seriously bruised kidneys. We used D-shackles to belay. It's amazing none of us got badly injured.

      Which climbers have made a lasting impression on you and why?

      The people who have made the biggest impression on me are the local climbing warriors who took me under their wing and acted as mentors, pushing me to improve. I'm indebted to Duncan Steel in particular who recently climbed his first 8c at the age of 50. Inspirational.

      The best thing about your climbing life?

      Adventure and travel. Exploring cliffs I haven't been to before, establishing new routes, training and helping other climbers.

      A memorable story from your climbing life?

      It was New Year’s Eve 2005 and we were chilling out at the Freedom Bar on Tonsai with a very extended dinner. I managed to talk my girlfriend Sam into doing the multipitch classic Humanality with me first thing in the morning. The alarm went off before 6am and I dragged Sam and the gear down to the beach. The party was still going at the Freedom Bar, with music blaring and people dancing around in various stages of drug-addled intoxication. We were the first ones on the route (the first party of 2006), and climbed as quick as we could to put some distance between us and the German party who’d just arrived behind us. The third pitch is amazing, stemming out from a smooth wall to a huge stalactite behind you. As Sam met me at the final semi-hanging belay she was absolutely spent, which of course was part of my plan, and I asked her to marry me. She was obviously too tired to think clearly and said yes.

      Other interests (besides climbing)?

      Traveling, fishing.

      What’s next – short and long term?

      More of the same. Life is good.

      When did you first visit Kalymnos?

      2007 during our honeymoon.

      What did you think during that first visit?

      We loved it. We were there in November and it was quite cold and many places were shut, but it still left a lasting impression.

      How many times have you visited Kalymnos since?

      Three more times. Nearly six months of time spent on the island so far.

      What –if anything—differentiates Kalymnos from other climbing destinations?

      The sheer quantity of routes within easy walking distance, and the quality of the guidebook.

      As a climbing destination, where does Kalymnos get it right?

      The support of climbing from locals, and from local businesses is great to see. The fact that the bolting of routes follows a set of guidelines to ensure consistency and quality is a smart move for a 'holiday cliff'.

      And where does it go wrong? Any suggestions for improvement?

      I feel more support (and money) needs to be thrown behind people doing rebolting and maintenance, and the scale of this program expanded. When routes are rebolted, they should be equipped with glue-in bolts rather than expansion bolts. This will increase the lifespan of the fixtures, and eliminate problems of nuts loosening and hangers falling off.

      Most recently you stayed in Kalymnos for almost two months. What were the highlights of that trip?

      The highlights were getting to introduce the island to another group of friends who hadn't experienced Kalymnos before. From a climbing viewpoint, I really enjoyed doing Sardonique at Odyssey and Punto Caramelo in the Grande Grotta, as well as discovering the delights of the Secret Garden.

      Tell us about your climbing camps on Kalymnos. What made you choose it as the venue?

      Climbing, food, accommodation, seaside setting, easy access -- it's the whole package that sets it apart. There are areas in the world which perhaps have higher quality easy and mid-grade routes, but nowhere else can tick all the boxes like Kalymnos.

      As a coach, how do you help students become better climbers over the course of a climbing camp?

      We do pre-work with our students to determine where their weaknesses lie before the camp, and help them with their goal-setting. Each day during the camp we all participate in a discussion module covering one key aspect of climbing performance, which helps provide a focus to the day's climbing. We constantly shoot video and conduct a video analysis session with each climber to help identify weak areas and analyse ways to improve. But mostly, it is the positive and supportive vibe of the team which sees each climber try a little harder and achieve more than they thought possible.

      Most memorable routes you have climbed on Kalymnos (regardless of grade)?

          •    Axium 6c+, Ghost Kitchen
          •    Biloute 7a, Olympic Wall
          •    Aegialis 7c, Grande Grotta
          •    Zawi Nul Syndicate 7c/+, Grande Grotta
          •    Fun De Chichunne 8a, Grande Grotta
          •    Lucifer's Hammer 6c, Spartan Wall
          •    Phineas 5c, Symplegades
          •    Chameleon 8a, Spartacus
          •    And now for something completely different 5c, Arginonda
          •    Kerveros 7a, Spartacus

      Some climbers may be worried about visiting Kalymnos due to the ongoing economic crisis in Greece. How did you experience Kalymnos this year? Was your stay in any way affected by the crisis compared to previous visits? What would you advise a first-time visitor to Kalymnos?

      We weren't affected at all. There was some strike action during our stay but we luckily avoided it. A first time visitor should take a 70m rope and more quickdraws than they think they will need. Try every restaurant, and drink lots of frappes!

      When will we see you in Kalymnos again?  

      We never know for sure if we'll go again. And yet we always seem to find ourselves back in Masouri. It's beginning to feel like a second home. Who wants to help me get a Greek working visa? :)

      Aris also has the interview online on his excellent ClimbKalymnos site.

      Interview in Vertical Life

      New online climbing mag Vertical Life has done an interview with me, basically checking in on my ascents of The Don 33 and Vicious Wishes 32.

      The interview is up on their site, and you can download issue #1 for free there also.

      Big ups to Simon Madden and Ross Taylor for forging ahead, sticking their necks out and essentially (virtually) self publishing something that is artistic and meaningful. It's completely congruent with the tagline of this website (look up top - my own personal mission).

      I look forward to issue #2.

      FA - Semtex

      So I had wedding duties this weekend. New shoes, pimped up suit, the whole bit. But I did manage to sneak away for a few hours. There was a project I equipped earlier in the year at Ninderry but struggled with it due to some slick holds on the crux which summer did not agree with. I was hoping cooler conditions might be the trick.

      Unfortunately when we arrived it was a waterfall up top and the final six metres was soaked. We didn't have a backup plan, so forged on regardless, and with the assistance of lots of chalk and rags, we got it dry enough to climb. Most of the crux holds were dry, but the easier top section remained very wet. Spicy!

      Luckily as the day ticked away the route got slightly more dry, and eventually a breeze kicked in and we got a tiny window of perfect conditions. I pounced and managed to get it done. Psyched! Another one in the bag.

      Semtex 15m 29
      Really cool low dyno (unless you're Long-arms Schimke), then a baffling upper crux which I solved with some knee-trickery. Hard to grade as the sequence is short, but hard/bizarre.

      Slipping off the still-spoogy crux hold.
      I actually did hold it this time. Between the knee and a slight pinch, it's just enough to stay on.
      When you do it well it looks like this.
      The top section. Hopefully a formality from here, but maybe not if it's dripping with water.

      Ask The Coach #7: Training Series 2/3: Training finger strength

      Autumn's issue of ROCK magazine is out and in it I get stuck into telling you how to go about training finger strength. Ideally suited to those who have perhaps tried before and given it up.

      This is the second of a three-part training series and the content is something I'm proud of considering it's an area I have struggled with, and then really put in a singleminded, determined push to develop for the past six months. And it paid off. I've got miles to go, too.

      So. Stronger fingers. Here's how.

      Page 1. Click to open image in viewer, then right click on it and select 'View Image'
      to more easily read the full-size scanned pic.
      Page 2. Click to open image in viewer, then right click on it and select 'View Image'
      to more easily read the full-size scanned pic.
      The third and final installment of this training series will be coming up in July.

      Is Don. Is Good.

      10 months ago on the 9th of June 2011 my friend Duncan Steel did the first ascent of a route called The Don. It is a route first bolted by Australian climbing legend Kim Carrigan, but it remained untried for several years until Duncan took it on. In 2005 I had a quick play on the route and couldn’t even hang the holds. Six years later I hung on a rope and filmed the first ascent, and it was the culmination of five years of seasonal effort, and hundreds of attempts over that time. I was holding the rope and yelling encouragement for the majority of those attempts. Bearing witness to someone achieving a goal they have worked so hard towards is something I will never forget, and my happiness was off the charts that day. It was not even a question as to whether I would also try to do the route, it was just a question of when.

      In the years while Duncan was focussed on The Don, I spent my time climbing all the existing, established hard routes at the cliff (27s to 30s) and then going on to put up my own. Routes like Ahead Of The Curve 28, Gay Pride 29, Angry Dragon 29, Below The Belt 31, Schadenfreude 31 and The Singularity 32 all took time and energy. Some a few weekends, some months upon months: true siege tactics. All of these routes have now seen repeats from the likes of Duncan, Adam Palmer, Matt Clifford and Tom O’Halloran, and I get a definite thrill seeing others repeat my routes.

      Me trying what would become Schadenfreude, circa 2007
      I had spent the majority of the 2011 season working on a link-up project of mine called Vicious Wishes. The weekend before Duncan sent The Don, I reached a highpoint on my project. Feeling the best I ever have, I was setting up for the final move when a loop of rope leading to the belayer got tangled around a tree root on the ground. I fell. Waking up the next day I found I could not bend my pinky finger. Capsulitis was diagnosed. This led to a few weeks off, then two months of not being able to crimp. The project was out of the question. After over 70 attempts invested, I was gutted. I couldn’t really train, and to keep my sanity I climbed only at crags like Coolum where 99% of the holds are open grips.

      It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. From September to November, we were in Kalymnos where along with running two Upskill Climbing camps, I did a whole stack of climbing including doing the mighty Punto Caramelo 8a+/30 second shot. Climbing on mostly big and open-grip holds, my finger gradually improved and by the time I returned home, I found I could train on my wall again. Happy days.

      I climbed with some great climbers in Kalymnos; guys who were really crushing on 8b+/32s and 8c/33s. Watching them and chatting about their training, I’d come to the realisation in Kalymnos that finger strength was a key weakness that I had never specifically addressed. I’d always managed to siege my way up things by getting more route-fit, and getting more efficient. Vicious Wishes showed the flaw in my design. You can do everything right but if you can’t dominate small holds, sometimes, you just won’t do the route (before it injures you).

      I knew The Don was on the cards for 2012, and I knew every nuance of the route and what it would demand. So as soon as I returned home in November I began to focus completely on fingers to the exclusion of all else. My fitness dwindled away, while my fingers got stronger and stronger. I would go out and climb routes and find I would climb through cruxes on onsights, missing vital holds and still managing to hold on to micro-holds and make it through, often to then get ballistically pumped on easier ground. The training was really changing me. After six weeks of this training I went on a one-week trip to the Blue Mountains where I climbed lots, onsighted up to 27 and did Fresh Goats Milk 28 and Mr Magoo 27 second shot, on my last day, exhausted.

      I did three more weeks of finger strength before switching to recruitment training where I achieved my first clean chin-ups on the Beastmaker 45° slopers, ticked off all my hardest boulder problems on my wall, and then started setting increasingly absurdly difficult problems which I projected and eventually climbed. I was, by far, climbing the strongest I ever have.

      These months of preparation brought me to the end of February, and my first day back at the cliff for 2012 with Duncan. When he asked me what I wanted to get on that day and I said “The Don!” without any hesitation, I think he was quietly pleased.

      Cowboy country.
      The meat of the route is a constant 30° overhang which requires an unusual slow-burning, precise power. You can’t thrash. Everything must be perfect. The holds are small - sometimes extremely small - and often at maximum extension, which means body tension is critical. Duncan and I are the same height and have the same reach so we could share beta. There were only two moves I figured out which were different, and made the route more solid – for me.

      On the first day, I had done all the moves. I went home and built a simulator of the route and trained on it as much as I dared. On the third day, I climbed it in overlapping halves. On the fifth and sixth days, I fell on the deadpoint to the hold that marks the end of the ‘meat’. Yesterday, April 12 2012 was a Thursday, but the forecast was for unusually cold, dry and windy conditions. An excuse for a day off work if I’ve ever heard one. I climbed a couple of warm-ups, then did a session on my DIY hangboard before donning my down jacket for the first time of the year. Before I started to cool down too much, I decided to have my first burn on the route. As it was the first burn, there was no pressure. I chalked up, and pulled on to the wall for the 18th time. As I climbed the opening moves, everything felt right. I continued to execute every move without error and I found myself sticking the final deadpoint. It felt very much like a dream, and not at all like the send. With numb fingers, I carefully climbed the easy but long runout to the anchors.

      Cool positions on The Don.
      People get caught up with the grade of routes. I have a love/hate relationship with grades. That said, I am finding myself less and less concerned as time goes by. I’m much more interested in quality of the route, and the effort that goes into it. I truly do believe that the only person qualified to give an opinion of a route’s grade is someone who a) has climbed the route and b) has climbed several benchmark routes in the grades above and below. And even then it’s really only a suggestion as we all have very different body types.

      So there’s no way I am qualified to comment on the grade of this route. I’ve never climbed a 33 before, and I’ve only ever done one confirmed 32. There are other guys and girls with the resume required to make an informed suggestion. We have climbers who have climbed 33 in just a few shots, and on the world scene, grade 34 is being onsighted with increasing regularity. What I can say is that The Don is by far the hardest route I have climbed which wasn’t a first ascent. It’s something I’ve been wanting to climb for years, and the actual movement and style of climbing on the route did not disappoint. It’s a true classic. I would put money on the fact it’ll see its third ascent before this season is out.

      Touchdown immediately after the send. Duncan (L) and me.

      Quality is dead. Blogging's dead. We demand instant gratification.

      It's 999km from my house in Queensland to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains and the sport climbing epicentre of Australia. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. And we needed a fix. By we, I mean JJ O'Brien and I. So there we were, Friday night flight, hire car, drive up into the mist and an early morning coffee and rendezvous in the Sublime Point carpark. Blue sky. A good start.

      b+n hoody


      Trip reports are so 2004. And even good photography. Good photography is like, 2009 or something. Now it's all about Twitter and Instagram. Quality has been replaced by 'timeliness' as the number one consideration. Grainy, grungy photos taken on iPhones are now what it's all about because they're uploaded as the action happens. Of course you can see where this is going: digital SLRs with 3G capability to enable instant uploads of high quality pics and video. We've already got live feeds of comps. Extend this idea further and you arrive at a Truman Show-esque reality of real time cameras strapped to our favourite climbing stars 24-7. Farfetched? I reckon we'll have it sooner than you think.

      "Dude, did you see Sharma mow the lawn today? Fully sick brah!"

      It's with this in mind that I neglect to put down much in the way of words and instead share some images from our wild, windy weekend. It's unlikely anyone really reads blogs anymore anyway. Facebook is killing the idea of the blog, and why? Timeliness, once again. Facebook is to blogs what Instagram is to quality photography. Instant gratification.

      The demand for quality will return. But the demand for timeliness will remain. HD, real-time streaming of Chris Sharma's backyard gardening and mowing exploits. This, I tell you, is the future.




      We rounded the corner of Sublime Point and were greeted with a wall that dead-set gave me flashbacks to Windjammer Wall at Point Perpendicular. Bentravarto Wall. Super place to start.

      First route of the day. Getting stuck in on the amazing Bentravarto Wall at Sublime Point.
      This was the first pitch of Marxism 23/7a.
      Marxism 23, Bentravarto Wall, Sublime Point.
      Neil Monteith on one of the routes in the Binary Cave, an area he's been instrumental in developing over the rainy summer months.

      To access Subliminal and its 65m crux pitch, you do a free-hanging 70m abseil to the lip of a giant roof, which is still situated 150m off the deck. You then attempt to not crap yourself.
      Extreme bushwalking?
      This is the rather out there traverse pitch (20) to get you to the base of the GIANT grade 22 arete (more like 23 or 24) which is 65m tall and requires 25 quickdraws.
      At the conclusion of Saturday, we'd amassed quite the collection of ticks (the good kind) including pitches of 20, 22, 23, 25, 22, 24, 25, 25, 20 and the epic 22(3?4?). Arms sore.

      We'd also filled out our bingo cards with sightings of a veritable who's who of Australian climbers including Mark Baker (in the Bakery to boot!), Neil Monteith, Mikl Law, John Smoothy, Giles Bradbury, Macca Macpherson and Zac Vertrees. I guess it's understandable given the Bluies is a rather small area with not many crags (-- ?!).


      We had designs of Pierces Pass multipitching but after getting cold and topping out Subliminal in the dark, we opted for single pitching instead. Australia's first son of kneebar, Jase Piper and the Blue Mountains quiet achiever Nige Campbell would be at Bell Supercrag. Keen for a clean sweep of climbing celeb bingo, we headed out.

      Day 2 dawns at Bell Supercrag.
      A classic of the cliff, this magnificent 25/7b. We don't know the name, but it's shit hot.
      You know if JJ can get a knee in he's going to be smiling.
      No, it's not Fabio. It's machine Jase Piper breaking in his Upskill kneebar pads on Reality Dysfunction 27/7c.
      Go Jase, go!
      What scenery!
      My desired pitch for the day was this 29/8a. I dislike referring to routes by their grades but
      in this case we still don't know what it's called. Managed to claw up it second shot which was a surprise. This was the actual send.
      Me contributing to the clouds on the 29.
      We managed a few easier routes in the remainder of the afternoon but by this stage my entire body was in a weird state of collapse. We walked out, had a Thai dinner, and got on a plane.

      That's it. Instant gratification.

      Go on, back to Facebook. These photos are already there.