30 September - 9 October 2004

Paticipants: Gill Fowler, Matt Dowle, Matt Ryan, HP, Tom Brennan

Skip boring narrative and jump straight to pictures...

[All grades and stars from Arapiles Selected Climbs by Mentz/Tempest]

I picked up Gill and Matt D in Roseville at Gill's place on Tuesday night and we hit the road ... back to my place to pick up my minidisc player that I had left conspicuously in the shared garage area of my apartments. I drove the first section to Yass, and not having had any dinner was looking forward to a bit of Cluck-and-Chuck at the Colonel's at Yass. Unfortunately, while the servo may be an all day all night affair, the Colonel (and McDonalds for that matter) were closed and I had to go without. I abandoned Matt D and Gill to the front seats and next regained conciousness at a rest area near Tarcutta that was to be our accommodation for the night. I went to sleep on a concrete slab next to the shelter, to the peaceful roar of passing semis.

After a brief lull just before dawn, the semis came roaring back and so we packed up and hit the road to the Holbrook bakery for a hearty pie for breakfast. Heading on to Rutherglen we pulled in at Chambers winery and picked up the all important 2L flagon of muscat. If you haven't tasted it, you don't know what you are missing. One further stop at Warrabilla winery, where we chatted for a while to winemaker Andrew Sutherland-Smith. After buying a few bottles, he threw in an extra - "unemployment benefits" as he put it, for the two of us currently unemployed!

We stopped to get some lunch from the supermarket in Shepparton. On coming back to the car, one tyre appeared noticeably flat. I drove very slowly to the nearest servo, and then parked the car at another servo before eating, just in case. Turned out to be a good idea, as the tyre was well down again after lunch. After pumping it up again and driving around for a bit, we found good service at Bob Janes, who had it patched in about twenty minutes for only .

Next stop was Horsham where we did the shopping for the next week and a half. Given that the car was already full, it was rather a challenge to fit it all in. We had a few shopping bags to nurse, and the ice on my feet was rather cold, but we rolled in to Mt Arapiles late on Wednesday evening. We found a prime spot free in the Pines campground, so Matt D and I put up our tarp with a dizzying array of ropes while Gill fixed our dinner.

On Thursday, with Matt R and HP due to arrive around lunch, Matt D, Gill and I headed to Bushrangers Bluff to warm up on some easy stuff. I led Dead Ned (7), Gill led Trooper One (6), and then I led Trooper Two (13*). We finished off with me leading Orange Crush (14), which had a fairly challenging start. Back at the camp, Matt R and HP had already headed to the Organ Pipes, and had done Conifer Crack (9**) and were on D Major (9**) by the time we had some lunch and joined them. I headed up Piccolo (11**) which was reasonably straightforward other than the crux.

Friday saw us aim for Siren (9***) and Xena (10*), but Siren was already taken. Matt R jumped on Hot Flap (14**), while Gill and I took Matt D up Xena. Later in the afternoon, Gill and I wandered up to the Atridae and did Tantalus (7*), a surprisingly steep outing for the grade.

To avoid the crowds, we headed to Mitre Rock on Saturday, where I led Gill up The Archbishop (11*) and Matt R led the others up Penny Dreadful (10*). The Archbishop had some tricky bridging in the corner before reaching easier ground. The sun was particularly hot, so we headed around the south side where I headed up The Bishop (11**) with both Matts, and Gill did Serpent (11**) with HP. The Bishop was excellent - steep and exposed, airy climbing. We finished with me leading Deacon's Dilemma (14) and everyone top-roping Prelate (17).

Sunday saw us aiming to do Syrinx (10***) and possibly one other, but there was already a group on Syrinx by the time we got there. I volunteered to lead Matt D and HP up The Eighth (9**) which I had done only last year, while Gill and Matt R did Phoenix (11**). We all met up again at Flinders Lane for lunch and watched another group taking unsuccessful turns at getting up Scorpion (18**) on the Bluffs. We all headed down via Ali's, rapping off the lower chains. After grabbing our bags, I suggested that we could head to Castle Crag and have a swing on Trapeze (11**). It looked like a hold had broken off on the traverse and it was certainly a tough move for the grade, but the climb was enojyable.

On Monday, HP and Matt R went to Bushrangers so that HP could do a bit of gear placement. Gill, Matt D and I were heading towards The Pharos, but got sidetracked by an opening on Syrinx (10***) and did that instead. The first three pitches (we did as two) were very nice with lots of good moves for the grade, but I thought it petered out a bit after that. Still, the climbing was in very nice positions, and it's worth doing for that alone. We got a bit lost at the top, coming down the slightly dodgy Major Mitchells Gully before traversing back on to Ali's.

At the bottom we could hear this awful noise coming from down near the Golden Streak area. It sounded like a growling dog, and after a bit we could see four kangaroos hopping around as if trying to get away from something. After a bit longer, there didn't appear to be anything chasing them, and they were basically just doing laps around one of the boulders. We decided it was the kangaroos themselves making the noise, but had never heard of anything like that before.

Gill headed straight back to camp and was surprised by a roo that bounced on to the track, drooling from its mouth. She headed in the other direction pretty quickly!

Most of the hordes had cleared out by Monday, so on Tuesday, we headed up to the Atridae and I started on Clytemnaestra Buttress (9*) while Gill and Matt D headed off to do Mesa (9*). I hung around for quite some time on the overhang at the start of the second pitch before I got it worked out, and the climbing after that was pleasant but easy. After that warm up, I headed up Muldoon (13***), which was an absolute ripper. Matt R led Gill up Hell for Leather (15*). We were running out of food so we drove to Horsham for a late lunch and a shop stop at Safeway.

Back at the Pines,.James and Matt P that we had met last year had arrived by this stage, so we joined them around their fire for a few drinks and plenty of nibblies. Due to the late lunch we skipped dinner and went straight to dessert.

Wednesday was Matt D's last full day so we were aiming for a couple of long routes. I headed up Chameleon Connection (13*) with HP, while Gill and the Matts were going to do Sundance (14**). Chameleon Connection was nice down the bottom, but faded towards the top. HP and I were eyeing off Panzer (12**) next to us, as the top pitches of it looked quite exciting! Back at the bottom for lunch, it turned out the others had been stymied by a slow group above them, and aborted to Pharos Gully instead. Matt R had led Agent Orange (15**), a very enjoyable climb with a variety of nice moves. I liked the look of a small buttress that wasn't in the guide - but turned out to be in the old guide as Beer, Product of Australia (16). It was fun, but a couple of tough moves got you there. Matt R had led Bites in the Pie (12*) and everyone else swarmed up both of them. Matt R then led us all up The Venus Trap (15*), with an interesting diagonal traverse. I thought to finish the day with an easier climb up Shitty Nappies (12), but it tested me for quite some time, as it did Gill and Matt R who followed.

We headed to the Nati pub for dinner, and a few drinks, and I had an excellent feed of kangaroo. I suggested to Gill that we should go a midnight assault on Tiptoe Ridge (5***), one of the classic Araps climbs. She thought I was joking initially, but warmed to the idea. Everyone else started to get enthused, and in the end we decided on a dawn raid on Tiptoe Ridge and Introductory Route (4**).

We woke at 3am and got to the bottom of the climbs at around 4am. A few problems on the first pitches of each meant that we were about halfway up when dawn came. In our case, we were on the obvious pinnacle of Tiptoe Ridge, which was where we were aiming to get to. Sunrise was quite a disappointment due to plenty of clouds. But we got an absolutely spectacular lightning display from a storm out beyond Mitre Rock, and copped only a few drops of rain for our troubles. We were back at camp by 8am and got a few odd looks walking in with our gear!

Later in the morning, Gill and I went off and did Dracula (11**), while Matt R and HP drove Matt D to his bus at Horsham and planned to catch a movie. The first pitch of Dracula was very tricky and took me quite a while to climb. More rain made some sections a bit slippery, which didn't help. Luckily the belay ledge was under a large overhang, and just as Gill got there, a heavy shower came down. Thankfully the second pitch was easier than the first, and largely protected from the rain. I got to belay in a huge cave with spectacular pillars of rock ("The Pillars of Hercules"), and when more rain came, we were both comfortably undercover! The climb is worth it for the cave at the top and pillars alone.

More rain put paid to any more leading from me, but things cleared up a bit later in the afternoon and we joined James and Matt P at the Plaque Area for a bit of top roping. I led Camelot (10*) and we all had a bash at Minimus (14*) and Age of Reason (18).

Matt R and HP were leaving on Friday, so they headed to Mitre Rock for HP to lead Exodus (6**). I wanted to climb the Pharos, so Gill and I were going to do The Shroud (10**). It started to rain just as we arrived, and watching the weather, it seemed like we were going to get some light rain interspersed with blue sky for much of the day. We figured we would get started, and if things went bad early we could downclimb the first pitch. The weather pretty much held, and we had a very enjoyable climb. The sun was out and the wind gone for most of my belay on the second ledge, which was extremely pleasant.

The weather started to look inclement again as we looked at lunch options. I thought I'd like to give Swinging (17**) a go, so with a convenient cave, Castle Crag was the go. We sheltered in the cave as a bit of rain came, and then I jumped on the climb. Some quite challenging moves to gain and then get past the second bolt, and then it was easy to the top. I was pretty happy with that, although it's more a sport climb than a trad climb.

Gill and I were leaving on Saturday, so I persuaded Gill to lead Lizard Procrastination (11*). I had plenty of trouble even on the supposedly easy first section, so it was a good lead. I was planning on having a day off, but saw Tarzan (13*) on the way back and couldn't resist. True to the guide, it caused me all sorts of trouble at the start before I worked the move out and had a pretty easy climb after that. Mind you, it didn't help leaving half my nuts in my bag at the bottom of the climb!

By the time we packed up, we seemed to have more gear going back than we brought down! After a brief stop at the Arapiles Mountain Shop in Nati, we made good time to Shep, where we had dinner La Porchetta, the same place as last time. for a large pizza and a glass of wine is pretty hard to beat, particularly when there's enough pizza left over for lunch!

We camped at the same spot - Lower Ovens River Regional Park, just shy of Rutherglen - and (surprise) had breakfast at the same spot - the Black Dog Bakery in Rutherglen. Unfortunately wineries in Rutherglen don't open until at least 10am on Sunday so we had a bit of waiting around to do. I almost got the car bogged trying to negotiate a rutted dirt road to check out another potential campsite.

We did a few wineries - Warrabilla and Chambers again, and also Anderson and G Sutherland Smith (the father of Andrew who runs Warrabilla). I wasn't so keen on the Anderson wines, although the sparkling ones are probably worth a go. G(eorge) Sutherland Smith had a yummy Cabernet Durif, as well as a nice port, and Gill and I each bought a few wines there.

Then it was the long slog back up the Hume to Sydney, which we did in pretty good time. Another great trip over.

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Matt R leading Hot Flap (14**)

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HP seconding Hot Flap (14**)

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Matt R and HP on Hot Flap (14**)

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Gill looking disappointed in finding a hole in her Camelbak

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Gill leading on Xena (10*)

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Gill leading on Xena (10*)

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Tom seconding on Xena (10*)

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Matt D near the top of Syrinx (10***)

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Matt D posing for the camera near the top of Syrinx (10***)

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Gill on the final traverse of Syrinx (10***)

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Matt R coming up the first pitch of Clytemnaestra Buttress (9*)

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Tom leading the first pitch of Muldoon (13***), with HP comfortably belaying

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Tom on the crux of Muldoon (13***)

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HP on the crux of Muldoon (13***)

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Matt R, having used too short a rope to abseil off Muldoon and Hell for Leather, is left stranded on a ledge while Gill abseils past

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Tom belaying on Tiptoe Ridge (5***), with dawn coming in the background

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The Pharos, against the dawn light

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Gill on the pinnacle of Tiptoe Ridge (5***) just after dawn

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Tom on the third pitch of Tiptoe Ridge (5***), with HP in the background belaying on Introductory Route (4**)