I hope you guys had a merry Christmas and an awesome new years!
I spent my Xmas visiting my friends and family in Melbourne and then returned to work a half day on New Years Eve in the office before the big adventure began.
After work, I went home and packed the car and started making my way down to Albany to meet up with Nish and Sana for 4 days of climbing.
After nearly 6 hours of driving, I arrived at the Shelley Beach lookout and started cooking dinner in the back of the car. I was on Facebook and realised that Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson were making their Dawn Wall push. A few months back, Tommy managed to free all the pitches and conditions were perfect for one last push this season. There was some serious excitement buzzing inside of me… I was so happy for them and inspired beyond anything. Tommy has always been my climbing hero… So much so that I own 2 pairs of TC Pros… His vision of freeing the Dawn Wall … Spending years just swinging around and sussing out the route before committing every season to work on the mega proj.. So much persistence, determination and dedication… It obviously takes a very special person to have such qualities and the focus with the desire to succeed.
So every morning I’d jump on Facebook and instagram to check out their updates to see how they are progressing. It’s been such an epic battle and history is in the making. Tommy had sent all of the 5.14 pitches and has a few long 5.13 pitches before the easier terrain. Kevin has been having trouble with his skin on one of the 5.14 pitches and is persisting! So rad!
Anyways back to my trip.
I had an early night on New Years Eve…i thought I’d give it a go since I’ve stayed up for the countdown in the previous years… I made myself comfortable in my new home which made for a perfect bed and by the end of the trip.. I had a storage system going on ! I kinda miss living in the car now…
I woke up New Years morning and had breakfast with Nish and Sana. The game plan was to head for West Cape Howe and check out the Raft area as it didn’t require us to bring an extra rope for abseiling. We were expecting it’ll take about 2 hrs of slogging… But before we knew it.. We were there! And it only took 50min! Still wasn’t easy though =P
Here’s Nish and Sana checking out the raft wall and sussing out our warm up “Gay Dawn”.
Nish doing his best Alex Honnold impression at the first belay.
I’ve always used single ropes for climbing but since we were a party of three, we used half ropes. They have the benefit of reduced rope drag and reduced impact force when falling … Plus they allow you to bring two seconds up which is pretty cool… Although belaying with them were a bit tricky at first but you kinda get used to it. Having a party of three can actually be better than a party of two! If you all get along and work well together… It ends up being just as much climbing and each person has to carry less gear.
We decided that we’ll do three climbs for the day… Each person would lead the whole climb without swapping leads. So Sana had Gay Dawn which was a nice well protected warm up except for the last pitch which was an off width crack with some weird moves…
The next climb we did was Vulture Street…Nish lead it in a single pitch. It was really balancey and super fun!
Finally my climb was Tombstone.. I remember a few people gave it a go last time I went to WCH and I didn’t feel solid enough on trad to try it so I thought it’s time to give it a go! Starts at a balancey traverse for the first pitch…
Before about 12m of hand to fingers crack! Not pure jamming as there are some edges on the right but it’s pretty awesome! Such a sweet pitch!
The third pitch had some loose rocks and was more of a “get the hell out of there” pitch.
After 3 climbs, we called it a day and slogged our way back to our cars.
The next day was Peak Head… The walk was shorter than WCH however the way out was a much harder slog…
we got all the way to the start of Albatross however there appeared to be again front coming in towards us so we waited it out under a rock and whipped out the emergency blanket for warmth!
It started spitting so we decided to bail and spend the rest of the day as a rest day…had a shower, did some groceries and chilled out at a Cafe for a coffee and a chat.
The next day was my birthday! Woke up and during breakfast Nish and Sana gave me a box of M&Ms as a present and sang me happy birthday! So cool! We returned to Peak Head with a mission to get back on Albatross!
Nish lead the first pitch which kicks off with some rad exposure!
Sana lead the 2nd pitch which leads to a ledge… Then I had the last pitch.. The run out slab! You have some edgy footers which you stand up on to reach this under pocket… However that underpocket is the best place for pro.. So I put my green c3 cam in the instead… Gave it a gentle pull… And it came out… I looked down at the folks and they looked pretty nervous for me… =S… I put the c3 back in and told myself it was bomber and kept moving… Was pretty nervousness once I moved past the initial section… It was just jug hauling to the end!
So the next climb we wanted to try was Baylac Direct… Which was supposedly one of the best crack pitches in WA according to the guidebook. I was nominated to lead the first pitch… You I started on the ledge and follow the crack up to a pocket where I placed my first cam in.. Then followed the thin crack.. Laybacking and flailing my left foot to try and reach the break…. I tried staying left instead of trending right and ended up falling like 4 times before I got it thanks to Sana’s beta and pointers. Once I hit the break… One of the best cracks awaited! It reminded me of climbing in Yosemite and I couldn’t stop smiling…. what a great birthday present =) Nish and Sana followed and they loved it just as much as I did! Nish took the next pitch which was a nice corner before Sana gave the 3rd pitch a go… It was the same pitch as the run out slab of Albatross… She placed the tiny C3 in the underpocket and it blew out everytime she tested it… After blowing out all 3 times… She decided to let Nish lead the pitch =P… Nish didn’t even bother with gear and soloed it =)
We called it a day after two climbs to try and save ourselves for WCH the next day.
We returned to our favourite little picnic spot at Fisherman’s Bay… Boy it’d spectacular… Calm clear blue water with our own patch of grass. We relaxed and cooked up dinner before driving back to the Shelley Beach lookout and called it a night.
We woke up nice and early the next morning and off we slogged to WCH. The first climb of the day was The Climb on the Old Man of Torbay. I managed to hang my GoPro off the side of the cliff to get a time lapse!
Nish lead the pitch and it was as 3 star as it was last time! Super fun! The next climb we did was the 2 pitch Wire Flake. Super rad climb with a few little rooflets that you have to navigate around and through. I led the first pitch and Sana the second…. Our abseil rope got stuck so Nish went back down and toproped the whole thing to get our rope back. We finished the day off with a burn on Andromeda on the Pyramid. Sana decided to chill out up top whilst Nish and I rapped down. First pitch was following the corner/chimney… Pretty average climbing… Nish belayed me from the top of the pyramid and I lead the next pitch up arete…. Again… Pretty average climbing… Wouldn’t even give it a star… Wire Flake on the other hand deserves the 3 stars! And that was it! We slogged back and drove to Albany for a quick dinner stop at the kebab joint before driving to Kojonup and getting some zzz at the local park. Caught a few hours and got up at 5 for the remaining few hours home!
What an adventure! I’d never thought I’d walk into WCH and I did… Twice… And like Kevin Jorgeson said… Sometimes you need to have some type 3 fun before you can have the type 1 =)
News update… Tommy Caldwell made it all the way to Wino Tower whilst Kevin was stuck in pitch 15…i think.. After 4 days working on it.. Kevin finally managed to get the send and caught up to Tommy! The Dawn Wall goes! What’s your Dawn Wall?