Warrumbungles Trip, May 2006
Some climbers like to grunt & crimp their way up short steep gymnastic routes
with a crowd of admirers howling their support from the gallery - all just
a few minutes from the nearest cafe and within shouting distance of beer.
I think my prefered climbing style is to finesse exposed, committing and
thought-provoking multi-pitch routes in remote areas. If it takes all day,
has excellent views, requires a walk-in and allows time for a D&M with my
partner while eagles circle overhead all the better. And if it
involves an international flight, snow and ice and the risk of an NDE Im
the pig and I've found my mud!
The Warrumbungles qualify on all accounts (even the snow). And Cornerstone
Rib is an excellent introduction to the area. It is 200m of grade 14
heaven in 5-6 pitches. It has everything but the flight. The NDE is up to
Richard Wood, Michaela Droppova and myself left behind the dangers of
Sydney traffic early one Friday and eight hours later rolled into Pincham
carpark. A short repack and gear sort preceeded our stroll into base camp.
The wide graded path, evolves into a paved path and finally flowers into a
full-scale metal staircase before depositing you at Balor Hut. The weather
was perfect and after a delicious meal from Michaela we quickly fell
asleep under clear skies, calm conditions and a million untwinkling stars
(well, OK about 10^20 of them but we could only see a few thousand).
My pathetic Suunto alarm just managed to wake me at 5am. Breakfast. And we
set off just after 6am. Routefinding is a common 'Bungles problem - not
finding your way on the route but just finding the start to begin with.
Fortunately I knew where it was and I was leading up the first pitch
before 8am. The Sun shone, there wasn't a breath of wind, it was cool
enough to avoid chalk but warm enough to feel your fingers.
The 15\,Megayear old basalt/trachyte/whatever (sorry, not a geologist -
but that's pretty young compared to a star:) is beautifully featured for
climbing. It's definite edges, cracks and splits make for secure, positive
holds and solid pro. And then the odd blank slab happens. I set a belay,
cordelette coming in very handy, and brought Richard and Mishka up. The
second pitch is a short one up the remainder of the lower buttress to the
base of the crux pitches.
Richard took the honour of leading both crux pitches - I've done 'em
before. He had a couple of 'Bungles moments but completed them both in
good, confident trad style:) The first begins with slinging a wobbly (but
secure) 'gargoyle' of rock and stepping off the belay ledge into instant
100m exposure - Woo Hoo! - before fiddling your way up a crack/groove to
the enourmous belay ledge. The second has an interesting section where the
pro is below your feet, a fall would probably hurt and delicate, slabby
moves are required. And if you look down you can see the ground way, way
below your heels [deep breath and concentrate]. Well led, Richard!
Finally it was my turn. I took a last look at the view - Belougery Spire,
the Breadknife (scenes of the earliest climbs in NSW), wide blue sky, vast
open inland plains - gathered the gear and looked up at the last pitch.
Mishka snapped another pic while I placed a cam and stepped onto the
stacked blocks. I avoided the most mobile looking ones and moved up to
sling a shallow horn, on to an excellent thread, a fixed piton (was it
placed by Bryden or Ted I wondered?), another cam. The step-ladder like
pitch is up a narrow rib, vaguely reminiscent of the top pitches of The
Bard but without the queues. There are a couple of freaky moves to get off
the ladder. I got them all wrong last time running out too much rope and
taking some balancy, dodgy moves across a slab to reach a piton. This time
I went direct: it's a move like stepping onto the roof of a house from a
short ladder - except few houses are built on the edge of a 150m cliff
with the void trying to suck you sideways and messing with your sense of
balance. I slip a small cam into a shallow break, place my left hand flat
on the slab, my right on small side-pull to the right. I'm aware of
nothing but the rock in front of me and the tiny cam by my waist. I choose
to ignore the void. And high-step with my left foot (and lean out to the
right - gulp!). Up. Phew! Easier ground, and suddenly I feel the air cool
a few degrees and I notice the sky is so blue and the eagles are circling
Richard and Mishka cruise up as I relax on the final belay. They scramble
up the slope above and leave me alone to dismantle the belay and consider
whether this really is the best climb in the world? Could well be - an
all-day outing on great rock onto a real pinnacle, excellent pro, a few
thought-provoking moments, stunning scenery and a cruisy grade.
Summits are made for lunch, particularly on days like this. Take in the
view, snap a few pics and check the comments in the log book. Then we
descend the green glacier. If the ascent by itself doesn't make this a
great climb the cool, green, fern-filled descent and final rap in the
setting Sun surely does.
We reach camp by dark and Rich and Mishka celebrate with a beer. Richard
fires up a tasty curry followed by my date cake with rich chocolate and
port sauce. Climbing, dining and gazing at stars till I drop asleep...
Cornerstone Rib. Grade 14. ~210m. 5-6 pitches.
FA by Bryden Allen & Ted Batty, 1962.
Epilogue: Richard and I climbed the delightful Endeavour Face (14) on
Belougery Spire on Sunday [RW: "You climbed the second pitch the easy way
last time, Andrew. I think you should try the harder way this time." AJ:
"Bugger! You know just how to motivate me, Richard."]
Sydney to Warrumbungles ~7-9hrs incl breaks. Shop in Mudgee.
Car to Balor hut ~1hr walk.
Balor to CR ~50mins if you know where to go, ~1.5hrs if not.
Balor to Endeavour Face (and Vertigo) ~ 40mins.
Balor has a water tank, usually full it seems to me.
Balor is ~$2/night - Book ahead with the Park staff. But the camping is
Route description: Find the start and climb upwards.
Gear: double ropes, normal rack (wires and cams from ~#3 Camalot to large
Aliens, could forget Hexes), plenty of slings, a dose of fortitude and a
breakfast of determination.
Wildlife: Eagles, koala, 'roos & goats
Take water, food and a headlamp. Start early.
Booty collected: Cordelette, a sling and a cam.
Booty deposited: #11 BD nut
Pics: See the Club Yahoo site
Last modified: Tue May 28 02:44:08 EST 2002