martedì 2 agosto 2016

Down Under - Grampians

Giada, Kindergarden (AUS). Photo Giulia Paoletti
The second half of the journey took part in the classic Grampians. After an unforgettable limestone experience in Castle Hill, I was excited to come back on sandstone. Since Australia was on the way back home, I took the opportunity to make another trip in this land.

This time I was together with Giulia and we rented a cozy cabin in Wartook, instead of staying in Stawell which is quite far away from most of the areas. Wartook is in fact an awesome place where to stay: located quite close from the North of the park, it is also reasonably handy for the Vic range in the South. Moreover, this little hamlet is placed in the middle of the wildness, with kangaroos that jump left and right in the backyard and the enjoyable sound of the birds which hosts you every day. It was gorgeous to feel this Australian atmosphere right next to the home door.
I chose to come back to Australia for several reasons, but the main ones were two: checking the Northern zones and climbing the new boulders in the South which have been established last August. I was very excited to check the new stuff in the Vic range.

As probably some of you know, most of the Northern areas had been closed during my first visit in 2015. This was due to a fire which hit the Grampians the summer before; then climbers, hikers and tourism needed to let the wild gain its balance again. I hence couldn’t see most of the classic sectors like Project wall, Hollow mountain and Kindergarten.
Kindergarten was actually the first I chose to check this year. It was ages that I wished to climb on this wall and I couldn’t resist despite the thick mist of the first morning. The rock is quite rough, but at the same time awesome: The texture feels nice and the shades on the wall are beautiful: the right side of the wall looks like a 3D painting drown ad sculpted by mother nature.
Sad but true, there aren’t any real boulders to climb: all the problems can’t top out and it is similar to other sectors where you can only make drop-off or forced connections.
Afterwards, we went to the famous Project wall, where I managed to sent the tall classic “Parallel lines” V11 and made a reasonably quick work on the powerful benchmark “Mana” V13. Both boulders have a gymnastic and funny style and, by the sunset, the Project wall shows its best bright and orange shades! That was brilliant!
Finally, we saw the Hollow mountain cave, first for a check then for a climbing day.
That area disappointed me a lot since there are tons of lines which aren’t very logic: connections left and right, climbing loops and problems which start somewhere and end in the middle of the roof. For this reason I chose to  grab only a flash ascent of “Dead can’t dance” V11, letting all the other lines aside.

What made me even more disappointed about The Northern Area was definitively the poor ethical side of the community, especially seeing how the rock is dirty and soiled. It wasn’t cool to see several climbers who often let the problems in the craziest and dirtiest ways I have probably ever seen.
Kindergarten and Hollow Mountain cave don’t get rain all year long and you could imagine how the rock and the holds could be. Despite the infinitive doses of tick marks, several holds have a super wide and permanent chalky halo around. This halo is often a white, thick and irremovable crust. Right above this, there is usually the fresh chalk left from the previous climber.
It wasn’t always like that and obviously not all the people behaves with the same approach, but that happened quite often. By the way, in these Northern sectors, the sandstone has some wonderful bright orange and beige shades with some nice grippy textures. It was a pity to see that most of the holds haven’t any of these features anymore and the good rock is just part the blank side of the boulders.
Coming up from Castle Hill, where everyone has an impressively sense of respect towards the rock, it wasn’t the most lovely thing to see.
But luckily, the wild and unknowing Victoria range in the South isn’t like that. Down there, all the hikes are harder and most of the climbers doesn’t spend a lot of time.

Mana, Project wall (AUS). Photo Giulia Paoletti
This side of the Grampians is basically unknown for the wide part of the community. The paths are wild and covered by thick bushes. Sometimes they are also steep and slippery and there isn’t any guidebook which can lead you into these areas. If you put all of these elements together, it is clear that many climbers stay away.
In the south, I could enjoy the real Australian bouldering and the previous trip in 2015 helped me to keep the expectations a bit lower.
It was crazy to note how the rock was different from the North; not only because of the natural rock conformation, but also because it hasn’t been ruined as much as it was in the North. In fact most of the rock is still at its natural statement.
One of the things I have learnt during these years is how much the climbers’ traffic depends on the fame of the areas. Once you need to get information, find the boulders into a wild zone or go for some unknown problems, a wide part of climbers usually lose the interest in it.
That’s sad and amazing at the same time; but it is honestly more amazing to me! This is why the Southern zone should stay protected a bit longer.

The Vic range was the place where I mostly wanted to go and where most of the inspiring problems are located. The first of the list were “Trillion Dollar Coin” and “Wave Swoop”, which have a totally different style from each other. For a reason or another, I only had one single session on both, where I wasn’t able to get the proper feeling. While you are on the trip you never really know how the plans could roll and how the agenda might change.  
“Wave Swoop” is very sharp, but definitively worthy. After a couple of goes I could link it from one move in, but obviously all the problem is pressed into the first action. A move which is quite far from my style and it involves a lot of things that I am not used to do like having tough skin or climbing with stiff shoes. It is also pretty hard and excited at the same time, but I somehow wasn’t ready to invest a high dose of time for that.
“Trillion dollars coin” is different and harder than the wave in Mt. Fox. It deals of another problem I removed, but also another problem I added for my next trip!
Beside these two lines, I really wished to see tons of other stuff but obviously I hadn’t enough energies and time to check all of them.
“Survival of the Prettiest” and “Golden Rule” have been definitively the best ones I have climbed. Not only from the trip, since they can probably be among the coolest ever.

The end came always quicker than what you usually want and I unfortunately had an annoying heel injury for the last part. I think it should have been bizarre seeing me limping with two pads, among the bush and damning every step I did. I could anyway stay positive, enjoying the rest of the days out (despite the hikes, obviously J ).
This last section have been spent upon a beautiful hill, trying a super hard and amazing piece of rock called “The stepping stone”. One of the hold on Stepping stone is in my opinion a contender for the best pinch in the Grampians and the rock quality stands out from all the rest: This made me falling in love very quickly. Beside the rock and the climbing which are awesome, It is also located in an amazing area. Well, you might probably don’t like the path to get there, but once you reach the edge of the hill, the location is stunning and it has been good to spend four days feeling out of the real world. The problem is hard, hard and hard, but definitively enjoyable! On the last day I also got some progresses, but one move was still missing.
There was nothing I desired more than grabbing that pinch, but at the end I couldn’t.

I Hope to come back stronger one day, both to try it again and to check all the other scattered gems of the South. See you next time OZ!

The Golden Rule, Australia.

Survival of the prettiest, Australia.

The X pinch, Australia. Photo Giulia Paoletti