“…don’t be afraid of places like Mt Piddington” – widewetandslippery
With uni over for the semester and thesis was handed in, it was time to get up to the mountains and get on some rock. After watching the first half of the rugby on friday night, I picked up James and drove up Bells Line of Road to Mt Victoria. We met Pez and Ben at a campsite at Mt York. After chilling for a bit and enjoying the clear and cool night with the car lights on the highway twinkling way down below, I put up the tent inner fly and we hit the sack.
We made an bright and early start and drove straight to the Mt Piddington carpark. I was pretty stoked to finally be heading out to Piddo, and we even had Pez with us, and he has a picture of himself on On Edge on the front page of Chockstone at the moment, so clearly he knows the place pretty well.
We got to the Eternity area at the very keen hour of 7:30. Pez started leading up Joseph, and while him and Ben climbed it I started racking up.
Now James and I had spent much of the winter at Barrenjoey, having fun sticking old cams into sandy horizontals, and slowly getting more trad experience. Actually, I think I’ve led nearly every grade 14 and 15 crack at southwest Barrenjoey now. I was exited but nervous to see how I’d go at big crag. How much gear will I have to place on a 30m pitch? Will I be able to find wire placements? Can I actually hold on for that long? Am I going to freak out with the exposure?
As it turned out I had a blast leading Joseph and even managed to run it out a little and extend the right pieces. So that was good. I then ‘persuaded’ James to head up The Cartheginian: “I reckon you’ll get a good big cam at the start of the wide bit and then you can just power up to the tree!”. He had a cracking go, but had to rest, before footjamming and hugging up the crux part with the twin cracks. Seconding, instead of managing to get the wire stuck, I got it out but dropped it instead. I continued up to the fantastic belay cave. Rapping down the Eternity, we were treated to one of the most amazingly well-engineered rap anchors I’ve seen, since the one on top of the 18 roof at Narrabeen slabs.
Over the course of the morning efforts were made on SSCC #1, SSCC #3 (I had a good flash attempt but took a fall and had to rest before getting up it), Neil Diamond Syndrome, the first pitch of Flake Crack, and Hope.
We then decided to all go and cruise up Hocus Pocus, for tradition’s sake. As the first team to the base would not have to wait, we raced to sort out gear, and at this point James dropped something that dissapeared down the slope in the depths of the valley, and I realised I’d left the dropped nut and sling at the base of The Cartheginian. Pez ran off cackling and did the whole thing in one pitch and clipped about 3 bolts.
After waiting and watching from the top of the Cottage Boulder, James led the first pitch. Hocus Pocus turns out to be that crappy rusty-coloured juggy rock that characterises easy Blueys scrambles like Sweet Dreams and Boadicia. After getting a little freaked at having so few bolts in 15m, James mantled over the little bulge and got to the first belay. When I got there he had clipped all four bolts with quickdraws and extendable draws and connected them all with a huge cordelette and an knot about the size of child’s head. The rope was somehow running through the middle of this. “You wanted to be fast, so I tried to do something simple”. At this point I was very happy I hadn’t agreed to do Bunny Bucket Buttress with him this weekend.
But then my own stupidity began. I attempted to step off the belay 3 times but something got caught every time (why do I even have a nut tool?). I then climbed straight up and got a little bit off route. The problem with crappy rusty-coloured slabs is that they are bolted with crappy rusty-coloured carrots which are several meters apart and really hard to find. I then made the mistake of looking down and realised how far I was off the belay. Where the hell were all these retrobolts supposed to be?
At this point James dropped the rope stack. After cursing and yelling a lot I traversed right until I could clip something, and stormed up the rest of the easy corner in a rage, clipping just enough bolts to create obscene rope drag. I staggered to top, sweating insanely (the crag is in full sun by now) and giggling in astonishment at how hard we just got flogged by a bolted grade 8. The camera was also run out of battery power, as though it was too embarrassed to record this.
Luckily the descent was done reasonably competently. We opted to do it in two raps, rather than do the death downsolo to the second rap station.
The day was not quite over. Pez and Ben headed up The Phantom for a finale. Continuing my excellent record of picking “easy warm-down routes”, I chose to lead Avago with the grade 17 slab finish. It was a steep and hard start and I couldn’t stop to place gear until I was about 4m off the ground. I slammed in two nuts, a big cam, and slung the ‘dick’. I had to make another couple of moves right and up to clip the first carrot.
I kept waiting for the angle to ease off, but it didn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure that when you’re pumped, hanging straight-armed from jugs, and you look down and see your belayer is closer to the base of the climb then you are, then that ain’t a slab. I yelled “take!”.
Sunburnt and sandbagged I flopped onto pagoda on top of the buttress. No sooner have I set up an autoblock and yelled “On belay!”, the rope goes taught and traps my hand against the rock. “Owowowow couldpleasegetbackontherockasapmyhandisstuck” “WHAT?” “STOP FALLING OFF YOU MORON!”. Of course James had chosen this moment to fight the good fight against cancer and apply sunscreen, and as a consequence couldn’t hold on to a damned thing with his slimy hands. He dogged his way up the start.
Anyway, he comes up, and in a thirsty daze we rap down Angular Crack using the hilariously over-engineered anchor, meet up with Pez and Ben, and trudge back up Horne Point. Just as we reach the cars, a perfect cooling breeze comes up.
In the end we had a great day and we didn’t kill ourselves. Piddo is amazing, the classic lines are awe-inspiring and I can hardly believe it was humanly possible to lead them in the 60’s. It will take another couple of trips I think to sack up and lead the rest of Flake Crack or Psychopath. It wasn’t crowded at all, and the people we did see were friendly.
So that was my first trip to Mt Piddington.
– Sam May