The Beulah Rock Festivus


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With the Nymboida trip dead in the water, and horrified at the prospect of being stuck in Melbourne for several days if I went to the Gramps, I hastily organised with Minus to resurrect Plan C for the Easter long weekend: the Beulah Rock Festivus!

Immediately two mistakes were made: I left behind the rope and rack because there wasn’t much room in the car, and I didn’t print off the guidebook from theCrag, because surely someone else would have done it? WRONG. No one ever prints off the guidebook. Surely I should have learnt this by now.

Anyway, with the pads strapped to the roof, we set off into the long weekend traffic, for a day of driving in the general direction of New England via many back roads. As darkness fell we were somewhere in the vicinity of Kingstown. It only took a couple of back-tracks and a wee bit of tense delibration, and we were bouncing up the dirt road to Beulah Station in the Forrester, with Minus cursing the engineers and marketers of Subaru who had conceived of such a useless soft-roader vehicle.

Rocking up to the shearing shed, we signed our lives away to Todd Free (the tireless driving force behind the Festivus), and were shocked to discover not only was there pizza available, but it was also free. Everyone gathered for the ‘opening ceremony’ which started off the good vibes for the weekend. After raising the Tent Mahal to its full glory, I was all ready for glorious granite goodness the next day.

Saturday

I woke up in the morning with the sun shining over the station, picked up my shoes and a brush, and strolled 10m away from the tent to the nearest boulder, to scrub what was surely to be a classic first ascent before breakfast. Heaven!

Unfortunately, though featured, the boulder appeared to be constructed of pebbles glued together with moss. After scrubbing off a rain of debris for ten minutes I gave up in despair. I’d been lied to, this was awful! It then ocurred to be that there was a reason all the boulders next to the houses had been left alone and all the developed areas were over the hill where there was actual granite instead of conglomerate choss. Duh. Later we saw a few guys trying to scrub the same boulder. After laughing at their expense for a little bit I went over and said hi. They agreed to give up shortly after.

After breakfast and a consultation with Todd, we walked up the hill behind the Donger to find the Blackberry boulders, which seemed to be the best close option. It was really cool walking around on 3rd class granite domes – later me and Minus scrambled around looking for something steep enough to call a route, but we could walk up everything without difficulty. Friction!

The Big Blackberry boulder is huge and has a good-looking grade 10 crack on the shady side. The Little Backberry boulder is a great little bloc and we busied ourselves on Exposure, a good V1 which starts off a small rock on the downhill side of the block and is nice and airy; and a sit-start to Don’t Know which probably went at V1 or 2. I had a go at A Gecko Stole My Baby, but it was pretty vicious. There was some good-looking stuff in the V4 range further round the boulder.

We then wandered further up the hill with a group of other people, looking for stuff which looked worthwhile. We settled on one little outcrop which is now on theCrag as the Internet Dating area. There were some face-arete things, but I found this tiny featured prow with cool compression moves on slopey holds. If it had been twice the size it would have been potentially classic, unfortunately it was merely fun. I called it Internet Dating after a story a couple in the other group told us.

We returned to camp as the afternoon started getting really hot. The others drove into Kingston to get petrol so we could drive tomorrow. I headed down to the Solitary Boulders with one of the guys camped next to us. We worked on African Reef V4, I got to the top via the stand-start but the first few moves were too powerful and sharp for a lazy afternoon. We then went to the second Solitary Boulder and I flashed Jesus Ate My Butt Crack V2 which was a sick layback hand crack.

The Dyno Comp

Where fun was had by all and some HUGE hucks went down. The girls (Mikaela and Lucy) both made it to the second round. Mikaela actually won the style award for never actually having done a dyno before and still sticking the round one dyno. I can confirm she had actually asked me what a ‘dyno’ was about fifteen minutes beforehand!

Minus and me did less well and didn’t get the men’s round one dyno. Despite wearing Laura’s dress, Minus was out-transvestited by a guy Leo who did it in a women’s G-string. The look of disapproval and disgust on Todd’s face as he handed over the style award was fantastic.

We hung around a few campfires with various interesting characters being social and all that, until the wine ran out, and basically drifted off into sleep as midnight rolled past.

Sunday

Having had enough of bashing around in the bush and chasing after choss, we decided to check out the Swamp boulders and see the area classic Swamp Thing V3 which had everyone gushing. Even though Minus wasn’t keen to drive the Subaru Failster over the creek crossing and we had to walk, it was a very good decision because the Swamp area was great! As Todd said, the rock seems to be more featured and fine-grained down that end of the property. It was a fantastic day out under the trees wandering around the boulders. Dare I use, as Pete Balint put it, the F-word1…?

Lucy and Minus battled the whole day with an unnamed V3 that starts under a weird overhanging flake thing and exits right. They finally sent, one after the other, just as they were about to give up and even managed to avoid falling off the top of the boulder as they danced around in delirious celebration. A kickass achievement!

I had fun wandering around, ignoring sit-starts. Leith’s Arete (on the Leithal Weapon boulder, haha) is some nice granite. Rhys’ Crack is probably one of the cooler laybacks I’ve done, and while it’s a bit of a weird number Social Just Fuckers was good as well. Swamp Thing is a total king line but we left it until the end of the day when we were all seriously tired and drained of will. I flashed Flash Gordon. My own addition is on the Sketch boulder, and was a dig at a certain Huck&Dyno contributor2: ‘Take That James Bultitude’. There is a brutal high-step to get off the ground, and it’s probably V3 if you can’t touch your belly-button with your big toe. This is followed by a couple of delicate slab moves to a positive sidepull flake, and a final precarious mantle. It got plenty of repeats throughout the afternoon and I hope the moss won’t have grown back by next year.

The Slackline Competition and Closing Ceremony

The slackline comp was good to watch with some impressive tricks stomped, although no-one quite managed a backflip or made it across the longline. The closing remarks went down well with more good vibes and stories. Highlights were the raffle winners for the climbing shoe prizes being forced to try them on, Cinderella-style (entry was foot-size dependent), and when the little girl won the final raffle prize everyone was like AAAAWWWW and it couldn’t have been a more fairytale ending.

Until Next Year

I got up first thing on the monday and persuaded Miki and Minus to come look for the Warm-Up boulder. I think I found it, but it looked pretty worthless (that slab hidden in the bushes was the first boulder scrubbed and climbed at Beluah? Really, you didn’t notice say the Solitary One boulder?) We gave up and Miki and I went and climbed another couple problems on Solitary One.

The drive back wasn’t bad at all although I was very disappointed with Tamworth’s Golden Guitar. I was expecting bigger and tackier.

Anyway, I’m pretty keen for next year. So much potential. We scratched the surface and by the looks of it there’s still plenty of photographed entire open boulders on theCrag that no-one got around to. And no-one really done any trad lines on Sheep Shit Rock? Might even have to make a week away of it and spend some time in Armidale proper at Gara Gorge and Mt Yarrowick.

Thanks to Todd and Cliff and the sponsors and all the helpers, that was absolutely everything I had dreamed of in a climbing festival.


  1. i.e., Fontainbleau.
  2. I hope he got the reference
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