James will soon be blowing us away with reports of alpine climbing in NZ, but I did get in a climb or two while he was away. During the holiday wasteland between Christmas and New Year’s, me, Johannes and Phil Eddey teamed up for a day out on this modern easy classic in the Grose Valley. It was Phil’s first multipitch, and he did well, considering he had a pretty vague idea of his climbing limits!
The guidebook description is excellent, and we found the footpad leading off the trail to the Pulpit Rock lookout easily. There are two standard 50m raps to get to the halfway ledge, although there was a lot of rope left over. I reckon you might get away with a single 70m rope on stretch. Be careful arranging and pulling the rope on the second rap.
The raps completed, we walked around right to the base of the corner/rap that is the first pitch. This is a long wander up the grey ramp, with a thin slab crux. Alpine draws are very useful, and maybe a brush as well up the top! A beautiful sweep of rock, but a bit dirty and brittle – Johannes fell seconding when he broke a hold!
The ledge at the top is super cushy, and an awesome place to hang out. Belaying under the orange amphitheatre, you have views out to the Blue Gum Forest and Mt Hay, across to the Fortress, and just to your left, the imposing orange arete of Stone Poem.
The second pitch was weird, and hard. Hauls over exposed rooflets alternate with thin slabbing, before a final haul up a blocky, bolted crack. Ledge fall potential and exposure loom below. Johannes wanted this pitch, and did a very good lead!
The second pitch ends at another big slopey shale ledge cutting in to the cliff. It’s almost a cave. We had lunch here, to cut down the load in the packs before the last pitch.
The third pitch is UTTERLY BRILLIANT. You chimney straight out from the depths of the cave, through a rift in a huge roof, above a couple hundred metres of air. I was worried I’d have to slither up through the tiny gap that the rift narrow too, but instead you round out onto the arete and face on climber’s left, and blast up a ridiculously exposed headwall through beautiful jugs. It’s over all too quickly, as you scramble back into the chimney for the final couple of metres to a bomber belay stance and bolts.
Phil and Johannes had to Mae West the packs (hang them from their harnesses on slings) to get through the chimney section. I’d recommend not taking packs on this route.
There are no photos of the final pitch, possibly as we were concentrating on not soiling our trousers. Anyway, here’s the top-out shot.
With plenty of time left in the afternoon, we wandered back in to Blackheath, and broke in Phil’s new rope at a short session baking in the sun at Shipley Upper. Phil practised leading on the Grey Slabs, and we all had a crack at Jack High, before heading back to Sydney.
A bloody good day out on a big cliff in the Grose. Looking forward to more of that this summer and autumn.