Three Weeks In Australia
On June 7th, I left for the airport with Mike Feinberg. Between the two of us, we had a month’s worth of camping gear and three crash pads. Our destination: The Grampians of Victoria, Australia. We hopped in a cab and immediately hit traffic on the Midtown Bridge. We gave in to the gridlock, preparing for the forty-hour journey ahead of us. An hour later, we were checking our bags and crash pads. We flew from New York to Los Angeles to Sidney to Melbourne…it was days before we could start climbing. In Melbourne, we found our friend Ethan Pringle and waited for our bags to catch up with us.
It was another three hours before we could truly start our journey, and we started it on the wrong side of the road. We had two maps for the drive to the Grampians, two maps that left a three-hour gap in the route. We stopped for stove fuel and food in Horsham and then made our way to Mount Stappleton Camp Ground in the Grampians. It was seven o’clock and already dark. It being winter, we knew our climbing days would be short ones.
The next morning we woke early—five a.m. due to jetlag—ready to climb. We headed to Hollow Mountain Cave. Ethan set to work on the Wheel of Life, V16, a link-up of four difficult boulder problems, a chain of V9, V11, V10, V11. Ethan immediately dispatched the last problem, Dead Can’t Dance. Mike, full of energy, climbed American Pie, V11. A great start to what would turn out to be an epic trip.
The days of climbing blurred together, and before long we were a week into our trip. Feeling beaten down, we spent two nights in a trailer park, enjoying the TV, cooked meals, and heating. Mike, un-adept at camping, was having a hard time with the brutality of the wet weather (particularly the spiders.) We came to expect rain, but it never hindered our climbing days. On our rest days, we sat, bored, in overpriced coffee shops in Horsham that lacked what we most desperately wanted—WiFi. The only place with WiFi, we discovered, was McDonalds, and we often sat in the parking lot on our iPhones. Our favorite rest-day pastime was chasing and playing with the copious amounts of Walabes and Kangaroos. They were always hopping through our campsite.
Mike on Point and Shoot (V11) and Mana (V13)
After our two days of warm beds, we were back in the wilderness, hungry to climb again. At this point, we had seen the majority of what The Grampians had to offer and were ready to start honing in on projects. Ethan continued to work on his mega-project, The Wheel of Life, while Mike worked on Last Action Hiro, a hard V12. I was trying to climb many problems, as opposed to climbing fewer, harder ones.
After more boring rest days in Horsham, and a few more nights at the trailer park, we were down to our last week. We all geared up to make our final sends. During a rain shower, Mike, Ethan, and I climbed Gripmaster, V10 (a boulder problem under a giant roof that shielded us from the rain) within five minutes of each other. Ethan flashed it, and Mike and I got revenge from days prior. In our opinion, Gripmaster is one of the best problems for the grade we’ve ever climbed. Mike successfully climbed Last Action Hiro, and I climbed Snooky Badlands, V11 and Mad Max, V11. One of Ethan’s best moments was falling off Killer Dwarf and rolling into a giant puddle in the landing.
On a cold, windy day, we were up at the Hollow Mountain Cave. Ethan had the beta for The Wheel of Life figured out and hoped that this was the day he would send. On his second go from the V15 start, Sleepy Rave, he pushed through the crux and finished! Ethan was only one problem short of sending the entire Wheel of Life. It took some negotiation on our part, but Ethan was ready to try it from the bottom. Ethan cruised through the climb, making it look easy. Needless to say, Ethan was extremely stoked.
Ethan Pringle on Wheel of Life, V16
Other notable ascents included Mike’s First Ascent of Nuts to Butts, V12. The title refers to his time spent in the bustling, crowded New York City. Mike was already packed to move to Philly upon his return from Australia.
It took two days of rest to get us ready for our final days of climbing. On our last day, we went to the Citdale, an area in The Grampians with many classic, hard climbs. It was an hour uphill, but worth it to reach these climbs. It seemed that everything was coming together—temperatures were the best of the trip and motivation was high from all except Mike, who was not a happy camper. I warmed up first, and tried Lost for Life, V12. I was very close, not quite sticking the crux first move, but able to climb the remaining eight. Ethan was getting anxious to climb Ammagamma, V13 on the backside of the Citdale boulder. After a few warm up goes, Ethan was feeling confident and destroyed the problem in great style. I wanted a few more goes at Lost for Life, knowing I might be able to send. The first few tries didn’t go so well, as I continued to fall off the first move. On my third go, I grabbed each hold in the right place, and was able to hold on for the initial swing of the first move. From there, I executed the rest of the moves and reached the top. I was extremely excited to climb my first V12!! I could hardly contain myself. There was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down.
It was a great end to a fantastic trip. We all came away not only having done many great climbs, but having had a lot of fun and adventure. Mike and I flew home to New York, leaving Ethan at the campground to climb for three more weeks.
Mark on Dead Heat (V11)
My Australian Ascents:
Bitch Slap, V7, flash
Rave Heart, V8, flash
Old Henry’s Fun Climb, V4, flash
French Toast, V7, 2nd go
Bleaustard, V5, flash
Gobsmacker, V10, 2nd go
Haribo Boulder, V9, 2nd go
The Nevin Rule, V7, flash
Mr. Knox, V7, 2nd go
Happy Daze, V8/9, 2nd go
Pinchy and the Brain, V4, 2nd go
JS Memorial Slab, V4, flash
A Horse is a Horse, V4, flash
Spanking the Monkey Bars, V8
Spanking the Monkey Bars Direct, V8
100 Pound Club, V10
Cardigan St. Massacre, V7, flash
Far Left El Westwood, V9, 2nd go
Snooky Badlands, V11
Inspector Gadget, V7, 2nd go
Mad Max, V11
Lost for Life Stand, V9
Rota Loo, V8, 2nd go
Lost for Life, V12