Nalle Hukkataival bouldering Grampians, Australia
So, our trip to the Grampians has come to an end. This place exceeded all of my already high expectations and it was very hard to leave. The potential the Grampians offers was overwhelming, even in the already established areas. With even Rocklands seemingly running out of accessible rock, it was great to get some reassurance that there are still bouldering areas in the world with amazing rock quality and vast potential. For that reason this was one of the most important trips in my climbing career and surely one of the best trips I've ever taken! We've been so busy climbing and putting up first ascents that there hasn't even been time to sit down and write an update.
In the beginning of the trip our goals were very different from what they came to be. On the very first day we jumped on Wheel of Life—it being probably the best known climb in Australia. Straight away we started noticing all the projects around, most of them even marked in the guidebook. Quickly, I did the first ascents of Drop Bear (V11) at Kindergarten and a stunning highball Parallel Lines (V11) on the Project Wall. Soon enough we were just going from project to project with the occasional repeat of an old classic in between. It was hard to focus on anything with so many projects around. We did manage to squeeze in another session on the Wheel but it was hard to justify investing more time into repeating one single climb with all the projects around and Taipan Wall, home to some of the best roped climbing in the world, lurking in the background. We did not take many rest days, and every day we would climb until the last possible moment and hike out in the dark. After getting adjusted to the time zone and the rock, I had a good day when I repeated Mana (V13) and Last Action Hiro (V12) and also did the FA of the last remaining project on the Project Wall, Circuit Breaker (V11), making it just "The Wall."
[First Ascent of Circuit Breaker (V11)]
Eventually we couldn't resist the call of Taipan Wall anymore and had to get on it. I had heard only good things about Taipan Wall and it definitely wasn't a letdown. Some say it has some of the best pitches in the world and I have no doubt about that. We climbed some amazing classics like The Invisible Fist (26 or 7b) and tried Groove Train (33 or 8c+). Groove Train is maybe the best route I've ever tried: big, bold, runout and on perfect rock. It starts on Groovy, which is a classic route on massive slopy huecos, and keeps going past Groovy's anchor all the way to the top. Once you pass the first anchor, the style of climbing changes completely from being techy and sloppy to powerful crimping and really run-out—so at least you need to worry about clipping. I went up it once and got really psyched on it so I left my draws on it for the next time.
[Trying Groove Train on Taipan Wall. photo: Keith Ladzinski]
Then it was back to bouldering. Out of all the problems I had established in the area so far, Pigeon Superstition was probably the hardest. It's a beautiful problem I found just 10 meters from the classic Klem Loskot problem Ammagamma (V13). Pigeon Superstition took me two days of work and it's a lot harder than Ammagamma, so I think V14 should be about right. It's pretty unique in style; a few technical and difficult moves into a hard all-points-off dyno from a left hand gaston and a bad gaston smear-thing for the right hand. It suits my climbing style pretty well. Other quality FAs that I got in the northern Gramps were the Sandanista Project that I named Schnell (V11) and a slab project at the Andersen's, Spider Mate (V11-ish). The Wave Room Project below Taipan Wall is a great example of how difficult it was to maintain focus in the sea of projects. It's just another incredible line that we cleaned and built a landing for and only tried one time never finding the time to come back.
[The Wave Room Project, still unclimbed.]
Then one day we took a rest day. A friend of ours had loaned us an old sport climbing quidebook and on the last pages of the book there was a small section about the bouldering areas. The book only mentioned a few places for bouldering but one of them was, according to the book, a huge boulderfield that was undeveloped. We decided to check it out.
Buandik is in the southern Grampians, about a 50min drive from Mount Stapylton and the Taipan Wall. We arrived at the parking and started hiking towards the mountaintop with massive boulders on it. Eventually we came to the conclusion that the trail we were supposed to take was long gone and finally, after some serious bush whacking, we found an overgrown path that once used to be a trail and made it to the area. Once we got to the mountaintop we saw it was scattered with huge boulders and walls with incredible rock quality! We all went nuts, running around in different directions until it was pitch dark—and we then realized we still had to find our way back down to the car. But just based on what we saw that day we knew we had found something special.
[More boulders that we never even got to check out!]
Buandik quickly became our destination for pretty much the rest of the trip. On our first climbing day in Buandik we brushed lots of problems and made the FAs of First One (V7), Balazar (V9), worked on a project that later became Massive Dynamic and a gaston project on the New Project Wall. Our days there were so packed with action I can't even begin to remember what happened on each day. All I know is that I wore out lots of brushes. Probably the best day I had the whole trip was all FAs: Black Hole (V8-ish), Italian Rest (V10), Tunnel Vision (V11), Cherry Picking (V13) and Massive Dynamic (V13).
Cherry Picking is an amazing five-star boulder problem! It's must be in my Top 5 climbs in the world. You start on a perfect starting hold at head level and do big dynamic moves on perfect holds into a highball topout. The location couldn't be much better either: on top of a big cliff with a waterfall in the background.
Massive Dynamic took me two days and felt really hard for me. The crux is a huge dyno and the left hand must stay on to hold the swing. Even basically underclinging the sidepull that you jump from, I barely have the reach to do the big dyno to the next hold. There's a decent crimp, but just jumping to a bad sloper only an inch below it feels like both of my shoulders get dislocated. I stuck the sloper only once and did a hard move to gain the crimp just an inch above. After that the topout is truly amazing! Big moves on perfect rounded pockety crimps really high off the ground! Massive Dynamic felt more like V14 to me, but I'm sure being taller helps a bit, that's why I think V13 is more appropriate.
Occam's Razor (V14) is an interesting problem, which at first seems easier than it actually is. The first hour on it I spent trying out a million different methods, convinced that there must be an easy way to do it. Turns out there isn't. For each little section there seems to be an easier sequence than what I used on the send, but somehow you cannot link those sequences together. It's a very special type of problem: technical and core intensive and it's on that perfect Rocklands-esque orange-yellow rock.
Instakill (V12) has a very shouldery first move to a gaston, off of which you have to do a really tensiony dyno to an ok hold. All that is followed by a very tall topout. I somehow managed to pull this one off with a cold and I felt really sick afterwards, but hey, you only live once, right?!
The rock in Buandik seems to favor hard climbing because it's not very featured, but often has just enough holds to make something out of it. However, we didn't just put up double-digit problems there. Balazar (V8), Dave's Slab (V8-ish) and Archer (V1), just to name a few, are definitely worth climbing and there's potential for a much more in the lower grades.
On our second-to-last day we managed to break ourselves away from Buandik for a day. We started off at Hollow Mountain where I climbed the unrepeated(?) highball Eagle's Nest. The fact that you can see it from Taipan Wall gives you an idea of how tall it is. And if you fell from the very top, not only would you fall to the ledge that you start on, but you might fall over the ledge and another 30 metres down the cliff. It was graded only V8 by the FA, but I had to do a completely different sequence because I couldn't even come close to doing the huge span move for the crux. Needless to say, I got my adrenaline dose for the day topping it out! Next we went to Citadel and worked on the prow project left of Ammagamma. Unfortunately, after sessioning on it for a while, we came to the conclusion that it would actually be either contrived or stupid, or both. Too bad, because it's such a great looking line, but it just doesn't climb the way you'd want it to because there's too many ways to escape out right. Oh well, there's tons of other projects to do. At the end of the day we checked out the Ground Control Caves. They're located literally in the cliff on top of the Taipan Wall. It must be one of the craziest locations for a bouldering spot and the view is awesome. We climbed the classic Klem problem Lonely Hearts Club and Dead Heat with an amazing sunset view. It was a perfect last day in the Mount Stapylton area.
On our last day of the trip we went back to Buandik. Ian made a proud third ascent of Cherry Picking and Dave and I put up some easier problems. I was just saying how many good problems there still must be that we walk past every day, when Dave "found" this amazing new project just 3 meters(!) to the right of Massive Dynamic. It soon became Right Thurr (V12). I literally sent this one on the last try of the trip before we had to rush to Melbourne to catch our flights!
It was great to see Buandik become one the best sectors I've seen anywhere in the world for hard bouldering, with it's many hard, high-quality problems, immaculate rock, dynamic style of climbing and many projects still to be climbed and found. I can't wait to go back with more time! I'm also very psyched to get back on Groove Train! We were so busy with Buandik that my draws are still hanging on Groove Train, waiting for next year. We had Keith Ladzinski on the trip shooting for a Black Diamond video, which will be on the BD website once it's finished. We got many of the first ascents on film and I can't wait to see the video myself! It was hard to leave Grampians, but we'll be back next year. In the mean time, I'm off to Fontainebleau!
And here's a list of some of the climbs that I did this trip:
¥ Drop Bear V11
¥ Parallel Lines V11
¥ Pigeon Superstition V14
¥ Understanding V7
¥ Circuit Breaker V11
¥ Schnell V11
¥ Spider Mate V11?
¥ First One V7
¥ Black Hole V8
¥ Italian Rest V10
¥ Tunnel Vision V11
¥ Cherry Picking V13
¥ Massive Dynamic V13
¥ Occam's Razor V14
¥ Instakill V12
¥ Right Thurr V12
¥ Dead Can't Dance V11
¥ The Viking V10
¥ Big Buck Hunter V12?
¥ Gripmaster V10, Flash
¥ So You Think You Can Dance V11, Flash
¥ American Pie V10?, Flash
¥ Ammagamma V13?
¥ Sleepy Hollow V12
¥ Mana V13
¥ Last Action Hiro V12
¥ On The Beach V13
¥ Etch-a-sketch V11?, Flash
¥ Lost for Life V12
¥ Dead Heat V11
¥ Eagle's Nest V8?