Friday, August 18, 2006


By Rod Smith

It’s at Narrow Neck, it’s a three-star classic, old-school, must-do.

It sounds like a sales pitch.

In this case I was selling pitches, three of ’em, the ones that make up Fuddy Duddy. The buyer, as is usually the case, was Gus. And, as is usually the case, he said yes.

Trad-training for our big end-of-year trip we decided that it would be a valuable way to spend a few hours on a Saturday and give us an opportunity to break out the double ropes.

With John Shaw and Rick Fielding we completed the familiar two-hour drive from coastal Sydney to the deep canyons of the Blue Mountains.

We abseiled down Herbaceous Gully and waved John and Rick goodbye when they stopped at their goal Cave Climb.

By the time that Gus and I got to the base of our route, carried out our ablutions, racked up, drank water and decided where the first pitch started it was near 10am on one of those glorious blue and sunny days that are considered winter by Sydneysiders.

Words to the effect of "smaller block down and right of the monster” and “wall to ledge below top of block” in Bede Harrington’s indispensable Rockies’ compendium “Rockclimbs in the Upper Blue Mountains” - seemed to concur with what we looking at, as did the initials FD at the bottom of the intended pitch. Confident that we were on track, I headed up the wall, past a bolt then lots of easy climbing, another bolt and then a comfy ledge with two carrots form a double-bolt belay.

It did not occur to me even when Gus reached the belay that we might be on the wrong pitch. The penny only dropped after I headed off around the corner to be confronted by what I considered to be a gear-free death traverse to the obvious corner and crack second pitch that gives the climb its 15 grade.

Reversing the moves I told Gus what I suspected had happened. Together, with new eyes, we noticed how the bolts of the belay were actually sticking out an unhealthy distance and how the huge detached flake below us and a metre distant from the rest of the cliff had the familiar whitened patina of classic, oft-climbed sandstone routes.

We concluded that the description in the book was probably the original 1960s route. My mind vaguely recalled reading in Mike Law’s guide how the first pitch of Fuddy Duddy had “fallen off” in a rock slide that was now generally considered to be stable…

We had somehow wandered up another route that appeared to finish at the two dodgy bolts or else traverse out wildly to the right below a roof and around a corner. According to Bede’s book it’s likely that it was Riverstone One, the route description to which notes “route details in dispute”.

The only thing to do was to sacrifice some gear to the rock gods, rap off the long bolts and gently pendulum onto the top of the big fin of rock that is Fuddy Duddy’s true first pitch. A long quickdraw and two biners poorer and we were at the base of the second pitch.

At it turned out this pitch alone was worth the hefty price of admission.

A soaring corner crack, it begins with a bolt-protected move before seguing into an offwidth that requires a borrowed number 5 Camalot for protection. After that it’s a glorious feast of stemming and laybacking or jamming to the end of the pitch.

The final pitch is also a gem of a different style. Notionally a 13 it begins with an old- school grade 18 bouldery start that allows you to clip a trusty piton. I actually opted for the right-hand start which seemed marginally easier than the left-hand heave that Gus opted for. I also placed a cam rather than solely trust the trusty piton

After that is the chimney. Fat folks need not apply.

I found plenty of gear in the left hand wall, closer to the outside of the chimney. In the bit where the gear was sparse I was so firmly squeezed, what with two layers of warm gear and my rack, that I was never going to fall out. A nice number 3 Friend allowed me to get out of the chimney and stem up on its outside edge to enjoy airy positions and the jet-stream that was funneling upwards and providing a vertical tailwind.

After a couple of false starts weighed down by the daypack Gus was directly below me. We then packhauled the daypack on one of the half ropes to allow Gus full enjoyment of the squeeze chimney.

Back at the car I calculated that a mere 95m of climbing had taken us almost 5 hours. As we pondered this and munched our sandwiches in the winter sun, we decided that we really didn’t care how long it had taken.

In the words of Fuddy Duddy fan club member Will Monks “If you don't like this climb f*** off to Centennial Glen or Nowra and don't come back!”.