Friday, March 06, 2009

Lost in a sea of bolts

By Rod Smith

It seems a funny thing to go all the way to Tassie – home of the brutal crack and bastion of trad climbing – to clip bolts.

Rick Fielding and I hadn’t intended it to be that way. But after a day at Ben Lomond, and on the way to more trad climbing at Freycinet, en route to the East Coast via the Lake Leake Highway the sign to Lost Falls beckoned us.

After three summer trips to Tassie in as many years we both knew that Lost Falls contained two 96m slab routes. Sport climbs, they sit side by side on the pleasant dolerite slabs that become the Lost Falls in winter and after heavy rain.

At 8am on a perfect summer morning we geared up in the car park before making the literally 5-minute walk to the triple rings at the top of the falls.

Well-bolted, the climbs are broken into three pitches, with each having independent first and second pitches before sharing the final easy pitch. Both climbs share three triple-ring belays/rap points.

After some arduous and unsuccessful attempts to prevent our double ropes falling into the remnant pools created by the trickle of water that is Lost Falls in summer, I set off with damp ropes up the first pitch of the first route, Ride the Dragon (15).

Despite looking slippery, the rock provided good friction, even the bits that were covered in dried, black slime. I was quickly at the top of the first pitch.

Rick led the champagne second pitch, the crux. At 50m in length and on the grade, it was a pleasant excursion even on second. Although slabby, the rock holds enough small fissures to render it easier to climb than say the granite slabs at Tarana, near Lithgow.

The third pitch was more of a formality than anything before we were once again tossing our ropes in every pool we could find, abseiling down to climb the next route, Black Dawg.

Black Dawg’s crux is its second pitch which is graded at 19. This time the champagne pitch went my way as we climbed the harder liner closest to where the waterfall develops after rain.

Delicate rockover moves and plenty of toeing and palming nuances in the slab made for absorbing and technical climbing. Seventeen draws were needed to complete the 50m second pitch.

Rick and I both agreed that the grade of the crux pitch was probably more in the hard 17/easy 18 range – or it may have been the euphoria of spending a few hours climbing a couple of four-star routes in the calming surroundings of the Tasmanian bush that made it seem easier.