Thursday, October 25, 2012

Of bolts and cracks


Slab World: It sounds like a heaven for the beer connoisseur but instead it turned out to be a load of newish bolts.

Forecasts of hot weather made the promise of a southerly facing crag too much to resist which is why seven of us decided to make a trip to Slab World at Springwood in the Blue Mountains.

After little more than an hour's travelling time from the Inner West we were lost in the bush after mistaking our right and our left and simply ignoring the Slab World access directions detailed in Stu Dobbie's excellent Sydney Climbing iPhone app.

Ironically Stu was among the crew which also included Rockies legend Warwick Williams, Enmoore Lin, Su Li Sin, Brent Roylance, Andy Green and me.

Proceedings kicked off with Su Li and Brent leading off on a trad line named Chicken Run (12). Despite its two-pitch length the dashing duo managed to be gone for a significant amount of time after topping out and needing to walk back down to the main crag.

The rest of us stuck to climbing the bolted lines and managed four other routes in the same time.

Speaking of routes…

In true Rockies’ style we ended up with draws and ropes strung up the five other quality lines at the crag. Luckily these are concentrated in one area: Knuckles (18), Elmocize (17), Wiggly Woo (16), No Stone Unturned (19) and To Hell With Good Intentions (21).

All five routes are pretty worthwhile with the very thin arête THWGI being the best in my opinion. Elmocize was the only route with sketchy bolting – a high second clip on tiny holds that could result in a groundfall.

The highlight of the day belonged to Warwick who actually managed to put up a new trad line. In fact the aptly named Borrowed Friends (15) is the best line at the crag. A relaxing, wide laybacking crack, it went easily to WW and Stu with a second ascent by me and Enmoore to confirm the grade.

(The only reason it got climbed was that despite being told that we were going to a sport crag Brent and I still carried all of our trad gear including our biggest Friends/Camalots without which Borrowed Friends would not have existed).

After milking all of the most desirable lines in the main area we decided that the 8m high secondary area further on – with its grid-bolted appearance, broken holds and many routes still at the project stage – was not as interesting as ice cream back in Springwood.

There are two other bolted routes – Potato Thrower (18) and Fosters Buckets (17) – on a shelf just before the main crag but they didn’t get an ascent during this visit.

As a crag Slab World offers half a day’s entertainment in a lovely, quiet location. Just make sure you take your Friends with you.

Guidebook here:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Low-hanging fruit

By Rod Smith

John raps into Shipley Lower
 “That’s a fair gloopy title. Whoever heard of A Clockwork Orange?” – Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

 “That’s a fair gloopy title. Whoever heard of A Clockwork Orange?” – John Shaw when I suggested the route to him.

When my droog* John Shaw got it into his gulliver* that he wanted to do some Blue Mountains multi-pitch madness (BMMPM) I was keen.

But I made it clear that I wasn’t going to do some cal*, malenky* route.

It had to be khrosho* or by Bog* I would do the ultra-violent* on his litso*.

A scan of the Glueys* Guide revealed that 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of a trad classic – the Keith Bell/Ray Lassman route Clockwork Orange (20), on Shipley Lower.

With an eye on that historical fact as well as it being the 50th anniversary of Anthony Burgess’s classic dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange, the inspiration for the 1971 Kubrick film which itself inspired the route name, I was excited about climbing another Blueys classic.

After a flurry of emails and a helpful image showing three legendary shorts-wearing John Crokers – thanks to the magic of pre-digital photography – climbing the crux pitch, John also became hysterically psyched.
John Croker x 3 on the crux of Clockwork Orange.

Game day was preceded by two nights of somehow dreaming about doing the moves on a route I’d never been on before. Exhausted by all of that mental thrutching, I needed a double dose of Victory Café java when we arrived in Blackheath.

The weather was autumn at its most sunny-perfect as we walked through the Upper Shipley sport bunnies’ shit and toilet paper, down the hill to the rap into Lower Shipley.

Later in the day we would encounter more Upper Shipley sport climbers’ shit as we listened to them drama-queen screaming their way up routes too hard for them, their voices crashing down the lower cliff.

We’d brought an old 50m rope as a rap-line – as recommended by the guide – and was glad to have done so after it became soaked by the picturesque waterfall that it followed to the deck.

As we approached the base of the climb the perfect morning’s sun deepened and warmed the beautiful orange sandstone, that no doubt was the initial spark for the route’s classic name.

As fans of Scottish climbing legend Dave MacLeod, I don’t mind admitting that John and I had absorbed the brilliant advice of his e-book How to Climb Hard Trad – available at for a measly £5.

That’s why he spent the next 10 minutes scrutinising the opening moves of pitch 1 from every conceivable angle. Which I was glad he did.

The undercut start and slightly dodgy rock gives away to some tricky moves on a rounded arête and small holds.

John took all in his stride and was soon on the generous ledge that is the first belay. I seconded up to him congratulating him on such a fast and confident lead.
John begins pitch 1

He silenced my jabbering by simply pointing at the next pitch. From our belay a gentle slab led to an undercut and overhanging corner crack that, helpfully, also leaned off vertical to the left… “That’ll be the crux,” I said, unnecessarily.

John suggested that I hand over the camera so he could capture the moment of victory. I was glad of his confidence because for a moment the combination of an unnecessarily massive rack, lack of sleep and too much coffee were destroying my concentration.

With his words the blur of orange rock in front of me resolved back into a climbing route. I began noticing cams placements, possible rest places, holds and footers…

The pitch flowed nicely and much, much too soon I was standing in a narrow belay niche, lashed into a nest of cams and yelling out safe.

I fire up the second pitch.
Opting to climb the route as a three-pitch route gave John the sharp end for the short, alleged 15 top-out up a short corner. Probably closer to 17 and quite tricky, the pitch was dispensed with quickly.

I joined John at the belay, each of us gibbering with excitement about the excellence of the route. With plenty of day left – having climbed the route in a leisurely two and a bit hours – we ascended through the stinking leavings to join the crowds at the grey slab area.

But we only lasted a couple of routes’ worth of bolt clipping. After Clockwork Orange it all seemed a load of old yarbles.


The following are translations for words in the Nadsat slang language invented by Burgess and used in his novel A Clockwork Orange and also here.

droog = friend

gulliver (golova) = head

cal = crap

malenky = little

khrosho (horrorshow) = good

Bog = God

ultra-violent = unjustified violence

litso = face

yarbles = bollocks

The following is a Mexican (ie Victorian) word for the increasingly glue-bolted Blue Mountains.

Glueys = Blue Mountains.

NB: Clockwork Orange contains NO bolts.